Keean Johnson (Alita: Battle Angel, Nashville) and Madeline Brewer (The Handmaid’s Tale, Hustlers) are set to lead The Ultimate Playlist of Noise, a feature from Hulu and American High. Bennett Lasseter is at the helm, directing from a script by Mitchell Winkie
Johnson will star as Marcus, an audio obsessed high school senior who learns he must undergo brain surgery that will render him deaf, he decides to seize control of his fate by recording the Ultimate Playlist of Noise – a bucket list of all his favorite sounds. Once he sets out, he meets Wendy (Brewer), a wildly charming, struggling musician who is trying to escape to New York for her chance at a life changing opportunity. Together they check off his list as they make their way across the country, until painful revelations force Marcus to face reality and his future without sound.
American High’s Jeremy Garelick, Will Phelps, Ryan Bennett, and Michael Schade are producing the project with Mickey Liddell and Pete Shilaimon of LD Entertainment.
Johnson can soon be seen in Lionsgate’s Midway drama and the Marc Meyers-directed indie thriller, We Summon the Darkness. Brewer will next star in Separation opposite Rupert Friend, and Now Is Everything with Anthony Hopkins.
Johnson is repped by Management 360 and CAA. Brewer is also with CAA, as well as Inphenate and Schreck, Rose, Dapello.
It’s not until about midway through Hustlers that audiences meet Madeline Brewer as the fidgety and unpredictable Dawn, an addict with a criminal record who is recruited from Craigslist to help the infamous ring of strippers drug and rob their clients. But she becomes central to the narrative in writer-director Lorene Scafaria’s crime dramedy, inspired by a New York magazine article, when she helps the police conduct a sting operation to catch her co-conspirators in the act.
Though we could easily dismiss Dawn as a selfish, disloyal betrayer who throws her friends under the bus, Brewer brings a newfound sense of empathy to the character. We feel her inner anguish and admire her quiet toughness, even as she unceremoniously lets everybody down. “I came up with my own personal take on Dawn to make her more human than just the one who screws everything up,” Brewer tells InStyle.
That’s not to say she hasn’t done it in previous roles. A then-18-year-old Brewer was first introduced to the public on season 1 of Orange Is the New Black as Tricia Miller, a recovering addict and small-time thief who tragically overdoses on Oxycontin. Yet despite her convincing portrayals on screen, Brewer, now 27, had a relatively chaste upbringing in New Jersey, where she attended theater school and was even crowned winner of the Miss Pitman Pageant her senior year. “Believe it or not, I’ve never done a drug harder than smoking pot,” she says.
In fact, when Brewer was growing up, she aspired to be Glinda from Wicked on Broadway. “The bubbly ingénue,” she says. Then, her agent sent her out for a new Netflix web series, and the rest is history. “I’m so honored to be part of a show that brought a diversity of women’s lives and backgrounds and skin colors to the forefront,” she says. “Those are my favorite kinds of stories to tell, because I am a woman, and the people I love most in the world are women.”
Ahead, we spoke to Brewer about her new movie, J.Lo Oscar buzz, and the last thing she binge-watched.
The seventh and final season of Orange premiered this past summer. Did you reunite with the cast for the wrap party?
Samira [Wiley] and I are on Handmaid’s Tale together, and she was like, “Dude, we should go.” I was going to go with her but then something came up at the last minute. I did go to the premiere and see everybody though. They’re family. That #orangefamily is a hashtag for a reason.
How does it feel to star on two major streaming networks?
It’s awesome. Both Netflix and Hulu are great in their own right, and I’ve met some really incredible creative people on both of those streamers. To be honest though, when I booked Orange and when I booked Handmaid’s Tale, I was just like, “I’m an actor who needs a job.” It was more that than anything else. Being on Orange really set me up to have a more critical eye about the things that I invite into my life as an artist.
What did you think about that bizarre Handmaid’s Tale wedding that went viral?
I think it’s wonderful that people are fans, but that to me was on par with the weird Kylie Jenner party. It’s just a little bit like, you don’t get it. You’ve fetishized it for your own use. When people dress up as the characters and go to a climate strike walk or the Women’s March, it’s great — that is the purpose of cosplay when it comes to Handmaid’s Tale costumes. Ultimately, it is fiction; it is entertainment, but the use of it on the hanging wall with the handmaids there and you’re literally wearing a white dress — a symbol of the oppression of women and this entire ideology surrounding women’s virginity and keeping them chaste — ugh, god, it was so layered and so uncomfortable. That being said, I’m glad you liked the show.
Let’s talk about Hustlers. How familiar were you with Jessica Pressler’s 2015 article when you got the script?
