Beauty and Fashion

Talia Ryder Is an Optimist at Heart

Talia Ryder Is an Optimist at Heart

Talia Ryder is a star in the making. The 21-year-old actor cut her teeth on Broadway, starring as Hortensia in Matilda the Musical, and has had big-screen breakthroughs in Steven Spielberg’s West Side Story and Netflix’s Do Revenge. But Ryder shines as a true indie darling in Sean Price Williams’s The Sweet East, a picaresque drama that follows Lillian (Ryder), a 17-year-old high schooler who takes a wild tour of the northeastern United States via a score of cartoonish subcultures. 

On her journey, Lillian jumps from host to host, finding herself embedded with white supremacists, trust-fund anarchists, crackpot conspiracy theorists, and eccentric artists, all of whom are taken by her beauty and lackadaisical attitude. Yet while she fields desire from various parties (and with various degrees of lechery), she is no victim, instead operating with the finesse of someone much older—and more jaded—than a teenager. 

Make no mistake, though: In spite of the film’s relentless satire, Ryder maintains that it takes an optimistic view of the world—and so does she.

Vogue: What went through your head when you first read the script for The Sweet East?

Talia Ryder:  I was pretty confused, but I was really excited to read a story about an elusive, manipulative girl stepping into the worlds of all these different men and still maintaining complete agency and control of her situation. It just seemed like a really interesting, different type of adventure movie than I’ve seen before. I just got really excited. Immediately when I finished it, I went back and reread it a second time. You read a lot of scripts as an actor—a lot of really boring scripts and unfulfilling scripts. This is one of the ones where I wanted to read it again, which is really good sign.

The film offers a lot of space for meditation on power and control, which I think is really interesting, especially because you’re playing a high school-aged girl.

Some movies kind of just happen to you, and there’s not a lot of room for meditation. It’s really up to the viewer how they want to perceive Lillian’s intensions and the intentions of the men in the film. [There is] a lot that’s left unsaid and undefined, which was also really exciting to me about the script. I like movies where it’s up to you what you make of it. 

Courtesy of Utopia

What stayed with me after the film was that, in spite of the satire, there’s this common thread of what Lillian was to all of these people belonging to these different subgroups. 

It definitely gave me a lot to think about, both reading it and getting to play a person like that. I think it definitely affected how I moved through the world and saw different relationships in my life, and I really appreciate Lillian’s awareness, but also forgiveness for the people that she’s around in the film. She’s a very complex person. And I don’t read a lot of complex 17-year-old girls, so that was exciting.

I’m really interested in how you got into Lilian as a character. Like you say, I’m sure it must bring up these close-to-home feelings.

The more I thought about it, I realized a lot of the film rests on her relationship with her love interest in the beginning: Tory, the boy at her high school. She is rejected by him completely and wants him to like her for herself and just doesn’t get any positivity from him. I don’t know why I was obsessed with certain boys when I was 17, but you just are. There’s a lot of confusion within yourself and disappointment in him, in her situation, in the hand of cards that she was dealt, in where she grew up. The film is a story about a girl who realizes that she actually is the main character in her own life, and if she doesn’t like it, she can just go into a different scene. She makes a choice to start being in this movie, and she makes a choice to become the main character of this movie. Once she realizes that, it’s her story, and all of the characters in the story are characters in her story. She adopted a very self-centered mentality—for good and bad—but that’s a driving factor, that she knows that she’s in a story and she’s making a lot of decisions based on advancing the plot, which is a really, really fun idea to play with when you’re creating.

Courtesy of Utopia

If only we were all so aware when we were that age.

It’s hard. To be honest, the state of the world is pretty depressing. But I think the thing that hopefully this movie touches on is that people feel it’s not completely out of our control. In life, if you seek out adventure with hope, adventure finds you, and things end up going your way, too. I really like that the film closes with the line “Everything will happen.” I think that’s like the most hopeful way to say it. 

Do you see the movie as optimistic?

I think I do. She’s also still very sad at the end of the movie. I think I found the last shot very, very sad in a lot of ways. When she sees something very tragic happened on TV, I think she leaves with some sort of inclination that she can go and do something and change something. She has that amount of drive and passion in her in that moment. And I also think in a weird, maybe fucked up way, whatever happens on the TV, [she thinks], See, if someone can do something so big, so bad, I could probably do something so big for good.

This conversation has been edited and condensed. The Sweet East is now in theaters.

Written by
Jackson Fashionista

Greetings, fashionistas! I'm Jackson, setting trends and redefining beauty in the world of fashion. Join me in exploring the latest styles, beauty tips, and the art of expressing individuality through fashion. Let's make every day a stylish adventure!

Related Articles

Trendy nail art designs for short nails
Beauty and Fashion

Trendy Nail Art Designs for Short Nails 2024

Welcome to the exciting world of nail art! If you have short...

Eco-friendly sustainable fashion brands in 2024
Beauty and Fashion

Top Eco-Friendly Sustainable Fashion Brands 2024

Welcome to the transformative era of the fashion industry in 2024, where...

Guide to selecting non-comedogenic foundations
Beauty and Fashion

Guide to Selecting Non-Comedogenic Foundations

If you struggle with acne-prone or sensitive skin, finding the right foundation...

Fashionable athleisure outfits for yoga enthusiasts
Beauty and Fashion

Stylish Athleisure for Yoga Fans | Shop Now

Are you a yoga enthusiast who values both style and comfort in...