Kajillionaire, the new comedy from author Miranda July, is on its face a heist movie. Evan Rachel Wood stars as Old Dolio Dayne, a lifelong hustler running small-time scams with her parents in Los Angeles, before the entrance of a new person into their circle upends the game. Quickly, viewers of the film have noticed that while Kajillionaire isn't explicitly about queerness, its themes of acceptance, the individual versus society, gender and sexuality are what make the film as engrossing as it is.
To discuss this and more, actor Rowan Blanchard hopped on the phone with July for NYLON, shortly after the film came out (Kajillionaire is now available in theaters and on demand). Read on for their chat about the film, connecting with fans during a pandemic and the beauty of true self-acceptance:
Rowan Blanchard: I'm so glad I get to talk to you about this character. It's been resonating with me so much since I watched [Kajillionaire]. And I feel like I've had so many conversations about it with some of my closest friends, which has made it feel really intimate in a way. You've touched something so... I think you know that the people who... I don't know, me and Hunter and Bobbi and other people who are able to maybe see themselves in this movie, we all have quite personal experiences and related to the same things. And I feel like the same things have stuck out with us and it's been cool to share that with friends about a movie, because I haven't really done that in a while.
Miranda July: Can you describe it? I wish I could hear those conversations.
Well, Bobbi was one of the first people in my life, because they're slightly older than me and they've been around me since I was 13, 14, and I would be able to process my queerness alongside this queer person that was sort of my teacher in a way. That's kind of how I feel about Bobbi. We just related to so many aspects of this character because we've never really seen a character that is so non-binary, I guess. I don't know, they don't even read as butch to me. It just reads as them. And I feel it's so unspoken, but it's so visible and it just reminded me of how all of my friends, and all at different points in us discovering our identities, we've been the people to see each other in the way that maybe the audience is the person who gets to see Old Dolio.
That's really beautiful.
It just feels really unspoken and intimate. And I haven't really seen or related to something in so long that feels like... I don't know. I had the same conversation with Hunter, we were both so struck by her voice. I mean their voice, honestly. I feel like I'm misgendering her.
I know right.
How did you and Evan [Rachel Woods] come about making sure that the physicality and voice of that character is so resonant? Just immediately I feel there's so many people who within the first time they open their mouth can just feel so seen and heard.
Right. Yeah. It's interesting. As you're talking, I was thinking that instinctually, I didn't, as you said, I didn't put it in the movie itself, any language about this, about gender or even sexuality. But more than that, I'm realizing now that I didn't even let us think like that. So the conversations we had were like, what do you think you're feeling in your body now? Or, let's make up what was the first time you were turned on, notice that you're turned on? When was that and what did you feel and were you curious or ashamed? Evan and I had these conversations, but we didn't have conversations that had to do with the outside world's perception of her or them. I agree, like her, so many things in her life feels like what she inherited from her parents. But I think there is also an odd thing, there's this line where Old Dolio says, "Trying to rile me up? What are you doing? Are you trying to rile me up?"
Yeah, that part. Yeah.
Which I was really, I remember writing it and being like, I sure hope this stays because some lines just don't make it when you shoot them. Maybe that scene gets cut or something.
I love that part.
And I was like, it's a little thing I was protecting. Evan and I talked about this. I was like, maybe your dad has warned you against, and even your mom, against a certain kind of seductive woman who will try and rile you up and then pickpocket you or whatever. Not that she's being pickpocketed then, but I imagined that language existed, was hers for the taking and in the small world that she exists within. But then she's unaware how much she's revealing by using it right now. And so I guess it was things like that that we really centered on. And then physically, we...she revealed that voice to me. I didn't come up with that. She said, I have this lower register that is my original voice and I'm a singer and you get vocal nodes if you have a very, very low voice and so it's better to train it up, which she had done. I think she... I only have learned this from interviews with Evan. I've watched some interviews where she says that she also listened to early recordings of my performances where I often played men.