I actually hadn’t heard of it. All of this was happening when I was in high school, so it wasn’t really in my face. But as soon as I read the script, I immediately read the article. Initially, I was skeptical because I had worked on this other film, Cam, that was written by a sex worker about a sex worker, so it’s given me a much keener sense when it comes to those types of stories. They can go so wrong. But Lorene [Scafaria] is the real deal. She knew what kind of story she was telling, and she knew how she wanted to tell it.
Your character seems to be based on a woman named “Marjorie” in Pressler’s account. Did you ever meet her in person?
I didn’t meet anybody. I had no idea Dawn was based on a real person. The woman who Constance [Wu’s] character was based on, Roselyn Keo, tagged me in something on Instagram saying, “The real Dawn was this woman who housed me and fed me and was a really good person.” If I’m going to play a real person that’s based entirely on a real person, I would’ve done the research, but Dawn is loosely based.
How did you prepare for the role? Did you visit any strip clubs?
It was more imagination than preparation for me. First of all, I’ve done a lot of research on people who use drugs. The key thing to remember is that people don’t just start doing drugs like, “It’s Tuesday, let’s try meth!” What’s going on inside someone’s head when they’re on a drug is really what’s going on, and everything else you see and hear is just a symptom of their thoughts — what they’re covering up, what they’re thinking, what they’re afraid of, what they’re really feeling — instead of sniff-sniff, neck scratch. It’s about diving into the mental state of someone on that kind of drug, plus a lot of Googling and WebMd-ing what happens when you’re on it. Living in L.A., I’ve been around enough people who are super high on coke. There’s just a look in their eyes.
The 2000s-era costumes really pay homage to the trends of the time, from low-rise jeans to bejeweled Juicy hoodies. Do you have a favorite look?
I was so madly in love with Dawn’s wardrobe. You put her in a room next to Constance and J.Lo who are quite literally dressed to the nines in real chinchilla, with their perfect eyelashes and makeup, and Dawn just looks like a cheap knockoff. It doesn’t even look like she’s even trying to be like them — she’s too high to care. I always thought that Dawn likes the crime more than she likes the fruits of the crime. She was a bad girl. She liked to stir up a ruckus. Our costume designer, Mitchell Travers, was so thoughtful in the things he put her in. Everything was a little too expensive for just anyone to buy, but certainly most of her money was going to her habit. She looked like a Barbie doll who has been left outside in the rain. Everything’s a little smudged and a little out of place, but she’s still cute.
There’s been a lot of talk surrounding J.Lo getting nominated for an Oscar.
So deserved. Her performance was truly outstanding — it’s a total departure. She showed everybody what she’s known she can do for a long time, but they just had to see her strip on a pole to Fiona Apple to start really listening, because that’s unfortunately the society we live in. The entire film is so original and so artistic; they took this Showgirls thing and made it into an arthouse film. You have to really know what the hell you’re doing to be able to do that. I’m totally biased, but I’m pretty sure she’ll get it.
Who is your Hollywood fairy godperson?
[OITNB costar] Jackie Cruz is my fairy godmother, always. And my makeup artist, Jenna Kristina. I just told her the other day that I think she might be my life coach.
Who have you been the most star-struck to meet?
I once forced Ann Dowd [Aunt Lydia on The Handmaid’s Tale] to introduce me to Viggo Mortensen. I’m really not super shy, but I couldn’t believe that he was sitting right across from me at the SAG Awards.
What’s the last thing you binge-watched?
I just finished The Politician. There was nothing about it that wasn’t the greatest thing ever. Even if you watch it just because you’re binge-watching through your free time, force it.
Who was your first celebrity crush?
Justin Timberlake. I was a huge *NSYNC fan.
What do you wish more people knew about you?
I’m not antisocial, I just like to sleep more than I like people. I struggle with that sometimes, when I want to go out and see people, but also, I could stay home and sleep.
What’s one book you could read over and over?
Anything by Haruki Murakami. And this brilliant woman named Olivia Gatwood just released a new book of poetry called Life of the Party. I cannot recommend it highly enough. Her writing is so cinematic — it’s haunting and beautiful and the imagery is so special.
Is there a pop culture moment that sparked your interest in Hollywood?
I’m obsessed with Anna Delvey. I still can’t get enough of that story. Jessica Pressler is the one who broke it, because she’s amazing. I know Shonda Rhimes is working on an adaptation and Lena Dunham has talked about doing one too. I love the fact that there are two powerhouse women telling the story of another brilliant woman in different powerhouse ways.
