Kyra Sedgwick has won an Emmy and a Golden Globe for her acting, but this weekend she’ll add another major accomplishment to her career: her directing debut with Lifetime’s Story of a Girl. The movie, which follows a teenager’s journey after her sex video goes viral, is a passion project for Sedgwick, who bought the film rights to Sara Zarr’s novel 10 years ago.
We enlisted Sedgwick’s daughter Sosie Bacon, who also stars in the film (and whom you might recognize from 13 Reasons Why), to help grill her mom on everything from being a first-time director to what it’s like working with family to female orgasms. Read on for the mother-daugher duo’s new catchphrase—”Consent should be the rule, but pleasure should be the goal”—and more.
Sosie Bacon: Hi, Mama.
Kyra Sedgwick: Hi, honey. So, everything we say is going to be on the record, just so you know…
SB: OK, I won’t say anything bad! [Laughs.] My first question is: After being in front of the camera for so, sooo many years, what made you decide you wanted to direct?
KS: Well, Story of a Girl was a book I bought in 2007. A friend of mine brought it to me, Emily Lansbury—who actually ended up writing the script—and she said, “I think you’ll really relate to this.” I read the book and was really blown away by how much it reminded me of my high school experience, trying to figure out who I was, feeling really lost and alone. I think it reflected back to me just how excruciating it is to be a teenager and specifically a girl. I gave it to you, and you loved it. Do you remember that?
SB: Yeah, I loved it. It was incredibly moving to me at the time, especially since I was that age.
KS: I thought, If this can mirror my experience, and it can mirror my daughter’s, then it’s worthwhile. So I bought the book, and we tried to get it made as a feature. I had been thinking about directing, but I felt intimidated by it. I felt like I wouldn’t be great at it, so why even try? I was scared. Then I went into Lifetime, and we were talking about their Broad [Focus] initiative, which is their mandate to hire more female directors. I blurted out, “Story of a Girl, and I want to direct it,” and I honestly surprised myself in that moment. Now that I’ve done it, I’m completely in love, and I can’t wait to do it again.
SB: You answered a lot of questions in that answer.
KS: I tend to do that. I’m really good at this.
SB: Exactly! On set, the people that were steering the ship were mostly female. What’s different about a more female-driven set from a more male-driven set, energywise?
KS: I worked really hard to have the heads of most of the departments be female, and it made a huge difference. Having a female director at the helm makes a difference as well. To me, a female energy means people being kinder, gentler, quieter, working more collaboratively, being very respectful to each other. I tried to make everyone feel seen and understood and appreciated. All humans need love, attention, and appreciation, and those can be very female traits. I feel like they should be male and female traits, but I think that they are more easily attributed to women.
SB: Yeah, what I meant by female energy wasn’t even necessarily a gender thing. If you encourage that giving-ness and listening and paying attention, then everybody, male or female—the whole crew, as a genderless mob—will adopt that energy and treat each other with respect.
KS: Oh my God, that’s such a better answer.
SB: This isn’t my interview! You bought the book 10 years ago. What obstacles did you run into trying to get the film made?
KS: The reason I wanted to make the film was exactly the reason why people didn’t think it was going to make money; they didn’t think people would be interested. “We like the script, but where are the car chases? Nothing blows up. Where’s the big moment?” To me the movie is filled with explosions. It’s filled with pain, and angst, and real life. The obstacles were frustrating. I couldn’t help but feel that if it had been about a teen boy, we might’ve had an easier job.
SB: Definitely. You had obviously never directed before. We were staying in the same apartment when we were shooting, and I remember the first day. What was it like waking up that morning? Were you terrified?
