“This Might Be Our Last Conversation”: Amandla Stenberg by Hunter Schafer

Amandla Stenberg

Amandla Stenberg wears Jacket Erdem. Bodysuit Wolford. Headpiece Heather Huey. Tights Falke. Anklet Zycloom. Shoes Giuseppe Zanotti.

Amandla Stenberg knows that the first rule of promoting Star Wars is you can’t really talk about Star Wars. As the lead of the new prequel series The Acolyte, the 25-year-old actor is well trained in combat and in dodging questions. So when her best friend Hunter Schafer joins her on Zoom to do journalism, topics like orgy parties, psychic readings, and frontal-lobe development come up instead.




AMANDLA STENBERG: Thanks for doing this!

SCHAFER: Wait, can you hear me?


SCHAFER: Why can’t I hear you?

STENBERG: One second. Can you hear me now?

SCHAFER: Yeah. Yay. Let’s get started. Okay, Mando, where in the world are you?

STENBERG: I’m in Brooklyn, where I live.


STENBERG: The days are starting to get beautiful here, which I’m so happy about because it was a dark soul of the night. This is actually one of my first winters that I experienced all the way through, without being such an L.A. bitch. [Laughs]

SCHAFER: Yup. It’s different.

STENBERG: I’m not used to the seasons. It’s good for you, though. Where are you?

SCHAFER: I’m in L.A. at my house.

STENBERG: Do you have an art studio in there now?

SCHAFER: Yeah, I’m in one of the studio rooms right now. Also, guess what’s over here? It’s a CDJ! [Laughs]

STENBERG: Let’s rock. It’s about damn time.

SCHAFER: Yeah, but my house flooded at the beginning of the year, so it’s kind of fucked, but it’s okay.

STENBERG: I’m glad things are more normal now. Did I tell you about when my roof fell?

SCHAFER: I saw the video of it.

STENBERG: How did you see the video? [Laughs]

SCHAFER: You showed me. I think we were at dinner upstate or something, but oh my god.

STENBERG: Basically, my roof fell and it was right before I was supposed to get on a Zoom call with Scarlett Johansson. [Sings] When the roof caved in and the truth came out, there was nothing that I could do.

SCHAFER: [Laughs]

STENBERG: There was dust flying everywhere, and I was worried that more of it was going to fall, but I immediately compartmentalized. What you must do often in this business.

SCHAFER: Fight-or-flight mode with your fucking roof. What’s the update with that?

STENBERG: The update is the entire roof has been fortified, but wouldn’t that be a way to go?

Amandla Stenberg

Jacket Chanel. Shorts Maria McManus. Watch (worn as necklace), Rings, and Earrings Chanel Fine Jewelry. Belt Patricia Von Musulin. Tights Falke. Shoes Gia Borghini.

SCHAFER: That honestly would be up there.

STENBERG: Crushed by brownstone.

SCHAFER: Imagine you were already in the meeting with Scarlett Johansson.

STENBERG: I kind of wish I was, because there was no way to express to her what state I was in. I was just like, “My roof fell down,” and she was like, “Oh, you live in Brooklyn, don’t you?”

SCHAFER: [Laughs] That brings me to one of my favorite questions. What’s your ideal way to go out?

STENBERG: Wow. [Laughs] This reminds me of that video of Lady Gaga where the interviewer is like, “If you could do anything once with no consequences, what would it be?” And she’s like, “Die.”

SCHAFER: [Laughs] She doesn’t miss a beat.

STENBERG: Okay, if I could really go out in any way, I’d probably want to be doing something really adventurous.


STENBERG: I’d probably want to hit death by skydiving or cliff jumping. No, maybe cliff jumping is a little too violent.

SCHAFER: Depends on how high the cliff is, because supposedly your body’s supposed to be like, “Oh, shit, I’m about to die.” And then it just calls cut before you hit whatever surface.

STENBERG: So your brain shuts down out of self-protection?

SCHAFER: That’s what I’ve heard. But I guess no one has lived to tell the tale.

