Tag: Kristen

I Visited the “Happiest Season” Set to Chat With Kristen Stewart and Clea DuVall About Their Holigay Rom-Com

I Visited the "Happiest Season" Set to Chat With Kristen

In February, I found myself sitting in a folding chair in a country club just outside of Pittsburgh, directly across from Kristen Stewart and Mackenzie Davis. They were dressed for Christmas. The country club was dressed for Christmas. I was wearing headphones plugged into a little microphone pack that allowed me to hear everything Clea DuVall and the actors said when the cameras started rolling. Two days earlier, the Happiest Season PR team had emailed me out of the blue and asked if I’d like to visit the set of the upcoming queer holiday romantic comedy before they wrapped. I thought, “Finally, someone has seen my artistic masterpieces promoting this film!” (They had not.)

And so I put my two nicest shirts in a suitcase and hopped on a plane and next thing I knew, Clea DuVall herself was shaking my hand and thanking me for dropping by. Her handshake was just the right amount of firm, and her hands were slightly calloused, like a carpenter’s. I made a note to tell you that specifically. “Like a carpenter’s.”

I actually made a lot of notes, but it turns out I don’t need them: The thing about being sandwiched in a corner with Kristen Stewart is you don’t really forget it.

Mackenzie Davis, Clea DuVall, and Kristen Stewart on the set of Happiest Season

LACEY TERRELL/Sony Pictures

The story of Happiest Season is the story of Clea DuVall: Harper, played by Mackenzie Davis, is in a loving, committed, healthy, happy longterm relationship with her girlfriend, Abby, played by Kristen Stewart — but Harper hasn’t yet come out to her parents, which Abby doesn’t know. Harper doesn’t reveal this small snafoozle to Abby until they’re in the car on the way to spend Christmas with Harper’s family. Clea wanted to write the movie because she’d lived it, and she wanted it to be a Christmas rom-com because where are the queer Christmas rom-coms, and also because she wanted it to be timeless in the way only holiday films ever really are. So she called up comedic writer and actress Mary Holland, who plays Harper’s sister Jane in the film, and they wrote it and pitched it to Marty Bowen and Isaac Klausner, who’d produced the gay rom-com Love, Simon to great acclaim, and they snapped it right up.

Kristen Stewart signed on because Clea’s story, Harper’s story, is her story too. A young gay woman perfectly content with who she is, in a loving relationship, just not yet ready to talk about it to other people who might not be as supportive as she needs them to be. Only in the case of Kristen Stewart, I suppose, Harper’s loving parents, played by Mary Steenburgen and Victor Garber, were the seventy gazillion readers of the gossip blogs that hire the paparazzi that dog her every step. Kristen Stewart said she didn’t just want to play Abby, but that she’d have been jealous if anyone else got to play her. She said, with genuine excitement, “A movie like this has never existed!”

These are the other things I don’t need notes to recall: Kristen Stewart listened with her whole face, to whoever was talking, and talked with her whole body, and the experience was like being ensconced in some kind of supernatural energy-exchange. I had to shake my head like a cartoon character with bumblebees in my ears to clear my brain when the handler came to take her and Mackenzie Davis back to filming. She was generous with her laughter, and her eyes brightened expectantly when it was clear you were going to make a joke, like she wanted you to say something funny for her and for you too. She was relaxed, on that set where Clea DuVall was in charge and the script was queer and she was playing a lesbian and Mackenzie Davis smiled like twinkle lights and Aubrey Plaza was so effortlessly hilarious. And she was happy. Really happy. That’s what she told the little clump of reporters gathered around her, but she didn’t even really need to say it. She was radiating it.

Mackenzie Davis, Clea DuVall, and Kristen Stewart on the set of Happiest Season

LACEY TERRELL/Sony Pictures

That was true of every single person I spoke with, actually. Victor Garber was delighted by how calm and generous and collaborative everything was on Clea DuVall’s set. Mary Steenburgen, who believes this film will be an all-time Christmas classic, was thrilled to realize that every gay person for the rest of forever will be watching her at least twice a year at the holidays, now — once with Elf and once with Happiest Season. (She was also delighted by Dan Levy, just in general, and said she was considering adopting him, since her own son keeps posting photos of Andie MacDowell on his social media and pretending he thinks it’s his mom.) Mary Holland said the set felt like actual Christmas. Costume designer Kathleen Felix-Hager side-eyed me when I asked her if it was hard to find enough distinct flannels to fit multiple lesbian characters in the same Christmas movie, but then relaxed and laughed when I told her I’m a lesbian and it was a joke (but also my wife and I do actually have this problem with both flannels and beanies, so it’s not really a joke).

