By Zoe Stagg
Photography: Brian Higbee
Location: Mack Sennett Studios
Juno Temple is waiting for a revolution. “It kind of feels like we’re in limbo right now. I literally could not tell you what I think is going to happen. I think the whole country is very aware of that.” In a year of decision, the only thing certain is that whatever happens, it’s going to be huge. “To be honest with you, I think it’s pretty scary. I mean to me, if someone like Donald Trump becomes president, I don’t want to live in America. I think that would be frightening. America has so much power in the rest of the world too… I don’t think I’d want to be here, which is also frightening because I do love being here.” English by birth, Juno grew up in an idyllic world of sketch books and music, with an Alice-in-Wonderland garden that fueled her rotating cast of characters. “My parents were amazing at allowing me to create make-believe from the minute I could start walking. It’s hysterical, in all my baby pictures, I’m in fancy dress.” A costumed world of imagination is one thing, one where the fantasy is about to come crumbling down, is another. “America could completely change, you know? And it’s quite frightening.”
She talks in extremes, crashing from “amazing and brilliant” to “terrifying and demonic” and still manages to sound completely genuine. The hyperbole isn’t an act, it’s the technicolor lens that colors her whole existence. But her emotions don’t run the show. “My dad has always said to me that knowledge is the key to life.” She uses this heady approach for every character she creates now. “You’ve got to know what you’re doing before you step into it, you can’t just put on the costume.” There are those actors who don’t conjure a mental image of the person themselves, but rather the parts they’ve played. Juno manages this sleight of celebrity, skipping from British wartime in Atonement toTexas trailer parks in Killer Joe to and an actual enchanted kingdom, while playing the pixie “Thistlewit” in Maleficent, with a crown of wild golden curls to befit a shape-shifting sprite.
In a world where it seems like “being famous” is the job rather than “being an actor,” Juno’s praise for those who don’t, rushes out in a tumble. “A lot of the women I’ve looked up to my entire life, the Kate Winslets, the Cate Blanchetts, the Amy Adams, the Jessica Chastains, they are women that are so, so brilliantly into what they do, and they are really, really playing parts that I find beyond inspiring. They make me forget that it’s them, and that I find amazing.” Until recently, the parts that Juno had been losing herself in, were ten years in her rearview. “I’ve got to be honest, I was really excited when Vinyl came along and I was actually playing a young woman and not someone in boarding school anymore. I was pretty damn excited about that.” This alone could make her a unicorn in the entertainment industry, a woman who is looking forward to aging. “I think growing up is so amazing, and I also think there are such incredible roles for women, especially older women, right now in the film industry.”
She acknowledges looking young for her age is a blessing and curse, and it’s a spell the evil queen can reverse at any moment. “I’m still waiting for the day I wake up and I’m 32 and I look 85.” She cackles with the delight of yet another ‘fancy dress’ to play. “I think in general, being a woman in today’s society is complex because of people saying that you should be perfect — but I’m a strong believer that you don’t have to be.” Even in a world that pushes perfection in the form of plumpers and fillers and lifts, all measures to keep time at bay — while they alter the very expressions of an actor’s trade. “I think that people should do what makes them happy, but I do think it’s heartbreaking when people completely change the way they looked and you know it may be was because they felt that pressure.” She turns the Hollywood party line on its lifted and tucked ear. “I don’t think being a wonderful actress is about necessarily being the most beautiful person in the room, I think it’s about something coming from within, and I think it’s important to remember that.”
Expectations aren’t just a feminist issue, however. Here her passion veers from exuberance to exasperation and back again. “There’s a lot of pressure being human! We’re being told so many things, ‘This is good for you, you should do this, you should eat this amount of kale!’ and then next week it’s, ‘Actually, too much kale can do this to you!’ It’s fucking insane, the amount of information we’re being given, all the time about what is good for us, and what is bad for us. We’re only on this planet for a hot second in the grand scheme of things, you should enjoy it, I think.” The kale revolution will not be televised.
