(Spoiler alert: Do not read on if you haven’t watched “Happiest Season.”)
Despite starring in one of the most popular heterosexual relationships on screen (“Twilight”), openly bisexual actor Kristen Stewart said she felt the need to be a part of the first LGBTQ Christmas rom-com movie released by a major studio, called “Happiest Season.”
“Not only is it very, very funny, [but] it feels really lived-in and reflective of something really familiar to me and a lot of people that has not been evident in really big commercial rom-com type movies,” Stewart told TheWrap. “The movie really broadcast how everyone’s coming-out story is totally theirs and individual, and there are so many different versions of that story. We’ve progressed a lot — there are a lot of people that don’t live in fear and anxiety — but there are so many people that do. If this movie allows them to laugh at things that are normally really painful, it’s a nice welcome feeling. And also, it’s a bit of an invitation to anyone who maybe still harbors judgment to realize that love really does look the same on everyone when it’s true and coming from a real place.”
Kristen Stewart’s costar, Mackenzie Davis, was intrigued by working with co-writer/director Clea DuVall and Stewart, as well as a “queer female crew.”
“Both the people that I knew were involved — which was Clea, who I love, and Kristen, who I hadn’t met yet but really admired — I was like, ‘Oh yeah. Of course I want to do this movie with her,'” Davis said. “And also just this vision for the making of the film that Clea had, this very sort of queer female crew … and lots of really lovely people all around. It just felt like the most ideal version of making a movie.”
“Happiest Season” stars Kristen Stewart as Abby, who meets her girlfriend Harper’s (Davis) family for the first time at their annual family Christmas dinner. However, Abby soon realizes that Harper kept their relationship a secret from her family, and she begins to question their relationship. Alison Brie, Aubrey Plaza, Daniel Levy, Mary Holland, Burl Moseley, Victor Garber and Mary Steenburgen also star.
DuVall wrote the screenplay with Mary Holland. Sony Pictures and eOne co-financed the film, which debuts on Hulu on Wednesday.
Read TheWrap’s full Q&A with Kristen Stewart and Mackenzie Davis below.
TheWrap: How did you guys get involved? Who signed on first?
Kristen Stewart: Clea sent me the script first because I’m the star of the movie in this case? The script is really beautiful. Clea wrote it with Mary Holland so it is imbued with both of them — their soulful natures. And not only is it very, very funny, [but] it feels really lived-in and reflective of something really familiar to me and a lot of people that has not been evident in really big commercial rom-com type movies. And it was so balanced and really intelligently sort of constructed. I was just like, gosh, I know that I’m going to have a nice, lovely, warm and possibly transformative time on set making this movie, and it was all of those things. I’m so happy I got to meet everyone. It was the best group and the best experience.
Mackenzie Davis: Kristen cast me, and it was so great to be invited [laughs]. I read the script and I just finished shooting something very rigorous and hard. And this just seems like the nicest possible thing you could walk into — both the people that I knew were involved — which is Clea, who I love, and Kristen, who I hadn’t met yet but really admired — I was like, ‘Oh yeah. Of course I want to do this movie with her.’ And also, just this vision for the making of the film that Clea had, this very sort of queer female crew … and lots of really lovely people all around. It just felt like the most ideal version of making a movie.
This is the first major LGBT Christmas movie from any major studio — how do you guys feel about this film being “groundbreaking” in that sense?
Stewart: I think [I’m] somebody who really enjoys a lot of comfortability and shameless freedom to be myself and really enjoy that with the people that I love the most, not only romantically. I think it’s really important to kind of just realize how fringy that is and it’s not completely across the board normal for everyone. The movie really broadcast how everyone’s coming-out story is totally theirs and individual, and there are so many different versions of that story and thankfully, we’ve progressed a lot. There are a lot of people that don’t live in fear and anxiety, but there are so many people that do. If this movie allows them to laugh at things that are normally really painful, it’s a nice welcome feeling. And also, it’s a bit of an invitation to anyone who maybe still harbors judgment to realize that love really does look the same on everyone when it’s true and coming from a real place.
Davis: A conversation I’ve had a lot in my career in promoting movies is, ‘What does it feel like to be like a strong female character? Is this what the world needs? Are we done with these other characters? And you’re a strong woman!’ And I always bristle at that conversation. I’m like, can we stop having this conversation and just accept that I’m in the movie and we don’t need to talk about it all the time? But the truth is, that is the place that culture is at and you do need to kind of walk through that sort of awkward threshold where you’re addressing what it is all the time. And this movie deserves to be celebrated as being the first major studio release of a queer love story. But I do always feel that when you’re speaking about it being past due, to where it’s both exciting to be the first and you’re like, OK, now let’s be one of a thousand and then never speak to it again. It’s just the most normal thing in the world because speaking to it somehow makes it feel more alien than just being like, ‘don’t talk about it.’ It just exists.