The actress on what it was like on the set of Hustlers (spoiler: it was great) and the power of a reset between gigs.
“I think a well-written role is multifaceted and nuanced,” Madeline Brewer says, kicking off her heels and pecking at a taro chip just as we snap our last photo. Brewer brings that complex sensibility to every character no matter how big or small—from Tricia Miller in Orange Is the New Black to Janine in The Handmaid’s Tale and most recently as the unpredictable Dawn in Hustlers. “Dawn is in two scenes, but it’s about finding every little piece about [the character], getting their personal history, and understanding what brought them to where they are now,” she tells us. Her fiery red hair whips around at the sight of a bee—Brewer has never been stung and doesn’t want to risk it. We’re on the rooftop; down below, a crowd of celeb-spotted hopefuls linger around the velvet rope cornering off the entrance to Baro. So we tuck ourselves into a glass enclosure by the staircase to tête-à-tête about *that* J.Lo moment on set, stripping away the male gaze when portraying sex workers, and the power of a reset.
So tell us, why did you want to work on Hustlers?
“First of all, Lorene Scafaria is fucking brilliant. She’s so cool and laid back, but so passionate. She doesn’t want to be a filmmaker to be a filmmaker; she wants to do it because she wants to tell a really good story, in a way that only she can. I was drawn to Hustlers because it’s a story about women and friendship. It’s about sex workers, which is a topic I really love. It’s women surviving the only way that they know how. After I had my first conversation with Lorene, I was like, ‘I don’t care what has to happen. I have to be in this film. I don’t care what part or anything. Just let me be in it.’”
That seems to be the consensus! Did your role in Cam inform this role?
“What I learned working with Isa Mazzei, the woman who wrote Cam and is a former cam girl, is to have a more critical eye and a better understanding of sex work and how it has been portrayed in film for decades. It takes effort to resist the male-gaze [view] we have of sex workers in Hollywood films. The characters aren’t at all similar [between the films], but the understanding that sex work is work, that sex workers are people doing a job, [is the same]. What I learned on Cam about sex work helped inform how I would approach the level of respect someone has to have for sex workers to make a movie about them. When I had that conversation with Lorene, she got it. She knew she couldn’t tell a story about sex workers without talking to sex workers, including them, or hearing their stories. She didn’t fall into any trope or any stereotype. She really told an honest story.”
What was the most memorable day on set?
“There’s one that always comes to mind. [Hustlers is] a quick set. Jennifer [Lopez] isn’t wasting any time, and Lorene [Scafaria] knows what she wants— she knew what she was going for. She gave us room to play, but she was very clear and very hardworking. Todd [Banhazi], our DP, is a genius. His genius doesn’t take a lot of time. He knows what he’s going for. He’s very prepared and has a great team. So I came in, and I’m much more used to extensive blocking, moving around the space and feeling it. They were like, ‘You’re going to go there, and then there, and then there, and that’s the scene.’ So we go in to do that, and then we leave to finish up hair and makeup and then come back to shoot. I was standing in the places where they had previously told me to stand, but they had moved my mark, so Jennifer goes, ‘Baby, do you want to stand on your mark?’ I was like, ‘Oh my god. Day one, scene one, Jennifer Lopez has to tell me, ‘Do you want to stand on your mark?’ She was so cool, too. I was like, ‘Fuck, she thinks I’m terrible!’ But no, she was cool. Everyone on set had the consensus that she’s the mama. She was just like, ‘I will make sure you are OK, and that you are OK. I’m good, let’s make this thing.’”
You have so many projects on the go. How do you shape-shift and recalibrate between projects?
“I have to take downtime. I don’t mean to be like, ‘Oh, I’m such an artist,’ but I do give a lot of myself to my work. When I’m in work mode, I work so hard—I never stop thinking about it. So when it’s time to stop, I have to crash for like, four days. No human interaction. Netflix only. Postmates. Nobody talk to me—I’m a gremlin for the next four days.”
What’s the first thing you do in the morning?
“Coffee. My boyfriend makes me coffee every morning because he’s a saint.”
The last thing you do before bed?
“Take a bath.”
Where do you feel most creative?
“New York City.”
Do you care if you win board games?
“Yes! It might be the only thing I care about winning. And card games. Sports? No.”
Do you talk during movies?
“It depends on the movie. I’m not one of those ‘So who’s that?’ But I do sometimes yell at the screen. I get invested.”
Can you change the oil on a car?
“No. I’m like a doll who came to life, who doesn’t know how to do things. I don’t know how to do anything. I’m like, ‘I can act. Just let me do that!’”
“I’m trying to make my way back to my original path. I want to have it all.”
