Margaret Qualley Talks Spirituality and Her Upcoming Role in 'Novitiate'

Margaret Qualley Talks Spirituality and Her Upcoming Role in 'Novitiate'

Following The Leftovers, the actor will continue tackling religious themes with her next film.

Following The Leftovers, the actor will continue tackling religious themes with her next film.

Photography: Sharif Hamza

Styling: Ellie Grace Cumming

Text: Ian David Monroe

Margaret Qualley, the 22-year-old budding actress and daughter of Andie MacDowell, cut her teeth on HBO’s sci-fi series The Leftovers. Now, she’s venturing into a starring role in Maggie Betts’s feature-length directorial debut, Novitiate.

The film is a convent drama set in the ’60s, during the formation of the Second Vatican Council, and follows Cathleen (Qualley) as she trains to be a nun under the tutelage of Reverend Mother (Melissa Leo). “If I could feel like I was in a real relationship [with God], which is what these girls experienced, then I felt like I was doing my job,” recalls Qualley.

Like most people, she wasn’t particularly educated on the complicated mid-century ecclesiastical history that sets the film’s scene. “I really used it as an opportunity to learn about Catholicism, to learn about the process that these nuns went through, which was much more intense than now.” To get a visceral feeling of that process, the ensemble of aspiring nuns took a field trip. “Before we shot those scenes, all the girls stayed in a convent overnight just to see what that experience was like. Melissa Leo actually came to all of our doors the next morning at 5:00 AM and called us ‘young ladies’ like Reverend Mother.”

Refreshingly, at a particularly divisive time when religion is tied up in politics, Betts takes a neutral stance. “I think one of the things that’s so great about the way Maggie focused the film is that she really doesn’t make it seem overly positive or negative. At the same time, she really illustrates how terrifying conformed religion can be and how beautiful spirituality can be.”

MARGARET WEARS DRESS KENZO S/S ’17 TOP (UNDERNEATH) AG JEANS

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