I was very comfortable playing men or women. And there was a kind of lower voice that I did. And now that, as you know actors use anything, that's their job is just get inspiration wherever, and I don't control that. But I certainly didn't know that, and now I can really see it that there's a way in which that is also my more masculine voice. And it comes from something, or relates anyways to this part of me. Yeah, so it's complicated.
Something about the voice feels so a part of that character for me, and it kind of lets us in. What you were saying about not having to specifically write any of these things out about gender and sexuality, because you're literally just writing a character so you're not thinking like that — there's things about the voice that make it feel like maybe they see themselves or something, in their old world. I don't know. I remember when I was reading what Bobbi said to you, they said something along the lines of maybe they're out to just their family and maybe to themselves but not the world. And I feel like so many people relate to that.
I feel like their work has always been kind of in conversation with your audience and it's always felt like including your audience, but how has it been releasing something during this and having people reach out to you very directly now? Like when you watch this movie alone in this quarantine, it made it feel really resonant for me. But I was thinking about people who were going to the movie theater alone, which I really wanted to do in Vancouver. How do you feel receiving all these messages and how has it been?
I so thought that I wouldn't get to have really any experience of this movie and I had already sort of mourned it. I was doing my job and promoting it, but it was so unclear. No one could tell me what this was going to be like. There's just very little data on releasing a movie in a pandemic. And I also haven't had, I guess I haven't had a movie, I've had other things but not a movie that's able to be seen by so many people at once when it goes to streaming. I haven't had that since Instagram has been such a thing. So I think I just didn't think it through. And when it came out, I was so sad. I was walking around crying and warning people around me I'm in a pretty bad mood right now. It's okay. It's just like, it's over now. I didn't get to do like, a Q&A or the ArcLight. Just the things I always took for granted. And then it was seven o'clock or something and I opened my DMs and I was like, Oh! There's a message every minute. I didn't think this through. I didn't realize there's no wall here. People can watch it and then immediately write. They can just DM me. It's crazy.
The messages you're getting are so intimate, but it's also fascinating, I guess that now during this kind of time, you can expect somebody to make the inside of your dream or fantasy.
Yeah. It's almost like there is something eerie or interesting or intimate about the role that technology plays in this. It's almost like it goes from the inside of one person's head straight to the inside of my head when they send that message. And I know if that same person were standing in front of me trying to say what they felt, certain things would get across, like their face, but they also would... Like I always lose my shit anytime I talk to somebody. And they also can know that I'm as alone as them probably, or similarly alone. Whereas often when you're writing someone famous or something, you imagine they're in a swirl of activity — and they often are. And there is something about just a shared world that is unique to this time and not irrelevant, a shared and lonely world, not irrelevant to the movie.
I saw a lot of people comment — because I was just reading how people have talked to you about it — and just so many people relate the movie to the pandemic in the way where there's so many words about not being touched and stuff in the movie, but I guess when I was watching it, I didn't really interiorize that as being applicable to this quarantine. I touched on it when I first DM'd you, but so much of those words about being touched and all of these things, it feels so applicable to those of us who have been with or dated or are with or experiencing loving somebody who's queer, I guess, like you.
It just like so much rang in that movie for me about like, there's just so much that doesn't come naturally to so many growing up, that I think when you're growing up and you're realizing you're queer, there's so many family touches that you don't, or familial touches that you don't get or that you feel shameful around.
Yeah. That's really tricky stuff, isn't it?
But the most beautiful parts of the movie, whether it's that line that you said where a random character's like, "Are you trying to rile me up?" But then the other part that comes to mind is when Gina [Rodriguez]'s character looks at her, and I think it's more towards the end of the movie and it's like, forgive me, what's the exact line?
Oh when she called her hun?
Yeah. That part broke my heart because I feel like it... I just felt, and I saw so many proximities I've had to people who helped me either come in and out to myself or find that in that one moment, because so much of queerness feels like reparenting yourself. How did your experiences inform you wanting to write about them like that?
