Gideon Adlon Tells Her Mom All About Her Set Life
At 25, Gideon Adlon has already depicted two on-screen pregnancies. Her turn in this year’s The Thing About Pam, the buzzy new limited series about a small-town Missouri murder, marks her third—opposite heavyweights Renée Zellweger, Josh Duhamel, and Judy Greer, no less. After making her debut in 2018’s Blockers, a splashy teen comedy that preys on parents’ prom night anxieties, Adlon has been making the rounds, with appearances in horror flicks, dramas, and comedies alike—an omnivorous approach to filmmaking that she may have borrowed from her mother, Pam Adlon, who is known for roles as far ranging as Californication, Better Things, and King of the Hill. Below, the pair get together for a chat about the family business.
PAMELA ADLON: This is the weirdest thing. Let’s do this quickly. What’s your name?
GIDEON ADLON: Fuck you.
PAMELA: Wow. Okay. Do you like your name?
GIDEON: I used to hate it. Remember I wanted my name to be Crystal? And you were like, “You don’t want your name to be Crystal. You’ll be happy your name is Gideon in the future.”
PAMELA: One day you’ll thank me.
GIDEON: But people still say, “That’s a guy’s name!” And I’m like, “It is.”
PAMELA: People are stupid.
GIDEON: I just walk away.
PAMELA: It’s an awesome name for a girl.
PAMELA: You’re welcome. What is the weirdest thing you’ve eaten on set? Do you fuck with craft services or do you generally bring your own food?
GIDEON: I’ve never found the time to pack my own food, usually because I’ve always filmed on location and I’m in a hotel, but I’ve recently started doing the Airbnb thing, so I’m able to cook a little bit more, which is nice. But the weirdest thing I’ve had on set, I don’t know. I always request pickles and Hot Cheetos.
PAMELA: Are you pregnant? Moving on. If you have to go away on location, do you find that you need to have some kind of a kitchen or a kitchenette?
GIDEON: Yeah, I’d like to, if it’s a long time. It’s nice to cook.
PAMELA: If you’re away, you need to be able to prepare your own food, just like the time your mom took you and your sisters to Hawaii.
GIDEON: Yes, we had a kitchen. And you cooked.
PAMELA: We saved a ton of shit-ton of money. Gideon, why did you want to become an actor?
GIDEON: I think I always had it in me, doing those shows when I was little in my room, forcing you to watch them.
PAMELA: Eight shows a week. It was like vaudeville.
GIDEON: It must have been terrible.
PAMELA: It was fucking awesome, but sometimes we were held hostage. She was like, “It’s not over! Stay there.”
GIDEON: But I think the moment where I was like, “Oh my god, I want to do that,” was when you took me to see Wicked when I was six. And when you showed me Bye Bye Birdie.
PAMELA: Which production of Wicked did your mom, me, take you to?
GIDEON: The original cast with Idina Menzel and Kristin Chenoweth.
PAMELA: Unbelievable. So, does the title of your new show remind you of your mother?
GIDEON: When I booked it, you were like—
PAMELA: I was like, “That’s so weird.” What do you love most about set life?
GIDEON: I really enjoy when people don’t bring their phones to set. I leave my phone in my trailer, and I started doing that on The Mustang.
PAMELA: Because what do you love most?
GIDEON: Well, it’s not even just talking to the other actors, but watching what’s happening: the stress, how much goes into resetting a scene. It teaches you more about your craft to be sitting there like they did in the old days.
PAMELA: Do you talk to the crew and get to know about their jobs and shit?
GIDEON: Yeah, of course. You’re with them for months, you all become homies.
PAMELA: It’s kind of incredible, when everybody is able to do their job and operate at a high level, how good it feels to be on set. Good answer. How was it for you playing a person who is alive and in the world and exists, a real person with real feelings and the daughter of somebody who was murdered? What was that like for you? That’s very sensitive.
GIDEON: Well, Mariah Day graciously gave me some time. We spoke on the phone before I started filming. She’s so observant and kind and smart and obviously extremely traumatized by what she went through. She was only 17 years old and she was manipulated by everyone that she knew closely and loved, to testify against her stepfather who basically raised her, testify against him in court. They still don’t have a relationship to this day because of that. It’s something that still affects her on a daily basis. After speaking to her, it all became more personal because I felt like it was my duty to show her that I have respect and sympathy for what she went through. And as I know, it’s awkward having someone portray you on a TV show, especially when there’s certain things that can feel very personal. With Better Things, I feel like I’ve experienced that. This is obviously different and this situation is so public and so terrible.
PAMELA: What was it like, [speaking to Mariah]?
GIDEON: She gave me a deeper insight into what it was like to be her at that time, which really helped. I hope that if she watches the show, she can see how deeply I felt it and know that there wasn’t a day anybody on set wasn’t talking about how terrible the situation was, and how none of us could believe it actually happened and carried on for so long.
PAMELA: That’s so interesting, because people say they’re obsessed with true crime and things like that. I narrated a podcast about that, and it was called Death By Unknown Events. I didn’t want it to be a rollicking good time, but you do have a duty to keep it moving and make it entertainment.
GIDEON: I agree with that. It feels very personal playing another person, especially someone who’s here, because you just want to do them and their family justice.
PAMELA: And it’s not fun for Mariah, but you probably made her feel good and connected somehow.
GIDEON: I really hope so.
PAMELA: I’m your mommy, I know you did. What turns you on creatively, Gideon?
GIDEON: Playing a girl with daddy problems. Just kidding. I feel like I always do, though.
