Hello there 🙂
Anna Baryshnikov told me a little secret: The basics of the 1850s are! The actress refers to the mostly invisible corset covers she wears for her AppleTV + series Dickinson. The cropped cotton blouses, adorned with beautiful lace details and often embroidered with the original owner's initials, were used as a protective layer between the corset and the dress. “I was always crazy about putting the costumes on top,” she tells me about the pieces from the Victorian era. "They look like things have been carried a ton now, but a little better." Baryshnikov loved the underwear so much that she asked them Dickinson Costume department where she was able to source her own (vintage stores on Etsy, it turns out) so earning corset has a prime spot in her daily wardrobe.
For Baryshnikov, finding her latest obsession with fashion isn't the only thing she can get out of her work time Dickinson. Now in season two, the series has given the New Yorker the luxury of playing a character who is constantly evolving and wonderfully absurd. As Lavinia Dickinson, Emily Dickinson's spirited younger sister, Baryshnikov is a joy to watch – adorable, utterly relatable, and often at the forefront of some of the show's best dance scenes. In this next chapter, we see an even more confident, vibrant, and compassionate side of Lavinia that easily makes her one of my favorite characters on the series.
After a season two binge session, Baryshnikov and I went on a casual zoom date where we talked about everything from Lavinia's brilliant story arc to how she's giving up her fast fashion habit.
Lavinia really comes into its own this season, which I love. She has regained her sexuality, knows what she wants and is not ready to settle down. In an interview you did for season one, you said you referred to it Little womanAmy March and Pride and prejudiceLydia Bennet for Lavinia. Have your references changed at all for season two?
That's a good question. One of the joys of the show is that [creator] Alena [Smith] really challenges us and changed the characters a lot. With sitcoms, there is another challenge where you play the same character in a variety of different situations. In this case, Alena really allowed the characters to grow a ton in the meantime between the two seasons. [Going into] In a second season, of course, you feel a little more personal responsibility for the character. I felt like I already had the building blocks of Lavinia and understood how she would react to different events. The second season was such a joy because it has so much more agency and is so much more wanton. I actually felt more confident in my understanding of her that I didn't even think I worked the same way this season. A lot of what I was referring to was Lola Montez's through line. I went into a rabbit hole because I was obsessed with this woman who toppled realms with her spider dance. It is so tasty. There was so much on the site to work with that I was a little more relaxed about it.
Speaking of the spider dance, which is an amazing moment of character for Lavinia. How did you prepare for such a scene?
Of course I tell everyone that I am not a trained dancer and that I will have the greatest fun of my life doing this dance scene. We had an amazing choreographer, Danny Mefford, who has a theater background. I really felt like we were speaking the same language because we wanted her to be very full of character and so much more about Lavinia and how she is feeling more than any other kind of rigid choreography right now. At that moment, I really wanted Lavinia to challenge Ship to see if he could handle her fully, and so I just wanted to feel as awkward and crazy as possible.
Henry "Ship" Shipley enters the picture and creates a real battle for Lavinia between her past and future selves. What do you like about this relationship dynamic?
Since we have this spoiler warning that Lavinia never married or never had children, there is a version of that story in season one where we would believe it wasn't a choice [for her] and that she was unattractive or somehow too strange or desirable to people. This season we had to play with how that might have been a choice and how she might have realized how many of those norms she herself rejected. I had a great time working with Pico [Alexander]. The ship character, I thought, was so cleverly designed because he's that hyper-masculine character and embodies those traditional values of masculinity of the 1850s, but at the same time, his language is straight off the threads of Reddit. I mean, men still talk like that. Like everything DickinsonHer dynamic was silly, but it was also weighted and grounded in something Alena felt very strongly about seeing.
One of my favorite episodes is Seven, which features Women's Spa Day. It's fun, but there's also a very cute moment between Lavinia and Emily. I love how their relationship has developed between the seasons.
That was a part of the show that I was always very drawn to. I have a sister and I am incredibly close to her, even though we are very different. I think there is something special about siblings: whether or not you choose them differently, they are in your life, and sometimes the only other person who can understand where you are from. And so in this relationship there is so much to delve into. It's such a deep relationship to play with. On that scene at the spa, as I was working on it, I wondered, "Should this be a little sarcastic, but she's serious or is it really real?" In the end, I leaned into a more sincere moment that Lavinia wanted to strengthen her sister's strength because I only thought of the moments in my life when I put all my personal luggage aside to tell my sister that I did think they are great.
There are so many great looks in season one and season two. Do you have a favorite moment for Lavinia?
Jen Moeller, our costume designer, embodied how Lavinia wants to feel wilder and more creative and bohemian. She made a lot of headdresses with flowers [this season]. [Jen] did such a lovely job from the start of the season to the end where we see in the final scene [Lavinia] in this floral dress that has those funky colors. It's not like the yellow and pastel in which it begins. She has this huge piece of flowers, and it is when she decides, even though she may not be leading the life she thought she would as a young woman, that she choose herself. There are clichés, but I thought Jen portrayed this journey so well.
Dickinson was extended for a third season. What do you hope to see for Lavinia in the next chapter?
