STANDING UP. Arielle Kebbel shares off-screen stories from “Fifty Shades Freed” and profound insight into the #MeToo movement
Dress by Catherine Gee
Throughout her 15-year career, Arielle Kebbel has appeared in everything from teen romantic comedies like “John Tucker Must Die,” gripping horror flicks such as “The Grudge 2” to action-packed supernatural drama like “Midnight, Texas”. And now, for 2018, she’s set to appear as the alluring Gia Matteo in one of the most anticipated movies of the year: “Fifty Shades Freed.”
What’s really interesting about Kebbel, however, is the way she connects with her characters—how she makes them her own. And speaking of character, Kebbel is also known for her charity work, particularly with organizations like Reach Back Los Angeles and, more recently, for her support of the #MeToo movement against sexual assault and harassment.
Underwear & stockings by What Katie Did
DA MAN: People are obviously really stoked about the final “Fifty Shades” movie. What are you most excited about for “Fifty Shades Freed”?
Arielle Kebbel: I’m excited for everyone to finally meet Gia! I’m thrilled to be a part of the final chapter and I hope we live up to the saying “save the best for last.”
DA MAN: Your character, Gia Matteo, was given the in-universe nickname of “Miss-Provocative-And-Unfortunately-Good-At-Her-Job.” Can you give us a primer on Gia and how she got this unusual but epic nickname?
Arielle Kebbel: I think “Miss-Provocative-And-Unfortunately-Good-At-Her-Job” is the primer. Gia is an extremely talented architect who Ana and Christian hire to design their new home. But she’s inappropriately flirtatious and not afraid to go after what she wants… or who she wants.
DA MAN: How do you get into the shoes—and head—of “Miss Provocative”?
Arielle Kebbel: At first, I wasn’t sure how to approach the process of stepping into Gia’s shoes— which were, in this case, extremely high heels. It was a challenge because she’s the type of villain that, sadly, women everywhere are all too familiar with and one that we face in our everyday lives. But in Gia’s head, she’s not a villain. So, instead of focusing on “Miss Provocative,” I turned my attention to “Unfortunately-Good-At-Her-Job.” Because that’s who Gia is. She’s someone who is so talented and driven that despite her provocative nature, Ana and Christian, people who won’t settle for anything but the best, still hire her to build their home.
Underwear by What Katie Did, bodysuit by Seven ‘til Midnight
DA MAN: Of course, the “Fifty Shades” series is popular because it’s provocative. What was it that drew you to it in the first place?
Arielle Kebbel: It’s always a challenge to play the antagonist… and I love a good challenge! When I researched Gia and who she is in the books, I first thought, “woah”. Then, I asked myself: “Ok. How can I justify who this woman is? How can I make Gia’s actions acceptable in her world?” And from there, I began adding ingredients to make my very own Gia Matteo recipe.
DA MAN: If we could move away from fantasy for a bit, you’ve also jumped into the #MeToo conversation. We listened to your episode on the “Anna Faris is unqualified” podcast. What, in your opinion, is the most important part of this conversation? Something that people from all over the world— including us here in Indonesia—can take from the movement?
Arielle Kebbel: Thank you for asking, and my answer is: It’s all important. Sexual harassment and sexual violence are not acceptable on any level. The #MeToo movement was the cracking open of a new conversation. The beginning of an era led by women where both men and women are bringing a new awareness around what is and what is not appropriate when it comes to someone using their power to manipulate someone.
There’s safety and strength in numbers. The #MeToo movement creates a safe platform to share and highlight all levels of sexual harassment, from physical to mental abuse. #MeToo identifies those who have been raped or groped to those who have suffered through experiences in the gray area—the area that encompasses situations that don’t fit neatly into the categories traditionally thought of as harassment. We talked about it a lot on the podcast.
“Have you ever giggled your way out of an uncomfortable situation?” “Ever wanted to call someone out but decided to take the path of least resistance instead?” “Ever justified someone else’s behavior because you’re friends with them?” These are all feelings and experiences under the #MeToo movement as well, and I think that’s important for both men and women to know. The most important thing we can do is be willing to stand up for ourselves and one another.