KS: I was completely panicking, like literally. All during preproduction, I was vacillating between “This is totally going to be fine; I’m very prepared” and “I have no idea what I’m doing; I’m freaking out.” When I first got to set, I was scared, but I was faking it really well, faking it until I made it! After the first rehearsal, I completely calmed down. What I felt, as opposed to being an actor, was, Thank God I don’t have to go into the makeup trailer. Thank God I don’t have to look at myself in the mirror! Weirdly, I felt like I had less on my shoulders as a director than as an actor. I just knew I had hired really great actors and that they were going to be amazing. It was the greatest feeling ever
SB: It didn’t even feel like there was much of an adjustment period. It was just bam, and we were going. What was it like to work with me and Dad [Kevin Bacon] and my brother [Travis Bacon], who did the music?
KS: I had so much faith that you guys would be amazing that it kind of made my job easier. Even though I’ve never directed Dad before, I’ve given him acting notes, so that wasn’t so unusual for me. I think you were more complicated. It’s really hard to know that your mother is looking at you in a critical way. You and I have had issues about this in the past. If I ever look at you too long, you’re like, “What are you looking at?” I am your director, so I had to look at you critically. One of the things that’s hardest as an actor is you are being critiqued constantly, and having your mother critiquing you can be challenging. What about you? What were you concerned about with me as a director?
SB: I didn’t feel worried that you were going to critique me or criticize me. To be honest with you, that had nothing to do with my fear. My fear was based on how much you cared about this project. I knew how much it meant to you, and I didn’t want to disappoint you, so I welcomed and wanted your notes! That’s funny that we felt completely different things.
KS: Hilarious! And this is why mothers should take note. You don’t know what your kid is thinking or worried about, ever.
SB: Exactly. What do you feel like is the greatest accomplishment of this project, and what do you want the viewers to take from it?
KS: The greatest accomplishment is that I think the movie is really good! Compassion is very important, especially right now in America. We all need to strive as human beings to understand each other and ourselves better. I hope that people watch the film and understand themselves and feel compassion for each other. My question to you is, What did you relate to in the movie?
SB: I went to an all-girls school when I was younger, which I think instilled a lot of confidence. I was surrounded by women, and we were just weird and showing our bodies, changing in the hallway. As a younger woman, I definitely had that freedom. And then you start to hang out with boys, and you see what interests them and what they find to be sexy, and I think your personality changes. Once you’ve realized that as a woman, it’s kind of trying to get back to that young, free stage.
KS: We explore the theme of female sexuality in the movie. What do you think about how the movie deals with female sexuality and any double standards for males and females?
SB: I think Deanna is ruined by the sex tape, and [her partner] Tommy doesn’t hear a word about it. Deanna is labeled as a disgusting whore, and the repercussions are long. Her friend Stacey lashes out by sexualizing herself, and maybe that’s because neither of them were taught what good, positive sexual interaction is actually all about. It’s not a currency; it’s not something that’ll get you somewhere. It’s something that should be enjoyed between the two of you. I hope this movie helps people talk about that more. Sex with women should be talked about. I think it’s getting brought up a lot more in media now, which is fucking awesome.
KS: I know.
SB: I remember in high school, and even now, some guys will be shocked to learn that girls masturbate. I mean it’s just mind-blowing. It’s such a shameful thought among women, so if that can just be talked about more, that would be nice. You deserve to feel pleasure as well.
KS: Totally. Most teenage boys don’t know how to give pleasure to a woman or a girl, and they’re also not taught in this society that that’s even a goal, or something that’s even slightly important. The fact of the matter is that teens have sex. We can’t will that away. Let’s talk about it because that’s the only way to get it out from under the darkness and the shadows. That’s the only way to process it in a healthy way. It’s happening, so let’s talk about it.
SB: If it’s happening, it might as well be consensual and pleasurable, for both parties! Or at least that should be the goal. Consent should be the rule, but pleasure should be the goal.
KS: I love that; that’s great.
SB: Oh, thanks! Catchphrase; let’s put it on a bumper sticker.
KS: We should get a T-shirt made.
SB: Exactly. Yeah, so anyways…Bye, Mom, I love you.
KS: I love you, honey.
Story of a Girl airs Sunday, July 23 at 8:00 P.M. ET/PT on Lifetime.