Glass interviews up-and-coming American actor Cailee Spaeny

FOR many aspiring actors across the American Midwest, Hollywood is like a glistening mirage, promising a slice of stardom and untold glamour so achingly out of reach. But for actor Cailee Spaeny, who hails from a small town in Missouri, the temptations of Tinseltown were never too far away, even if it entailed journeying 25 hours in a tiny minivan to L.A. and often “staying with complete strangers,” she tells me over Zoom, her cherubic eyes growing wider.

Since gaining her first role in Pacific Rim Uprising in 2018, the 23-year-olds career has soared, from starring as the lead protagonist in The Craft: Legacy – a razor-sharp sequel to the ‘90s classic – to appearing opposite Kate Winslet in Mare of Easttown. With an insatiable appetite for a challenge, Spaeny has proved her skills as a shape-shifting sensation, moulding into the part of a male, tech-mastermind in Devs, or morphing into a lively, dreamed up figure in the apocalyptic comedy, How It Ends.

Though the pandemic has undoubtedly upended our lives, it has simultaneously been framed with the opportunity for reflection, ensuing a seismic shift in how we approach mental health – a continued conversation Spaeny believes is intrinsic to our welfare. “It all starts with us, so having the courage to say “I need this” is essential, along with having each other’s back.”

Directed by Zoe Lister-Jones, Spaeny’s latest film, How It Ends, touches upon these familiar feelings of dread when confronted with calamity, tackled with a deliriously joyful twist, as “no one is ready to watch a film set in the Covid-19 pandemic,” Spaeny says with a peal of laughter.

Ahead of the film’s premiere later that evening, the blossoming actor tells Glass about overcoming doubt, self-care and the psychological damages of social media.

Glass Digital x Cailee Spaeny_1Cailee Spaeny. Photograph: Ssam Kim

I read that you started a band in school and you also have a passion for sing, what drew you to acting especially over other artistic realms?
Really my first passion was singing, it was music, and I was taking piano and vocal lessons at the time. My mum would drive me 25 hours across the country to L.A. in a minivan, and we did that journey for four years until I booked my first job on Pacific Rim: Uprising in 2018.

There were lots of road trips, we tried to stay with people that we knew, but often we were staying with complete strangers.

Originating from a small town in Missouri, what were some of the challenges you have faced in seeking a career in acting outside the state, and do you believe there should more opportunities for young people in the Midwest who are striving for a career in the arts?
Definitely, there’s so much talent out there. I think a lot about my friends who wanted to pursue acting but got discouraged because it is incredibly expensive to go to L.A., to find a place and to build those relationships in the industry. If anybody gets to hear my story in the Midwest, I hope they find a sense of hope and keep chasing what they love.

Glass Digital x Cailee Spaeny_1Cailee Spaeny. Photograph: Ssam Kim

You have played a diverse range of characters so far, from a male part in Devs to an imaginary figure in How It Ends, how do approach preparing for a role that is the complete opposite of the previous?
One of my goals is whatever I’ve done last, I want to do the exact opposite for my next role, I want to keep challenging and pushing myself. I actually feel a sense of relief when I play a character that’s so far from who I am because I think once it starts bleeding into Cailee, it gets a little muddy for me.

Whenever I play a character that has different costumes or the way they hold themselves is completely different, just seeking out those subtleties, it’s easier for me to find a path into the character’s world.

Glass Digital x Cailee Spaeny_1Cailee Spaeny. Photograph: Ssam Kim

On which production so far in your career have you learned the most? And who have been the most inspiring actors to work with?

My new movie, How It Ends, was interesting for me because I had never worked in a comedy before and I’d never done a smaller, independent film. The director of the film, Zoe Lister-Jones, had just directed me in The Craft: Legacy, so we already had this very special bond. Filming How It Ends during a pandemic was probably the roughest I’d ever been mentally, so it was a cathartic opportunity to release all those emotions.

Glass Digital x Cailee Spaeny_1Cailee Spaeny. Photograph: Ssam Kim

Since starring in Pacific Rim, you have had an abundance of roles in many substantial projects, how does it feel to gain these distinguished roles at a young age? Does the rapid progression of your career feel daunting at all?
I was 18 when I got my first role and now I would say I could have waited a couple more years. But movies are my home and I think it’s hard for any young girl in these times with social media.

People always say, “if you didn’t put it on Instagram, did it really happen?” The psychological damage of social media is real.

Glass Digital x Cailee Spaeny_1Cailee Spaeny. Photograph: Ssam Kim

Social media fuels this narrative that if you don’t have a long list of achievements by the age of 20, that you’re ultimately going to be unsuccessful.

Exactly, I feel like a failure at 23, which is so ridiculous and a lot of that doubt is because of social media. I go on there and I’m like, “why am I even doing this?” and I think we can all relate to that feeling. You should only be in competition with yourself.

Glass Digital x Cailee Spaeny_1Cailee Spaeny. Photograph: Ssam Kim

Glass Digital x Cailee Spaeny_1Cailee Spaeny. Photograph: Ssam Kim

What message do you hope people will take away from your upcoming apocalyptic comedy, How It Ends?

This film does not take away from the heaviness we have felt during the pandemic, but it portrays those feelings through a laugh and a comedic edge. Zoe [Lister-Jones] and Daryl [Wein] balance comedy and drama so well in their films, they can make you cry and laugh instantaneously. I hope it resonates with the wider audience because it really is a time capsule of this moment, and I’m very proud of it.

Glass Digital x Cailee Spaeny_1Cailee Spaeny. Photograph: Ssam Kim


Glass Digital x Cailee Spaeny_1Cailee Spaeny. Photograph: Ssam Kim

by Sophia Ford-Palmer 


Photographer: Ssam Kim

Talent: Cailee Spaeny 

Stylist: Luca Kingston at The Wall Group

Make-up Artist: Loren Canby at A-Frame Agency

Hair Stylist: Kiley Fitzgerald at A-Frame Agency

Styling Assistant: Rachel Tate


Look 1, 2:

Marchesa Dress

10th floor Shoes

Raven Fine Jewelers Earrings

Raven Fine Jewelers Necklace

Messika Ear Cuff


Look 3:

Dior Dress

Dior Boots

David Yurman Bracelets

Misho Earrings


Look 4,5:

Norma Kamali Shirt

Dorothee Schumacher Pants

Misho Bracelet

Messika Ear Cuff

John Hardy Earrings

David Yurman Rings

Freelance Shoes


Look 6:

Marcell Von Berlin Dress

Misho Earrings

David Yurman Necklace


Look 7:

Ezgi Cinar Dress

10th Floor Shoes

Raven Fine Jewelers Rings

Raven Fine Jewelers Earrings


Look 8:

Sebastian Gunawan Dress

Marcell Von Berlin Boots

Raven Fine Jewelers Earrings

Raven Fine Jewelers and David Yurman Bracelets


Look 9:

Sebastian Gunawan Dress

David Yurman Earrings

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