V GIRLS: Taylor Russell

With youth, influence and project-driven careers, these promising actresses have our eyes glued to the screen. Here, the behind-the-scenes stories of how they found their craft.

Mixing the heightened style of Euphoria with sweeping melodrama, Waves made a splash on the festival circuit this year. Centering on a deceptively broken South Florida family, it teases out a panoramic view of dysfunction. Canadian actress Taylor Russell plays Emily, younger sister of star-athlete Tyler. “Emily is kind of the lost child, in that her parents don’t pay as much attention to her,” says Russell, “because they know she’ll be okay. I naturally connected with [that].” As Tyler’s golden-child armor erodes under mounting personal and societal pressures, Emily displays a quiet mettle, finding nonparental solace in characters played by Alexa Demie and Lucas Hedges. Those actors also served as Russell’s de-facto family off screen: Russell calls Demie a “best friend,” and she and Hedges are now dating. “Lucas is so funny and loveable,” she says of the latter. “People may think he’s much more serious than he is, based on his roles. But he’s, like, the funniest person in the room, always.”

Russell also found companionship in Demie, who is Russell’s age, despite playing a character far ahead of Emily in age and maturity. “We hung out every single day after work, making matcha lattes and meditating and praying,” says Russell. Besides being kindred spirits, they were also each others’ film-loving equals. For their pivotal scene, originally sans dialogue, the actresses channeled Swedish cinema. “Alexa and I had watched Persona and were completely obsessed with it, so we asked [director] Trey [Edward Shults] if we could improvise the scene,” Russell says, referring to the psychologically realist film by Ingmar Bergman. “We thought we blew it, but it’s one of my favorite scenes in the movie.”

Waves itself doubles as an ode to artistic renegades, particularly in its soundtrack, co-curated by Trent Reznor and featuring Frank Ocean and Kanye West. For Russell, the film’s music conjured her teen years, which included a brief, musically rebellious phase: “I played bass guitar in 7th grade, and these high-schoolers would make fun of me every day on the bus—like, ‘There’s that weird girl with a bass guitar that’s the same size as her,’” she recalls. “My family moved 16 times in all, so I had a lot of opportunity to reinvent myself.” Now an in-demand actress with a film scholar’s shrewdness, Russell’s process of reinvention is bound to continue. “I love Spike Jonze and P.T. Anderson,” she says. “I love movies so much, and hopefully I’ll be able to work with those people someday.”

Taylor wears Coat Batsheva, Jacket, dress, pants Missoni

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