It might be hard to imagine starting your own fashion blog, rising to international front-row-at-Fashion-Week recognition, growing that blog into an online magazine with paid contributors, being profiled in the New Yorker and co-starring in an acclaimed film release all before graduating high school, but that's just what Tavi Gevinson has done. The 17-year-old fashionista and Rookie Magazine founder has a key supporting role opposite Julia Louis-Dreyfus and the late James Gandolfini in "Enough Said," but still lives with her parents in Illinois.
Directed by Nicole Holofcener ("Friends With Money," "Please Give") and boasting Julia Louis-Dreyfus and the late James Gandolfini in the top billing, the rom-com is a sweet and authentic glimpse into a woman's evolving relationships with her beau (Gandolfini), a new friend (Catherine Keener), old friends (Toni Collette and Ben Falcone) and her college-bound daughter (Tracey Fairaway). Gevinson plays Chloe, best friend to Louis-Dreyfus' character's daughter. She's a needy teen feeling tension with her mom, often seeking refuge at her friend's house, even when no one is home.
Gevinson called us for a conversation the week of the release of "Enough Said" and chatted about working with TV greats, why she feels uncomfortable being called a role model, and what horrors she's afraid of finding if she googles herself. When she called, she had managed to run down the battery of her phone and lose her charger, so we caught her mid-scramble for a new phone.
Hi! Are you having phone problems?
I'll find my charger. I'm just in the middle of a big room furniture switch thing.
Are you moving?
No, I'm just moving my bed and my shelf.
You're a chronic furniture mover?
Yes! And I have all my stuff piled up on my bed and my shelf and I had to take it all down, and my phone charger will be buried for a while.
Right, when you lean too far into cleaning and it ends up being a mess.
Exactly. That's what happened, is I had to clean my room, and it's like, well, if I'm going to do it then I might as well go all the way.
Anyway, congratulations on the movie! How long ago did you film it?
Thank you so much. We filmed last August and September.
This is your first full feature, right? How did you decide you wanted to be involved?
Well, last April, UTA contacted me and said you have a clear point of view, and we want you to have resources for whichever way you want to express that. So -- hang on. [away from phone] I'm busy, I'm on the phone! [into phone] Sorry. And I said that I wanted to see scripts for acting, and then I got Nicole [Holofcener's] script and then I auditioned in July.
Were any other projects contenders? You have your hand in a lot of pots, so it's not like you're hurting for things to do. What was the deciding factor in taking this role?
Well, at that point, I mean, this was my first role so it's not like the choice was up to me. Part of that was that you have to learn to accept rejection and stuff like that, so I was very lucky that Nicole liked my audition.
Who was attached to the project when you came onboard?
I think I already knew that Julia and Jim and Catherine Keener and I think Toni Collette, but I didn't know about who would play the other younger women in that or anything like that.
What do you even think looking at that list of names? "Oh, not terrible."
Yeah, right. Not bad at all! Yeah.
Were you a fan of "The Sopranos"?
I was too young for it when it was on, but I mean "Seinfeld" is a fixture in our household and I'm a big fan of Julia on "Veep." I think that show is just one of the funniest shows on TV right now. I'm also very lucky that it starts every year in April because that's when you get spring fever and you don't want to do school anymore and you need a show on Sunday nights to keep you going. My dad watched "The Sopranos," and I understood that that was a big deal and I can appreciate it now that I'm older.
When people have been on the scene so long, you tend to have an idea of what you think they'll be like when you actually do meet them. How did people like Julia and James compare to what you thought they'd be like?
Well, you kind of have to put those expectations aside once you're dealing with someone as a person, but I was very happy to see that Julia is just the nicest. So funny and so game and just willing to put herself out there. Jim was so warm. I thought he would be scarier, because I was like, he's one of the greats. He changed television, he's amazing. But he was just like the nicest, warmest guy. He always seemed to feel a little uncomfortable in a very endearing way, as if he was intruding on everyone else. Nicole said that he was throughout the process, he was like, "If you want Alec Baldwin to play this part instead, I'll call him up!" He was just so, so sweet.
This isn't the first public career risk you've taken or your first time in the spotlight. Did you feel nervous about putting yourself out there and doing a movie, or was it par for the course?
When something like this happens you just have to be really grateful and just go with it. Acting is scary for me because it's one of the only forms of creativity where you need permission from someone else. You know? You don't, like, go to a coffee shop and act. I mean, I guess you could, but it's different from everything else I've done. I've always been the boss and been my own boss and done it myself. It's different because that's also what I liked about it. I'm the boss of 80 people. I liked taking direction from Nicole and I liked being part of someone else's vision. Rejection and stuff with acting is tricky but you realize that it happens to everyone. I don't even remember your question because I'm extremely tired today and I hope that answers it.
So it sounds like it might have even been a little relaxing to have somewhere else take the wheel.
