Brigette Lundy-Paine has their elbows at their sides, their hands stretched up toward the sky. The gesture is almost a shrug, but the effect is less "I don't know" and more "I can't help it, I really am this cool." It's an uncanny impression of Keanu Reeves in his most-gifed moment of 2019: his slo-mo introductory scene in the Netflix rom com Always Be My Maybe, in which he played an exaggerated version of himself.
The impression is so good it’s unsettling — that is, until you factor in the time the 25-year-old spent over the summer playing Reeves’s daughter in the upcoming Bill and Ted Face the Music. (They also dressed up as Reeves’s Matrix character, Neo, for Halloween this year). That chameleon-like ability to disappear into a character, though, isn’t just limited to an impersonation of their onscreen dad. They also seamlessly slip into "farm girl" when I ask about their favorite T-shirt, which they brought to set for our photoshoot.
“I have this character that I do called Farm Girl, and her story is that she lives with her father," they explain, brimming with the same energy that compelled the photographer to praise their "amazing" personality during our shoot. "And one day the bad man comes and takes all the cows and so she has to go to the neighbor boy who she's in love with and ask him for milk. This shirt reminds me of that.”
This theatricality has only served them well. After breaking out in Netflix’s Atypical, Lundy-Paine also made their mark in small but crucial movie roles, playing Christoph Waltz’s girlfriend in Downsizing and Brie Larson’s sister in The Glass Castle. But their career has picked up steam from there: filming for Bill and Ted wrapped in late August; Atypical’s third season dropped in last month; and their next project, the highly-anticipated Bombshell, is coming to theaters in December. Certainly, 2019 is poised to be the year that makes everyone sit up and notice Brigette Lundy-Paine.
It’s been a big year on the personal front, too. A few weeks after our late October interview, they came out as nonbinary in an Instagram post.
Ahead, Lundy-Paine discusses getting into acting as the family business, accidentally sticking their hand in Kate McKinnon's pasta, and having secret handshakes with Keanu Reeves.
How did you get into acting initially?
I was sort of brought into it as the family business. My parents are both artists, they had a theater company in the Bay Area for a long time called Virago. I never really had a choice — when I was two years old, I was the baby in a play that they did, and it kind of just happened naturally.
When Atypical came along, had you been looking to do more TV work?
Yes, actually. It's funny, I was [initially] scared of TV because I thought that it was too much of a commitment. I surprised my agent one day by emailing her, "Is there any TV I can audition for?” She didn't appreciate that email. She called me back and she was like, "What are you talking about? We had a plan for you! We were going to do indie movies!" I was like, "Sorry. I've just been watching a lot of good TV."
In Bombshell, you play someone named Julia Clarke. Is she based on a real person?
I think she secretly is based on a real person, but we're not allowed to say that. It's funny, making movies about real people, there's some people who agree to it and some who don't.
She is Megyn Kelly's [Charlize Theron] assistant — Liv Hewson from Santa Clarita Diet and I play her assistants, and we're both very much Fox News girls. I wear a long brown wig and a very tight pencil skirt the whole time.
That feels like a very opposite role for you to play.
Such an opposite role. It was crazy. I felt incredibly nervous the entire time we shot it, I think because I was playing a character who was so unlike me. The entire movie is like a marathon. Every single scene is so fraught with tension because this happened three years ago, so it's a fresh wound, and it was a huge takedown. Roger Ailes was a massive figure in politics and news for so long, and these incredible women and their bravery brought him down.
I don't think anyone will recognize me. At the afterparty people were like, "Who'd you play?"
What was it like acting opposite Charlize Theron? Everyone has been talking about the transformation she underwent for this movie.
It was such a funny situation to work with her in, because she had really intense prosthetics, so she could barely see. She had these contacts and this nose prosthetic.
Working with her was kind of nuts. She's got incredible stories from growing up in South Africa with a pet chameleon, and stories of every movie she's done. Hearing her talk about working on Monster, it was crazy. She's just lived such a life, and she's so good in the movie.
