AUSTIN — When Addison Timlin got the call in August that she had landed the role of Hillary Diane Rodham in When I'm a Moth, she was terrified — mainly because the movie would be released during Clinton's administration, or so the 25-year-old actor thought.
But on Nov. 8, Timlin and the rest of the world learned that wouldn't be the case. "I was so, so heartbroken," the actor said of Clinton's loss. "All I could think was, Oh my fucking god. ... I was so sad for her. Playing her and thinking about her and reading about her and listening to her when she was a young woman, she is fucking remarkable. And she is adorable and she is so well-spoken and she is so charming, really. And she's done really incredible things, always — the whole time. I think she's pretty fucking great and I was devastated, especially because I thought she was super fucking capable. I don't think any of us expected what happened to happen — but in that way, it kind of gives the movie another shape."
When I'm a Moth, which began production in October, takes place in 1969 during the gap year Clinton took to work in Alaska before embarking on her law career — but Timlin is quick to add that it's not a traditional biopic. "There are plenty of moments where we're like, 'This didn't happen,'" she said. "It's less about that time in her life and [more] about ... this young woman starting to have the understanding that her life from that point forward will be lived in a very specific way as to not disturb anyone — to become a very well-liked person. I think it was all intentional, but I don't think it was disingenuous. I think a lot of people feel that way about Hillary Clinton, that she's always tried to be liked and that's what people have veered away from. It's interesting, but I think it's something, unfortunately, women all over the world deal with in every way — this tragic need to be liked."
It's a concept Timlin also explores in Like Me, which had its world premiere at SXSW recently and in which she plays Kiya, an artist who gains a massive social media following after posting a video of herself robbing a convenience store. "I think in the world right now, everyone is seeking validation all the time — and getting it, too," Timlin said. "Kiya's just trying to communicate with her generation in the only way that they do. It's something she actually feels disconnected from but knows that it is the only way to connect with people, and I think that's kind of an unfortunate truth for our generation and the world right now."
While playing Kiya gave her insight into people her own age, playing Clinton became the inspiration for whom Timlin wants to be in the future. "This is the story of a woman who is just starting to turn this corner where she's not afraid of being intimidating and she's not afraid to be the smartest person in the room," she said of Clinton in When I'm a Moth. "She wants to be the smartest person in the room and she wants to be the most powerful person in the room. That's something I've never sought after in my real life, but I did enjoy going to that place."