By Emma Banks
One of the breakout stars of Boyhood, Zoe Graham (who was featured on the previous 20 pages) dishes on art school, growing up in Austin and playing Julia Roberts’ daughter in an upcoming film.
The art of balance is something that Zoe Graham has been working on (read: perfecting) for a while now. It’s been five years since her first acting gig on a Spike Jonze short with Arcade Fire, titled Scenes From the Suburbs, and one year since the mind-blowing premiere of Boyhood, a film 12 years in the making. And while acting seems to be in the cards for Graham, it’s not necessarily what defines her; she’s equal parts artist, feminist, actress, and Austinite, and above all, unapologetically herself.
“I don’t believe in choosing one thing,” Graham says. “I love acting, but I still do art everyday. Most people do, even if they don’t realize it: making art decisions in the everyday. It doesn’t have to be a choice.” There’s no doubt that, as of late, Graham’s role in Boyhood has taken center stage. For the past three years, she’s joined the cast and crew for a single week of filming, then waited anxiously until the next year’s script was released, hoping that her character would again make the cut.
“Checking in once a year with everyone was really sweet,” she says. “It was extremely special—nothing will ever be like that for me or for anyone again.” Couple this unique, one-of-a-kind experience with the fact that Boyhood was filmed in Graham’s hometown of Austin, where she was born and raised, and you’ve got one hell of a ride. “I think I got spoiled by that, not that I don’t enjoy shooting in other places, but coming back—it was an entirely different experience, and it reminded me of how much I love working in Austin,” Graham says. “There’s a completely different vibe here than anywhere else. I love working in Austin and would love to do it again.”
Graham owes a lot to her hometown—it’s where her career first took flight, after an out-of-the-blue casting in Scenes From the Suburbs (she was in a local band called Schmillion and went to a gathering at the drummer’s house one day that turned out to be an audition). Now, with Boyhood, Austin represents the birth of a new chapter in a career with immense potential. And in the midst of each overly scheduled day, flying back and forth between LA (for filming The Secret in Their Eyes where she plays Julia Roberts’ daughter) and Baltimore (for her sophomore year at the Maryland Institute College of Art), Graham makes art. And studies for her midterms, of course.
“I’ve been flying to and from LA all semester,” Graham says. “But I’ve found ways to work on my art there—it’s been interesting to change all my art to fit it in a carry-on bag. Adapting projects to make small things is a fun challenge. I think there’s always opportunities for creativity in your life.” Working in show business as a self-described feminist actress can be an interesting challenge, Graham says. And then there’s being recognized at school, on your way to class, in the cafeteria, and all over campus for a role in a movie that took Hollywood by storm.
“I spent my first year of college in relative anonymity, and now some people know who I am,” she says. “I’ve had people approach me and then be disappointed that I’m not who they expect. But in some instances it’s really interesting, and they want to talk to me about film and feminism. It’s cool that I can connect to strangers like that just through a performance.”
Graham can date her love of art back to childhood, where she knew from a very early age that she wanted to be creating in some form throughout her life. Her love of acting came much later, however, with her aforementioned surprise role in Scenes From the Suburbs. It was then, at the age of 15, that Graham made the connection between art and acting, and started to envision their combined potential.
“I really enjoyed my first project,” she says. “I felt really at home on set. It showed me that acting could be more than what Hollywood makes it out be, that it can be more of an art. I’ll always be happy that that happened.”
Admittedly, Graham has no idea what’s next, but for a wise beyond her years 20-year-old college sophomore, she’s focused on pursuing all of her passions, and with equal zeal, to be sure. “If acting ever becomes a huge problem, I have this whole life to fall back on,” she says. “I have my art and my acting and if one gets too stressful, I always have the other. I feel like I can be happy doing anything if I have a little time to do what I love.”
by Joanna Steblay
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