“The #MeToo movement was the cracking open of a new conversation”
DA MAN: On a more practical level, what can the average person do with regards to combating the prevalence of sexual harassment? Particularly men who make up most of our readers, obviously, and who might not be aware of how the average Joe might inadvertently contribute to the problem.
Arielle Kebbel: As a society, we have to retrain ourselves to recognize inappropriate situations as they are happening and to take action in that moment. I have to do this, too. Instead of immediately relying on one of my many self-taught coping mechanisms to dodge a “tricky situation,” I have to be willing to stand up to someone in the moment if it’s happening to me. I have to be willing to stand up for someone else if it’s happening to them on the street, on set, anywhere and everywhere. If I ever see any form of harassment happening ever again, I have to trust that it’s safe to speak up and not be afraid to lose my job, have someone else lose their job, lose a friend, etc.
Men are asking me how they can help. My answer is always: “speak up.” The more men and women collectively speak up, the less and less someone will feel safe harassing someone else. Sexual harassment is about manipulation and power. And silence has fueled that power for years. When we take away the silence, we take away the power. And we create a happier, healthier environment for all.
DA MAN: Standing against things like gender inequality and sexual harassment can often feel like an uphill battle. What is it that drives you?
Arielle Kebbel: We are one race: the human race. It’s that simple and that complicated. Simple because we all deserve equal rights. Complicated because to actually achieve this, we must be willing to look at our own history and ask ourselves: “At what point did we create a divide? And why? Are we willing and able to accept a new story now?” By being willing to let go, we can write a better history for future generations to come. And we need to start now!
DA MAN: Back to your acting career, the season finale of “Midnight, Texas” aired not too long ago. What do you remember most about the show?
Arielle Kebbel: The altitude sickness! Just kidding—kind of. My character, Olivia Charity, came to me at a time when I needed her most. I was going through a tough time personally and being able to turn all of my personal pain and anger into art proved to be incredibly healing for me. Olivia is a very strong woman and she helped me feel strong in my own life again. I trained two to three times a day, every day and it kicked my arse. I’m so grateful for it and for her. I also had the pleasure of working with the amazing Monica Breen, our show creator, who also happened to write on one of my favorite shows, “Alias.” At that time, there were no other characters on TV like Jennifer Garner’s character. Living in Florida, I would watch “Alias” every week and dream of getting to play a bad-ass character like her. Olivia Charity is that character for me.
DA MAN: You also did your own stunts for the show. Why?
Arielle Kebbel: I grew up doing sports and always wanted to play a bad-ass character where I could put my athleticism to good use. I feel like Lexi, my character on “The Vampire Diaries,” helped prepare me for Olivia. They’re two of my favorite characters because they’re not only physically strong, they’re emotionally strong.
DA MAN: Do you see yourself taking on more action-oriented roles in the future?
Arielle Kebbel: I would love to! We did fight training, fight choreography, weapon training and conditioning on a daily basis to prep me for Olivia and I loved every sore second of it. Doing this type of training, in addition to acting, pushed me to my limit day after day and showed me what I’m capable of. I would love to do more of it in the future.
DA MAN: What would your dream project look like?
Arielle Kebbel: A “rom-actcom” that I write, produce, direct and star in. Oh, and rom-actcom—that’s short for romantic action-comedy. I just made it up, but it’s what I love!
DA MAN: Looking back, do you still remember what it was that made you fall in love with acting?
Arielle Kebbel: The adrenaline rush. I love that when the director calls “action,” there’s no turning back. I jump into the character and never look back.
DA MAN: Conversely, what do you see yourself doing, say, ten years from now?
Arielle Kebbel: The vice president of Tesla. But if that doesn’t work out, I would love to be creating my own content, traveling the world with various charities and come home to my farm.
DA MAN: Do you have a favorite quote? Or perhaps a saying or catchphrase? Something that really sums up what you stand for in life?
Arielle Kebbel: It changes as I change. Right now, ironically, I’ve started using one that I used a lot when I graduated high school early and moved out to Los Angeles. “If you do not go within, you go without.” Years later, its circled back around to me. I love it.
Photography Mitchell Nguyen Mccormack
Styling Suzi Rezler
Hair Sunnie Brook @tmg-la using Oribe
Makeup Elie Maalouf using Laura Mercier/TraceyMattingly.com
Fashion Assistant Bailey Taylor
Hair Assistant Kat Thompson