Interview: Leighton Meester
photos/ Shanna Fisher
styling/ Chris Horan @ TMG
makeup/ Lauren Andersen
hair/ Clariss Rubenstein
story/ Monica Wolfe
shot @ The Palihouse LA
If you’re looking for a new show to binge-watch that’s lighthearted but doesn’t feel like a time-waster, has full and complex characters that you’ll fall in love with by the end of the first episode, and sends you into uncontrolled fits of laughter, you must watch Making History. It’s a satirical comedy that prods at relevant social issues but doesn’t lose itself in political darkness, as would be easy to do in such divided times. It doesn’t take itself seriously but touches on serious topics in the lightest of ways. As if there weren’t already enough reasons to love this show, Leighton Meester, starring as leading lady Deborah Revere, is a badass feminist warrior both onscreen and off.
I talk to Leighton about her views on playing a “renaissance woman,” her past as a child actor, and using comedy to bring people together in politically divided times.
You can catch Leighton Meester in Making History Sunday nights on Fox or catch up on past episodes on Hulu.
Your character is the primary vehicle for social commentary on women’s rights. How do you feel playing this sort of two-sided character that’s both light and funny but also delivers some serious feminist messages? Is it an odd dichotomy?
You know, I’ve come to find out that the two go hand in hand, at least in this case. I think the nice thing about it is that we can touch on important or timely topics and not really force them because they’re coming from a lighthearted place. I think using humor is an incredibly disarming way to make your point. And I think this character, in particular, is very advanced and worldly considering the time and place she’s from. I mean, she’s grown up in a time where she has little to no rights. She doesn’t expect much out of her future, and yet she’s basically given herself an education. She’s kind of a renaissance woman. She’s able to anything or more than a man can, and yet she’s kind of considered the…laundress. [laughs] And yet when she comes to modern times, all of that makes her all the more incredulous, and at the same time, more naïve, and sort of in awe of the advances we’ve made, but also at how little sexism has changed in the hundreds of years from the time she grew up.
Do you think that art and entertainment like this can shape people’s political beliefs? I’m thinking specifically about the commentary on gun laws and racial inequality, which are very relevant topics right now. And this show seems to appeal to a very wide audience, but, you know, there have to be people out there who watch this and think it’s funny but have different beliefs about guns and race. So, yeah, how do you think the show affects people’s politics?
I think someone’s political party or their side of things is really hard to change. I think if someone grows up a certain way, they’re not willing to look at another side. That’s just kind of how it is. It’s ingrained in a lot of people, and it’s something you just can’t shake. I don’t think that’s the point of our show. But I do think that the people who write on our show—speaking personally, but I’m trying to include everyone that I know involved—people on the show would stand by some of the things we lightheartedly bring up, such as gun laws and so on. So, while we won’t be able to change anyone’s opinion or shift their beliefs, I think using humor to bring to light some of the facts that make it funny in and of itself—and “funny” is a weird word to use when you’re talking about gun violence—but just because it’s so standard and so practical, some of the things we’re bringing up, I think that that’s a really good way to bring people together. I think when there’s humor involved, you can have more of a discussion. You can talk to somebody and not have it feel like an argument or an accusatory stance. It’s more inclusive.
Also, at least from my side, I don’t think it’s offensive, and yet I don’t really worry about if somebody thinks that it’s off-color if they’re offended by it. That’s also not the point. If you’re watching TV and you’re trying to have a laugh on a Sunday night, you should maybe, you know, just do that! Have a laugh. Enjoy yourself.
Do you find that you have anything in common with your character? How do you relate to Deborah?
Well, I think she’s a complex person, which I’m really happy to see on the page and be able to portray in this show. She has a relationship with her boyfriend, yet that’s not the center of her character or her arc. She’s vulnerable and has insecurities and flaws, and is at times clueless about certain things, but at other times can stand by her convictions. I think she’s well-meaning. I mean, I don’t know if any of these things necessarily relate to me, but to some extent. I definitely am not an avid archer or horseback rider. [laughing] But I got the opportunity to learn a lot about that. And I think she’s a combination of strong and opinionated, yet soft and vulnerable, and I think that most women are. I’m just happy to see a character like her written as one of the people—and I’m emphasizing the word “people”—on TV. She’s a person.
Exactly. She’s not just a side character filling the “woman’s roles.” She’s very well portrayed.
Yeah, and I’m really happy that—for so many reasons—I get a chance to have fun and be light, and hopefully be funny. Not just being the girlfriend or love interest is really fun.
Absolutely. Do you have a preference when it comes to acting in a drama like Gossip Girl versus a comedy like Making History?
It’s not really a preference. I think that good comedy has real dramatic moments that make you feel, and vice versa: with drama, I think occasionally you want to have a laugh. And I think real life is at times funny. But I guess on a day-to-day basis, I would say I enjoy working on comedy. I really have enjoyed working on this show, and love it so much, and I’m really proud of it. And working on something that you go to every day for months at a time, it’s really nice to go play and be a kid and have fun, and doing comedy really is that. It’s much more lighthearted.
I read that you began acting and modeling at a relatively young age, and now you have a daughter of your own. Do you think you’ll introduce your daughter to the acting world at a young age as well if she shows interest in it?
That sounded like a very hesitant “no.” Are there fears attached to that?
I was eleven when I started to act, and I can’t speak for anybody but myself, but ultimately I’m happy where I am in my life and in my work, and I think I learned a lot, and at the same time, I don’t think working is the right environment for childhood.
I can definitely understand that. So, the last question for you: you released an album a few years ago. Will we be hearing any more music from you, or are you staying busy with other endeavors?
Yeah, I mean, I haven’t done any music in a couple years, so I’ve just been writing, and enjoying that. The last time I even performed was in 2015. So, I’m excited too, hopefully, within the next year, record the music that I have from the last couple years and make an EP or release some kind of music. And my favorite thing is to tour, and I love recording as well, so I would really like to do that as soon as possible.
top / Molly Goddard camisole / Needle & Thread skirt / BreeLayne shoes / Jimmy Cho
pajama set / BreeLayne
top / Molly Goddard camisole / Needle & Thread leather pants / Prabal Gurung
dress / Preen by Thornton Bregazzi