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Whether you’re home cursing at your computer or pounding the pavement in protest, it’s a crazy time in the world. While it’s so easy to want to retreat — from the headlines, the tweets, and the reality of political votes — actress and activist Olivia Wilde wants to remind you that this is the worst time to “unplug.”
Yahoo Entertainment caught up with Wilde, who has long been politically active and embraces the feminist label, this week at the Dunkin’ Donuts Coffee at Home event in New York. We asked her how she stays positive amid the noise out of Washington ahead of Brett Kavanaugh’s presumed appointment to the Supreme Court and in this time of Trump. She says she doesn’t.
“I don’t stay positive, I stay active,” the star of the new release Life Itself tells Yahoo Entertainment. “I think the only way to survive right now is to stay plugged in. Calling your senators constantly. Memorizing those numbers. Memorizing the numbers of senators who aren’t even your own. Just plugging in and realizing your power as an individual, as a citizen. There’s no other option. You can’t unplug. You can’t turn away. You can’t. The way I handle everything that’s going on is just to stay as engaged as possible.”
And use the energy from this era of female empowerment to propel yourself ahead. That’s what she’s doing right now while working on her film directorial debut with Booksmart. The comedy, which is currently in the editing phase, is about the friendship of “two young, brilliant feminists, who decide they want to change their stories in one night,” Wilde explains. “They want to experience everything they have yet to experience, so they go on a wild adventure.” It stars Billie Lourd (yes, daughter of Carrie Fisher), Kaitlyn Dever, and Beanie Feldstein, whom Wilde raves about as “this new crop of talent” that’s “indicative of the next generation — in general, not just in Hollywood — being smarter, more political, more engaged, hard-working, and [with] higher standards for global awareness.” ReFrame just certified Booksmart as being a gender-balanced production. “We have more than eight lead positions taken by women, and it’s a brilliant group,” she says. (The film also stars Lisa Kudrow, and well as Wilde’s partner, Jason Sudeikis, and his fellow Saturday Night Live alum Will Forte.)
Wilde, pictured on the set of Booksmart, says directing is like “finally wearing a pair of shoes that fit” and calls herself “fulfilled in a way that I have never been”:
In these times, when the president mocks a sexual assault survivor and women are ripped apart for sharing their #MeToo stories (look no further than Yahoo’s comments section), Wilde feels good to be at the helm of a project teeming with talented, inspiring women.
“It is [exciting],” she says. “And to say: Here we go. We can do this. This is our moment. It’s a time — we don’t know how long this will last. Even in Congress. In 1991, there were only two women in Congress, which seems insane now. Then there was the Anita Hill hearing, and suddenly a flock — more women than ever — ran for Congress and won. Now it’s happening again. But we don’t know how long these movements last. It’s like — while there’s an opening in the clouds, you have to go. You have to fly. So it’s like — women business leaders, filmmakers, artists, politicians, teachers, this is the time to grab hold. We will define this time. So, yeah, it’s exciting to be a leader within that movement just as a director. Obviously there are too few female directors — 15 percent of the [Director’s Guild of America], which is nuts.”
Wilde’s talking about this being “our moment” and having “to fly” has the makings of a campaign speech, but for now she’s leaving the political aspirations to another member of her family, her mother, Leslie Cockburn, who is running for Congress in the Fifth District of Virginia. When we ask if she’s doing anything to help her mom campaign, or if she’s purposely staying away to avoid the whole “You’re an actress, so shut up about politics” criticism, she acknowledges, “There’s that stigma attached to Hollywood” but says that won’t keep her away. “She didn’t need my help, but I’m so excited to engage that Jason and I are hosting a big rally at UVA on Oct. 14.”
She’s all in when it comes to campaigning for her mom, an award-winning American investigative journalist and filmmaker. “I can’t wait to canvass all around her district,” she says. “I’m so proud of her. It’s a grassroots campaign. She has 4,500 volunteers. They’ve knocked on more than 100,000 doors. It’s really hard work and she loves it, and I’m so excited.” And Wilde will make sure that her two children with Sudeikis — Otis, 4, and Daisy, almost 2, are aware of how hard Cockburn is working to land her seat. “How cool that your grandmother is running for Congress?” Wilde says. “It will affect them forever.”
Here’s Wilde’s mother, political hopeful Leslie Cockburn, with Daisy:
On the day we’re speaking with Wilde, she’s taking her “first trip out of the editing room in months” to help showcase a tiny house in Manhattan’s Madison Square Park. While it’s a small space, just 275 square feet, it has all the amenities that a home should offer (regular-sized kitchen, washer/dryer, air conditioning) as well as a pop-up porch. Oh, and it’s powered by coffee grounds. About 80,000 pounds of spent Dunkin’ coffee grounds were turned into an eco-friendly biofuel to run the remarkable — and quite stylish — little home, which is open to the public through Saturday.
The idea of waste — garbage that is tossed out on a daily basis — being converted into biofuel to run it “is the coolest thing I’ve heard in a long time,” Wilde says. “This is the future. There’s an insane overpopulation problem in this world. People are going to have to get smarter about the way we build homes, smarter about the way we consume resources, and smarter about the way we dispose of those resources. … Think of all the people who can come through here in New York, see this space, and think: I don’t need more, more, more space. I can just be smarter about the way I design my space. I think in general if we took that ethos and applied that to everything about the way Americans consume, we’d be in a better, healthier place. The idea is that you don’t need it to be about more; you just need to be smarter about how to use your resources.”
And smarter about using your voice as a citizen.
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