Actress/producer Kyra Sedgwick (TNT’s The Closer, Heart and Souls) stars in The Edge of Seventeen, a first rate feature about Nadine (Hailee Steinfeld), a teenager who’s suffering her share of emotional trauma in high school. Sedgwick is Nadine’s oftentimes clueless mother Mona, a woman who also needs a bit of growing up to do. Check out our Q&A with Sedgwick as she talks about The Edge of Seventeen and her directing journey with Story of a Girl.
Do you relate to your character in The Edge of Seventeen?
First of all,the script is so beautifully written and all the characters are utterly authentic and real. I have such pathos for mothers. It’s just such a hard job. Having done it for a very long time when I was just a child myself – it’s really hard. I’m so grateful that my mother told me, when I had a baby, that there are going to be times when you (want to) throw the baby out the window (joking)! Literally, she said that to me! But the beautiful thing about her saying that was that she gave me room to actually have those feelings without doing it.
(Parenting) is a really hard job. It is the hardest job. And you always feel like you are making mistakes. Do I relate to (Mona)? Yes. Do I relate to her feeling alone and sad and scared in that world to that extent? No. But I have felt those feelings.
(Mona) loses the love of her life and she’s not a great parent. A lot of people shouldn’t be parents. She probably shouldn’t have been. Yes, of course, she leans too much on her son (Blake Jenner) and she is inappropriate and she is really falling apart at the seams and not getting the support she needs. But so many of us don’t get the support we need in life. So I can also relate to that. She’s trying to hold it all together and she can’t give her child the thing she doesn’t have -which is self-love and self-esteem. She doesn’t have any of those things so how could she model that for her daughter?
Nadine is ignorant to the fact that she can be an unlikable person. At what time does one need to step back and be their own worst critic?
It’s part of growing up and seeing what’s working and not working in your life. If you’re constantly being victimized, well then what are you doing to put yourself in that situation? If you’re always unhappy, why are you so unhappy? And part of growing up is (saying) ‘well maybe I have a part in this.’
But she takes these small steps. She is sweet with her brother (Blake Jenner) in the end and her girlfriend (Haley Lu Richardson) goes ‘right,I think that went well!” She’s behaving differently and seeing the outcome is different.
Do you feel insecure about your acting at this point in your career?
Yeah. Oh yeah. Actually, I just directed my first movie and I did not have many moments of insecurity at all whereas I am tortured by insecurity as an actor.
Why is that?
I don’t know! But it’s terrible! I’m over it! I’m done acting! This is my last movie! You will not see me in anything else (laughs).
No, not really. But I’m telling you, directing was such a revelation of happiness and joy and not giving myself a hard time that I feel like, ‘Wow, life could be like that?’ I could actually be in a profession where I don’t constantly doubt my own talent? I know I’m good. I know I can deliver but the torture that gets me there is – wow, life is short you know?
It’s perfectionism for myself. Plenty of people are happy with my performance but they don’t know really that this is what it should have been, or whatever. Having said all that, I love acting and I also often look at the finished product and go, ‘I’m proud of that work.’ I absolutely look at this finished product and go ‘all my work is there, it’s very much honored and it’s really good. I did excellent service to that character.’ That’s what I do as an actor.
What are the revelations you took from your directing experience?
Oh my God. First of all, it was a revelation that I could actually do it. My whole life I said I could never direct. I said I would never direct and I always said never. So that was a revelation.
But I think the biggest revelation was this idea that like that I had this abundance of confidence but also faith and trust that the day was going to go the way it was supposed to go. And things were going to happen the way they were supposed to happen.
As an actor, if I know I have a big (and) tough scene that day, I will spend many hours in the morning, going ‘you can’t do it. You know you can’t do it.’ Literally, that’s tortuous. That’s terrible. No one knows this by the way. I keep it very hidden from the people that work with me. If they actually heard me, they would be like ‘God, she seems so fine and confident.’ But maybe that is part of my process too. Then I started to think like, ‘well maybe that’s why I do get a good performance from myself.’ I have high demands and expectations. Maybe that’s a good thing.
The revelation for me as a director was that it really is what they say – that casting is 90% of the job. As you can see in (The Edge of Seventeen), (director/writer) Kelly Fremon Craig cast incredibly well. The actors are flawless. Everyone is wonderful. Everyone is different. I’m so grateful for the role.
I think she could have had anybody play this part. It’s a brilliant part on paper,and I’m just so grateful that she wanted my ingredients in this mix.
To hear Kyra Sedwick’s audio version of her thoughts on directing, click on the media bar below:
What was it like working with Kelly on this film?
It was great. It was amazing. She was incredible. She had so much confidence and trust and faith. She knew exactly what she wanted which is always my favorite thing – when they are super specific.
Was your husband (Kevin Bacon) supporting of your directing debut?
He’s been pushing me to direct for years but in January of this year, he goes ‘This is the year you direct.’ I was like ‘Ha, ha, ha – no!’ I’ve produced a lot. I’ve produced books that I’ve optioned and usually I act in them.
I bought a book in 2007 called Story of a Girl which is a Young Adult novel. (It was penned by an) author by the name of Sara Zarr and it was on the shortlist for National Book Award but it didn’t break any records or anything. But it was a beautiful story about this girl. You see her at 13 and you see her at 16. I’d been trying to make it as an independent feature from 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011 and then I just dropped it. I was like forget it, no one wants to hear stories about girls.
But then I was at Lifetime and they have something called Broad Focus where they finance independent films and they air them on their network. So I walked in as a producer talking to them about Story of a Girl and they said they wanted to hire female directors. All of a sudden, at that moment, (I went) ‘I want to direct this. If there is any story that I want to tell, it’s this story. I relate to it so much, I think it’s such a poignant story and an important and universal story.
Anyway, so that’s what happened and yes, Kevin was incredibly supportive and it was an amazing experience.
Is Kevin in the picture?
He’s in it. He’s incredible. He plays this pizza place owner and he’s hilarious and funny and a catalyst for a lot of change for the main character. And he’s also very funny.
When will this movie air?
It’ll air on Lifetime in Fall of 2017 but I’m hoping to take it to festivals before that. It has a large window for that if that happens.
Listen, I agree. And I feel like we didn’t need a lot of money for it. But I just think it’s hard now. Independent film – even in 2007, it’s just hard. I also think that movies need to do well in a certain genre for people to want to put money back into it. It was at a time when the teen movies that were making money were Twilight and Easy A. These are all good films but my movie is about a real girl and her real sufferings. Very similar, in some ways, to The Edge of Seventeen. Although mine’s a darker story. It’s telling the truth about what happens to teenagers – most people aren’t interested in that. Hopefully this will open the door for a lot of that.
Do you see coming of age films as an important genre?
I think that art is how we process what we are going through in our life. And I think that if you don’t see yourself reflected back to yourself it’s hard to even process what you’re going through in life. That’s why I think they should make more movies about what it’s like to be a teenager. What it’s like to be an older woman. What it’s like to be an older man. These are eyes that we need to process how we’re getting through life.
The Edge of Seventeen is now playing nationwide.