For Madeline Brewer, home is many things. It’s Los Angeles, where she currently lives; it’s her hometown of Pitman, N.J., and, like many actors, it’s the theater, where she started out before getting her break in television and film.
In mid-August, the red-haired actress was looking forward to going home to L.A. and sleeping in her own bed after three weeks of hopping between Airbnbs and hotels in New York. She was in the city — also a homecoming; she graduated from The American Musical and Dramatic Academy — taking meetings and auditioning, and attending the rooftop wedding of her “Orange Is the New Black” costar Emma Myles at Brooklyn Grange. But in the meantime, Brewer, barefoot and humming along to music playing in the background, is fully committed to the drama of a forest green Khaite gown draping her petite body for a photo shoot.
The actress, who got her start on the first season of “Orange Is the New Black” and landed a breakout supporting role on “The Handmaid’s Tale” (she wore Jacquemus and Monse, respectfully, to both show’s season premieres this summer), proved her leading cred as the star of last year’s well-received horror film — and sleeper hit — “Cam.” The Netflix film, produced by Blumhouse and written by a former cam girl, was lauded for its nuanced depiction of the sex work industry. Brewer, who has a supporting role in the J.Lo-led strip club film “Hustlers” out this month, credits her experience with “Cam” for shifting her perspective on the marginalized industry.
“Working on ‘Cam’ made me so much more cognizant about how people talk about sex work,” says Brewer, who earlier this spring filmed her role in the Lorene Scafaria-directed “Hustlers,” which is based on the real story of workers at a sex club swindling their deep-pocketed clients. The movie, set around the 2008 financial crisis, draws a parallel between the women’s line of work and the male-dominated financial industry.
“We’ve seen strippers so many times in movies and they’re always addicted to drugs or down on their luck — and none of these girls really have that. They’re real people with real problems, just trying to pay their rent and student loans and make a life for themselves,” Brewer adds. “The spotlight that we put on sex work in Hollywood is generally in a negative way. We don’t put the spotlight on these people as people; we put them as people who sell their bodies and their dignity and their innocence, and it’s just such an antiquated and honestly sexist way of looking at it.”
Brewer, who admits that she has become known for playing characters that are “crazy, offbeat, a little quirky,” also relished the chance to play a character that was, yes, still quirky, but rooted in comedy. “And improv — I’d never done improv, and [Scafaria] was just like, ‘Go for it, say whatever you want,’” she says.
“Hustlers” caps off a busy year for Brewer, which has also included the sci-fi thriller “Captive State” this spring and season three of “The Handmaid’s Tale,” which got renewed for another season this summer and recently revved up in the writers’ room.
“[Season three] has been a lot of setting up; we’re doing the necessary work to set up the final blow out. We’re really starting to see how the pieces come together to form the resistance,” she says, predicting the forthcoming action; actual production is still months away. “This was a lot of logistics getting to that point. That’s my personal opinion; I don’t know what they’re planning.”
She also recently finished reshoots for “Separation” with Brian Cox, which she filmed last December, and stars in the avant-garde movie “Now Is Everything” opposite Anthony Hopkins. Now Brewer is in recalibration mode, getting herself back to the mind-set needed to make her way back to one of her homes: the stage.
“I had a meeting with my former acting teacher and I was like, ‘I really want to work in the theater again, what do you think I should do?’ And he said read a play a day,” she says. “That’s how you get the mind for it and get it in your body and read it out loud and get back into that space.
“I ended up doing ‘Orange Is the New Black’ right after I graduated, which was amazing; it was the most rewarding experience, but I just sort of followed that path. And now I’m trying to make my way back to my original path. I want to have it all.”
And with that, out of the gown and back in her own clothes, she heads off to pick up some plays and get to work.
Madeline Brewer has a type, and I’m not referring to her dating proclivities. Take a look at her acting résumé and you’ll see a common theme: women—women-led stories and women-led crews. Brewer has been part of some pretty fantastic female ensembles in her career, and when I ask if this is an intentional move or simply a lucky circumstance, she confirms it’s both. Luck may have played a part when she landed her breakout role in the award-winning Netflix series Orange Is the New Black, but surrounding herself with some of the most talented women in the industry—see also The Handmaid’s Tale (another award season juggernaut) and this month’s Hustlers—is not just a smart business move. It’s a project-picking philosophy we can get behind.
Brewer is a girl’s girl through and through, so there’s no one better to spend an afternoon sipping tea and playing dress-up with. It might not be time to break out the layers just yet, but this season’s offering of luxurious outerwear is seriously tempting, which is why we enlisted Brewer to test-drive some of our favorite styles. From unexpected silhouettes to head-turning prints, these coats, like Brewer, are primed for their close-up.
