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Hailee Steinfeld, Jane Krakowski on What Modern Women Can Learn From Emily Dickinson

Emily Dickinson lived in the 1800s, but if you ask the team behind Apple TV Plus’ upcoming series, “Dickinson,” her story is more current than ever.

Hailee Steinfeld stars in the the modern-day retelling of the poet’s young life. The actress — who makes her first full-time foray into television with the role and also serves as a first-time executive producer on the series — believes her young female fans can be inspired by Dickinson. In other words, Gen Z will be able to see themselves in a poet from 1850.

“I hope that they don’t feel like they have to be okay with being unseen, because that’s not okay. You should want to feel understood and good about who you are and what you do and what makes you happy,” Steinfeld told Variety on the red carpet at the Dickinson premiere at St. Ann’s Warehouse in Brooklyn. Thursday night’s special event marked the first-ever New York City premiere for Apple TV Plus, which launches on Nov. 1.

“I’m so excited that I was given the opportunity to embody this character,” Steinfeld continued. “I mean, I could have used this a couple of years ago, but I can use every bit of it in my life right now. And I can only hope that other young girls see the show and feel fearless and courageous and can embody that sense of Emily Dickinson, as well.”

Jane Krakowski — who plays Dickinson’s mother, a conservative woman with old-fashioned views in a “man’s world” and does not understand or accept her daughter’s ambition — says Steinfeld was the perfect young star to be cast in the lead role.

“When I heard Hailee was going to be Emily, I thought, what an inspired choice, because she brings along a fanbase that might not know Emily, but they will be introduced to her now, and I think it’s a wonderful voice for young girls because she was that young when she was writing those poems,” Krakowski said, adding that she was influenced by “The Mary Tyler Moore Show,” “Rhoda” and “Phyllis” growing up.

“I grew up wanting to be a modern, single woman living in New York, and I think those TV shows inspired me to want to do that,” Krakowski recalled. “I think this show will inspire young women to believe in their own voice, to go after what they want, even if it sometimes feels like the world is saying no. In the same way a Billie Eilish song can make you feel like you belong, I think Emily Dickinson could have the same influence on young girls today.”

“Dickinson’s” creator and showrunner Alena Smith believes Apple was the perfect partner for the show because the company’s brand is about creativity and originality, which is what the show celebrates through Dickinson and her role as a pioneer in poetry.

“This is a coming-of-age story about a radical young female artist who was ahead of her time,” Smith said, pointing to the female sexuality in the show, which was not defined in the 1800s like it is now in 2019. “One of my projects here is to say if Emily Dickinson wasn’t understood in her time, can we understand her better in ours? I’m intentionally using her life and her poems and the context of the 1850s in order to reflect on today. I would say that the show is more about us and more about today than it is necessarily a traditional Emily Dickinson biopic.”

Ella Hunt, Jane Krakowski, Anna Baryshnikov, Adrian Blake Enscoe, Hailee Steinfeld, and Toby Huss'Dickinson' TV Show Premiere, Arrivals, St. Ann's Warehouse, New York, USA - 17 Oct 2019
CREDIT: Erik Pendzich/Shutterstock

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