Erin Darke is hoping to shed a little light on a time and place when women learned they'd have to fight for every right they hoped to claim.
On "Good Girls Revolt," Amazon's new streaming series based on the real-life feminist rebellion within the ranks of the female researchers at Newsweek magazine during the late '60s and early '70s, Darke plays Cindy, one of the series' three central heroines and the one with perhaps the furthest to go in her consciousness awakening: when we meet her, she's already bought in to a less-than-fulfilling marriage and experiences her own sexual liberation as the female staffers fight against sexist attitudes and policies in their workplace.
With an early career path already filled with key guest stints on popular series like "Girls" and supporting turns in films like "Still Alice" and "Love and Mercy," Darke gets her first major showcase in "Good Girls Revolt," even as she adjusts to a degree of reflected celebrity in her off-camera role as Daniel Radcliffe's romantic partner -- all of which she's devoted considerable thought to, as she revealed in a wide-ranging conversation with Moviefone.
Moviefone: So, I'm curious, with this show, how much of this was a real education for you on the '60s? Did you have a sense of that era -- other than what you might have watched on "Mad Men"? And how tough it could be for women in the workplace?
Erin Darke: [Laughs] Yeah, I think I would say that I had a sense of it. I had a general idea of it. But the show was definitely an education in the specifics and just how bad it was. And the fascinating thing is in talking to Lynda Obst, one of our producers, who was a female journalist at that time, one of the things she says is like, "We actually toned down the sexism a lot for the show." Which is astounding.
You hear some of the stories about that time, and for me, being a young woman who was raised after that, that has grown up in this era, it's almost hard to believe sometimes. You're just like, "That can't be real. That can't be less than 50 years ago." It's pretty crazy.
Fifty years removed, we are still having some pretty important conversations about women in society that we've taken a while to get around to -- we'd kind of set it aside. What are the things that you did relate to, even though the sexism certainly was more rampant back then? What things did you say, "Oh my God, that is still a part of my life today"?
A great deal of it is. I think, actually, some of it has gone away, in that it was such a common thing at that point -- especially most men, even good men at that point, had never been taught or seen anything different. So even the good guys that probably were open-minded, most of them at that point were still sexist, because that's just how they'd been raised.
One of the lovely things about now is that men also have been raised in different ways. So most of the men in my life would never do a lot of that. But I think as we've seen recently -- and as we've clearly seen in this election -- so much of that still exists, and I think hadn't gone away, but was just unspoken for a long time.
It's funny, because I've had a lot of conversations with other women and with a lot of my female cast mates lately about the national conversation that this election in particular has really started, and also how that conversation has sort of brought back up, in all of us, all of those times. That I have been groped by a fellow actor when I was having to be unconscious on stage, or groped in the subway, or yelled at on the street by some guy that he wanted to see my p*ssy.
Those are things that are actually part of everyday life for most women, and, in some horrible way, I think we had all gotten used to it. It was angering and horrible, but you do almost get used to it because it happened so much. I'm so happy that we're having an actual conversation again. For me coming out of this show, lit me with this fire of like, "We can't be OK with that. We can't just sit down and take that, and we can't normalize it."
With your character specifically, what were the interesting ways into her? She occupies a very unique place in that she's the one who's already bought into the status quo, and is now going to be having an awakening. So how did you kind of find your way into Cindy?
It was interesting. When I first started, I was finding, when I was looking at her, that Cindy is so different from me in pretty much every aspect of life. Yet, I was finding myself relating to her, and sympathizing with her, and finding it very ... I don't want to say easy to play her, but there was an ease in falling into that skin. I sat there and was trying to think of why.
I realized that I think I have been raised in a time where I was told by my parents and told by the people in my life that I could have whatever I wanted, and that made me happy, and I could do whatever I wanted, and it was important for me to work and find a passion. I realized that Cindy is sort of this alternate universe version of me that hadn't been raised that way: the 12-year-old girl who's just trying to figure herself out, and, instead of being told you can do what you want, being told this is what your life will and should be.
That's the thing. She has, unlike the other girls who are having this awakening in ideas, she has already made those decisions. She is already on that path and trying to extricate herself from that, both emotionally, and mentally, and logistically. It's so hard. I think, more than anything, I just have this deep love and sympathy for her. I feel like I've known those women, even today. I feel like I can see myself in her in another world where I was raised in that time period.
The flip side of the more serious issues of doing a period piece like this is that you do get to time travel and kind of be immersed in the style and the popular culture of that time. What did you just come away loving from '60s style and pop culture? What really made an impression on you?
That's a good question. I love the music. I'm not sure that Cindy has the best taste in music. She has a line in one episode where she says, "They stopped making music after Pat Boone." I was like, "OK -- not my choice, but you go there, Cindy."
It's interesting, because I think the clothes look great and the environment is very cool to go to and to live in, but I don't want to go back there. The clothes look great. Most of the ones I wore anyway were not very comfortable. The social setup, the casual sexism, the women being underappreciated for what they do, and underpaid, and under-recognized -- I don't want to go back to any of that.
