Everybody Wants Hailee Steinfeld
Hailee Steinfeld insists her place is “a mess.” She’s 10 days from moving out of her New York City apartment, and she and her mom are “in the scramble,” she says. (FWIW, when I ask whether it looks like a war zone on the other side of her camera, she turns her laptop around to reveal an apartment that…still looks cleaner than mine on its best day.)
The move is just one thing on Hailee’s bursting about-to-do list. She’s also wrapping up the third and final season of the longest project she’s ever worked on—the Apple TV+ series Dickinson, in which she plays the titular poet Emily. And then there’s the Marvel series Hawkeye, hitting Disney+ on November 24, which begins her highly anticipated journey as the bow-and-arrow-wielding Kate Bishop. There’s also (like I said!) the new music, out in 2022, which fans have been begging for since she released her pop-songs-you-sing-in-the-shower EP Half Written Story a year and a half ago, after a rumored breakup.
“I’ve gone from 0 to 100,” she says as her puppy, Martini, a Yorkie in pigtails, snuggles into her sweatshirt. The week before our interview, Hailee was cruising around the Venice Film Festival. The day after our call, she’d be front row at Michael Kors for New York Fashion Week (with my boss, Cosmo EIC Jessica Pels). Three days after that, she was working the red carpet at the Met Gala.
So, as established, Hailee is *busy*. But after a long pandemic-induced homebody period, she’s just excited to be doing literally anything. “I was so happy to have the weirdly forced break, but I’m happy to be back in it,” she says. Happy, also, to take your questions—because Cosmo invited you, dear readers, plus pretty much all of Instagram, to jump into this conversation and ask whatever you want. Here’s how that went.
Emma Baty: Okay, first question is from me, because I’m very curious: How have you, a busy famous person, taken care of yourself during the past year and a half?
Hailee Steinfeld: There are people I’ve worked with who I love and admire who have that mindset like, “I don’t need breaks; I love what I do,” and you believe them, right? There’s part of me that wants to be “all work, no sleep.” But listen, I need eight hours. If I don’t get that, you’re not gonna get the good version of me.
Yeah, I had a pandemic epiphany where I was like, “There is work and there is life, and they are not the same.”
I realized maybe four months in that my life—my family, my friends—all revolved around my work, which I love so much and makes me so happy, but it does tire me. Now I’m realizing, as time goes on and we’re still in a funky place with it all, how and where it’s affected me and why.
I got a lot of questions from fans that simply said, “New music?” And then others that asked if your new album will break from the theme of your last EP, Half Written Story, which was heartbreak-y and angsty.
Toward the beginning of the pandemic, I released that EP and was very proud because I felt like I had articulated this pain I was feeling that at one point, I felt like I couldn’t put into words. What I was going through was like, I don’t wanna talk about this. I don’t want people to know. I felt that all I had to do was write it and then nothing had to happen after that if I didn’t want it to. I had my little angry, sad girl moment. That was kind of all I needed to get back on track to make music that makes me want to dance and feel good. Then I so badly wanted to go out and party and drink and see people and hug people and touch people and talk to people. I was like, Let me create this world I have never really wanted as bad as I do right now and see what the heck that sounds like, looks like, and feels like. I’m a huge believer in the power of manifesting. I’m in a place right now where I’m pretty sure I know what I want for me, in relationships, work, and life in general. So that’s what I’m after. I’m painting the picture of what all that looks like.
What exactly are some of those things you want?
I want a partner who is, first and foremost, loyal and honest but confident in themselves and able to do their thing while I do mine. It’s weird talking about it because it’s been in my head for so long. A lot of this music is also about taking control and taking ownership of one’s self. But I also think there’s power in claiming what you want, and maybe what you want is not to be alone.
During the first year of the pandemic, I feel like a lot of people who were single, myself included, went through questions like, “Who do I want to take on the world with?”
The question that you just asked is basically it. “Who do I want to take on the world with? What kind of person is that? What do they look like? What do they stand for?” They’re not necessarily questions I have the answers to, but I’m asking the questions, whereas they didn’t occur to me before. That’s the part of my life I’m excited to be in, that I’m even thinking that way.
I know you keep your dating life pretty private, but your fans are endlessly curious about it. What can you say to people who are dying to know?
I am very focused on myself and couldn’t be happier about it. I have moments where I’m like, “All my friends are engaged, married, dating.” What a wonderful thing that seems like, right? I really don’t ever have moments of, Oh god, I feel so single, but it is funny how in the past year or so, a lot of people have gotten engaged or married. I’m like, “Everybody’s gotta slow down for me, okay?”
Totally. I got an actual metric ton of questions from fans about Dickinson. One asked: “How does it feel to be a gay icon?” (By the way, they signed the question with “EMISUE FOREVER,” the internet’s couple name for Emily and her sister-in-law/lover, Sue.)
