Taylor Schilling's 'Family' Is A Heartfelt Look At Workaholism
In theaters April 19, Taylor Schilling stars as an alpha female whose ambition doesn't leave room for vulnerability.
Photo courtesy of The Film Arcade
Watching Taylor Schilling in Family is like looking in the mirror at yourself—if you’re a career-driven woman living in New York City.
The new film, which is written and directed by Red Oaks writer Laura Steinel, follows Schilling as Kate Stone, a pantsuit-wearing corporate shark who is desperately trying to get ahead (that whole housewife, suburban mom thing is put way up on the shelf, collecting dust).
In theaters April 19, Kate’s life takes an unlikely twist when her brother taps her to babysit her niece after a family emergency. The Orange is the New Black star battles suburban moms in Lululemon (one played by SNL’s Kate McKinnon) and the Insane Clown Posse fan group—who call themselves Juggalos—who pour gallons of soda all over her Hillary-style pantsuit, all in an attempt to be a good aunt.
Typically in a comedic film like this, the formula has a woman ditching her own career for a man she blindly falls for—that doesn’t happen here. Family is pure potent alpha female. Why are lovey-dovey domestic roles still expected of women on screen? Schilling spoke to us from her home in Brooklyn about workaholism, being an outsider to social media, and why resting is a radical act.
BROADLY: You play a character who suffers from the New York workaholic burnout, is that right?
Taylor Schilling: I mean, [laughs] yeah. I think that’s a great way to articulate it. Kate never felt like she fit into the social expectations that most of us have contracted to. Kate is following her own ambition. She’s not interested in vulnerability or the soft underbelly of life. She doesn’t want to touch that with a ten-foot pole. She’s interested in achieving. That works for her until her misery catches up with her; it's burnout. Kate is a woman on the brink of that. Connection is necessary. She comes to that very begrudgingly.
Kate is the personification of the ambitious woman. Why is the alpha female given such a bad rap in pop culture?
It is kind of rare, isn’t it? She isn’t represented often. Laura Steinel, who directed the film, is very keen on bringing that into the light—a woman who is unabashedly striving and is not interested in domesticity.
Are these kinds of roles overlooked in general?
I don’t think there’s a place for them, I don’t even think there’s a vocabulary for them. For a woman who is taking up space in the world the way Kate is, which is to say, not valuing a domestic life. She has different values. Her values are not valued, if that makes sense. She has rejected herself, which is common. There’s a lot of self-loathing in Kate in having to connect with people. The beauty of the film is she starts accepting herself for who she is. There’s a metallic quality to Kate, who has this armor on because she doesn’t fit in the world. She’s an outsider.
In 2017, while shooting the film, you said you feel like an outsider on Instagram, why is that?
That’s so interesting. I feel like an outsider on social media in general because I don’t really find it fun. I appreciate everyone who can handle that, but somehow my constitution is such that I kind of melt around Instagram. I don’t find that vein of where it’s creative and fun, it ends up being this abyss of a lot of painful things that don’t feel good. I appreciate people who use it to not feel that way. I’m still open to figure out ways to work that out. I feel a bit on the outside of that world, for sure.
In the film, one of the main themes is “nobody is normal; abnormal is the new normal,” is that true to our cultural conversation right now?
It’s the reason I’m so excited about this movie. Just as I have my own issues around social media, just as every interesting, creative person I know does, we all have our own individual garden of stuff. There’s a lot of appreciation for what we’re evolving towards, which is appreciating individuality in a new way. I don’t even want to frame it as a moment.
The core of this movie is about a young girl who is an outsider at school, do you think it is drawing a light on bullying to girls who are tomboys and not feminine?
Absolutely. The film is highlighting the pain of being marginalized, bullied, and hurt for being yourself. But Maddie is captured so lovingly. It’s a real celebration, even though that word is overused. There is a respect and a delight taken in otherness. There’s room to be yourself. Kate is what happens when you’re not able to be yourself—her own bullying and self-loathing are healed through Maddie.
You have a lot of movies coming out right now, from The Prodigy to The Public. I don’t know how you do it all. Does being an actor require you to be a workaholic?
Oh my God, a friend of mine just sent me a screenshot of a tweet that’s talking about internalized capitalism and never being able to stop basing self-worth on achievement. I’ve learned, as I live life, that resting is a radical act in the face of a culture where worth is based on achievement and status. It’s easy to hide behind that. That’s what Kate discovers. She isn’t happy, she’s striving to achieve but is missing a connection to herself. I think we exalt workaholism and worship it.
But don’t you think? I really don’t think I’m bullshitting there. There are so many other things where you can say ‘you’re hurting yourself with this behavior,’ but if you’re making money and you’re able to buy more things and look shinier and have a better resume, we not only applaud it, but nobody looks down on it. There’s a whole different dimension that’s not just based on non-stop production.
The Juggalos, who are the fanbase of the Insane Clown Posse in this film, play an important role in the film. What was it like dressing up and being a part of something like that?
My time in the Juggalo community was so loving and ferociously loyal, I think there’s room for everybody. It’s the opposite of workaholism, I have so much respect for connection and people that are willing to go out on a limb and not worry about how they’re viewed. I have gratitude for the Juggalo community who are waving a flag of togetherness that a lot of people might not get. They’re being fiercely themselves, they’re not compromising. I think that’s everything.