Hailee Steinfeld has always been impressed with “Dickinson’s” astonishing ability to tap into more contemporary concerns in the context of 19th century Massachusetts. But for the third and final season, Steinfeld – who is the star and executive producer of the hit Apple TV + series – was particularly struck by the parallels that could be drawn between the Civil War of the 1860s and collective mourning. and racial calculus. from last year.
“It’s one of the things I love the most about this show,” Steinfeld told NBC News. “I just feel lucky to be a part of a show that has taken so many creative risks and tackled so many topics head-on, and I hope it sparked conversations for people. I hope that makes them think; Hope this makes them feel seen. I hope this show can also be a source of hope and light.
Created by Alena Smith (“The Newsroom”, “The Affair”), “Dickinson” is a half-hour comedy series that boldly explores the constraints of society, gender and family from the perspective of famous American poet Emily. Dickinson (played by Steinfeld).
In the final 10-episode season, set in 1862, Emily faces two civil wars: one that divides her nation and one that threatens to tear her own family apart. As she tries to mend the barriers around her, she struggles to feel useful in the war effort, wondering if her poetry – and her art in general – can keep hope alive in a divided country and if the future can be better than the past.
“Each season Emily had to sort of come up with an answer to a different question, all related to her writing, of course,” Steinfeld explained, referring to her desire to be recognized as a first-year writer. and its complicated relationship. with glory in the second season.
Throughout her life, the real Dickinson wrote nearly 1,800 poems, most of which were published posthumously by her family and closest acquaintances in multiple volumes. But during the Civil War years, she “reached her greatest heights as a poet,” Steinfeld said in a voiceover at the start of the third season.
“She wrote with fury over those years, at a pace and intensity unmatched before or after – almost a poem a day,” Steinfeld’s voiceover continued. “His work from this period has been called the great and classic descent into personal hell. Yet, due to his life in seclusion, Dickinson was not always considered a war poet. “
For Steinfeld, the fact that Dickinson “could have felt this loss and pain so deeply that was happening without being physically in the front line” is a testament to his creative genius.
“One thing that I love and think is so important about this season is that it kind of tells you that you don’t necessarily have to be on the front lines to be affected. , and that you feel like you can still make a change and still be a source of light and hope in your own way, and Emily ultimately finds that she can be through her writing, ” she declared.
The events in Dickinson’s life have been the subject of much debate due to his relative isolation, but there is a general consensus among academics that his closest friend and advisor was another writer and poet named Susan “Sue” Gilbert (played by Ella Hunt), who was also his sister-in-law. While Dickinson has often described his love for Gilbert in various letters and poems, the exact nature of their relationship has not been established. But in Apple TV + ‘s radical approach to the famous poet’s life story – which Steinfeld says is more “an interpretation of her poetry” rather than a “simple biopic” – Emily and Sue share a inextricable romantic connection, which resulted in a raw and volatile relationship. argument, an emotional declaration of mutual love and a sensual and passionate reunion at the end of the second season.
“I love their relationship and where it’s set this season, because it’s a lot more mature and a lot more complicated, even when you thought maybe it couldn’t have been more complicated,” Steinfeld said with a laugh. . “They’re now in a place where Sue is pushing Emily to really take ownership of who she is outside of just being with Sue. They never knew how to be their real selves until when they were together, and when they step into the world, Sue just tries to get Emily to live her life shamelessly, and she does. It’s this beautiful messy relationship that I loved every second to be able to play and discover. “
Like Steinfeld, Hunt didn’t know much about Dickinson or his relationship with Gilbert. But after landing the role, Hunt – who said his “research has evolved from season to season” – began by “researching the letters between Emily and Sue and reading their dialogue, which is so revealing, and I find some new things in their letters every season, ”she said.
