Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Inspirational Women in the Entertainment Industry: Felicia Day...

Fans of genre shows can be so protective of their beloved characters that they have their guards up when anyone new comes in, but when Felicia Day entered the Supernatural universe her warm personality and quick wit had her embraced immediately. It certainly helped that she was already known for being the Ultimate Geek Girl after creating a web series for herself to tear down gender stereotypes and the all-too-often-in-fighting of fandom and gamer culture. On The Guild, Day portrayed a quieter character, while on Supernatural she embodies a quirky go-getter young woman. But whether it's tapping into one character written by someone else or writing one for herself, Day breathes a kick-ass creative and confident spirit into them all that gives anyone who watches her a positive image to which to aspire.

Day is in a rare position for many actors in that she hasn't just sat around and waited for the phone to ring with her agent telling her she booked a job. A few years ago she went out and created a job for herself in the role of Codex on The Guild. She did it to work, but more importantly, she did it to work on a very specific kind of material-- one in which she could see herself reflected and one that she felt was lacking in more mainstream media.

"When I wrote Codex, that was really a reflection of who I was at the time. I wrote that part for me because I thought 'I want to see a girl who is like me!" Day said.

"It was not easy. I didn't just wake up one day and was like 'Hey I'm going to take over the web series world!' It was not like that; it was months of self-hatred, crying, depression, and then I was like 'Oh just write [but] every word is pain. Oh it's pain, uh I want to play video games.' It was terrible, and it was not easy, and a lot of people from the outside, they always think about goals, and they don't appreciate processes. And I think that some of the best advice that anyone has ever given me is to make sure that whatever you want to do, it's not just for the goal. You take into consideration how you have to get there from A to B. So love the fact that you're going to be in pain, and you're going to make mistakes, and you going to feel low some days. Know that's part of filling in the dots between where you start and where you want to end up."

Since Day's focus with The Guild was to give herself and others like her an outlet and a place to connect, she was able to truly embody her own philosophy of finding "joy in every step" of the process, rather than worrying about running toward some sort of end goal. This allowed her to connect with those around her-- from collaborators to the fans watching and interacting with her through social media. And it was in those connections that Day saw success in her project.

"I just do what I do, and you know what's very powerful? Just being yourself and saying 'I'm going to make a decision, and this is the right decision for me whatever the consequence is.' That's a very powerful thing that I think a lot of people don't take hold of. We do a lot of things for other people and for external reasons that might not be what you really want, and that's what I meant by in finding meaning and joy in the things I do, I am not afraid of what other people think of me," Day said. 

"There's something in the joy of creating something from nothing and allowing yourself to be as weird as possible that you can't really do when you're doing math or something. You have to be doing something creative, so that's what really drives me. One of the things is that you really surprise yourself when you're performing-- even when you get a script and you're just reading the words, everybody is going to interpret them differently, and I just think that's really beautiful."

While Day has noted her interest in perhaps tackling another project for herself sometime soon, she has most recently been seen as a recurring guest star on Supernatural, a role that was created in large part in Day's own personal image thanks to the success of her web series to begin with. And it is a role to which she has also certainly lent her geek girl cred to become a fan favorite (something that is unfortunately rarer than it should be for female guest stars of this series). Self-proclaimed "fan girl" Charlie was introduced in season seven of the long-running CW series with a gaggle of sci-fi figurines on her IT desk. Over the seasons, she has come into her own was a warrior by shining in her own element (LARPing and hacking computers, for example), as well as by stretching and challenging herself (facing her past, as well as Leviathans and the magical land of Oz). She is also a rare representative of an LGBT character on network television who isn't defined by her sexuality. In fact, Day was really proud that a recent episode saw Charlie striking up a friendship (rather than a hook up) with another bad-ass woman simply because human relationships are more complicated than attraction and she "didn't want to see her just jumping into bed with the first woman who could be a real friend"-- a lesson that more shows could use across the board with characters, gay or straight.

"The fun part of playing Charlie is that I take those qualities of Charlie [that] I have-- that everybody has. That's the cool thing about being an actor: you just have to find the truth in yourself and pump up certain parts of it. And of course the root of Charlie is really personal to me but the parts of Charlie that are most define are parts that I definitely, at least five years ago, didn't tap into-- that sort of boldness in a sense, and I really love that about Charlie .She's had to make her way in the world in a way that Codex never had to. That's sort of Codex' problem in life in that she's a fish out of water all of the time. So it's super fun to be able to play both sides of those coins and have people see that yeah they're the "girl" part but not all geeky girls are the same, you know? They have some similarities, but there are similarities in any two characters that you can point out. And I love the subtlety with which you can paint the brush of somebody-- because we're not all the same. Geek girls are not all the same. Some people are geeks about paper crafting, and that's just as legitimate as people who love Star Trek, and those are the subtleties we lose when we...use the word [as a] label to define," Day said.

The label of "geek" may no longer be one that comes with negative connotations, thanks to the kick-assery of people like Day (who proudly proclaimed that she "likes to be in bed by 10 to read"), but that doesn't mean that it is universally celebrated yet, either. In fact, some of the toughest critics can be found within the culture itself-- female gamers are often still looked down upon, often by other female gamers who may feel threatened rather than supported by seeing someone who looks like them representing them but perhaps not playing exactly like them. Things that are typical in such a culture are generally used as escapes, but it can also be easy to lose one's self a bit in the vastness that is the well of information and now commentary surround it. Day sees this as a double-edged sword and believes it's immensely important to make that space as positive as possible to preserve it as a sanctuary.

"What really matters in life is the people who will be there in years and the people who really know you. If something really affect you, just reach out to the support around you and know that that's way more important than trying to please everybody. Because that's the good thing and the bad thing that the internet gives us is access. I think I wrote in The Guild that the worst thing in the entire world is to know what everybody thinks about you...and that's the internet. It's a blessing because you'll meet some people that you otherwise would never have met or had in your life, and that's fantastic, but then at the same time, you're exposed to all of these people who you really wouldn't have cared what they thought anyway, but their opinion seems as valid as any other because they're put on the same stage," Day said.

There is a lot of noise surrounding this culture and Day's day job, but she distracts from it by filling her spare time with "silly dance classes" and photography and other creative things that she knows will bleed over into her writing and her acting. One creative endeavor may enrich another, but they also all work to make her a unique and well-rounded woman in general. And that is something she wants us all to celebrate.

"We are defined by our individuality, and unless we're allowed to express that, I don't know what we're doing here," Day said.

1 comment:

Matías Pierdoménico said...

I loved this article. Do you have a link to the video of this interview, if she was recorded? I wanna hear her say this. :P. Thanks.