“I really did my best to not be an actor,” says Genevieve Angelson while visiting her family and doing press in New York. “My dad is so funny, because he just doesn’t get this. He’s like, ‘If this doesn’t work out, you could run a studio!'” She continues, laughing. “He’s really waiting for me to be the businessman, and it’s just not who I am.”
Today, the first season of Angelson’s new television series Good Girls Revolt debuts on Amazon Prime. Set at the end of 1969, the show follows a group of young women working at the fictional News of the Week magazine, where only men are allowed to write stories and women are relegated to the role of “researcher.” There is Jane (Anna Camp), who is supposed to be whiling away the time until she gets married, but discovers she loves being a working woman; Cindy (Erin Darke), the shy photo assistant who gradually comes out of her shell; and Angelson’s character, the cool, capable, and ambitious, Patti Robinson, who dreams of being a reporter. “I’m playing the wild one for the first time,” Angelson tells us. “I usually play the sidekick, or the girlfriend, or the type-A, highly-strung one. And that’s just not who I am; it’s just what so many parts are for women. The fact that I get to play a woman who does drugs and fucks boys and makes mistakes and really loves her career is amazing.”
Raised largely in New York, where she attended the all-girls school Brearley, Angelson studied film at Wesleyan and went to graduate school at NYU’s Tisch School of the arts. She’s been in television shows before—she had a nine-episode arc on House of Lies and starred in last year’s Backstrom—and was part of the original cast of Christopher Durang’s Vanya and Masha and Sonia and Spike alongside Sigourney Weaver, David Hyde Pierce, and Billy Magnussen at Lincoln Center. “I went to grad school, because I wanted to be working at Lincoln Center when I was 60, not doing guest stars on Army Wives when I was 22, which is what I was doing before I went,” she explains. “I’ve always idolized funny. Growing up the women that were my gods and goddesses were Jennifer Saunders and Joanna Lumley on Absolutely Fabulous. The idea that I would ever be called upon to do something funny feels to me like being asked to go slay Goliath … I’m constantly afraid of failing, but it’s all I want to do.”
HOMETOWN: I grew up on the Upper East Side of Manhattan. You know, Gossip Girl. Sort of like that. I lived in London until I was 10, [but] I went to the American School, so it was not the most British experience.
WELCOME TO NEW YORK: I showed up on the first day at Brearley and I could immediately feel that there was a different sense of power that these children had. There was a language that they spoke that I didn’t speak. They knew about clothes; spending money on clothes was important. And I sensed it right away. But they said that classic line from Clueless: “We have to adopt her.” They said that about me because I showed up in a turtleneck from Talbots and white Velcro sneakers, which now is probably hip. [laughs] I was this very nerdy looking girl; I didn’t know anything about it.
FAMILY DYNAMICS: I’m the youngest of three girls. They’re heroes. My oldest sister is a public defender in New Orleans and my middle sister is a midwife in the Bronx. I am a television actress. [laughs] One of my sisters says this thing about me, which is kind of true. She’s like, “You make things that most people find difficult look really easy, and the things that most people have to think about, you make look really hard. Like refilling your Metrocard or taking care of yourself, like a grown-up.”
INTRODUCTION TO ACTING: I went to a musical theater camp growing up, the Walnut Hill School in Massachusetts. It’s funny, some of the people my manager represents I went to camp with. I would run into people backstage at Lincoln Center when I was doing a show there—people who have gone on to work on Broadway and be really successful. It’s sort of a magical place I guess. Then I went to the Cherubs program at Northwestern before my senior year of high school, and all through high school I did school musicals and stuff.
PASSION VS. PROFESSION: I never made myself vulnerable to wanting [to be an actor] because I knew that I wasn’t going to be allowed. I did all that stuff from the most cerebral place. I was doing it for fun, but I wasn’t going to care about it more than that. I was sure I wasn’t good enough. My parents were just doing their best to be responsible providers—they busted their asses sending me to the best schools in the country. And when I turned to them when I was 18 and said, “I want to go to Juilliard!” they were like, “No, that’s not happening.”
GRADUATE SCHOOL: My junior year of college I went to L.A. over the summer and was working at a management firm. I was watching these other girls walk in, because they were being represented their as actors. I was reading these scripts and I was just like, “I don’t know how to do this yet, I don’t have any training, but I know if I did, I would be better. I know I can do this.” So I decided, “I’m going to go get training.”
GETTING GOOD GIRLS REVOLT: I wasn’t sure that they were going pitch me for Patti because it’s not what I normally play, but I was like, “I’m, Patti I’m telling you.” Purely through accident, I knew the woman who wrote the book that this was based on—I already looked up to her—and so when I got this audition in my inbox, I started crying right away. I was immediately heartbroken, because 99 out of 100 auditions you don’t get. I was so sad that this project was going happen without me. I got it together and I did the audition and I started crying again. I was like “Look, cast me on this show or don’t. Pick the best person. But please take this pilot seriously, because it matters so much.”
FINDING THE GROOVE: I really feel like a cinephile first and foremost. The movies I’ve always loved have been the ones made in the United States between 1967 and 1980, so this is my era. When I was in fourth grade, for whatever reason, I knew every lyric to every Beatles song. I’ve always felt like an anachronism. It’s such an unbelievable dream to have admired Julie Christie and now have my character’s whole mood board for her costumes is based on things that Julie Christie would wear.
THE COSTUMES: There are the romantic relationships in the script, but my personal romantic relationship was with the costume designer. We would create names for certain outfits… I had a jumpsuit I named Larry. I was just waiting for the episode where Larry would come out and we would be together. This is weird now, isn’t it? I’ve anthropomorphized a jumpsuit.
PATTI ROBINSON: Patti is really smart—she’s a cosmopolitan girl. She doesn’t wear a bra in one scene of one episode of this whole show. She knows about the latest bands. She would read Interview. She would go to parties with Andy Warhol. She isn’t the person who’s thinking about, “When am I going to settle down and be a wife and mother?” She is the person who’s reconciling the reality of what it feels like to be a liberated woman in the sexual revolution. She doesn’t know that she’s in the middle of feminism; she’s not aware of that. What she knows is that suddenly the pill is a thing; suddenly people are having sex independently of being in a relationship, just for pleasure because it feels good and they like it. Whereas the other characters on this show explode over the course of the season, I think Patti kind of implodes, because she goes from being the one with the crazy hair to being the one who’s like, “I understand why people have relationships. I feel lonely. I need support.”
FUTURE PLANS: There are things I want to do. I would play Stevie Nicks in a biopic if they ever make that. There are definitely writers I want to work with: I love Kenneth Lonergan and Stephen Karam is incredible. But I’ve found that the more I surrender the illusion of control over what happens next, the more peaceful I feel. Because the truth is I don’t control this. I can say no to things when there are things to say no to, but my career has really chosen me. I haven’t—knock on wood—done anything that I regret. I haven’t made any missteps.
THE FIRST SEASON OF GOOD GIRLS REVOLT IS NOW AVAILABLE TO STREAM ON AMAZON PRIME INSTANT VIDEO.