We shot some of the season’s coolest coats for our shoot. What are your outerwear essentials come fall?
I am either in warm Los Angeles or freezing cold Toronto, so I’m typically either wearing a long-sleeve shirt or full gown coat. But that being said, I did see some really gorgeous coats during our shoot, so that was nice. I like blazers, like a good wool blazer. Khaite has some gorgeous blazers I love. I wear a lot of my boyfriend’s coats. I like a good bomber jacket, and I love a cozy cable-knit. Oh, and I’m obsessed with wool sweaters. Truly, like a big, comfy high-turtleneck wool sweater is the only thing that brings me peace in the winter months. That’s my vibe.
We’re so excited for Hustlers! Do you remember the moment you thought I have to be a part of this project?
It was right after I talked to Lorene Scafaria, the director. We talked on the phone about a couple of different roles and about this whole world and the time period and the kind of story she was trying to tell. I was like I have to be a part of this; this sounds so incredible. No hate on any of the remakes that are coming out and all of the Marvel big-budget stuff, but this is a fully original thing. This is a real thing that happened and then was adapted into an original movie. It’s produced by women, starring women, directed by a woman, written by a woman, based on a story by a woman. It’s all the stuff that I love.
Can you tell us a little about your character, Dawn?
Dawn is just a blast and a half. First of all, I’m with Jennifer Lopez and Constance Wu, whose characters are both impeccably dressed, hair and makeup done. They have on mink and chinchilla coats, and then Dawn has a knock-off purse, ratty faux fur, and clumpy mascara, just looking very ridiculous. I play a lot of heavier, very dramatic and emotional roles, and Lorene gave me the opportunity to play something that was really fun and to improvise and just kind of roll with it.
The cast is no joke. What stood out to you most while working with these amazing women?
I mostly interacted with Jen and Constance, so I was nervous out of my mind. The very first scene that I filmed—because there really was no easing into it—the first scene, the day I meet them, is a scene where I’m on a ton of drugs and I’m wearing a wire and talking to the police. I was incredibly nervous and twitchy, but it actually worked because I was so nervous to the point that I was literally shaking. I think eventually Jennifer was like, “Okay, we need to do something,” and she just grabbed my hand and said, “You are doing amazing. It’s all good, you totally got this down, don’t worry about it,” and she just calmed me down. I was just coming off doing Handmaid’s, so I was in that whole world, and this was the complete opposite. It could not be more different. It was a total whirlwind, but it was really nice to have both of them be so supportive.
You have been part of some really incredible female ensembles. Is this something you look for when picking projects?
It’s incredibly important to me. Honestly, I just got really lucky. With Orange Is the New Black, like any other actor, I went to an audition and was so nervous, and for some reason, Jenji Kohan thought I looked like I could do it. They cast me, and that was my introduction to working on camera. I was surrounded by women—women writers, women producers, women directors, a female boom operator, a female DP, just all this incredible stuff. When I went away from that and did stuff starring men and led by men and produced by men, it just wasn’t as supportive and artistically fulfilling. Not that it can’t be. I’ve been in situations where it’s been incredibly artistically fulfilling, but it’s best when the men in power listen to women writing stories about women. It’s the stuff that attracts me. I am a woman. I am a girl’s girl. I am an artist, and being around other women who are artists is like finding your soul mate. It’s so incredible, so rewarding, and so inspiring. It’s really easy to get worn out in this industry; there is a lot of noise. If you are not working with people who inspire you, you will get burnt out so quickly. So that’s the stuff I look for because it’s what keeps me coming back.
Season three of The Handmaid’s Tale just ended. What do you hope to see going into the next chapter?
I’m very interested in Janine’s backstory; I’d really love to see it. I want to see the resistance. I want to see more of Rita because I always want to see more of Rita. When she kisses the ground in Canada, I lost my ability to function as a human. But I do want to see Janine’s backstory. In season three, we find out Janine’s last name is Lindo, and I was a mess for days. Just knowing her last name… It’s another piece of her. I feel like I’m always uncovering pieces of her as the seasons go on, and learning more about her is the gift that keeps on giving. I just want to learn more. She is a really special girl.
You are working with stylist Emma Jade Morrison, who is the model whisperer. What do you like about her eye for fashion?
