Meryl Who? Grace Gummer Does Not Want To Talk About Her Mom

Photographed by Ben Ritter.
What do you do when you’re 28 years old, you’re coming off one of the most-watched shows of the summer (Extant), and Ryan Murphy keeps putting you in American Horror Story? You hit the road. That’s exactly how Grace Gummer has spent the past few months. After bouncing from sci-fi to Sorkin, the extremely busy actress is enjoying some much needed time off.
She spent the summer on tour with her boyfriend’s band — but she swears she’s not that cool girl you see twirling around at concerts. As much as she’d love to flit around a stage playing the mandolin, Gummer’s aspirations and talents are more in line with those of her mother, one Meryl Streep.
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We caught Grace fresh off the band bus to talk about her genre-bending year, showbiz roots, and Beyoncé (because obviously).
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Photographed by Ben Ritter.
Was it intense going from sci-fi to Sorkin in the same week?
“It was. I was sort of in and out on Extant, doing two or three days a week there and working on The Newsroom at the same time. Going back and forth was kind of insane…I would kind of have to remember what set I was on from one day to the next.”

Especially with the precise Sorkin dialogue to remember.
"Thankfully, I didn’t have lines like that. But, it’s not the same vocabulary on Extant. So, it’s not like I was doing The Newsroom and then doing a play or something...Newsroom was terrifying but so much fun."

Did you have to learn a lot of scientific jargon for Extant?
"Yeah, but what’s cool about that show is that it never felt like bullshit. It never felt like I was saying things I didn’t understand. I feel like with a lot of sci-fi shows, you watch them and you have no idea what they’re talking about, so you have to trust that the actors do. With Extant, people will understand what we’re saying because it’s not too far off from the world that we live in now and the way we speak."

Adeam button down; Adeam shorts; AGL shoes.
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Photographed by Ben Ritter.
Extant was considered a big deal because it marked Halle Berry’s return to TV. Why does it feel like these amazing roles for women are appearing more on TV than in movies these days?
“That’s a loaded question. It’s a very male-dominated industry, as I’m sure you know. And, I think women are sort of given a little more power in TV, because there’s just more of it. There are more projects, more episodes. It’s not just one big deal; TV shows are constant."

Before Extant you were on American Horror Story, which is a whole different ballgame.
"I’ve been really lucky that I’ve been challenged in so many ways. American Horror Story took me out of my comfort zone as an actor. It made me scared in ways that I didn’t know I could be and made me try to overcome certain fears that I have as a women and as an actor. I think that was really valuable for me."
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Photographed by Ben Ritter.
Do you have process for preparing to shoot a scene? Like a pump-up song?
“Yeah, Beyoncé always. Her whole new album.”

It feels like the elephant in the room not to bring it up, but what do you think of the crazy divorce rumors?
“I don’t want to believe any of them. She’s a goddess. I just love her so much.”

Has being on the road with a band given you any musical desires?
“I wish I was that cool girl that could play mandolin and have really long hair and dance around in like a cool, sequin-y pantsuit onstage. But, I think I’m too dorky for that. I can sing, but I don’t have any musical talent in that way.”

So, no music career.
“I can dream, and I can cheer them on from backstage and take videos, but I can’t really be a part of it.”
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Photographed by Ben Ritter.
How about behind-the-scenes roles like writing, directing, or producing?
“I would love to write. I don’t know if I would want to direct — I’d like to try, but I like being told what to do. I like to have direction and interpret it my own way, and then make it mine.”

Is there a dream role you’d love to tackle?
"I’d love to do more Shakespeare. I’d love to play Desdemona in Othello and Nina in The Seagull.
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Photographed by Ben Ritter.
What is it about those theatrical roles that appeals to you?
"There's something about theater where you have complete control over everything you do; to be put on the spot like that and have it be totally up to me when the lights come on. It's nice to have complete control over your image and your work. I love doing theater. I've done a lot and am itching to go back."

What’s it like having family members in the business? Do you give each other advice on project choices?
“We’re a really close family, so we talk about everything. I think as any other family would sit down and give each other advice about life and work, we definitely do since we know the business that we’re in. It’s easier to talk about it with each other.”
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Photographed by Ben Ritter.
And, entering Hollywood, from the audition process to being on set, it’s helpful to have someone to talk to who knows what you’re going through.
“Definitely. I mean, to confide in someone and sometimes commiserate. It’s nice to have someone who understands the very specific business that you’re in. But, I learn mostly from the work that I do and the experience that I get from being on set. There’s only so much that someone can tell you until you experience it yourself.”
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