When Kristen Stewart said that a movie like Happiest Season doesn’t exist yet, her eyes, which had been giving equal attention to everyone with a recorder out, landed on me and Sam Manzella, a writer for NewNowNext, and stayed there. We were certainly the gayest-looking people in that tiny gaggle of journalists, and we were the ones writing for gay publications. I smiled and I nodded that Kristen Stewart was correct, and Sam smiled and nodded too, and Kristen Stewart half-smiled back at us — you know the smile I’m talking about — and continued what she was saying, moving her steady gaze over our little group.

The funny thing about Kristen Stewart saying a movie like Happiest Season doesn’t yet exist is that of course a movie like Happiest Season doesn’t exist yet, because without Kristen Stewart it couldn’t exist. Her presence is the thing that makes it the thing it is. Kristen Stewart, the Charlie’s Angel. Kristen Stewart, the star of the 3.3 billion dollar Twilight series. Kristen Stewart, stated enemy of Donald Trump who went onto Saturday Night Live and said, “I’m like so gay, dude” to the President of the United States. Kristen Stewart, who has her own Awards and Nominations page on Wikipedia, who is the muse of countless directors and designers, who cannot take a single step in Los Angeles without being assailed by paparazzi, who has been profiled repeatedly by every newspaper and magazine, and whose every public word becomes an SEO clickbait headline (yes, even here). She has one of the most — if not the most — famous gay millennial faces on the planet earth.

In the totality of the lesbian film canon, there are very few movies with actresses as famous or lauded as Kristen Stewart. And there are even fewer movies with out actresses as famous as Kristen Stewart that are also written and directed by queer women. And gay Christmas rom-coms, with warm and well-worn plots that feel like your favorite flannel pajamas? That’s never happened because most gay movies are made by straight people who cannot imagine our stories as anything other than miserable. (And actors who sign on for well-made tragedy for Oscar’s sake.) Toss in Tegan and Sara headlining the soundtrack, and you can drill down all the way and this thing is nothing but gay.

Mackenzie Davis, Clea DuVall, and Kristen Stewart on the set of Happiest Season

LACEY TERRELL/Sony Pictures

And while Clea DuVall was quick to point out — and Kristen Stewart was quick to echo — that this story is her story, and that she’s so proud that it’s breaking down one door, she knows there are still so many more queer movies that need to be made by other queer writers and directors and actors who haven’t yet seen themselves on-screen.

Five years ago, Happiest Season would have been the apex of queer cinema — and now it’s a celebratory pause along a continuum. It’s all I want this Christmas! But I also want Janelle Monáe’s gay rom-com following that classic enemies to lovers Pride and Prejudice plot. I want Janet Mock’s New York City gay career woman comedy. Give me Indya Moore as a Disney Princess. Give me Sara Ramirez as an action star. And where’s Alice Wu’s blockbuster money, and where’s the studios wooing Desiree Akhvahn, and who’s adapting N.K. Jemisin’s three-time Hugo-winning fantasy series for the big screen?

Clea DuVall really seemed to understand that her new film both stands alone, and is also part of a much larger and essential cultural conversation.

I laughed a lot on the set of Happiest Season, because that kind of joy is contagious, because the script is very funny, because Kristen Stewart knocked a painting off a wall between scenes at one point and tried to play it cool but of course there’s a person on set whose entire job is to make sure nothing in-frame changes between takes so he had to come fix it. I also laughed because when I started watching lesbian movies, I did it in hiding, and they were all terrible and tragic. And because when I started writing about gay TV and film, I couldn’t get a single actress who played a gay character to talk to me because they didn’t want to do interviews with a gay publication and get pigeonholed or typecast (and they definitely didn’t want anyone to think they were gay). And here I was on the set of Clea Duval’s latest film, surrounded by wreaths and fir trees and golden fairy lights, and Kristen Stewart was holding my gaze, and she was saying, “I fucking belong in this movie.”

For all the hand-wringing that journalists who profile Kristen Stewart do about whether or not she even wants to be talking to them, and what it means that she ordered this to eat or drink, and was wearing that, and glanced at her phone, or stared out the window pensively for more than five seconds, or the way she tilted her head, or the tenor of her voice, or whatever perpetual judgment that she’s not walking around smiling every second of her life like a circus clown, the vibe I got from her on that rainy, foggy, bitingly cold day in Pittsburgh was that there was nowhere else she’d rather be.

Pop Culture Fix: Kristen Stewart Knows She Was Cagey About Being Queer, She Just Needed a Dang Minute

Pop Culture Fix: Kristen Stewart Knows She Was Cagey About

Well and hello again! This morning I am making our team rank lesbian hauntings, so stay tuned for that later this week — in the meantime, please enjoy this Pop Culture Fix. 


+ I really love this interview between Kristen Stewart and Clea DuVall in In Style; I think you will like it too!