Part of the joy of all of this is that Alena and I are working together to find out how she got there, even though we have the facts about how Lavinia's life ended. Something crucial to Lavinia's character that I wanted to watch out for and slowly burn is that at the end of her life she really becomes Emily's caretaker and in some ways devotes her life to protecting her sister and her sister's work. I think we're just going to keep exploring how she got there and how she and Emily got closer and closer when they were incredibly different women.
What do you look forward to most when you return to season three later this year?
Hailee [Steinfeld] has become such a close friend and we live apart across the country. I'm really excited to see them and hang out together and act out scenes, even when we're in masks between scenes. I love the cast so much, and they are such a creative, friendly, and talented group of people that I just feel so spoiled – the idea of spending time doing something with them again after being quarantined for a lot so alone was going to be able to go back and do it.
Feminist revisionism certainly has a moment with shows like Dickinson, Bridgerton, and The great. Why do you find these narratives resonating with audiences right now??
I am thinking of something unique Dickinson is that it's not just a historical piece with a few modern twinks. It's really a mix of a completely modern show and a historical show. Sometimes I have a line that I really need to look at and decide whether it's a completely disrespectful modern comment or a little historical fact from the 1850s. And often it is both. I think this is what it feels like to be a young person now. We experience so much of our history with what is going on politically but also interpersonal. I think we are living the consequences of the dynamic created hundreds of years ago and that is why these stories feel so relevant to our lives. What does this say about how little society has evolved and how often we repeat the same problems over and over? That's not the most uplifting answer.
I think part of what does Dickinson In a way, a spoonful of sugar is that Alena also plays with some of the really absurd things that are similar in the 1850s and today. Even small details keep popping up. For example, I was obsessed with this photo of the real Lavinia Dickinson with a fox. She had a pet fox and was such a cooking animal person. And then on my TikTok algorithm I got all these videos of domesticated foxes! It's just the smallest thing, but it's a lot Dickinson-ish because I think the show has a bit of Ludacris, especially when it comes to the combination of the two periods.
I heard a rumor that you were so obsessed with the vintage underwear you were wearing Dickinson for looking for similar ones on Etsy. Can you tell me a little about how to source these pieces and how to incorporate them into your everyday wardrobe?
The dresses are made for us on the show, but among them a lot of the underwear we wear are real vintage pieces from that era. I was so obsessed with corset covers which are those short white blouses. They look like things have been carried a ton now, but a little better. They have little details like many of them have the person's initials embroidered in white so you can barely see it or really pretty lace. I started asking the costume department where they found them and they mailed me the vintage stores on Etsy where they found a lot of them and they are not expensive. You can often find $ 30. They go with everything – jeans and skirts. I was trying to figure out how to dress more sustainably and think about avoiding fast fashion. This seemed like such a good solution and it really changed the way I look for clothes. I realized that a lot of the things I see in stores that are popular now are replicas of things that already exist in the world and there are so many ways to get my hands on them.
I always joke that my ideal aesthetic is like a Victorian baby going to bed. It's ethereal and simple, but a lot [those pieces] are made of really robust and high quality cotton. It caught my eye because so much about the show is how we relive history, and it opened my eyes to how cyclical fashion is. I'll see someone on the street wearing exactly this, but it's from H&M or ASOS. It's also fun to feel like you're wearing something that had a life ahead of you and a bit of history.
In early December, you talked about being an emotional buyer and taking a more sustainable approach to fashion. What advice would you give serial buyers looking to make a change this year?
I come to it because I know that I can really improve it. Posting it on social media was almost just to hold me accountable and really stick it out. Sometimes the brands that are advertised as sustainable are also quite expensive, so I don't just want to point out ways to live sustainably that actually don't apply to the largest group of people. Even if they sound like such simple solutions, the things I have read about that are very underrated will take very good care of your clothes so they will last much longer and will fix your clothes. I have this batch of three pants. I pulled them all in the crotch because I always seem to do the splits or something. I have a date on FaceTime with my friend who is a wonderful sewer to teach me how to mend my own jeans or take them to mend. I try to take care of that part of the brain that is always getting out of position not to have enough or wanting to be different or have more and really appreciate the many wonderful things I already have. It's strangely, very difficult, and very emotional. I sometimes get frustrated with the attention and pressure that is put on individuals. They want the fashion industry to be regulated and have fewer emissions, and that's something frustrating when it comes to the individual. But here too there is the personal advantage of not falling into the mindset in which I have the feeling that a sweater will change my life.
Last question: 2020 was a particularly difficult year for everyone. What are your prospects from 2021?
First of all, I think everyone should just be proud of themselves in order to survive now, and I'm definitely trying to stick with a mindset where I don't feel pressured to have the most creative fulfilling year of my life have or The funniest year of my life because that probably seems impossible. I'm just trying to focus on gratitude and stay on course, take care of myself, my friends and family and just get by. But as soon as I can, my goal is to go to all parties – to every party. I look back at every party I didn't go to and I think, "You fucking fool!" I saw the new Netflix series on Fran Lebowitz and there is a part where she says, “I think fun is great. I love parties. It's cool to say you hate parties, but I love parties. "Well Fran, I agree!
Dickinson is now streamed on AppleTV +
Photographer: Tiffany Nicholson
Stylist: Liz McClean
Hairdresser: David von Cannon
Makeup Artist: Kale Teter