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Inconceivable Star Katie Stuart on Landing and Tackling the Role of Rita

This interview contains spoilers through season 1 episode 6 of Inconceivable and season 4 episode 9 of The 100.

Though sometimes lacking the satisfying arcs we desire, there is plenty of decent lesbian content on TV these days. Anyone who has even remotely interacted with me since April 24th knows I am low-key (high-key) obsessed with the main queer storyline on The Handmaid’s Tale. However, my other favorite of early 2017 came from a much more unlikely source. The upstart Canadian web series Inconceivable surprised me this spring with both its quality and its unique concept, and it already has quite the following online. Based on a true story, the series follows a 24 year-old lesbian whose life is turned upside down when she has an uncharacteristic fling with a guy and ends up pregnant. With its charming yet down-to-earth script, it offers a humorous but poignant commentary on sexual identity and the queer experience.

Last week I had the opportunity to chat with star Katie Stuart about Inconceivable as well as one of her former shows – sci-fi drama The 100 – and its fandom.

The following interview has been lightly edited for clarity.

Lisa P: You’ve been in numerous productions through larger studios, so I’m interested as to how you got involved with a web series from a small local collective.

Katie Stuart: Yeah, I feel like people keep expecting there to be this great story or, you know, friends of friends or something like that, but it actually just happened pretty much the normal way. They put their show up on Casting Workbook, which is a tool agents use to keep track of what’s being cast at any given time, and my agent saw this thing and sent me the script and was like, “Let me know what you think about this.” And I read the script and I just thought it was really charming and funny and touching.

LP: Was there anything in particular that drew you to this story or project?

KS: I’ve found that in the last decade or so I’ve kind of fallen into characters that are somewhere in the LGBTQ community or on the non-binary gender spectrum, and I can’t totally tell… you know, it’s a bit of a chicken and egg situation… I can’t tell if it’s something that just happened and then I really liked it, or if it was something that I kind of sought out. So I’m not sure if people just kept thinking of me for these roles first and being like, “Oh, we need a gender neutralish queer girl, call Katie Stuart.” I’m not sure if people were thinking of me before I was thinking of it or vice versa, but definitely I’m just super excited that there’s a lot more queer stories being told now, and it’s really nice to see stories that are about queer characters but not only about being queer.

Though never confirmed in canon, Stuart’s character Zoe Monroe (The 100) was widely speculated to be queer. Image courtesy of The CW.

LP: I already asked series co-creators Joel and Rachel about this, but I want your opinion too. What do you think made you such a good Rita?

KS: [laughs] I think there’s probably a lot of aspects. I think it’s partly the writing style. Like, the way that Joel, Mike, and Rachel write their characters is so honest and so true to life. They’re not trying to Gilmore Girls it or have this sort of heightened language thing that a lot of comedies seem to be into sometimes. And so it’s very natural and organic for me the way that they write the characters. And also I’m at a point in life now where lots of people I know are having babies, and my mom really wants me to have a baby, like yesterday. So I know what that pressure is like, to feel like everyone expects you to have a baby now. And to me, the idea of that is still so terrifying. So I didn’t have to dig deep to find those feelings of fear and anxiety and like “how am I supposed to be responsible for another human being when I can barely keep myself together.”

LP: Probably my favorite part of Rita is her confidence and how evident it is in her physicality. Do you naturally have that swagger and charm, or is that all put on?

KS: I would say that’s like 90% put on. That’s like my inner voice. That’s the swagger of my inner self, you know? Like if I could just breeze through life and never for a moment be worried that people would think I was conceited or something, that’s maybe how I would do it. But yeah, no, Rita’s just way, way more comfortable with herself and in her own skin than I think I am in real life.

LP: Episode 5 was a fun episode, but it was also sort of a dark episode, with how it dug into Rita’s backstory and revealing how difficult her coming out process was. In an understated way, there was a lot of pain in the flashbacks and in the scenes where she opens up to Adam before and after that conversation. So I’m wondering, were those scenes difficult to shoot since it was such a tonal shift from the previous episodes?

KS: Yeah. Yeah, they were. I don’t know that they were difficult because it was such a shift necessarily, but there were a lot of different variables. Time obviously being a huge one. Just the fact that everything we shot, we had serious time constraints. So everything was, you know, “quick quick quickly, as fast as we can” to make our days. And that was probably the biggest challenge, I would say. So, as far as taking it a little bit darker… I think maybe what makes it such a juxtaposition is that throughout the show, even when things are really kind of dire, or something’s very serious, the way that Joel makes movies and shows is like he wants to find that glimmer, you know? And it’s so important for people to have hope. And so I think that Joel has a really unique ability to find the hope even in really grim situations. So in those particular scenes, where she’s describing her coming out process, that’s one of the few moments where it is quite grim. But I think that’s also why the slow motion played really well, because it does offer a bit of levity to the scene even though it’s quite dour.

LP: You and Bruce Novakowski have some really smooth chemistry going on. Is he as chill and easy to work with as his character, Adam?