PAMELA: How many times have you been pregnant in things, Gideon?
GIDEON: This show was my third time being pregnant.
PAMELA: You’re going to be 25. What kind of a part do you want to do? Period piece?
GIDEON: Yeah, I want to do a period piece.
PAMELA: You should be naked in everything because you’re so beautiful. Now’s the time. I remember when Sandra Bernhard did the Playboy interview and she painted her entire body gold. Her body was fucking sickening. And somebody was like, “Why would you do that?” And she was like, “This shit looks like this right now, honey.” Be proud of what you got. Shake it, but don’t break it. It took your momma nine months to make it. Gideon, did you ever get in your own head during a scene? How do you battle getting out of your head? If you have a scene coming up that’s particularly scary or difficult like that fucking show you did that I hated watching when the guy drained your blood. I hated that.
GIDEON: When I did an episode of Criminal Minds? That was so long ago.
PAMELA: That was a nightmare for me.
GIDEON: They just think of the worst possible situation someone could be put in.
PAMELA: Can you imagine being a mother and watching your daughter’s blood get drained? You were in a sewer grate going, “Get me out of here!” The fuck?
GIDEON: I forgot about that. If I’m nervous about something, I try to give myself at least 20 minutes before a hard scene to calm down and get into it. Music is always helpful. Everybody has their own thing. For this show, I had a journal I would write in as her, but with my own issues, and that really helped.
PAMELA: You were writing in a journal as Mariah?
PAMELA: I love that. How did you feel when The Society was canceled?
GIDEON: It was a bummer because it was—
PAMELA: Such a fucking awesome show?
GIDEON: Yeah, people still ask me about it in every interview, every red carpet. We all had so much fun together. It was like summer camp, and the show was actually really good. I often think about contacting Chris Kaiser and just telling him, “Maybe we could do one season of a podcast.”
PAMELA: Has there ever been anything you’ve considered doing besides acting?
GIDEON: Yes, I really want to try and go to school for psychology. I told you this at dinner.
PAMELA: Are you competitive with your younger sister when it comes to acting?
GIDEON: It’s not competitive for me. I don’t know how she feels. I know that she’s always wanted to do it as long as I have, so I’m just happy for her. And we’re very different.
PAMELA: What do your friends think about what you do?
GIDEON: They’ll tell me, “Imagine if you didn’t drop out of college.” I had a talk with my best friend Sky the other day and I was like, “Sometimes I think about if I didn’t wake up that morning and actually drop out of school.” It was a really scary decision to make, and I just kind of did it, and I came home and worked my ass off. I really wanted this. I knew that this is what I wanted to do. My friends are proud of me.
PAMELA: It’s true. And I’m not bitter that I had just moved you to Chicago and went to fucking Target and World Market and got you lamps and shit.
GIDEON: Fun memories.
PAMELA: What’s the most pressure you have ever felt on set and how did you cope with it? Was it a sex thing?
GIDEON: Yeah, honestly making out with people on camera is really nerve-wracking.
PAMELA: It’s horrible.
GIDEON: And then going head-to-head with Matthias Schoenaerts [in The Mustang]. He’s so intense and he’s a very handsome man.
PAMELA: Did you have a pinch-me moment on the set of The Thing About Pam? Or, think about your career. Have you had pinch me moments where you’re looking around and going, “Oh my god, I’m here. I’m part of this.”
GIDEON: Every time I book a job, I’m like, “Oh my god, I’m filming a movie!” So that’s always just a pinch me moment because it’s my dream. When Renée [Zellweger] walked on set, I was like, “Oh, my gosh.” She was like, “Your audition was amazing.” But she was in full Pam garb so she didn’t even look like herself. I had never seen Renée out of Pam mode until the red carpet for this event.
PAMELA: Gideon, we could wrap this up by asking, do you feel that it’s important for actors to speak up, or do you think it’s annoying?
GIDEON: I don’t think just because you’re an actor and you have a social media platform, you need to do all of that. It can really stress people out. I think what’s more important than posting on social media is showing up, going to a protest if you feel comfortable. You don’t need to sit in front of the news and watch for two hours a day. That can be really upsetting. Actually, the amount of information we take in daily is not healthy. But reading articles, knowing what’s going on in the world, is really important.
PAMELA: Facts. Do you feel pressure to be on social media? And if you’re not, are you losing something professionally, personally, FOMO-ishly?
GIDEON: I’m pretty good at keeping up with the people that I care about in my life, not through social media, but through calls and texts. But there’s an immense amount of pressure having social media in this industry. Especially being 24 years old—there’s constant comparison, which leads to some insecurities about my body, or the way I look. It’s toxic. I never have Instagram on my phone. I go on, post, to stay relevant, and then I delete the app.
PAMELA: Well, not only to stay relevant, but to check up on some stuff. For me, I miss artists, I miss museums and stores and music and all of that. But I get really bummed out if I go down a rabbit hole.
GIDEON: And then you’re like, “There’s two hours of my day gone, for what?” But to wrap this up, I want to say that I met a man yesterday named Jerry Peace Activist Rubin. And he looked at me and he said, “Just never forget, to defy normalcy is to be yourself. And why be normal?”
PAMELA: Fuck yeah.
GIDEON: He’s an awesome guy.
PAMELA: Big shout out.
GIDEON: And yes, that’s his legal name. Go buy stickers from him on the Santa Monica Promenade.
PAMELA: You are a very poised young lady, and I want to say, as your mom and watching you grow up, you’re spectacular. I love your style. I love the way you do things. I love the way you live your life.
GIDEON: [Laughs] Thank you.