Stewart: Well, it’s sort of like when people say, ‘Well, I mean, gender’s going away. At some point we’re not even going to have to come out.’ And that is sort of like, no, but it really is a useful thing for someone.
There have been movies and TV series about same-sex couples. Mackenzie, you portrayed a lesbian in ‘Black Mirror,” for example. How does this movie portray same-sex couples differently?
Davis: I think there’s embedded comfort in a rom-com. It’s a really safe genre because you know that everything’s going to work out OK in the end. And to put queer women at the center of that or any queer couple that historically in media representations of those relationships — I mean, Clea just said it so beautifully that, you know, the best version that we have most of the time is these two people that have sort of repressed lives get to be the fullest versions of themselves and then kiss goodbye and never speak to each other again. And that’s one of the most positive depictions that we have of queer love. And then there’s all of these other tortured or truly tragic renditions of love stories or just their existence. So to take this thing that’s been, you know, unfairly burdened with tragedy and to put it in this genre, that you’re like, ‘Oh, I know that I’ll be scared a little bit that they won’t end up together, but they will because that’s the movie’ is just a safe, nice thing to do.
Stewart: We have a ton of really raw, honest, indie movies… that really explore the turmoil and fear that can go into being gay. But then also it’s so fun and joyous to date your best friend and go have Christmas with them. But I mean, that’s also not the whole experience. It’s not just a salve — it’s also true. It’s not like everyone is always over raw and fearful.
It’s a rom-com, but there are also super heavy moments. How was it to ping-pong between those moments?
Stewart: It was always so easy because I never wanted to stop laughing with my new friends that I loved so much, and then a scene would come up and it would be sad or alienating or difficult, and it really hurt to step away from, you know, the joy of it all. But that’s it. That’s life. You know, it’s all balanced. I was so happy that when I was sad, it really was extremely painful.
Davis: Also, it’s kind of true of being with your family in the holidays… things go really beautiful and cookie-cutter and you’re all sort of having this manic fun that you’re together again. And then the next minute everybody’s in a separate room crying because, like, someone passed the water rudely.
Kristen, earlier you mentioned there were times when you couldn’t stop laughing. What was your favorite scene?
Stewart: Well, Mackenzie and I couldn’t stop laughing about things that weren’t in the movie, but really like crying and pissing myself. There was something that she said while we were shooting the end of the movie where Mary Holland’s character is doing a reading of her book. So we’re in the audience being quiet. We had so little to do that day and the rest of the movie for us really is heavy lifting, so this day we were just the audience members. I kind of lost myself a little bit. We were just talking and she said something really dirty and disgusting! I can’t say the whole thing. It’s just too personal and it’s not my story.
It honestly did kind of shock me. And I’m not usually shocked. It was so visceral. Also, any scene that Mary Steenburgen or Mary Holland were in, especially when they were together, I couldn’t be around that either because I couldn’t stop laughing. I wasn’t the only one. Mary Steenburgen could not stop laughing either. I think we constantly had to breathe and contain ourselves.
The film wrapped pre-COVID — many other projects shut down. Many people had to stop production. How has the pandemic affected your other projects? Kristen, you’re soon going to play Diana in “Spencer.”
Stewart: Luckily, it’s such a contained movie that our quarantine is going to be really particular and we’re going to have a tiny little bubble. We don’t shoot until the end of January. Things change so quickly nowadays. I really hope that nothing gets in our way and messes that up because I’m very much raring to go on that. Not in a bad way at all, but I’m like, oh man, I can’t wait another month! I really want to just eat that and have it off the plate. I’d really like that to be behind me, even though I can’t wait to see how it goes. But yeah, this was really a nice experience to have right before we went into quarantine because it was such a together experience and so much fun and kind of reinforced the idea that you should always cultivate your experiences because as you grow older, you can choose who you want to hang out with and make sure you don’t work with jerks that you don’t like. COVID and quarantine and just the constant fear and anxiety and uncertainty has definitely led to a lot of boundary-creating and cultivation of experience, and making the right choice in this movie totally helped me do that. And I’m like, dude, if I don’t feel this tie to the people that I’m working with, there’s no reason to do it.
Davis: I had a production push… I’m going to shoot that show that was pushed this summer, which is about a pandemic, in Toronto. [It’s] also just exciting to work… between every job, I feel like I forget how to be on set and how to be an actor. And this has been a long time. So I really feel sort of anxious to see how those first few days go. But I’m very, very excited to get going and be useful again. Not that when you’re an actor on set, you’re always like, ‘This is useful. You’re welcome for my skill.’ I’ve been so unnecessary this whole year, so it’ll be nice to feel needed.
Watch the full interview above.