Fivel Stewart
LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA – OCTOBER 28: Fivel Stewart speaks onstage during Netflix “Atypical” Season 3 special screening at Natural History Museum on October 28, 2019 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Charley Gallay/Getty Images for Netflix)

“You don’t usually see people like me leading a Western,” Fivel Stewart tells GRAZIA, her eloquent American accent soft. She’s not wrong, but thankfully we’ve come a long way since John Wayne repeatedly rode his horse through those arid Alabama Hills.

Today the 25-year-old (who you may have spotted in the just-released horror film Umma starring Sandra Oh) is talking to press about her role in Apple TV+’s new, deft and darkly comic series Roar. Big names like Nicole Kidman, Issa Rae and Cynthia Erivo also star in the eight stand-alone stories studying the female experience. (Kidman is especially fantastic in the second episode titled “The Woman Who Ate Photographs.”) In the final episode titled “The Girl Who Loved Horses”, Stewart plays Jane, a grieving girl who is out to get revenge on the man who killed her father. What transpires is a lesson in justice, and one that gives a very different meaning to the western genre’s “shoot-out”.

Below we meet the humble young woman who is destined to redefine Hollywood.

GRAZIA: For readers who haven’t seen the show yet, can you tell them a little bit about the series, and the messaging behind the episode you appear in, “The Girl Who Loved Horses”?

FIVEL STEWART: The series takes place in different women’s eyes and perspectives and experiences and gives the audience a metaphorical insight into what women go through nowadays. My episode specifically is a period piece, it’s a western – which is awesome, you don’t usually see people like me leading a Western, you usually see more masculine, American dominated [actors] – and I think the purpose behind my episode is redefining what revenge is to you. I think it’s also about friendship and being able to move on.

Fivel Stewart
Fivel Stewart stars as Jane in “Roar”, Apple TV+’s new eight-part anthology series about the female experience. Credit: Apple TV+

GRAZIA: What was the audition process like for Roar?

STEWART: Before [the pandemic], you would go into an audition and read in front of the casting director but now you send in self tapes. For this role, I did three self-tapes. One was just the audition, and [the casting directors] narrow the field down. Then it was a chemistry read with multiple leads, and then I got the news that I got the role! Right after that, I started doing seven weeks of bareback horse training.

GRAZIA: How was that?

STEWART: Difficult! Very physically exhausting. At the time, I was living in Venice Beach and I was training in Burbank so even that commute was difficult [laughs]. It’s like an hour’s commute every morning.

GRAZIA: Your character is really after revenge. What does revenge mean to you? And does it really taste as sweet as we think?

STEWART: Well, I guess it’s all a matter of perspective and context. How bad did someone hurt you? [Laughs]. Jane is just so ahead of her time. I think she thinks her revenge is supposed to be one way but that’s the beauty of her friend Millie coming into the play. Millie really helps Jane rationalise what the revenge actually looks like. It’s a lot more peaceful than expected.

“I’ve personally never really taken revenge. I’m a Scorpio so I hold grudges [laughs]. The revenge is all internal.”

GRAZIA: There is a real resilience to Jane. How do you stay defiant and confident within yourself when perhaps you’re not feeling that way?

STEWART: “I guess overall, my makeup is a pretty confident person but when I’m lacking that on a specific day, I just kind of trust the journey. I don’t do anything irrational because I know with time and over days and over hours, it will pass. Just allowing life to happen. I’m really into self help, and whatever that looks like to you – reading, writing, or listening to a podcast or hanging out with your family – all of those things tend to help.

Fivel Stewart
Fivel Stewart stars as Jane ( seen here with Jane’s friend Millie), in “Roar”, Apple TV+’s new eight-part anthology series about the female experience. Credit: Apple TV+

GRAZIA: As the series is split into separate narratives, you didn’t meet the rest of Roar cast until recently…

STEWART: That’s correct. We had a press conference this morning and [despite having not met before] we already had this bond because we were part of something greater than ourselves. I don’t think it’s necessary to say ‘Hi, I’m Fivel’ and ‘Hi, Cynthia’, because we’re past that.

GRAZIA: The series centres upon what it means to be a woman in today’s world. Your mother is of Japanese, Korean and Chinese ancestry. Do you ever talk to her about her experiences growing up as a female and compare them to your own?

STEWART: Yes, totally. I actually just did a film that allowed me to open up my mum’s ancestry and learn about how she was raised. I can’t imagine going through some of the stuff that she was going through as a full Asian woman. Of recent, I’ve gotten to know and to learn my mum’s ancestry and praise her for it.

“I’m so lucky to be a part of a generation that is so progressive and is ever-changing and identifying things in the world that need to be changed.”

GRAZIA: If you could change one thing about the female experience in today’s world, what would be at the top of your list?

STEWART: Not having a preconceived opinion of who we all are. Outside of gender, we’re all different, and I think when we get labelled as a ‘woman’, or ‘feminine’, or a ‘girl’, it’s already so soft. And it’s so frustrating, because we could be soft, or we could be not, but the fact that everyone kinds of just puts us in that same box, it’s difficult.

GRAZIA: And I guess the “softness” can be viewed as weaker or lesser-than…

STEWART: 100%.

GRAZIA: Do you have a favourite scene from your episode in Roar?

STEWART: Probably the ending. The writers and producers did it so well. Jane doesn’t emotionally act out. She kind of internalises her revenge and knows what she is going to do. The ending is so powerful without anything big happening and I think that’s what made it really special.

GRAZIA: Your career is just taking off, what’s the pinnacle for you? What’s the pipe dream?

STEWART: There isn’t a pinnacle. I guess my dream is just to be doing everything that I’m doing on a grander scale. Just continuously doing what I love and being respected for it. Whether that means winning an Oscar, or not, or just making really great movies that people really love, I just think as long as I keep going and flowing, that’s the pinnacle.

Roar is streaming now on Apple TV+. 

Tile image: Instagram @fivel_stew