It’s an overcast day in Los Angeles in early May, but not even the clouds can dim Hailee Steinfeld’s shine on the set of her People shoot.
As Britney Spears’ “Toxic” plays in the background, the actress, wearing a Namilia cut-out jumpsuit and sky-high Casadei boots, skillfully poses around—and lying on the hood of—a yellow vintage convertible.
The moment Steinfeld gets a break between shots, she slips a cozy white robe embroidered with her name over her outfit.
“My main goal is to be comfortable, always,” she explains later when she sits down for her interview, for which she also changed into fuzzy slippers.
“I laugh, because whenever I pack to go away for a shoot, it's just suitcases filled with oversized sweats and sweatpants, and that's it.”
While comfortable is her goal when it comes to what she’s wearing, in all other aspects of her life, she aims to be anything but. For a long time Steinfeld—
who had her breakthrough at age 14 in 2010 in the film True Grit, for which she earned an Oscar nomination—“played by the rules,” she says.
But a shift came during the nearly two-and-a-half years Steinfeld, now 26, portrayed famed 19th century American poet Emily Dickinson on the Apple TV+ show Dickinson,
which ran from 2019 to 2021. “That character challenged me in a lot of ways, emotionally, professionally, personally,” she says.
Channeling the elusive real-life Dickinson, whose passion for writing made her an outcast in a patriarchal society where women were expected to tend to the home,
“was incredibly inspiring,” she adds. “She broke out against all of the constraints that she was faced with. If a woman could do that in her time, then we sure as hell should be able to do it in ours.”
While starring in and producing Dickinson, Steinfeld took on the challenge of playing heroine-in-training Kate Bishop in the 2021 Disney+ miniseries Hawkeye,
a role for which she pushed herself by learning archery and doing some of her own stunts. “Archery is a skill I never thought I’d pick up,” she says. “It was a blast.”
Steinfeld is next set to return as strong-willed Gwen Stacy in Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse—the sequel to the 2018 hit Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse—
out June 2, and she says she is now very “conscious” about what roles she takes: “I want to feel like I’m constantly being challenged and taken out of my comfort zone.
I think it's easy to feel like, ‘Okay, you've nailed something. I can totally do that again. I can do it five more times!’
But I want to do something that feels new and different and fulfilling in a way that I haven't quite felt before.”
Steinfeld is taking risks in her life and work now, but she notably has not gone down the path that many child stars have gone before her: no scandals,
no trips to rehab, no hasty marriages or family emancipation dramas. Instead she not only survived child stardom, but gracefully transitioned into adulthood.
“I feel so grateful for everything that has happened in my life,” she says. “I'm doing what I love,
and I never thought that I would be doing it to this extent.” How did she pull it off, Here are Hailee Steinfeld’s Rules for Living.