I arrived to actor Julia Schlaepfer's West Village apartment masked and with gloved hands. In preparation for the shoot, my fashion director, Julia and I, had a Zoom call to review her wardrobe and select looks for the shoot. Given the current state of things, we unanimously agreed that the clothes should be simple and kept to a bare minimum to echo the reflective nature we have found ourselves in. Due to COVID, it is challenging to find designer clothes samples, and even more challenging to find samples that can be considered safe and haven’t passed through many hands. The Black Lives Matter movement had also left us reflective of the role we play in society and the white blinders we have failed to see. It was impossible for me not to approach a fashion/celebrity shoot as I would have in the blissful and ignorant days of 2019. Julia agreed. With these issues in the forefront of minds, we forged ahead.
For those of you not yet familiar with the actor, Julia plays the icy, politically calculating, girlfriend of lead character, Payton Hobart (played by Ben Platt), in the uber popular Netflix comedy, The Politician, now in its second season. With other promising projects on the horizon she is certainly an actor to look out for. After our shoot we decided that a virtual interview would make the most sense and minimize our exposure to one another. We spoke about quarantine and how it thankfully aided the Black Lives Matter movement. We discussed the role we play as white people in a white political society, as well as her journey from ballet dancer to actor, and nabbing her dream role in one of her favorite writer’s projects.
AS IF: Julia, this was my first quarantine shoot.
Julia Schlaepfer: Yes, mine too.
I found it completely meditative because it wasn’t about anything other than you and I—no music, no noise, no chatter. You wore your own clothes and did your own hair and makeup. I was free to just focus on your energy without distraction. I really loved it, how about you?
Meditative is the perfect word. The experience was honestly moving because it felt reflective of the times that we’re in. I’m so used to the blaring car horns and the hustle and bustle of New York City, and now suddenly we’re all forced to sit at home in silence. It’s a time to reflect and sit with our discomfort, especially with everything going on in the world, and with the murder of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and Ahmaud Arbery. Unfortunately, it took a global pandemic for people to sit with that, and for the majority of the white community, myself included, to reflect on how I haven’t been contributing as much as I should. I think this time, this kind of silence, and the simplicity of this kind of living is so important right now. I think it was so special that we got to use that energy in the photo shoot, and it felt very collaborative. I was very moved after the shoot because you have an ebb and flow to your direction, and we were taping into how we both felt and what we wanted to say. It was a very special shoot, it made me want to go back out into the world and use my voice and my art to comment
on the world.
I’m glad that you said that, because I do think the timing of COVID and quarantine was very important because it took us out of our daily lives. We can’t turn a blind eye to the Black Lives Matter movement any longer, we have to sit with it and understand what it really means. The anger over George Floyd’s murder was an accumulation of suppressed outrage at the other litany of murders and the lid finally popped, thank god. Now, you’re an actress which makes you a public figure. How important is it for public figures to speak out about this matter?
It’s incredibly important. As a white public figure, I think it’s important that I find a balance between speaking out and also lifting up Black voices. I am not somebody who has ever posted about political things, but this is not political; it’s a human rights issue. When this happened, I was sitting at home upset and thinking about how horrible it was, while some of my dear friends and loved ones who are Black were online saying hey, white people out there who have a platform, where are you? I am in pain, I’m hurting, do you care? And it was such a wakeup call for me, I felt horrible, as I should have, and I realized I’m not doing enough. It’s not enough to sit at home and be upset if you have a platform to speak from. If I post a petition or a website link for donations, or a book to read, it might reach thousands of people, we might get more names on that petition, we might get more donations coming in, and that is important. Public figures need to set an example because we’ve been silent, and I’ve been silent about it for too long.