Hunt also said she found inspiration in Jerome Charyn’s 2016 biography “A Loaded Gun: Emily Dickinson for the 21st Century”. The book – named after one of Dickinson’s poems – allows readers to see his work and his life, including his relationship with Gilbert, “through what we know about the world now and our current terminologies,” a explained Hunt.
In the final installment, Hunt previewed, Sue is entering a whole new chapter in her life.
“For the very first time ever, she allows herself to accept and give love to the person she loves most in the world – Emily – and that love opens new doors within Sue,” he said. she declared. “She’s more playful, more comfortable and more messy than we’ve ever seen her before… She’s asking what she wants this season; she allows herself the autonomy to ask what she wants and to feel her desire. There’s a lot to deal with, but I think this is probably the most tender and profound season for Emily and Sue.
Over the past two years, Steinfeld and Hunt have both received tremendous support from fans around the world, who have looked to Emily and Sue’s relationship – or “EmiSue” – with fiery passion. When the show premiered in November 2019, Hunt said she didn’t expect to receive such a warm response from the LGBTQ community in particular, but “it was so beautiful to see how people felt. that dynamic between the two of them, “she said. “Hailee and I take the embrace of this LGBTQ community with us with the awareness that this is a huge responsibility, and we are as thoughtful as possible in the way we approach these characters.”
“What has been so fabulous for me as a youngster, in my personal identity journey, has been learning queer history in this job and in the three seasons of this show, and I’m still learning.” , added Hunt, who turned out to be gay in March. “There’s a very special moment this season when Emily travels through her brain and to a Civil War hospital with Walt Whitman, and he takes her to Pfaff’s, which was one of the first underground gay bars. learning about Pfaff and learning that there were these top secret spaces for queerness, even in 1860, struck me as so revealing and exciting to see.
As they reflected on the trajectory of Emily and Sue’s love story, Steinfeld and Hunt naturally praised each other, acknowledging that they would both like to work together again in the future.
“I’m so proud of what we’ve built together, and every time we come to the set I feel more secure, more free, more able to explore,” said Hunt. “We’re just having the best conversations, and I’m completely impressed with Hailee. I think everyone will be at the end of season 3. She’s doing an amazing thing this season. “
Steinfeld echoed the same sentiments: “I feel so grateful to have played through this relationship with Ella. She’s a phenomenal actress, and the work she did in season three blew me away. I found out that I had to remind myself that I was part of the scene she was in because I would absolutely lose myself watching her performance.
Working with Hunt and Smith on the evolution of Emily and Sue’s relationship, Steinfeld said she felt they “were able to deliver something very real and very honest. And this show has always been. about that, see and be seen for who you really are and be accepted. I hope that somehow people can watch this show and see themselves reflected in it, whether through Sue or Emily or any other aspect of the show.
After screening the final season, Hunt posted a tearful photo on Twitter, but she wanted to assure viewers that she was crying tears of joy, release and relief.
“I am so proud to have seen Alena’s vision for this show fully realized, and it’s touching especially how Hailee, Anna [Baryshnikov], Adrien [Blake Enscoe] and I grew up on this show, ”she told NBC News. “It was a fundamental experience for me. When I started this show, I had just turned 20, had just moved to New York. I didn’t know who I was, who I wanted to be, how I wanted to identify… But this show provided me with a safe space to discover myself and this season, for Sue and for me, I’m in full bloom. I feel like I know who I am and I’m ready to take the next trip knowing that I will always have Hailee, Anna and Adrian to turn to when I need to feel that support and security. It survives after the show.
For Steinfeld, the end of her career as Dickinson “was very bittersweet,” but she said she had grown tremendously not only as an actor and producer, but also as a young woman.
“I think I’m just going to walk away from this experience being forever grateful and forever inspired by her work and her ability to live her life the way she wanted to and not take no for an answer and keep walking”, a- she declared. “At the end of this thing, she looks to the brightest future she can imagine.”
The first three episodes of the third season of “Dickinson” air Friday on Apple TV +, with a new episode airing weekly thereafter through December 24.
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