Margaret Qualley is having a moment.
Fresh off an impressive stint on the FX show Fosse/Verdon, which earned her her first major award nomination at the 2019 Emmys, the young actress is currently stealing scenes in Quentin Tarantino’s Once Upon a Time in Hollywood.
Starring as Manson family member Cat, the 24-year-old’s scenes opposite Brad Pitt‘s Cliff Booth are among some of the most memorable in the movie. Qualley is well aware that her experience making the film will be a tough one to beat.
“Quentin said, ‘This is going to be the most fun you’ve ever had making a movie,’” Qualley told Entertainment Weekly. “And he was right.”
Read on for more about the young star.
She comes from acting royalty, but doesn’t take her opportunities for granted
Qualley is the daughter of actress Andie MacDowell and her first husband Paul Qualley. Though her parents split when she was 5, Qualley spent the first few years of her life living on a ranch in Montana along with her two siblings – Justin, 33, and Rainey, 29.
“I do sometimes think I don’t deserve the life that I have,” she told Paper. “And obviously dwelling in that undeserving place is not beneficial for anyone. I’d rather help someone else than feel too bad about things. But while I would like to believe that working hard will make it so that I can continue to do this, I’m well-aware doors have been opened for me. I was given opportunities from a very young age that I would not have otherwise had.”
She was a dancer before she quit and started acting
Qualley grew up in North Carolina and attended boarding school where she studied dance before she gave it all up at 16 and moved to New York City. In the Paper interview, Qualley said her lack of training is what made her step away from dancing.
“I didn’t have the proper training when I was really little that would have made me be in the companies that I wanted to be in,” she said. “And I was like, if I’m not going to be the best, then it’s not worth it. Which I know is a really messed up thing to say.”
Still, it led her to New York, where she later attended a theater class with her boyfriend at the time.
“I was like, ‘Oh, great. I guess I’m going to try really hard to do this, actually, because it turns out I love it,'” she said.
But while she no longer dances, she did bust out her skills for Spike Jonze’s memorable KENZO fragrance commercial, where she dances around luxurious hotel.
She got her break as Justin Theroux’s daughter in The Leftovers
After getting the acting bug, Qualley booked a role as Justin Theroux’s daughter in HBO’s three-season hit The Leftovers, in which two percent of the world’s population suddenly disappears. Qualley likened the experience to “a high pressure acting school,” and it turned out to be the role that captured the public’s attention.
She found out she got the Hollywood part while on vacation with her dad
Qualley played a bit of a trick on fate after she auditioned for Tarantino and didn’t hear back about the role.
“You know how if you interview for a job, the best thing to do is plan a vacation, because you definitely won’t be able to take that vacation?” she asks. “My dad told me, book a ticket to Panama, and you’ll get a Quentin Tarantino movie.”
Qualley ended up getting a message from her agent while in the South American country telling her to fly home so she could have a chemistry test with Brad Pitt, her main costar in the movie.
“I was like, ‘Nooo, that’s crazy!'” Qualley recalled.
Once she got the part, Qualley went slightly Method when it came to her big scenes at the Spahm Ranch, where she spends the bulk of her screen time.
“I don’t know if you’re familiar with Charles Manson’s album, but I always listened to that on my way into work,” she told Entertainment Weekly. “To be honest, it’s not bad. [Laughs] So I’d listen to that the last, like, 10 minutes of driving to Spahn Ranch to kind of get me going; it became an OCD thing more anything.”
Once Upon a Time in Hollywood is now playing.