STENBERG: I think I’d prefer a slow illness. I’d want the opportunity to provide closure to my loved ones, but not want it to be something that would put a lot of people around me through pain for a long time. What would you do?

SCHAFER: Well, say you get Alzheimer’s and you’re like, “Fuck, the road is ending for me soon anyways. Now I’ve got to wrap things up, make it cute, or whatever.” I feel like a big friend-orgy party would really—

STENBERG: [Laughs] I was waiting for that.

SCHAFER: Just a big friend-orgy party and we’re all eating, drinking, whatever. And then at the climax you just—

STENBERG: You want to die when you’re cumming?

SCHAFER: Doesn’t it feel like that’s appropriate?

STENBERG: I’m not going to lie, my brain first went to some kind of culty orgasmic moment, but I didn’t say it up front. [Laughs] A friend of mine actually invited me to go skydiving recently, and I’m considering it. So this might be our last conversation.

Amandla Stenberg

Jacket, Shorts and Boots Rick Owens. Earrings and Ring Patricia Von Musulin.

SCHAFER: Oh, fuck.

STENBERG: Would you go skydiving?

SCHAFER: Fuck yeah. Me and Zsela were looking at indoor skydiving recently because we were just talking about how we don’t leave our houses here, and we were like, “I want to do something fun.”

STENBERG: [Laughs] That’s a great idea. Live a little, feel something.

SCHAFER: Yeah. And wouldn’t that be such a great way to prep for the real deal?

STENBERG: Exactly. Maybe I should start training, too.

SCHAFER: That would be so sick. Okay. I know that you’re coming out with your new Star Wars series, which is so exciting.

STENBERG: We are in space.

SCHAFER: Fuck yeah. I visited you when you were filming it and wow.

STENBERG: I know. It’s going to be fascinating to see how people respond. And I’m going to talk in limericks because I’m not allowed to share any plot details, which I’m sure you’re familiar with. [Laughs]

SCHAFER: Absolutely.

STENBERG: But from what has been shared, and what I’m legally allowed to say, we are in the High Republic era, when the Jedi were the most powerful.


STENBERG: And so we get to see what society looks like at that point in time, which means that there’s very set ways that society allows the Force to be utilized, and it’s interesting to see how people challenge that. It’s the emergence of—look at me struggling—it’s the questioning of that ideology. And we have an incredibly talented and diverse cast. I had to do a lot of fight training. My character uses knives and she out here slashing throats left and right.


STENBERG: She has some kind of vendetta. We don’t know exactly what it is at first, but the story unfolds and you learn a lot of complicated history.

SCHAFER: How was that? Because this is the most combat work you’ve done for a role, right?

STENBERG: It was so insane. You don’t realize the capability your body has until it’s really pushed. I’ve always had a relationship to dance, and growing up with Jaira—for the audience, Jaira is one of our close friends who is a vogue dancer—she taught me a lot. So I feel like I’ve always had a relationship to my physical body, but what’s so cool about stunt training is it’s a strange combination of fighting and choreography. Recently, I went to a Muay Thai class and was throwing wide punches the way that I learned on set, and the instructor came up to me and was like, “What are you doing?”

SCHAFER: [Laughs]

STENBERG: Everything is heightened for the screen. You’re exaggerating your movements to make them look as dynamic as possible. So basically, what I’m saying is that I’d have absolutely no ability to fight in the real world, but it was an amazing opportunity to learn choreography. We shot for about eight months, and I got better the longer we went. Oftentimes, because I was the lead, I didn’t have the opportunity to work on my stunts, so I was having to learn full sequences while I was on set. That was something I never would’ve thought I had the capability to do. My master would lead me through it in about five minutes, like, “It’s going to be hook, punch, duck, roll, and you’re going to get up and throw this knife.” And then five minutes later, I was having to do it in front of a crew of 200 dudes. It taught me just to believe in myself and also not be afraid to make mistakes.

Amandla Stenberg

Coat Duran Lantink. Shorts and Belt SC103. Headpiece Vaquera.

SCHAFER: I’ve messed around with combat a little bit, not nearly as much as I’d like to.

STENBERG: Dude, you should and you will one day.

