It’s hard to imagine now, but there was a not-too-distant time when genuinely moving films and TV shows made about and for queer people were few and far between; before Lena Waithe and Céline Sciamma were household names, many of us had to content ourselves with rewatching The L Word on a loop. Even now, many of the films that center on LGBTQ+ couples tend to be period pieces, which makes the new, Clea DuVall-directed Hulu film Happiest Season—a romantic comedy featuring a lesbian couple going home for Christmas—all the more exciting.
Vogue recently Zoomed with Happiest Season star Mackenzie Davis, whom you might recognize from her roles in Tully, Halt and Catch Fire and Terminator: Dark Fate, about the experience of bringing an overtly queer holiday film firmly into the mainstream. Read on for the details:
Where are you based right now?
I’m in London, in a pretty small Airbnb. I moved out of Los Angeles this year, and got to London just in time for the lockdown!
What has that been like for you?
It’s been mostly fine; I moved here October 1, so I knew what I was doing. L.A. was a relatively great place to be this year, because I had a garden and it didn’t feel unhealthy, so this feels…a lot lonelier. I had one of my best friends living with me in March and April and May, so it almost felt like camp or something fun. Now, I’m not in my own house, so there’s a lot of newness to this version of lockdown.
What is it like to have Happiest Season coming out into this bizarre new world?
We wrapped at the end of February, just when everything started changing; we were just starting to use hand sanitizer, and there were these really crystallized moments of awareness and denial. I’m so glad I have this movie coming out, and not something destructive or dour or really depressing; it’s a lovely thing, to think about people watching this in their home. I watched it a little while ago, and it feels cozy and normal—now is the time for a Christmas romantic comedy, and this movie is one dependable thing that hasn’t been thrown out of whack.
What was it like working with Clea DuVall as a director?
It was wonderful. Clea is so funny, as anyone who talks to her knows, and she’s so smart; she’s a wonderful friend and a sensitive, loving person. It was the warmest, best possible scenario for me.
How does it feel to star in a holiday-skewed romantic comedy that is very much about the queer female gaze?
I think we were all aware that this is one of the first major studio movies featuring a same-sex couple in this format, but other than that awareness, it feels exactly the same. What made this movie different was that every single person was just the most delightful person to work with every single day. Because of the genre, you sort of know as a viewer that everything’s going to be okay, which is a really comforting world to live in with these sorts of stories. I felt excited to get to be a part of this entry into the canon, but with a sense of normalcy, too.
Are you a holiday movie person in general?
Well, we watched The Grinch a lot growing up, which… [jokingly] wow, how unusual. My sister and I would watch Father of the Bride a lot around the holidays, so now I associate it with Christmas.
Okay, I promised my editors I wouldn’t bother you too much about “San Junipero,” the groundbreaking 2016 queer-focused episode of Black Mirror you starred in, but I do want to ask: Is there a part of you that’s actively sought out queer stories to tell, or do you find great roles that happen to be queer?
I think I have sought out a type of woman that maybe doesn’t fit within a really heteronormative structure. I didn’t realize that going into my career, but looking back on it, I’ve played a number of women who are either explicitly queer or coded as being very queer. I guess I’m interested in a type of woman who doesn’t fit within a specific space.