That’s the precise era and medium she finds herself living in now, thrown back in time to a decade that would be considered a costume drama to someone her age, if she hadn’t grown up the daughter of Julien Temple. Temple directed music videos during the precise moment HBO’s Vinyl lays down — for the likes of The Kinks, The Rolling Stones, and David Bowie. In the Martin Scorsese/Mick Jagger produced series, it’s 1973, and Juno plays Jamie Vine, an ambitious assistant with dreams of making it big in the music business. In it, Juno inhabits the world she grew up hearing about. “I’ve spent my life listening to 70s music, it affects me so much more that even music today because it was so about lyrics, and so about what people were saying with the music.” Though the music industry of the 1970s was dominated by men, the female characters on the show reflect the feminist revolution of the time. “They really are strong-minded women with the brains to go with what they’re doing.” She’s playing a woman struggling to be heard in a world and time that amplified every voice but women’s.
We might think that gender equality was won with a few well-placed shoulder pads in the 80s, but lately it’s seeming like a fragile and uneven veneer of victory. “We’re always going to be fighting for it. The same thing about fighting about racism, about people feeling uncomfortable about gay relationships, to me it’s insane that’s even an issue.” The fact that there’s been progress is a great looking glass for how much we stand to lose. “Compared to 1973, I think that times have moved forward hugely, and women are heard in a much, much, much bigger way and actually listened to? You know the fact that there’s a possibility that we could have a female president in the United States is monumental.” It’s not something that’s going to be solved in one visit to the ballot box, nor is it something to bemoan, as long as there’s still room to throw elbows at the glass ceiling. “Women are still fighting for rights, and that fight will carry on, and I think that’s how the universe is always going to be. But I feel like that’s also what burns passion into you, and why I love being a woman. I love being a woman. I’m so proud to be a woman, and I think feminism will never, ever disappear and that makes me very, very happy.”
Vinyl throbs with the anarchist energy that comes from cramming change down the throat of society, one riff at a time. But as cycles repeat and one of the giant revolts of 1973, Roe v. Wade, is being chipped away district by state, suddenly 40 years ago on television seems like a blink. Seems like now. “I don’t want to live in a place where it’s not a woman’s right to choose. I’m not interested in that.” She’s resolute. It’s one of the times where with youth, comes wisdom — and the burning desire not to return to the past. Instead, we have to keep pushing against convention, like the musicians featured in the astounding soundtracks that accompany every episode. What we have now might feel like limbo, but it might be time for a few, well-timed fist pumps. It could be time to be a little bit punk rock.
“The great thing about punk rock music was that you didn’t need to like it necessarily, it wasn’t made to be liked, it was made to be heard. And you couldn’t help but hear it.” Here’s where being raised by one of the foremost punk documentarians might prove that the spirit to rage, is nature and nurture. In the 70s, the move might have been mohawks and raw lyrics, today it could be a hack and a dox. A bit of a technophobe herself, she declares quite sagely, “I don’t know what the iCloud is, I don’t want to be on the iCloud.” And yet she surmises the “cloud” is where the establishment goes to die, this time instead of the Sex Pistols, it’s Anonymous. “That is the new punk rock, where they’re trying to take down huge organizations, the government, and all these people that we want to know about and we’ll never be able to know about without hacking in and finding their information. Yeah that’s definitely a punk rock move, absolutely.”
Whether we’re moved by the perfect lyric, or a pointed WikiLeak, Juno’s special potion of firebrand and fairytale could be precisely what we need, right now. “In the 70s, it was kind of this moment of opening our eyes and opening our hearts and opening our minds and this revolution of, ‘Let’s just be creative, be human — live, and be human like we should be.’ I think there’s always time for revolution. I think there’s always things that we can revolt against. I would say that it’s probably headed toward a revolution, and I’m excited about that.”