SCHAFER: Oh, babes. It’s coming.

STENBERG: I’ve always thought of myself as a yoga, rock climbing kind of girl. I’ve never really thought of myself as a combat type, so it’s been amazing to unlock that potential. But the thing that I really like—because Muay Thai is very violent—is kung fu.

SCHAFER: I fucking hate that this is my frame of reference for kung fu, [laughs] but in Kung Fu Panda—sorry—there’s some elements of spirituality in it, right?

STENBERG: I mean, yeah. Martial arts is such a marriage of spirituality and the body, and Star Wars is about the light and the dark. Spiritually was definitely my way into the world. I could get into some nerdy shit about how these symbols have been utilized in the different movies, but yin and yang has always been a really important symbol because Star Wars is about the balance of the light and dark side of the force. Does our world naturally return to a place of spiritual balance where there is light and dark? And are both necessary for reality to continue on its natural path? I don’t have the answers to these questions, but they’re questions that are central to Star Wars and to the world in general.

SCHAFER: [Laughs] Yes, for real.

STENBERG: [Laughs] That sounded really self-important, but I’m just trying to contextualize it.

SCHAFER: But it’s tea. I love when I’m doing a role and I’m learning things about myself or about life.

STENBERG: I know, that’s why I like Star Wars too, because it places a lot of our existential societal issues in space, and then they’re easier for people to look at.

SCHAFER: Totally, because sometimes the very bleak realities of our world make you want to fucking tune out. I know you and I are both familiar with the grips of escapism and wanting to just—

STENBERG: [Laughs] Existential dread.

Amandla Stenberg

Coat and Shoes Bottega Veneta.

SCHAFER: Yes. But sci-fi is a beautiful way to engage with all that stuff. Have you seen any sci-fi stuff recently that you’ve loved?

STENBERG: I’m always watching The Twilight Zone.

SCHAFER: Oh sick, I’ve never actually seen it.

STENBERG: I’ve probably seen every episode because I’ve watched it since I was little. It was a show me and my dad used to watch together. Every Thanksgiving, they would have a Twilight Zone marathon, and we’d run it for like three days straight. I’ve always kind of had it on in the background, but recently I was like, “Maybe I’ll start from the top.”

SCHAFER: When was it made?

STENBERG: The ’50s, post-World War II. It was created by this guy named Rod Serling. He was in active combat during World War II, and then one of his closest friends blew up next to him. Instead of getting incredibly depressed, he decided to make this sci-fi show about how absurd the fabric of reality can be.

SCHAFER: It sounds cool. I want to check it out.

STENBERG: I’ve also been reading this book called Possession [by A.S. Byatt]. It’s an English story about two professors who discover they’re both majors in these old 18th-century poets, and then they discover that these poets had a secret love affair, and then they have a modern day love affair as they’re uncovering the love affair from yesteryear. I just want to read romance right now.

SCHAFER: It’s been so long since I’ve gotten a romantic fix off a book.

STENBERG: Yeah, I was really seeking that out, too. I don’t know if it’s because I’ve experienced romance in so many different shades and I want to keep that part of myself alive.

SCHAFER: Yeah, the fantasy element—

STENBERG: When your imagination’s running buck wild. I want to keep that naivete alive in myself.

SCHAFER: Important.

STENBERG: It is. Although I have been—no, maybe I shouldn’t say this. There’s so much good tea I have to spill to you later because it’s crazy.

SCHAFER: Off the record.

STENBERG: [Laughs] Yeah. I’m trying to allow that kind of naivete back into my life.

SCHAFER: It’s funny that you’re bringing that up because I literally googled the word “naive” at 4 a.m. last night. I’ve been described as naive, and I don’t know why I was thinking about it, but I was like, what does that mean? Because it’s a complicated word.

STENBERG: I don’t think of you as a naive person. I think you’re very wise.

SCHAFER: Thank you.

STENBERG: I think of you as having a very effervescent joy that maybe people mistake as that.

SCHAFER: Yes, I feel like I can tap into joy easily or whatever. But anyways—

STENBERG: Wait, why were you thinking about the word though? Sorry, I interrupted you.