She's so good, and so is Nicole Kidman. Margot Robbie is amazing, Kate McKinnon is f—ing awesome.
You’ve also just worked on the next installment of Bill and Ted. How was the filming experience?
It was fun, it was me and Samara Weaving — she's brilliant and so funny. The two of us played the daughters. We get to go on an adventure through time ourselves, which was just such a gift.
Had you seen the other movies before you were cast?
No. I watched a clip before I did the audition so that I knew what the voice was like. And I got it. I waited till the last minute, and I was like, "Maybe I should watch it."
What was your first meeting with Keanu Reeves like?
I met him at the first rehearsal, and I asked him where he was staying, and I think he didn't tell me. And then I said, "Dude, we should do a scene where I'm on your back like how the babies were at the end of the second movie."
He said, “...okay!” It was kind of like that for the rest of the filming. I would say something, and he'd be like, "Okay."
He was so down. I wanted to do handshakes between us in the scenes, because Alex [Winter] and Sam [Weaving] were making up all these cool handshakes. I was like, "Dude, Keanu, we should do handshakes."
He was like, "Okay. What do you want to do?" And then every scene, we would do a different handshake until finally, there's a scene where we reunite. I don't want to give anything away, but I was like, "Yo, Keanu. We have to come up with another handshake for this scene."
He said, "I'm going to hug you! You're my kid!"
And I was like, "Okay. Yeah. That works too."
What is he like as a movie dad?
Goofy as f—k. He's playing Ted again, so he's not fatherly, particularly. It felt more like playing his mini-him. I spent a lot of time just sort of watching the way he moves and talks.
In addition to acting, you’re also a musician — tell me a little more about your band, Subtle Pride.
Subtle Pride is an improvisational voice band. It consists of me, Mina [Walker], Zach [Donovan], and Misha [Brooks]. We perform live with partly-improvised, partly-scripted performance art.
You also co-founded a magazine called Waif. What made you want to do that?
It started as a way to promote the band. We thought, "What's the best way that we can promote our band? No magazines want to write about us." So we said, "I guess we'll have to start one on our own."
But we got so carried away with how fun it was, and how many people wanted to be a part of it that we never ended up really writing about the band. We did once, but it has morphed into this platform for people who have nowhere else to put their stories.
You considered studying environmental science. Is environmental activism something that's important to you?
Absolutely. It's so exciting what's happening with young people and the protest movement. I went to the [climate strike] walkout that was two weeks ago or three weeks ago in L.A. It filled my heart with joy and terror to see all of these nine-year-old kids, out in the street protesting.
I was first a bit ashamed that our generation wasn’t really a part of that. I think just because it wasn't as dire as it is now — now, it's serious.
But no, absolutely. My life is comprised of little ways of resistance, from the products I use to the way I live day-to-day.
What did your childhood bedroom look like?
I shared a room with my [younger] brother until I was 16. We had twin beds. [...] And then I moved down into the basement and my parents were forced to remodel it because it was all dirt walls and dirt floors, and I dragged a futon down there and slept there until they were like, "They're going to get sick. We have to do something."
Do you believe in astrology?
What's your sign?
What is the last thing you binge-watched?
Who have you been the most starstruck to meet?
We hung out [on-set]. I introduced myself to her in a ball of nerves in the lunch line. I bumped her and she spilled her water, and I tried to help her clean it up and I accidentally stuck my hand in her pasta. I didn't talk to her for the rest of the day. But I'm really hoping, because I wore a wig in that movie, that I'll re-meet her one day and she won't know it's me.
How would you describe your personal style?
Who was your first celebrity crush?
Frances McDormand in Madeline. And Candice Swanepoel — which I'm embarrassed about — the Victoria’s Secret model. I had a picture of her on my wall.
This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.
Photographs by Ed Maximus. Hair by Benoit Moeyaert. Makeup by Mia Jones. Art direction and production by Kelly Chiello.