Wow, thank you? It feels pretty amazing to be part of a show that makes people feel like they can fight against whatever box anybody is trying to put them in and to play a character who was so unapologetically herself during a time when being who you are was wildly unacceptable. There was one path that women were supposed to take, and she was running in the opposite direction. I just love that about her.
During the first few episodes of the new season, the Dickinson characters face a lot of the same issues we’re facing right now. A big one is how you grapple with this huge thing—in their case, the Civil War; in our case, the pandemic—while trying to live your life. Did it feel cathartic to work through that?
Yes. As a huge fan of music, film, and TV, I turn to that. There are certain artists who have gotten me through things, who helped raise me. There are movies and TV shows that I feel like I can turn on and just, like, forget everything that’s going on in my life and lose myself. This season, Emily really struggles with finding a way she can help anyone. There were absolutely moments where I felt the same—struggling with figuring out that fine line of feeling like I was doing something. I was able to cope and understand that I was, through Emily and through this season of the show.
A bunch of other Dickinson fans asked me to ask you, without spoiling the ending, whether you feel like you were able to complete the story in a way you’re happy with?
Ha, imagine I’m like, “I don’t know.” No, I absolutely do. This story and this season specifically is very hopeful, and there is, of course, loss and heartbreak and the weird and wild Dickinson humor. But it all wraps itself up in a way that leaves you feeling good. And it’s not over, in a sense. Emily Dickinson’s work lives on, and this show will hopefully live on.
We could talk about Dickinson forever, but people also really want to know about Hawkeye. What was it like working with Florence Pugh, who plays the second Black Widow, Yelena Belova? Did you know right away you’d get along?
Oh, one hundred percent. I honestly felt that right away. And I hope to god she’d say the same thing. Jeez. Now that I say it, I’m like, “I knew right from the start!” And what if she was like, “This girl?” No, I think we just had similar energy. We had a moment together where we were shooting and something went wrong. There was no recovering from it. I started laughing so hard that somebody thought I was crying—I don’t know what that says about my laugh—and I just remember a flood of people rushing in and being like, “Is everyone okay?” And I’m literally facedown on the ground, just hysterically laughing. Mind you, we were in a scene that was in no way, shape, or form meant to be at all funny. We really did have a wonderful time together.
I remember when I first heard that Florence’s character would be entering the Hawkeye universe and thinking it was going to be very fun to watch you two together. How did you feel when you got the role?
When I found out I got the job, I was actually pulling up to set on Dickinson. My driver got out of the car and went to open my door and I held it shut because it was like, “I need a moment.” I hadn’t gotten a “you got the job” call in a minute. My mom was on the phone and I started crying in the back seat of the car. I was like, “Wow, this is so wild.” I was trying to wrap my head around how different it was going to be from Dickinson and how ready but anxious I was about the whole thing.
And the characters *are* so different. Which ability would you rather have—Kate’s archery and fighting or Emily’s writing?
Oh my god. Emily’s writing because the fighting you can learn. That kind of writing is, I mean, literally just so hard to even comprehend. That’s a god-given, born-with ability that I would love to have.
One last Hawkeye question: What, if anything, can you tell us about your adorable sidekick Lucky the Pizza Dog’s appearance in this series?
What can I tell you? Kate and Lucky are pretty much on this journey together. The real dog who plays Lucky—his name is Jolt—got me thinking I needed to get Martini in training. And I was saying to Jolt’s handler, “I would love for Martini to know ‘sit’ and ‘come’ and whatever.” And he was like, “Leave her with me for two weeks and I’ll have her doing what Jolt’s doing.” And I was like, “First of all, I’m not leaving her with anyone for two weeks. Thank you very much.”
And now for some fun rapid-fire questions. Best red carpet run-in of all time?
My first Met Ball ever, I walked onto the carpet the same time as Beyoncé and Gisele. I literally was in maybe four or five photos that year, and Gisele is, like, fully behind me in all of them. I will never forget that first Met. I couldn’t walk three feet without being like, “And there’s J.Lo. And there’s Beyoncé and Jay-Z. And there’s Gisele and Tom Brady.” It was the most surreal thing.
My spontaneity, which has come through a lot more in the past few years. Maybe because my life has been so routine for so long that I’ve gotten to a point now where I can drive, go places, do things on my own as my own person. And not that I couldn’t before, but now, if I can do something, I’m gonna do it and I’m not gonna overthink it.
What have you been listening to nonstop?
I’ve been going between Daft Punk, Doja Cat’s new album, and a ton of the Beach Boys.
Fuck, marry, kill: a glass of wine, a gin and tonic, and a martini (the drink!).
Kill the G and T, fuck the martini, marry the glass of wine.
Can you make a good martini? They’re hard to master.
On Hailee: Cover look: Natalia Fedner dress and bikini set. Cartier earrings. Mimi So ring. Elevator look: Alexandre Vauthier dress. Chloe Gosselin heels. Cartier earrings. Established Jewelry rings. Jimmy Choo bag.