I mean, she worked at Vogue for like six years, she’s a Brooklynite, she’s young, she’s a hustler, she’s hungry. I’m not going to be like, Oh, she’s a modern woman, but she knows what she wants, she goes for it, and she’s just smart as hell. I admire her so much. I can say the most obscure, weird, roundabout reference of what I want to look like, and she’s like “Yep, totally get it, got the vibe, let’s get it done.” It’s a little bit like she knows what I’m saying without me having to say it. But she also takes an interest in getting the look and the feel and the vibe that I want and that I’m comfortable with without being like, “Oh, look what a great stylist I am.” Or she’ll say, “Listen, I know you might not be 100% comfortable with this, but I want you to trust me,” and every time I’ve trusted her it’s been the right thing. She’s been Emily Ratajkowski’s stylist for a long time, and the first dress she put me in was this Proenza Schouler dress that had a bare midriff so my abdominal area was showing. I was like, “Listen, we all don’t have the abs of EmRata,” and she was like, “Trust me, you are going to look amazing. Nobody has the abs of EmRata; that is just how she is.” She doesn’t let all of my bullshit get in the way, because fashion can also be a very insecure thing where you think, Oh no, I can’t pull that off. I couldn’t do that. And she’ll say, “Yes, you absolutely can. Look at yourself—you look amazing.” Style stuff aside, as a human being, she is just a great person to have in your life.
You’ve been wearing some really cool designers like Khaite, Monse, and Jacquemus for recent press appearances. Is that Emma, you, or both of you?
It’s totally what works for us and what works for the event. I mean she absolutely introduced me to Monse. Jacquemus to me was the little purse designer, but she’s definitely given me a lot more of a critical eye for what I think looks good and works, and she has opened me up to a lot more.
What has been your favorite look you’ve worn for a red carpet so far?
I mean I really really loved that Proenza Schouler dress.
Let’s talk about your off-duty style. What are the staples in your wardrobe?
Honestly, I love my Levi’s. I think they are 501s and I cut the button off them. I’m not going to say that I’m a sneakerhead, because I’m not, but all I wear are sneakers.
Do you have a favorite sneaker brand?
I have three pairs of Adidas that I love, and I love Vans. I have these Pyer Moss for Reebok kicks that are truly… Hearing Kerby Jean-Raymond’s story about the stuff he is designing and why he is designing it and that the line is named after his father, it’s just so moving. He is, to me, the best part of fashion. People think of fashion as this upper-echelon elitist world, and it’s totally not. Kerby totally embodies that to me. He’s like, “Here’s the email if you want to get on the list for my third collection runway show. Just email me and I’ll put you on the list.” He put that on his Twitter! That to me is so accessible, and that’s what it should be because fashion is not just for one kind of person. It’s self-expression, it’s wearable art, and to me, Kerby embodies that with Pyer Moss. So I bought his shoes even though I am not good at wearing them. I don’t know what to wear them with, but I just want to rock them.
Madeline Brewer opened up to us about her upcoming role as the fun-loving Dawn in Hustlers, her personal experience working with the incredible Jennifer Lopez, and how switching off social media has made her feel like a whole new person
Playing the role of Dawn in Hustlers was…
A challenging role, in that it was a departure from anything else Ive done. I’ve done some very intense, very heavy work. I love it and it’s home. But this was such a gratifying opportunity to just try some new things out. Lorene also really encouraged me to have fun, find Dawns little nuances, and she gave me the safe space to explore this girl.
The three most memorable moments of shooting Hustlers were…
1) The costumes. Every fitting was like stepping inside the closet of who I wanted to be in 2007.
2) Working with Jennifer. I’ve known the name Jennifer Lopez my entire coherent life. She’s an icon. And to witness her talent and hard work firsthand was definitely one for the books.
3) I reunited with two of the women who worked in the hair department on Orange is the New Black that I hadn’t seen in maybe seven years. It was so incredible to see them again.
I would like to try my hand at…
Writing scripts. I’m an actor so I read scripts and audition nearly constantly. I’m writing some too, because why the hell not?!
Did you know that…
The Handmaid’s Tale’s was picked up for season four!
I would describe my style as being…
Very laid back, and if it requires a bra, it’s probably a no from me.
My co-star Jennifer Lopez was…
The most beautiful person I’ve ever seen up close!
Madeline was in attendance today at the 2019 Toronto Film Festival (TIFF) for the film Hustlers. I have added a bunch of photos to the gallery and will hopefully have more to add later today so check back!