SCHAFER: No, no, no. I’m trying to remember what spiral I was on. Honestly, I’ve been in this crazy headspace these past few weeks. I feel like I’m going through some sort of spiritual awakening. Maybe it’s because my frontal lobe finished developing or something.

STENBERG: That is so real.

SCHAFER: You’re like one year older than me, right? Did you feel it when it happened?

STENBERG: Everything changed.

SCHAFER: Bitch! Right?

STENBERG: [Laughs] And I was like, “Oh, thank god. Okay.”

SCHAFER: Yeah. It’s crazy.

STENBERG: Things just make sense. You know what you’re supposed to do. It becomes so clear.

Jacket Vaquera. Swimsuit Celine by Hedi Slimane. Necklace Martine Rose X LL, LLC. Ring Charlotte Chesnais. Tights Falke.

SCHAFER: Yes. But there’s been something spiritual about this clarity. I’m not spiritual by any means, but because in my early twenties I was really nihilistic and cynical about a lot of the world, this clarity has allowed me to be like, “Okay, we’re chilling.” It is that deep, but also doesn’t have to be that deep all the time.

STENBERG: Totally. And the cynicism stops being a badge of honor. You realize you want to be happy and how to get there.

SCHAFER: Yes. They’re both there, but you now have the choice to be miserable or not, depending on your level of mental illness.

STENBERG: [Laughs] It’s a beautiful thing.

SCHAFER: Yeah. I was told 25 was going to be a big year by some psychic—


SCHAFER: I’ve never spoken directly to Wendy, but Taul talked to Wendy.

STENBERG: On your behalf?

SCHAFER: On my behalf. And everything she said has come true.


SCHAFER: Have you talked to Wendy? Wendy is the psychic that a lot of our friends talk to.

STENBERG: Breaking the fourth wall again. I’ve never spoken to Wendy, but I’ve been curious.

SCHAFER: Have you ever talked to a psychic?

STENBERG: I’ve gotten a comprehensive look at my chart, which has told me so much, and most of it has been accurate. I think a lot of it has to do with being the purveyor of my own destiny and not feeling like my destiny has to serve others. That’s been a new journey for me.

SCHAFER: That’s cool. And that came along with your frontal lobe?

STENBERG: Sure. At least clarity around how to make that happen.

SCHAFER: Exactly. Because you’ve been in it for a year now, the post–frontal lobe development, do you feel more settled? I’m still at this point where it’s like, “Whoa, this is crazy.” I’m hoping it will be more chill.

STENBERG: Yeah. I’ve definitely been in a reflective, solitary phase. I’ve been making a lot of music and a lot of it is stripped back and almost folky. It’s me reflecting in an existential way, but not with dread—mostly with joy, which is new. I have a certain peace with not having any answers.

SCHAFER: Yeah, man, I’m so proud of us. When I first met you, we were little fucking dweebs. But now we’re finding our footing in life. It’s cool as hell.

STENBERG: Now we’re grown-ups, I guess.

SCHAFER: We’re grown-ups. That’s the frontal lobe shit, it’s fucking awesome.

STENBERG: [Laughs] Yeah. I feel like that’s a cute place to end.

SCHAFER: Yeah. I feel good.

STENBERG: Thank you, Hunter. You have to let me know when you come here, and I’ll let you know when I come there.

SCHAFER: I will. I have to go to Pilates after this, but then after that maybe I’ll call you so I can get the other tea.

STENBERG: Okay. I love you.

SCHAFER: I love you, too. 

Dress Alexander McQueen. Earring Ali Weiss. Shoes Dion Lee.


Hair: Jadis Jolie using Dyson Hair Pro and ECO Style at E.D.M.A. Agency

Makeup: Raisa Flowers using MAC Cosmetics at E.D.M.A Agency

Nails: Dawn Sterling using Nail Glam at E.D.M.A Agency

Photography Assistant: Blake Doyle

Fashion Assistants: Carma Flores and Cyrenae Tademy

Production Assistant: Kiernan Francis