Yeah! For sure. Nicole had a clear idea of what she wanted and was able to somehow work very efficiently and make it all happen but not make it feel very scary and rushed. I very much enjoyed feeling like part of a team and not necessarily -- there's no extra responsibility there, and it's nice to be around people and not behind your computer, so that's nice too.
Do you see similarities between yourself and your character?
You know, let's see. I liked playing Chloe because she felt a little distanced and awkward, but I feel normally when a teenaged character is like that she's a full-on goth or something like that. So I liked that she's a very kind of blonde hair with roots and wore like hoodies and jeans and normal clothes but still felt like she didn't really, she's a little bit of a slacker. She didn't have that much direction. She's not really driven in the same way that her best friend, Julia's daughter, is. I'm very driven, so that part was different.
But I think I also when I was younger I was more comfortable with the parts of myself that are awkward or uncomfortable because I was able to match it with a crazy outfit or a crazy music taste. Around the time we started filming this I was realizing like, what if I'm feeling awkward or uncomfortable and I don't have like a cool outsider aesthetic for it? Because I was starting to like music that's thought of as more generic and wanted to dress less crazy. Finding that in Chloe was nice, like a person who was that way but doesn't have to necessarily -- I guess what I mean to say is that it was a nice exercise in getting used to that in Chloe. Like I feel like at this point in time we have all these associations with different personalities, like with what bands you should like and what kind of how you should dress and everything if you have a certain personality. I liked playing Chloe because she was a little uncomfortable in a way I often feel, but she was just also in a lot of ways like a normal girl.
Right, it's like that monologue on "New Girl" where she defends herself for being girly but not dumb.
Yeah! Like I mean I was very happy to not play a character who had a distinct fashion sense or a big personality or whatever because I didn't want to make a spectacle of myself. Chloe felt very -- it was the part of me like, you worry when that kind of stuff happens that you're a boring person because you no longer want to wear crazy outfits or listen to punk music or whatever, but that stuff really doesn't matter because Chloe to me was like much more interesting and dynamic as a character that Nicole wrote than certain people who do have crazy music taste and crazy style but there isn't actually that much there, if that makes sense.
Right, like it's okay to embrace normality. There are a lot of people who look up to you, and you're very public about your beliefs and feminism. Do you feel a responsibility with the kind of roles you take?
It's not so much like I feel like I have a responsibility because I'm a public person, it's more something I am or am not comfortable with because of my principles, which remain constant through all that I do. I don't -- I know many people have uttered this before, but -- I don't consider myself a role model. I'm aware that I have a degree of influence among people, and I'm aware that I feel funny when I do something I don't necessarily believe in. It would be bad as a role model to some people to do some kind of misogynistic movie, but I also just wouldn't want to.
Do you ever Google yourself?
No. But I have typed in my name just to see what the suggestions are after.
What are they?
It's like, yeah, "parents," "interview," "annoying." There's also, like boyfriends. I wrote a blog where I mentioned that I had a boyfriend, but he's the biggest internet hermit and there's absolutely nothing online about him. Yeah, he doesn't exist, actually. He's just a dummy I keep in my attic. But I don't press enter on my name, but I've looked at the suggestions.
Does that hold to reading reviews of the movie?
The movie's really good. I mean, I don't know. I haven't seen anything bad about it so far, which is nice! I mean, it feels different from reading an article about me, because it's about the film, but the New York Times said something like "line for line, scene for scene, it's one of the best written American comedies in recent memory," which I would agree with.
Do you ever go back and read your old stuff? You've been blogging since you were a pre-teen.
Well, I've had to watch "Enough Said" twice already, but thankfully it's a pretty good movie. The first time, I was mortified, but the second time, I was proud of my performance. With writing, I don't. I look at, in putting together the Rookie yearbooks, I have to look at stuff I've written. It'll only be a month old, and I'll still be like "This is so painful!" So no, I don't do that.
Do you do karaoke? What's your song?
No, I wish I could. I feel like most karaoke is done in bars and I'm legally not allowed to do that. The government is keeping me from doing karaoke! I love karaoke! I do like "You're So Vain" by Carly Simon for karaoke.
What line from TV or movies do you quote most often?
Well if someone says "excuse me," my impulse is to quote "Zoolander" and say, "You're excused, and I'm not your brah." Also, Julia on "Seinfeld," her "get OUT," I do that.
Did you ever do it to her?
No, I mean, I've had to tone that part of me down in this process. That's the most I can think of right now. Oh, in "GIRLS" when they're on cocaine and Hannah's like, "Get on my level!" Oh, and every line of "Mean Girls." Sometimes there's no context and it doesn't go over well.
Did you enjoy acting enough that you're going to continue to pursue it?
Yeah, I mean right now I'm applying to college and trying to decide what I'm doing next year, but I'd like to do more of this, sure.
If you could insert yourself into a role in any movie, what would it be?
Well, I love "Beetlejuice" because of Winona Ryder, but I also really like her part, so there's that. Oh, or something like "Badlands." I'd love to be able to look back at a documentation of myself that looks like the movie "Badlands." [scuffling] Sorry, that was my mom.