September 7 – HFPA/THR TIFF Party
September 7 – Toronto International Film Festival – “Hustlers” Premiere
September 7 – Toronto International Film Festival – “Hustlers” Premiere – Stage
September 7 – “Hustlers” Post-Screening Event
2019: Photo Session #004
2019: Photo Session #005
2019: Photo Session #006
2019: Photo Session #007
2019: Photo Session #008
Don’t Underestimate Madeline Brewer—She Plays the Underdog but She *Always* Wins
Madeline Brewer is really, really afraid of dogs. So afraid of them, in fact, that she will hardly even go near one when it’s in her general vicinity. With that in mind, we went ahead and hired an Irish wolfhound named Roland to pose alongside her in our Cosmo photo shoot. Roland is a good boy and also the size of a show pony.
In our defense, she did agree to it ahead of time, so when I ask her about it later, why she agreed to shoot with Roland if she’s actually terrified of dogs, the Handmaid’s Tale actress says she wants to get a puppy of her own in the future, and she thought shooting with Roland would be a way to “face her fears.” All 177 pounds of them.
But risk taking almost seems like Madeline’s kink. That’s why she frequently plays the kinds of characters who probably shouldn’t be watched with the whole fam.
She played Tricia, a blonde—with cornrows—drug-addicted prisoner living in Litchfield Penitentiary in Orange Is the New Black. She took on the role of Alice, a cam girl whose identity was stolen, in Cam. And she just finished filming her role as Dawn, a stripper, in Hustlers alongside Jennifer Lopez, Constance Wu, and Cardi B. But you might know her best as Janine on Handmaid’s, the surprisingly honest handmaid who somehow manages to come out of rape, forced manual labor, losing an eye, and giving up a child with a sunny-side-up outlook on Gilead.
In season 3, the rage that’s been simmering inside the women of Gilead for the past 23 episodes has officially hit max capacity, and they’re ready to unleash it on their captors. There’s a pivotal moment in the fourth episode whern Janine tells her former family, the Putnams, that she wants to return to their home to be their Handmaid again. “I just want to be with my daughter,” she says, near tears.
Aunt Lydia (Ann Dowd) promptly loses it, beating Janine with her cane while every leader in Gilead watches and does nothing. June (Elisabeth Moss) finally has to intervene and throw herself on top of Janine to get Aunt Lydia to stop. It’s a moment that’s incredibly hard to watch, and the cast knows it. “We ask a lot of our viewers and the fans of the show. Sometimes it feels traumatizing, but we ask you to stick it out,” Madeline says.
That emotional turn for Aunt Lydia isn’t actually all that surprising. You see these flashes of the women behind the politics throughout the entire show. “These women, you never take away what makes them human and what makes them the women they are,” Madeline says, reflecting on this season. “You just put them in different clothes and in different circumstances.”
She’s not crazy, Madeline clarifies. She’s a battered woman who is suffering with PTSD, all from the life she’s been forced to lead and try to survive. “She’s been through so much at this point that she’s willing to say what she wants to say and just lean into what she’s feeling.” You know, like telling someone you want to sleep with her husband again so you can all be some twisted Gilead version of family. A bold move. By the end of the season, the resistance will be in full effect, but it might look different than you expect it to. “Resistance doesn’t just look like a protest or a march,” Madeline cautions, and she promises “there’s light at the end of the tunnel.”
Madeline hopes fans of the show will start to see Janine in a 3.0 kind of way. Up until now, she’s been the de facto little sister of the Handmaid crew.
“I think they’ll feel less like, Oh, Janine…we’re so proud of her. Aw, she’s doing so well, and we just want to give her a hug,” she says. “I hope they’ll feel like she is an actual member of this resistance and of this fight. I hope they’re rooting for her not just because they pity her but also because they believe in her.”
In some respects, her role on Handmaid’s has absolutely nothing in common with her role in Hustlers. The movie is based on a viral New York Magazine article about a group of New York City strippers who ban together to con a bunch of Wall Street frat-bro clients out of hundreds of thousands of dollars.
Madeline plays Dawn, a stripper who joins the con and works under Ramona (Jennifer) and Destiny (Constance). Madeline describes Dawn as the complete opposite of Ramona.
While the ringleaders are busy securing the bag and wearing mink, Dawn is out here wearing a coat that “looks like I bought it at a garage sale,” Madeline says, adding that “everyone looks so different than they normally look,” mentioning Lili Reinhart in particular, who wears bandage dresses and a poof in her hair that looks straight out of the early 2000s. Cardi, by the way, only shot for one day because of her insane schedule.
Ramona and Destiny have rules for all the girls in the group—no drugs and no drinking—because they want to avoid “sloppy mistakes” and incidents that might get them into trouble. But it doesn’t matter, because Dawn is the one who ends up narcing on the whole operation.
