Two years ago, Tavi Gevinson, the preternaturally smart fashion blogger from Oak Park, told Chicago that she would love to win some acting awards one day (that, or maybe live alone in the woods one day after college). At the time she was doing voice work on an animated short. Now she has much more reason to lay claim to that goal: an upcoming cameo in Fox’s Scream Queens and a turn on Broadway as Mary Warren in The Crucible (opening February 29, 2016).
But first, she will return to town to celebrate the release of Rookie Yearbook Number Four. The book includes the best articles from the past year featured on Rookie, Gevinson’s online teen magazine that launched in 2011. The site carries everything from thoughtful, progressive videos (“Ask a Grown Man”) to essays on racial disparity in nightlife and endearing DIY projects (“Hem Your Clothes With Duct Tape”).
Before the book’s release party at the Music Box Theatre tonight at 7:30, the Oak Park native, now 19, discussed with Chicago the future of Rookie and her burgeoning acting career.
You started off as a writer and editor and then transitioned into acting. What’s appealing about acting?
It’s an opportunity to be someone else and not to assert my identity. When you’re on stage, even though there are hundreds of people in the audience, you’re protected because [your lines] not your thoughts or words. It allows for a totally different kind of experience from writing and the reflective way I am about my own life. I stopped journaling when I did This Is Our Youth [at Steppenwolf Theatre] last year. I wanted to feel more connected to my cast mates and not just that I was observing them. . . I feel like I get to experience a lot of different ways of living in [acting] as well as writing.
How do you juggle acting and editing?
I’ve been in the Rookie office five days a week ever since we wrapped up the yearbook in May. But I’ve gone away to do a bit of writing and I’ve taken a break to film an episode of Scream Queens, so it doesn’t come down to big-picture decisions; it’s more how things end up being structured based on if I get a part, or if I feel I need to write.
Are there specific roles that you would like to play, or that you think would be really beneficial or important to you as an actress?
It’s hard to think of a specific type of character. The person I play in This is Our Youth is very insecure and anxious, and her whole arc hinged on wanting to know if this guy likes her or not. Next I’m doing The Crucible on Broadway, and I’ll be playing Mary Warren, who is similarly naïve and lost. I think it would be cool to play someone who has confidence instead, but it’s also interesting to live inside of a shit ton of anxiety.
Do you have an ideal role model in terms of your career and your pursuits?
I have a lot of role models. The nice thing is that, at this point and time, there’s this buffet of people I feel I can get confirmation from. I can go, “Well I want to do this thing. I know someone has done it before," and know there’s an artist who can make me feel a little less afraid.
Something I know you mentioned in the past was that you wanted Rookie to get to a place where you wouldn’t necessarily be in charge of everything or in charge of the day-to-day. Is this still true?
I could never step away. As long as I am able to have these periods of exploring other things in other mediums then it’s all good. I don’t think I would be content just acting or just writing or just doing Rookie. I could never walk away from Rookie for a lot of reasons, but one of them is when you feel aware of some of what is wrong with the world, it’s good to not feel totally powerless. It’s good to feel that with this platform, I can give someone else a platform that they need in order to say what they feel and for that message to be out in the world.
Do you think Rookie will continue to have some sort of print component to it in the future? I remember you talking about doing just four of the yearbooks in the past.
I hope so. [This book] is definitely the last yearbook, [but] I’m excited to see what we can do in print and how it can offer something a little different.
How does Rookie stay successful in today’s media world, especially when there are so many outlets trying to capture the attention of young women?
We have a print [product] that a lot of successful online publications don’t have. That feeling of longevity is very valuable, and I don’t just mean monetarily. It’s been important to me personally, just for myself, to have these Rookie events from the start and to have books that memorialize work that would otherwise only live on in pixels. Our lion-hearted devotion to doing Rookie offline as well makes readers’ friendships live on in a more real way and it makes the work have a more personal impact.