Truth be told, I spent a good portion of my holiday break consuming entertainment. Award season films, comedy specials, old TV shows worth bingeing (Friends, naturally), new TV shows worth binging (season two of You, of course), you name it! Talent scouting can be a tough job, but someone has to do it (wink wink). But seriously, there are some very special ladies to watch in 2020, one of whom is Stefania LaVie Owen, the star of Netflix’s new original series Messiah.
Hailing from New Zealand, the new breeding ground for Hollywood’s next-gen stars, LaVie Owen has spent the last few years steadily carving out a promising screen career, holding her own in cool indie projects alongside the likes of Matthew McConaughey (Beach Bum) and Katie Holmes (All We Had) as well as a buzzy off-Broadway turn in Yen with Lucas Hedges. Last year, Vogue called the 22-year-old one of 15 stars to inspire fashion designers, a list that also included Timothée Chalamet, Maya Hawke, and Ezra Miller. No big deal. Now, with a Netflix show under her belt, LaVie Owen is ready for the big stage.
In Messiah, LaVie Owen stars as Rebecca, the daughter of a Texas preacher down on his luck. When a mysterious man, who has been gaining international attention for performing what his followers believe to be miracles, turns up in the nick of time to save Rebecca and the small town’s lone church from a devastating tornado, many believe him to be a divine being. But is he really the new Messiah or just a con artist? The 10-episode series will have you going back and forth on that question up to the final moments.
Ahead, we talk to LaVie Owen about her addicting new series, the stylish celeb she loves, and the surprising fashion item she collects.
I wasn’t sure Messiah was the show for me at first, but I was immediately sucked in after episode one. Why do you think this story will resonate with audiences?
I think what’s so great about the show is it explores so many different subjects that are very controversial, but it’s done in a way that is so personal. As a viewer, you get to understand different perspectives and why they believe what they believe and how belief is shaped by your family, or where you’re from, society, social media, regular media. I think also there are so many characters that people can relate to personally, whether you’re a mom with a teenager, or a teenager going through turmoil, or you’re a man who is not sure that the path he chose is the right one. There are so many ways to connect with this story, so that’s why I think it’s going to reach a lot of people and touch them in so many different ways.
The story unfolds from multiple points of view from around the world. What was your reaction to seeing the show as a whole for the first time?
You know, it was really overwhelming actually. When we were filming, we obviously just saw the world we created. So when I watched the show, to see all the puzzle pieces come together was amazing, but also overwhelming because you are seeing the stuff you filmed but in a different context and how it intersects with stuff that we didn’t even see. I’ve only just met Sayyid (El Alami) and Fares (Landoulsi) here at the hotel two days ago! So yes, seeing it come together as one piece gives me so many feelings. The first emotion is overwhelming, but also exciting, incredible; I feel so proud to be a part of this project.
Can you recall a particularly memorable day on set?
Yeah, there was this one scene we tried to film three different times, but the weather in New Mexico was insane. We had these big thunderstorms and wind storms, and during this one scene we were shooting there was lightning, and when it gets too close to the set, you have to shut everything down. It was so surreal and serendipitous that it was happening during the filming of this one scene because the only building left in the story is the church and everything else is demolished in the tornado. In real life, all of the cast and crew had to bunker down in this church, which had supplies and mattresses, so we were stuck in there for two hours playing games, telling stories, watching the lightning. Those moments to me, it felt like being at camp with everybody and really formed this bond between everyone. I just love the people we worked with and the story we’ve created.
What are the stories you are drawn to as an actor at this point in your career?
I want to tell stories that I really care about and am passionate about. There is nothing worse, even just in life, when you do something that you don’t believe in. I know when I read something and I can see myself in it and it just flows and I can’t stop reading that that is something I want to do. If I’m going to be more specific, I would love to do a period piece, I would love to play an evil character, or I would love to play somebody who is tackling mental chaos. There are so many things I want to do, but first and foremost something that I’m passionate about and that means something and will share a perspective that needs to be seen. Film and TV have such a power getting people together and discussing things, and so I would love to be a part of something, like this show, that allows people to discuss and learn.
Vogue named you as one of 15 stars who will be inspiring fashion designers in 2019, a list that also included Ezra Miller, Maya Hawke, and Timothée Chalamet. How did it make you feel to be included in that list?
Really? Wow! That’s really crazy. I mean it’s so cool. I never thought I would ever be a part of that list.
How does fashion play a role in your life?
I really do like fashion. I think growing up I always wanted to dress myself. For a while, I agreed to let my mom dress me, but then at a certain point, maybe at 6 or 7, I was like, "Mom, I’m dressing myself." I would wear these long rainbow socks with Crocs, put these plaid shorts on, a brightly colored shirt with something funny on it. Even though in most people’s eyes that wasn’t fashionable, for me it was a form of expression. I love fashion because it’s a way to express yourself. What I struggle with is Is this good? Is this bad? But the most important thing is whether it makes you feel good.
Who do you think is making interesting moves in the fashion space right now?
Lady Gaga is someone who I’m like Wow, that is bold. She is not swayed by people, she just goes with whatever feels good to her, and I really respect that. Even though people have their opinions about it, I think that’s what is so great because it allows for discussion.
I read that your mom has an insane closet. What is the piece you are always stealing from her?
I have two sisters and I’m the only one who fits her shoes. She has just an amazing collection of shoes.
How would you say your style differs when you are in New Zealand vs. New York?
I think New Zealand is a lot more casual. You know, jeans, a T-shirt, bare feet, flip-flops. But I kind of do mix and match. In New York, there are a lot more layers and jackets, which I love, and snow boots. And there is more going out, so you can dress up more often. But also I’ve been out in New York in my pajamas before.
What are the five holy-grail items you own?
Boots. I wear them pretty much most days. I’m one to wear them down. My overalls, I love them. That is pretty much what I travel in all the time, they are so comfortable. I have one jacket, it’s pretty simple, it’s black, but it goes with everything. A scarf, I have this one that I wear a lot that is yellow and gray. And socks. I’m obsessed with socks. You should see my sock drawer; it’s intense. I’m really obsessed with socks, rainbows, Patrick from SpongeBob, everything! The Sockman is good. Happy Socks I love.
Okay, final question. You are on our radar, but we want to know who is the person on your radar right now?
It’s so crazy, I guess now being in this world for long, but we have a family friend who is from New Zealand named Thomasin McKenzie. We’ve known each other since we were really young because our families are really close. So to see that journey unfold is so crazy and amazing to watch. Just two days ago, my dad and I watched Jojo Rabbit, and I was like Wow, this is amazing. Just to see her soar, it started one film, and she has catapulted. I’m really excited for her.
Shop Styles Inspired by Stefania’s Wardrobe Essentials