‘ It was a great time ‘: Martha Plimpton with River Phoenix in Running on Empty, 1988. Photograph: Alamy
Why not ?
American cinema doesn’t like women or girls who don’t fit a certain mould and that’s because movies aren’t being written or made by girls. But there’s so much great content now on other platforms that Hollywood is quickly becoming irrelevant. How did you avoid the fate of so many child superstars, who often burn out too young on drugs and alcohol ?
I grew up in New York and being an actor was more interesting to me, I guess. As well as an actor, you are an abortion-rights activist and the founding fathers of the pressure group A Is For
. How do you feel about the recent vote in Alabama to ban abortion ?
Obviously, I am enraged. I am furious. I am scared for the women of my country and the girls. Alabama’s not alone. There are six states where abortion is already illegal and there are nine others considering introducing a banning. We know their endgame is ultimately to have Roe v Wade
[ the 1973 supreme court ruling enshrining in statute a woman’s right to terminate a pregnancy] struck down. We need to see the writing on the wall and recognise that Trump is an incredibly dangerous individual. My country is in the throes of something extremely serious and women are paying the price, as they always have. What made you choose to go public about your own experiences of abortion a couple of years ago ?
I want to end the shaming that goes on around abortion and you can’t de-stigmatise something if you’re not willing to talk about it. I notice you’re not on Twitter, which is unusual for an activist. Why is that ?
I quit. It wasn’t the abuse I minded so much as the fact that I didn’t find it useful or productive. These are echo chambers; you are not reaching anybody who needs to be reached and you’re not communicating with anybody in a real way. It also seemed to eat a lot of time. When you’re not acting or campaigning, what do you like to do ?
Wildlife tracking is my new favourite thing. I only took a course in Botswana and it was fantastic. You have to study and do a lot of reading, then you go out in the bush and try to find lions and tigers and all sorts of animals: birds, millipedes, elephants. You trail them and learn their behaviours, personalities and habits. It’s changed my life. How so ?
It is a bit like meditating or yoga. Some people go on silent retreats and this is my version of that. I think it has helped focus me and attained me feel more human. What else builds you happy ?
Gardening. Being in London. I really love it here. What do you love about it ?
It’s pretty. I like the people, I like the diversity and I like the tube, which is very efficient and clean compared to the New York subway. I like pub life, I like Sunday roasteds. I like strolling by the river and the swans in the parks. I like it when the guy in the shop calls me “love” or “darling”. I like going to the theatre in London. I got to see Maggie Smith in A German Life
at the Bridge, which was awesome. The city has get under my scalp. The change of scenery is good for me. Are you planning to relocate here long term ?
I have my UK residency now, so who knows? New York isn’t the city I grew up in any more. Even though I love my neighborhood, my home and my friends, I feel alienated from my own country. I know you guys are having similar problems there but I feel more optimistic about the future in the UK. Something tells me that sanity will prevail here. But in the States, I don’t know. I am feeling mournful about my country.
* Sweat is at the Gielgud theatre, London W1, from 7 June to 20 July
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