KS: Oh, yes. Possibly even more chill and easy to work with than Adam. Bruce and I get along really well. We have a very similar sense of humor, and we have a similar sort of work style as well, like the way that we like to prepare for scenes. And we just really clicked right from day one, from when we first met we just got along really well, and from our first day working together it was obvious that it was gonna be successful as far as our relationship in the show. Because sometimes you meet another actor and you’re like, “Ugh, we’re gonna have to really act.” But no, Bruce and I were pretty on the same page when it came to working together, so that made it really easy.

Stuart and Bruce Novakowski as Rita and Adam in 1×06 “Here We Go!”.

LP: This is gonna sound like a funny question, but just in the context of the show, like not from knowing Rachel and Joel personally, do you ship Rita and Adam? Or would you rather see her maybe date women while raising a child with him, or even have an open relationship? Like, where would you see their relationship going at this point, as of the end of episode 6, which is sort of an up in the air moment where they leave it quite open-ended?

KS: That’s funny that you said that, ‘cause it is really hard to separate what I already know about Rachel and Joel and what I suspect for Rita and Adam in the next couple of seasons. But I guess if I didn’t know anything about any of it and I was going just based on the show, at the very least I would want their relationship to be open. I think it’s just so much more interesting and it’s such a more unique story to have them not together romantically. Because it’s a tricky thing to navigate. They’re linked together forever now because of this child, and it would be too easy to have them be together romantically and be a couple and be “shipped,” as it were. I think it would be a lot more interesting if Rita was dating and Adam was dating and they were somehow managing to balance childminding in the middle of it all.

LP: Taking a slight turn but going off of that topic, Chelsey Reist was in episode 3 as one of those coupled lesbians at the party. Is there any chance she’ll get upcoupled next season and move on with Rita? Because I’d be totally down with a Harpoe au.

KS: [laughs] Yeah, I don’t know. It’s gonna depend on a lot of things, for sure. I would love to have Chelsey come and have a solid role and a good run with us on season 2, and I think she would probably be down for it, but we’ll have to see. It would depend on her schedule, I would imagine. She is a busy lady.

LP: I remember you two actually played up Harpoe quite a bit on Twitter. Did you guys start that, or did you hear about that from the fans and decide to run with it?

KS: It was the fans that came up with Harpoe. That was a The 100 fandom thing where they were really into Harpoe, and we just kinda ran with it. ‘Cause we’re really good friends, and we would be hanging out, and we’d post stuff on Instagram or Twitter, whatever, or we’d just be watching the Oscars or something random, and then people would just freak out and be like, “It’s Harpoe, Harpoe!” And we were like, “Okay, yeah, Harpoe. Woo!” So yeah, her cameo in Inconceivable was two parts. One, she said, “Oh my god, I’d love to come and do something on your show, even if I just had a quick little walkthrough.” And unfortunately, by the time she brought that up, we had already cast everything, the schedule was set. To put her in a substantial role we would have had to fire somebody else. So if she’d brought it up sooner she might have done a slightly bigger role or we could have written her a role or something. But it was quite last-minute that we were talking about it and she was like, “Man, I would love to be in it!” And I was like, “Well, you know, on Tuesday we’re filming this big lesbian house party. And it would be so awesome if you were just there and you and I were kinda like eyeing each other at this lesbian party. The 100 fans would go mental!” And she was like, “Yes, yes! I’m doing it! I’m coming.” So she just came out for that brief little cameo just for the day for fun.

Stuart and Chelsey Reist as Zoe Monroe and Harper McIntyre on The 100. Image courtesy of the CW.

LP: Yeah, I remember that. You were looking at her and then Trina said, “None of those lesbians are single.”

KS: [laughs] Yeah!

LP: Final question, again slightly unrelated. First, are you caught up on The 100?

KS: I’m not. I’m not caught up on The 100. I’m missing the last episode for sure and there might even be one just before it that I’m missing.

LP: Okay, so do you know about the end of the world party and how some of them decided to stay in Arkadia and some of them went on to Polis?

KS: Uh… no!

LP: So basically, in the first episode after the break, some of the younger people in Arkadia decide that they want to stay behind ‘cause they don’t wanna go live in a bunker and be under Jaha’s rule. So I was wondering, do you think if Monroe was still alive, would she have gone to Polis, or would she have stayed behind for the party?

KS: Where did Bellamy go?

LP: Ah. Bellamy went to Polis, but Harper stayed. As did Jasper, and Monty. So.

KS: Ohh. Yeah, I think Monroe would have followed Bellamy to the bitter end.

LP: Well yeah, she did follow him to the bitter end in 3×06, so there you go.

KS: [laughs] That’s true.

In closing

Many thanks to Katie Stuart for taking the time to chat with me and share her thoughts with The Fandomentals. We wish her luck and hope to hear Inconceivable season 2 is a go in the near future. For anyone who is interested in hearing further commentary about the show, the finale’s release party and Q+A aired yesterday and can be viewed here.


Images courtesy of This Is a Spoon Studios (unless otherwise stated)

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Lisa is a gay(ish) writer and stand-up comedian from Canada's west coast. A longtime fanfic author who recently made the jump to journalism, she is prone to gush ad nauseum about her OTPs. Stubbornly Watsonian and literal, she can't stand characterization and continuity errors.

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