Sure, she’s not a Handmaid who’s being routinely assaulted for the “greater good,” but Dawn is another example of a woman who’s making the best of terrible circumstances. The Handmaids of Gilead and the strippers of Hustlers are all just trying to “take matters into their own hands,” Madeline says.
But weirdly, Hustlers is a comedy, despite the fact that the women get all this money by literally drugging their clients and running up their credit-card charges. It was Madeline’s first time in that type of role, and she even got to do some improv, which is one of the hardest acting skills to master (despite seeming so easy). Madeline was nervous to do the movie, in part because of the “badass” actresses she was working with.
On her first day, she had to shoot the scene where she’s wearing a wire in order to implicate Ramona and Destiny in their crimes. Not only was it crazy-important, but she had also been shooting Handmaid’s the literal day before, where the headspace was totally different. She jokingly said she felt like she didn’t even know where she was.
“I was, like, visibly shaking,” she remembers. “J.Lo, at one point, just grabbed my hand. She’s like, ‘You’re doing great.’ It was really, really nice.” From what Madeline says, working with J.Lo is about as amazing as you’d imagine. First, Madeline confirms that she’s the most beautiful person she’s ever seen up close, and for someone who’s been listening to her music since the sixth grade, it was a huge deal to share scenes with such an icon.
“I mean, J.Lo’s a bad bitch, honestly,” Madeline says. “She is so talented and so hard-working.”
Considering three of her past jobs have been Hustlers, Handmaid’s, and OITNB, it’s safe to say Madeline’s worked with a lot of women. Like, a lot. But she also found a boyfriend somewhere in between Litchfield and Gilead. She and Spencer Neville, a fellow actor, met on the set of The Deleted in 2016.
When she talks about him, she’s refreshingly funny for a girl who’s low-key gushing about someone she’s “madly in love with.” At first, she didn’t pay attention to him because he was “too beautiful” for her. (Reader, I can tell you, no guy is too beautiful for Madeline—even Spencer, who is objectively VERY beautiful.)
They were playing boyfriend and girlfriend on the show, so he asked her to get breakfast one morning to “talk about their characters,” she tells me with an eye roll. We all know that move. At some point after that, there was a drunken moment on a beach, and Madeline kissed him for the first time. Now they post pictures of each other on Instagram eating fully loaded veggie dogs at Dodgers games.
Things weren’t always Instagram-level perfect though. They were broken up for most of 2018 because she thought she was too young (she was 26 at the time) to be with the person she’d be with for maybe the rest of her life. In a total flex, she went on a date with none other than a pre–Priyanka Chopra Nick Jonas.
They met at the Golden Globes, and their eventual date was “fun.” “He’s a nice guy. We went out and talked. It was fun,” she says. “He’s a sweet person.” So, what do you talk about when you’re on a date with Nick Jonas? “He’s a creative guy. Like, we talked about creative stuff. It was really cool, but it was…yeah,” she trails off, keeping things vague. Ultimately, that date made getting back together with Spencer tricky.
“We both dated other people, and I obviously went on a date with someone very publicly,” she says. “Spencer’s friends were like, ‘Hey, is your ex-girlfriend dating Nick Jonas now?’ and he was like, ‘What the fuck, Maddie?’”
Thankfully, they were able to work it out, and now she’s back to referring to him as her “angel dove” in a way that would drive you nuts if it were anyone but her. That breakup was part of what made 2018 an “old bitch” (her words, not mine). She tends to be an anxious person, and she says she spent a lot of days just trying to find her own level ground. So she worked on it, and that work has made this year “beautiful” so far.
“Life is short, but it’s also meant to be enjoyed,” she says she realized. “Instead of just constantly pushing, pushing, pushing and moving toward the next thing, the next job, the next event, the next meeting, the next audition…it’s meant to be enjoyed, you’re meant to experience it.”
If there’s anything we’ve learned from Tricia, Janine, and now Madeline, it’s to stop and enjoy life. Because clearly, it could be worse.
In 2019, that attitude kinda feels like fearlessness too.
I’ve added a bunch of photos to the gallery including missing magazine scans, photo sessions, on the set photos from Hustlers, and screencaps from the new episodes of The Handmaid’s Tale. This should get the photo gallery totally up to date for now. Enjoy!
First of all, sorry for the lack of updates! It has been a crazy couple of months and I haven’t had computer access for a few weeks. I’ve added photos to all of her recent public appearances as well as her recent interviews. Enjoy all the pretties!
June 4 – SAG-AFTRA Foundation Conversations: “The Handsmaid’s Tale”
June 3 – Build Series
April 25 – Salvatore Ferragamo and The Webster Capsule Collection Launch