Okay, lesbians. Hold on to your Birkenstocks, call your girlfriend on speed dial, and clear your calendar for TONIGHT — because Hearts Beat Loud, a major film release featuring a major lesbian character, is hitting theaters.
The film’s website describes Hearts Beat Loud. “In the hip Brooklyn neighborhood of Red Hook, single dad and record store owner Frank (Nick Offerman) is preparing to send his hard-working daughter, Sam (Kiersey Clemons), off to college, while being forced to close his vintage shop. Hoping to stay connected through their shared musical passions, Frank urges Sam to turn their weekly “jam sesh” into a father-daughter live act. After their first song becomes an internet breakout, the two embark on a journey of love, growing up and musical discovery.”
Hearts Beat Loud is a multi-racial film where the queer lead character (played by out actress Kiersey Clemons) isn’t struggling for acceptance. In this interview, Jim Dobson speaks to Kiersey Clemons about her connection to her queer character, her feedback from LGBTQ fans, and what it was like playing lovers with Sasha Lane.
Jim Dobson: Tell me what Hearts Beat Loud is about?
Kiersey Clemons: It’s the story of a father and daughter the summer before she leaves to go to college. And in the midst of her father having a mid life crisis, they both form a band trying to find a way to meet in the middle.
JD: What first attracted you to star in the film?
KC: I was really excited about the cast and to be working opposite Nick Offerman, and getting to play lovers with Sasha Lane, and just getting to learn from everyone. And also the music part of the film and getting to work with director Brett Haley. He makes movies that fill that certain vulnerable space in our hearts that we don’t get to see often in the movies.
JD: How did you approach the character personally?
KC: I feel like my character Sam is a lot more guarded that I am. Her relationship with her father is a lot different than my relationship with my dad. We get along and are so much more alike. I tried to imagine what it would be like to be in denial of how much you are like your father. And she doesn’t know how much she is like her mom. I have been fortunate enough to have my mom my whole life and Sam didn’t.
JD: Director Brett Haley told me that when he cast you in the role he had no idea that you were already an out queer actress. How did that conversation go?
KC: Well, it was funny because at the time my partner was working in Singapore and I related to how it feels to leave someone that I love, my girlfriend. Oh my God. And so it was fun to be able to go back to that experience filming. When you have that relationship with a director and he’s able to bring elements from your personal life that are not offensive or overstep boundaries is really special and we both had that.
JD: And this isn’t the first time you played a gay character.
KC: In the movie Dope was my first time and then the Netflix show Easy. It’s funny, I was just telling someone else how interesting it was to grow up and be a young woman figuring yourself out on camera and in your personal life at the same time. It sounds a lot more vulnerable I think than it is. It’s just really self reflective and it feels cool to watch yourself and it helps you understand yourself. It’s been a blessing for me. I don’t think a lot of people will have that opportunity that I have.
JD: Tell me what kind of feedback your receiving from the LGBTQ fans.
KC: I think there is a lot of acceptance in the queer community of seeing guys in relationships on screen; people are more comfortable with that than they are seeing lesbians, which is funny because in the real world it’s opposite. There is also the sexualisation of two females together that we are trying to get rid of. I’m really happy that I’m part of the community, just generally speaking. And there is this sub community with women of color who are queer who reach out to me and tell me they want to see more stories like this. I see the scripts and I see what is happening in Hollywood and there definitely needs to be more on screen.
JD: Are you noticing more women of color coming up to you more after seeing your work?
KC: Oh yeah. We see each other from a mile away and it’s really comforting.
JD: Tell us about the musical elements in the film. What was your personal take on the music?
KC: In my real life I have only done musical theatre and talent shows when I was younger. Now that I am older I find music to be a very therapeutic thing and I am always playing music in my house and I am always writing music. I think I am a little like my character in that way, where our music is something that is really comforting and detached from everything else in our life. I don’t know if I will ever pursue a professional music career though. That’s another thing in common with the character is that we both don’t know if we want to do that. It could still happen and I’m open to it though.
JD: Tell me about working with your “father” played by Nick Offerman. It’s rare in a film to never have the subject come up that he has a queer daughter and it’s not an issue.
KC: I think we often see the conflict of someone coming out to their parents on screen, which is really important and relatable to a lot of people. But the underlying issue with that is that that is the only thing that we see; we think that is the only thing that exists. And a lot of times it’s not. People can have coming out stories that don’t involve being exiled from your family. My experience with my family was peaceful and surprising and exciting. And so it’s nice to not even see that part of the story and see the aftermath of the relationship that you can have with your parents. If you flip the point of view, the relationship you can have with your kid, and how your kid’s sexuality shouldn’t have anything to do with how you interact with them. That’s bizarre.
JD: Was that storyline always in the script or something that developed after?
KC: That was all in the script. I didn’t want to discuss it at all because I feel like it’s always being discussed. And as important as that is, I wanted to put out a movie where we don’t have to necessarily do that. If I have the opportunity to not make that what we’re putting the light on; why can’t we just talk about the love of it? That’s cheesy. (She laughs.)
JD: Tell me about working with your co-star Sasha Lane. Did you know her prior to working together?
KC: I knew Sasha and she texted me about the role before I even got the script because she was already attached. I knew that I wanted to work with Sasha because she’s a good friend of mine. I love her and she has great taste. And I was excited to play opposite her.