Glass interviews Zoey Deutch

“I want to do it all” – The scion of Hollywood royalty, actor and producer Zoey Deutch’s latest vehicle reveals as much about her versatility as her ambition to succeed on her own terms

SET in the underworld of debt collecting in upstate New York, Tanya Wexler’s tale of Buffaloed is unique in its choice of a female lead, the highly sought-after starlet, Zoey Deutch.

The film depicts the tribulations of money-driven hustler Peg Dahl – played by 25-year-old Deutch – who lands herself in a whirlwind of crippling debt as she desperately tries to break free from the economic depression of her hometown of Buffalo. In search of ways to get out of her situation, Peg inadvertently stumbles into the role of debt collector, waging war against anyone that attempts to stand in her way.


Zoey Deutch. Photograph: Ssam Kim


Although a comedy at a superficial glance, the film is a satirical masterpiece, delivering a powerful message about the prevalence of debt and the ruthlessness of those in blissful pursuit of exploiting others in order to benefit themselves. In one scene, collectors take advantage of an elderly woman’s memory loss by repeatedly extracting the same debt from her over and over again. Albeit a heavy subject, it is one unpacked with exceptional verve by director Wexler.

In many ways the polar opposite of her role in Zombieland as the Barbie-style blonde Madison, Deutch’s character may lack glamour but certainly packs a punch with her quick wits and savvy intellect. The erratic Peg spends the majority of the film with either next to no make-up on, with the rare exception of her exaggerated winged eyeliner in the iconic opening scene, often in favour of hair scrunchies and oversized tracksuits.

Speaking to Glass, Deutch, the daughter of actress Lea Thompson and director Howard Deutch, elaborates on her character Peg’s bittersweet relationship with money, the driving force that ignites her ambition, and battling her own trials and tribulations.


Zoey Deutch. Photograph: Ssam Kim


Can you tell me why Buffaloed appealed to you so much?

I felt like it was such a unique piece. It’s a funny yet poignant story about a young girl obsessed with making enough cash to get out of her blue-collar existence …  and finding her calling in an ethically debatable industry,  the one that destroyed her chances of becoming anybody to begin with. I fell in love with the character and the writer’s [Brian Sacca’s] world.


You have a history of playing intelligent and strong-minded women – how are you able to establish personal connections between your character and yourself?

I remember reading a quote by Meryl Streep that I love so much, “Acting is not about being someone different. It’s finding the similarity in what is apparently different, then finding myself in there.” I guess I try to do that.


 There has been a steady increase in the demand for females taking charge behind the camera. In fact, several of your most recent films, including Buffaloed, have been directed by women. What are your thoughts on the current state of gender equality in the industry?

For all the discussion about gender inequality in Hollywood there really isn’t as much action as you would think. The numbers and statistics are still staggering in terms of how many films were directed by women and men last year. We need to create the space and opportunities for women and continue to have the conversations.


Zoey Deutch. Photograph: Ssam Kim


 What was it like working with Tanya Wexler?
From the second I met Tanya she was somebody I knew I could trust and feel protected by. She is a leader, a captain of a ship, a graceful commander … She is extraordinarily prepared and equipped, with a strong point of view but never attached to her ideas out of ego. Always open to every person’s ideas. I loved working with Tanya and I cannot wait to work with her again.

Although you’ve taken on a few anti-hero, female hustler-type roles, you are clearly very versatile in terms of your acting range – do you feel there are enough opportunities and roles available to female actors right now?
Of course. In part, I was interested in Peg because it’s a story that would usually feature a male protagonist.  “Unlikeable” characters are usually reserved for dudes. That’s probably why I’m attracted to them … they are rarer.


Is there a particular woman you admire within the film and TV industry?
I look up to Reese Witherspoon so much, her body of work, choice of parts, her putting family first but also her running-an-empire kind of vibe. That’s my dream, that’s who I want to be when I grow up.

I want marriage and kids; I want a clothing company and stores; I want to produce and act in TV shows and movies that people around the world love and respond to. I want all that and I want to be known for being inclusive and kind.

She is a role model and I feel lucky to be an actress during this time. You can’t be what you can’t see. And she makes me see that it’s possible to do it all. And I will do it all.


Zoey Deutch. Photograph: Ssam Kim


What is your vision of the future within the industry?
That we continue to learn more from each other. Ask each other more. Listen to each other more. Find ways to lift each other up. Be more inclusive.

Can you tell me about some of your professional high points so far?
Does Jennifer Aniston liking my photo count? Getting to work with Jessica Lange was a dream and a half. Making Woody Harrelson break up laughing in a scene. Getting to help write a scene for Everybody Wants Some with Richard Linklater. Producing The Year of Spectacular Men and Buffaloed.

What have been some of the biggest challenges you’ve had to face and overcome in your career?
I have anxiety, like so many other people. And I’m so glad so many people are opening up about anxiety, depression, mental illness etc. Anything to help normalise it. Anything to help people realise it’s not uncommon. You aren’t wrong. Truly, if you’re living with any form of mental illness and functioning at all, it’s something to be so proud of and embrace, not be ashamed of.

When I was two, I started holding my breath and fainting when I felt anxious. I could physically make myself pass out before I could speak. It was called fainting baby disorder. I have had anxiety my whole life. And I do feel like it’s been a journey, but I now feel like it’s my superpower. My anxiety motivates me, it is where a lot of my ambition stems from. I think everyone does have some form of anxiety in one way or another. It can be crippling, but more times than not, I am grateful for my anxiety. However it’s taken a while to get there.

I also embrace the idea that people who have anxiety or depression tend to be really smart. The world is hard. It means you are more in tune and aware of how hard things are and you take that on.

Also, on a totally separate note,  something I find interesting to analyse is ego. In order to act you do need a certain amount of ego. To get up and get yourself in front of the camera. To be vulnerable and put yourself out there. To feel worthy of people’s attention, time, money.

But at the same time, in order to connect in a scene, with yourself, with other actors, you need to eliminate all ego. So it’s a weird Catch 22. Ego is your best friend, and your worst enemy. It’s a balancing act.


Zoey Deutch. Photograph: Ssam Kim


The theme of this issue is “Fresh”. What were your New Year resolutions and have you stuck to them so far?
Sometimes, to get from where we are to where we are going, we have to be willing to be in-between.  Being in between can apply to feelings, career, relationships etc. But I’m working on the in-between and finding contentment in that. It’s not always fun being in-between, but it’s necessary. It’s not forever and it feels stagnant and like we’re standing still. But we’re not. It’s how you get from A to B. It’s not the final destination. But we’re still moving forward when we’re in the in-between. Trying to find some peace in that, if that makes sense. I’m working on that.


In terms of your career, where do you see yourself in 10 years?
I love what I do so much. I’m so happy that I get to do what I love. I hope I get to keep working and learning and getting better.

by Cara Jenkins

Published in the spring 2020 issue of Glass – Fresh

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Photographer SSAM KIM
Photography assistant KEVIN LIU
Styling assistant JULIA DESMET

Special thanks to SILVER LAKE POOL & INN



Sunglasses LULA PACE



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