I had that experience in my early twenties and remember, honestly thinking, waking up with my now-girlfriend as of the last 24 hours, and this is when I'm like 21, and thinking, "Oh, I'm going to be okay." And in a way that it had never occurred to me that I had never thought that before. And it's so weird. She was just as lost as me, but that we had the power to give that to each other. I guess the striking thing about it is, it's not just romance and sex and all that. It's about feeling seen and feeling safe. And those are obviously things you want your whole childhood. And so when you get to them as a new adult, it kind of feels like washing up onto a shore. Like I made it, I made it here.
And there's a look of Evan's, I don't want to say a spoiler, but the very end where the cash register and this number appears and the way she looks up is this simultaneous — like she's released from her childhood, but partly released by just having this clarity of, they are exactly that. My theory of who they are is true. And now that I have this clarity, it's both sort of agonizing. It's like pain and being released, like being free now to love and to be okay. I don't know. That one moment on her face is worth everything to me.
It sounds like she's forgiving herself.
That's a good way to put it.
Just that moment with Gina really struck me and kind of the way you just captured that kind of closeness that can come out of — like how you just said, you can, waking up and just feeling it's okay. And how stunning that moment is, and how maybe you don't realize you need these sort of intimacies in a queer way if you didn't get them in a family way.
And I will say in terms of that moment when Gina's calling her pet names, I also have loved people who at the time were women who now don't identify that way, but people who like Old Dolio, it was my honor to love them the way they've never been loved before. There was something so moving to me about getting to adore an Old Dolio. That's a little reductive — an Old Dolio is hopefully a vast space of someone who has not had the option of conforming. Old Dolio is not open to it in that moment, but I so relate to Gina's part of having all that love to give, and that tenderness that she has brought out. I mean, I didn't know I had that in me until I fell in love. But Gina's strength, Gina has a knight in shining armor kind of, I also love to see her that way.
Yeah. The way she nurtures Dolio is just so sweet. It just makes me feel like all of these ways that we love each other so much are about helping each other forgive ourselves. I feel like part of the reason also that character just resonates so well during the movie is because it's the way Evan plays her, Evan sees this character too or something, or sees Old Dolio how Old Dolio sees her. I was reading some interviews where you said that she referenced Edward Scissorhands.
That spoke to me because it makes me feel like that's how Old Dolio would want to speak on it too.
The beauty of actresses is we don't really know who they are. There's this mystery, and Evan definitely had that to me. And it's so sweet in a way she's enough Old Dolio that it was almost, when we first met for dinner, it was almost a little embarrassing to her to reveal to me what she was like. And in that discomfort and that embarrassment I was like, "Oh, there you are." You can be on a talk show and you can be as perfectly polished as you want to be. But inside there is more than enough to work with for this character. That was one of the little clues that she gave me. She said that if she could have played anyone in all of film history, it would have been Edward Scissorhands.
And I was like, "Well, first of all, that's a part for a man," so that's says a lot right there. And also that man is a monster and everything he touches, he cuts. And he doesn't know the world. And okay, you've been living with that longing, then I think ultimately we've got something here. It's her queerness and her... I just don't think there's a lot of roles for Evan's duality and range to come out. So I think just for her, it was a no-brainer, but a lot of other people are like, "Wait, what is this?" Some people haven't even recognized her and it's like, well, you haven't recognized her because you haven't made room for this side of many, many people.
Right, yeah. You just don't see this person.
You simply are missing a whole part of the world by not making room for this fluidity or lack of definition. And I feel like that's true obviously not just in movies, but in life. It's exciting. I have a non-binary child and they're not the only non-binary child in their class. And these are little kids, so they don't know that it's written about in magazines now —
They're just comfortable being themselves.
Yeah, they're just being themselves and this is a time where that's, in a lot of households, that's just fine. And so it's just exciting to imagine a world where there is just a lot more room there, and a world shaped by kids who have never conformed. As a mom, that's quite a beautiful thing to get to live alongside of.
This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.
For all the ways to watch Kajillionaire, head here.