The first time I ever dated a girl, I was immediately being asked if I was a lesbian. And it’s like, “God, I’m 21 years old.” I felt like maybe there were things that have hurt people I’ve been with. Not because I felt ashamed of being openly gay but because I didn’t like giving myself to the public, in a way. It felt like such thievery. This was a period of time when I was sort of cagey. Even in my previous relationships, which were straight, we did everything we could to not be photographed doing things — things that would become not ours. So I think the added pressure of representing a group of people, of representing queerness, wasn’t something I understood then. Only now can I see it. Retrospectively, I can tell you I have experience with this story. But back then I would have been like, “No, I’m fine. My parents are fine with it. Everything’s fine.” That’s bullshit. It’s been hard. It’s been weird. It’s that way for everyone.

+ Also, she’s answering your fan mail!

+ Janelle Monáe closes the first season of Lovecraft Country with a virtual reality concert experience.

+ The AV Club made a list of 14 shows that should do animated episodes and some of your faves sure are on there.

+ Demi Lovato reveals the exact moment she knew she was queer.

+ The cast of GLOW reunited to talk about voting and their show’s unceremonious cancellation.

+ Dove Cameron says Liv from her Disney Channel series Liv and Maddie was bisexual.

+ Whoopi says she WILL make Sister Act 3! (Oh, happy day!)

+ 🙂

+ Here’s a Dickinson season two trailer for you, and also news that the series has been confirmed for season three!

+ The Social Justice Now Film Festival will feature Michael B. Jordan’s Just Mercy and Fruitvale Station on opening night at Paramount’s Drive-In Theater.

+ Please enjoy Fiona Apple’s Fetch the Bolt Cutters set from New Yorker Fest.

+ Your first look at Ryan Murphy’s adaptation of The Prom is here!

+ Kate Mulgrew will play Captain Janeway again on a Nickelodeon Star Trek cartoon!

Heather Hogan

Heather Hogan is an Autostraddle senior writer who lives in New York City with her partner, Stacy, and their cackle of rescued pets. She’s a member of the Television Critics Association, the Gay and Lesbian Entertainment Critics Association, and a Rotten Tomatoes Tomatometer critic. You can also find her on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

Heather has written 1029 articles for us.

Shannon reviews The Last Place You Look by Kristen Lepionka – The Lesbrary

Susan reviews The Lady’s Guide to Celestial Mechanics by Olivia

The Last Place You Look by Kristen Lepionka cover

I’m constantly on the lookout for new mystery series that feature strong, independent female characters, and if they’re lesbian or bisexual, I count it as a bonus. For the past several years, I’ve been hearing all manner of positive things about Kristen Lepionka’s Roxane Weary books, and so, I finally decided to give them a try.

Roxane is a private investigator who is pretty much going through the motions of living. Her police officer father died not too long before book one begins, and his lost has hit her hard. Plus, she’s struggling to make sense of her feelings for a woman she’s been seeing for quite some time, but who seems unwilling to take their relationship to the next, more serious level.

When Roxane is hired to take a second look at the long ago disappearance of teenager Sarah Cook, she throws herself into the investigation. Sarah’s boyfriend Brad was convicted of killing Sarah, but Brad’s sister isn’t convinced he’s guilty and she’s desperate for Roxane to find the real killer. Initially, Roxane isn’t sure the first investigation had any real flaws, but as time passes and she turns up far more questions than answers, she finds herself ever more convinced something went terribly wrong for both Sarah and Brad.

To make matters worse, her investigation into Sarah’s disappearance has a possible link to one of her father’s unsolved murder cases. In hopes of laying both matters to rest, she joins forces with Tom, her father’s former partner on the police force. The two have always gotten along well enough, but as they begin spending more and more time together, Roxane finds herself developing deeper feelings for the detective. Of course, a relationship with a man isn’t something she’s interested in. At least, that’s what she tells herself.

The Last Place You Look is a dark and gritty mystery with a plot that kept me glued to my iPad until I reached the end. I couldn’t wait to figure out what really happened to Sarah and how her disappearance linked back to the case Roxane’s father had been working on years before. The author does a phenomenal job sprinkling small clues throughout the text without giving the big twist away too soon. I’m often frustrated when I solve a mystery early on, but this one was complicated enough to keep me guessing right along with Roxane.

If you don’t like characters with self-destructive tendencies, Roxane might be a challenge for you. She’s strong, smart, and competent, but in many ways, she’s her own worst enemy. I found myself frustrated with her poor decisions on more than a few occasions. Fortunately, the author provides enough backstory to help readers understand why Roxane struggles the way she does, something I found extremely helpful. I don’t expect characters to be perfect, but I’m a lot more forgiving of their shortcomings if I have at least a basic understanding of their motivations and Kristen Lepionka definitely provides that here.

The mystery is wrapped up by the end of this first installment, but there are still quite a few questions about Roxane and those she loves. Fortunately, there are three more books in this series so far, so readers can continue to follow Roxane as she struggles to bring justice to those who need it while also attempting to put the fractured pieces of her life back together. Book one was a solidly enjoyable read, so I’m anticipating more of the same as the series continues.