At this year’s Sundance, the undoubted break-out star was Talia Ryder, a New York-based actor making her movie debut in Eliza Hittman’s Never Rarely Sometimes Always. In Hittman’s road-trip drama, Ryder plays a teen accompanying her friend on a cross-country trip to terminate an unwanted pregnancy. Thanks to Ryder’s poignant performance, it was the best-reviewed film of the festival. “Never Rarely Sometimes Always explores the daunting male gaze that every woman has experienced,” Ryder says. “We are lucky to be living in a time where these issues can finally be addressed.”
If that’s not enough, Ryder, who’s only 17, will next grace our screens as a Jet in Steven Spielberg’s West Side Story. She could retire now, and she'd still have an IMDb page for the ages. That said, the socially conscious actor – she’s collaborated with charities such as Planned Parenthood and Moms Demand Action – plans to champion further causes. So much so, she names Greta Thunberg, Emma González, and Yara Shahidi as her inspirations. “A lot needs to be changed in our world, and I truly believe that Generation Z will be the one to change it.”
When it comes to your work, what are you most proud of?
Talia Ryder: I am most proud of the reactions I receive from other people regarding my work. After a Q&A for Never Rarely Sometimes Always, a woman told me that as soon as she left the theatre she was going to call her daughter. The film touches on the difficulty in asking for help, and especially asking a parent. Through the characters in the film, she was able to empathise and even see herself in the narrative – enough to make a change in her life. If the film is even capable of affecting one person’s life positively, it’s something to be proud of.
“A lot needs to be changed in our world, and I truly believe that Generation Z will be the one to change it” – Talia Ryder
How has the Coronavirus outbreak affected you, your work, and/or your community?
Talia Ryder: Never Rarely Sometimes Always was intended to be released theatrically March 15th and has been released digitally April 3rd instead. While we had hoped for a delay in the film’s release to a time cinemas were to reopen, I’m really grateful that the public will have the opportunity to see it now as there is an urgency to sharing this story now.
Just earlier this week the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals used an extraordinary measure to allow Governor Gred Abbott to drastically restrict essential, time-sensitive abortion procedures using his Covid-19 executive order. Because of the pandemic, it is easy to lose sight of other issues that are affecting just as many people, I hope the film reminds people that reproductive health is especially under attack in a time where there is a crisis like this.
What creative or philanthropic project would you work on with a grant from the Dazed 100 Ideas Fund??
Talia Ryder: I would create a short film series highlighting true stories of young women and girls where they felt they were not heard. These films would be published on a social media platform, such as Instagram or YouTube, making them easily accessible to young people. The series would focus on everyday situations that slip through the crack because a child wasn’t heard, and the damage that can result from silencing them – for example, suicide, school shootings, rape and abuse. It’s the “little things” that we accept and disregard that are the causes of much bigger problems. I’d like to begin by looking at how quarantining (due to Covid-19) negatively affects young women living in abusive households.