I think the only thing that I really responded to in that era was the activism, was the action. I think I feel a lot like I've been raised in a generation of people talking a lot about what they're not happy with, but aren't actually doing anything about it, or not knowing how to do anything about it. I think what's really inspiring to me about the late 1960s, early 1970s, is how much people were doing things about the issues. And they saw inequality, they protested, they filed lawsuits, they acted to make it better. And we wouldn't be where we are right now if those same people had just talked about how it was bad and never done anything.
I feel like given the cyclical nature of history, I kind of feel like we're just entering another period that's going to be very similar to the late '60s.
I agree. I agree. I think that was one of the most shocking things to me in doing just like research on the history of that period and what was happening in the country, and sort of realizing that it can feel unrelatable. It felt very much like a reflection of what's happening now. You can see the country kind of groaning, and creaking, and needing to change, and try and figure out how that change happens.
How much of a research nerd are you? Do you really like to have lots of homework? Or do you just try to find your way emotionally into what you're doing?
I think, as an actor, and with a character, I like to find my way emotionally into what I'm doing. I think that's the beautiful thing about doing a period piece, is you have that moment where you realize that we're all just humans, and were still humans, they just had a different set of social rules around them, and a different culture around them.
My research is more into like, what is this time period? What was happening around them? What was the time period of their parents? How were they raised? And try to go in with all of that information, so that when you actually get on set, you can just approach it from a human and instinctual place.
What's been the fun of taking part of such a female-centric show and having so many women working together, both on camera and behind the scenes?
It's been great. To be totally honest, it's been a really, really lovely, and I think a sort of like bonding and very open experience. Especially because so much of the things that we're dealing with on the show are women's issues. It was so lovely to have people next to you, in front of the camera, and also behind camera that just had an understanding of what that was, an innate understanding. It's lovely.
There are very different energies between most men and most women on set. And there was something that was really lovely about being in such a feminine energy while also having these kick-ass women who did their jobs incredibly well.
There were a couple of moments where we would be in rehearsal, and I would look around and realize that every person in the room was a woman: from our director, to our script coordinator, our DP, our first AD, all of the actors. It just was this moment of like, there's been so much talk about equality in my industry in particular, and there were great moments of looking around and being like, "This can happen. This is not impossible." There are very qualified, intelligent women in all of these jobs, and we just have to keep pushing to make it happen.
How much of a fighter have you had to be just to follow your own path? Did you have a lot of support when you decided you wanted to go into the arts? Or did you really have to take a stand and make it happen?
My parents were always supportive of me exploring the arts. When I told them that I wanted to be an actor, they didn't really believe me for a long time. Then, when I got to college, there were the conversations about, "Shouldn't you minor in something that's a little bit more practical?" I think once they realized that I was determined, they've been very supportive since then.
But in general, I am a girl from Flint. There were no other actors or really people in the arts in my family. My parents were supportive fairly quickly, but nothing else really in my life was. There were a lot of like, "Yeah, if you want to do that, you go ahead and try, but like, good luck girl." It was a struggle. It was a fight.
I moved to New York when I was 21 with my best friend. We had no money and no idea what we were doing. You just have to fight. You just have to keep going. You get beaten down far more times than you get lifted up. But you have to have some sort of like, probably insane faith in yourself, and keep going.
Do you remember the thing that put you on that path? Do you remember the moment where you're like, this is not only what I think I want to do, but probably what I have to do?
I think I had a great deal of those small moments over the years. When you start to realize that, after like 100 noes, when you finally get that yes, it's worth it. For me, I think the huge one, the really, really big one actually came later.
I started working in casting. I was a casting associate full time for three years. I actually loved the job. I loved my bosses. They seemed to think I was good at it. I loved being there. I loved getting to know the other side of film and working with directors that I never would have gotten to work with. I had this moment of being like, this is the best possible job that I ever could have found that is not being an actor. And I just wanted to be an actor. It was an amazing job, but it wasn't what I wanted in my life.
So I stepped away, and it was terrifying at the time because I, again, went from having a steady income and the place that I could go every day and feel productive, to sort of being back to blowing in the wind as an actor and just hoping you can pay your rent.
In the meantime, you've paid the rent and you've amassed a nice body of work, and you've also gotten to sample the spotlight of celebrity as a result of your relationship with Daniel. How do you feel about that, from the perspective of being an actor trying to do good work, but also ending up in the glare of that spotlight?
I've been in a really interesting position of sort of getting to observe the spotlight. It shines a little over on the sidelines every once in a while, but I mostly got to observe. It's funny, because I think my actual career aspirations have changed from that. The careers that I look up to and say, "Hey, I would love to have that person's career," have kind of changed.
There is an innate relation between being a working actor and fame. I hope very much now to try and find a way to be industry-famous, I guess. That's my dream career, is that person who gets to work all the time on cool projects and people in the industry know who you are, but the average person on the street would be like, "Oh yeah, I guess I've seen that girl in things before, but I don't know her name."
I don't think fame is a thing that should be aspired to. There are benefits, but there are also downsides. I don't know how well I would handle those. I don't know if that would make me happy. I just like my job. I just like being an actor.
I think "Good Girls Revolt" is going to go a long way for that reputation within the industry, and I think probably beyond the industry as well.
We'll see! My biggest dream is that Cindy is just different enough for me. Once you take off the hairpiece and the glasses and I'm on the street, my biggest hope is that no one will ever recognize me.
"Good Girls Revolt" Season 1 is streaming now on Amazon.