Actor Odessa Young is a new kind of model
Odessa Young pulls out a Marlboro and lights it up in her Williamsburg apartment. “I kind of want my apartment to feel like a living room,” she says. “We are having people tonight. I love the accommodation. During our call, she goes upstairs to get away from the sounds of her boyfriend’s cooking, getting ready for the guests. “My drama teacher recently told me that I throw so many parties because I’m so scared of not being invited to things. Like just taking control of the situation. That’s probably true.
To go her own way, to welcome instead of worrying about not being invited, to carve out a space of her own, are desires that surfaced in a few of the roles Young took on in her budding acting career. Whether it’s a sign of insecurity or assertiveness, or a bit of both, Young tells me with candor and self-deprecating charm. In Mothers Day– which also stars Colin Firth, Olivia Colman and Josh O’Connor – the 23-year-old Australian actress plays Jane Fairchild, a writer who works as a maid for a wealthy family in post-and-mid England. before World War II. Jane in her adolescence navigates intimacy, loss, the pursuit of an artistic practice, the struggle to get out of her working situation. Young says to me, “Eva [Husson, the film’s director] was very, very determined to embrace the ugliness of insecurity and the struggle to get through it.
The film is an update of the Up down (1971) narrative; instead of just snippets of what’s happening down below, Mothers Day closely follows Jane and her inner life. Between her early 20s and her mid-40s, Jane tells the story of her youth, reminiscing about the period of her life as a servant and her low-key love affair with a family friend who employed her. Young, who plays Jane at both ages, is moving into more mature starring roles in her career and recently starred alongside Elisabeth Moss in Josephine Decker’s romantic melodrama. Shirley.
When I ask her to play the same character at two different ages, she says, “I think it was the subtle differences in the way it was written, the way Jane stands or the way she talks. She found the ability to speak instead of just being seen and not heard for most of her life. Her internal narrative or internal struggles are made external in the kind of older version of Jane once she actually finds herself, the agency found.
The gap between the two iterations of Jane reflects the paradigm shift happening more broadly in the atmosphere of the film. The affair with the boy took place during a period, flanked by wars. It was the big break of the service era, money was running out, everyone’s sons were dead. Young studied this particular part of the century by reading diaries and journals written by maids. She says, “Jane is actually their only maid because they have to let everyone go because there’s nothing to do. All is lost and everyone is floating around trying to do what they once did.
The film’s setting was timely as it was shot at the end of lockdown, when the pursuit of normality, to get back to what we once did, was at its peak. “It drives you crazy,” Young says with a hint of exasperation, “when you see the structure of how things are done disintegrating so blatantly, but everyone pretends that’s not the case.” After receiving auditions and scripts at the start of the pandemic and questioning the purpose of those projects that weren’t going to happen, Young says she almost quit acting knowing she wanted to figure out what was going on. she was going to do if not act. In a year that has challenged everyone’s creative endeavors and where many have questioned the validity and sustainability of their artistic lives, she says she has felt estranged from the world of acting.
At the same time, Young says he took advantage of this opportunity to reflect, questioning the existing structures of the film industry. “I think the amount of stuff that’s being done is really dangerous for the future of cinema,” she says. Since streaming platforms have become even more powerful, with more money to produce incredible amounts of content to keep up with demand, almost compulsive production has made work suffer: “They try to earn as much for as little as possible … 90% of what I read is super nihilistic either in message or design and I’m not interested in. The aforementioned desire to throw your own party, to be in control of your own situation, then seems obvious, practically necessary.
Young says the experience in a changing industry has forced her to question the meaning of her work and pushed her to pursue projects that interest her, those that she wants to see in the world. She is currently working on a dramatization of the 2004 true crime documentary series The staircase in which she plays the adopted daughter of Michael Peterson, the alleged murderer. Young tells me, “It’s interesting to play a person who’s pretty documented. It’s like the first time I had to choose between imitation and representing a real person. The miniseries is the passion project of creator Antonio Campos. “I’m not going to do jobs just because I like acting. There’s a reason I like movies and that’s because they have the power to make people ambitious or optimistic about direction. of the world, even if they show otherwise. It’s as if Young seeks that same drive in the filmmakers she chooses to work with, whose projects are driven by a commitment to do a good job rather than pressure from platforms to produce a product. She accepted that it might mean making sacrifices. “I’m okay with never being comfortable if that’s what it means.”
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