photos / David Lekach
styling / Devon Nuszer
makeup / Erin Moffett
hair / Gui Schoedler @ Exclusive Artists Management
using Oribe Hair Care and GHD Tools
creative direction / Erica Russell
story / Alyssa Hardy
Lili Simmons is an actress in-between. With her leading role as Rebecca Bowman on Cinemax’s Banshee and appearances on HBO’s True Detective, she has grown out of her teenage Disney days and is on the cusp of a budding career in Hollywood.
As a teenager in San Diego, she was scouted by a talent manager and eventually signed to Ford Models, making her the face of both Roxy and Bebe. As she headed into the world of acting, her gorgeous girl-next-door looks combined with the buoyancy of a woman twice her age helped her land roles where sexuality is a key player. For her though, strong family support has always allowed her to remain grounded. “When I first started,” Simmons shares, “I just wanted any job possible because you need to build up your resume and get that experience. But my mom really kept me grounded. I was surrounded by the modeling world and adults but I grew up with a good head on my shoulders.”
Atypical from many young starlets that were once on the Disney Channel, the actress has embraced her sexuality in her characters, pushing aside the idea that female sexuality means vulgarity. In her current role as Rebecca, she plays an innocent Amish girl turned sex-a-holic, complete with everything that comes with it—a quick Google search of Simmons focuses just as much on her work as it does the on-screen sex scenes she’s worked on. “It goes along with working on a character,” she explains. “She’s a sexual being. It’s fun for me to be sexy. I would like to do more roles where sexuality isn’t really in play, but it’s all about who the character is and how she would react to a certain situation.”
For many women, roles like these lead to unwanted attention, especially online: “You know there’s jerks on Twitter. But most roles require something like this and if you know you did a good job and you did justice to your character, than that’s what really matters… It just doesn’t bug me that much.” This is, of course, a very mature outlook in the age of Internet bullies and public breakdowns.
It’s empowering that a woman only a year older than Friends is so comfortable in her own skin, especially knowing that, as she points out, “everyone watching television has a phone in their hand and a computer on their lap.” But easy access to anonymous criticism is not the only thing you have to think about with social media as a young actress; it’s also a major way to grow your career. “I don’t know exactly what it does but it’s a way for me to go like, ‘hey, I just did this movie, go and watch it or support the show!’ Then once in awhile I’ll throw something personal, but not really.”
Just because she uses Instagram professionally doesn’t mean she hasn’t participated in her fair share of hashtag trends, particularly #wcw. Her ultimate pick? “It’s someone I fell in love with really young,” Simmons reveals. “She did Doctor Zhivago when she was 16—Keira Knightley.”
Knightley, by the way, also started her career very young, with a breakout role in a Disney film. Also like Knightley, Simmons takes her career very seriously—she admires the likes of Marlon Brando and becomes one with her characters, even contemplating the smallest details like “exactly what they would eat for breakfast.” This is because she is steadfastly dedicated to moving her career forward in a way that creates enjoyable, engaging roles both for her and her audience.
As Simmons tells me, “I hope that I can shape my career in a way that I can make people happy when they watch what I do.” Well, she’s certainly on the right track.