Hailee Steinfeld Reveals the Emily Dickinson Poem That Inspired the Lyrics to ‘Afterlife’

Hailee Steinfeld
Photo: Courtesy of Taylor Miller for BuzzFeed. Design: Cierra Miller/STYLECASTER.

Hailee Steinfeld has played Juliet in a remake of Romeo & Juliet, Gwen Stacy in Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse and Charlie in the Transformers film Bumblebee. But, by far, one of her favorite roles has been as poet Emily Dickinson in Apple TV+’s Dickinson

“I have been rereading a few of my favorite Emily Dickinson poems,” Steinfeld tells StyleCaster about her quarantine experience. “Having the opportunity to play Emily has been one of the greatest experiences of my life.”

For the series, which premiered in November 2019, Steinfeld wrote and recorded the song “Afterlife,” a haunting pop track whose lyrics were inspired by Dickinson’s 1896 poem “I Heard a Fly Buzz—When I Died.” 

“‘I Heard a Fly Buzz—When I Died’ is one of my favorites and actually inspired lyrics for my song ‘Afterlife,’ which appeared in the first season of the show,” Steinfeld says. 

Though Steinfeld debuted the official “Afterlife” music video in September 2019, she released a second music video, filmed completely in quarantine, in July. The music video, which sees Steinfeld singing in a dark room as the light of a candle flickers around her, also features her Dickinson cast mates Jane Krakowski, Toby Huss, Adrian Enscoe and Anna Baryshnikov.

“‘Afterlife’ has always been one of my favorite songs, so it was exciting to see it come to life within the show and feel like it found its perfect home,” she says. “It gave me the chills seeing how it all tied together so well.”

Though some on-screen productions have started back up, filming a music video in quarantine was the first choice for Steinfeld, who considers face masks her “summer wardrobe staple.” 

“Now more than ever it’s important that we listen to our scientists and doctors, so my go-to summer wardrobe staple is a face mask,” she says. “Let’s all work together to keep our friends and loved ones safe!”

As for what else she’s been up to since quarantine, Steinfeld is a recent partner of CircleAround, a new women’s media site powered by the Girl Scouts of America. For the launch, Steinfeld posted on the site’s “Inspiration Wall,” where users can shout out women who have inspired them. “Not only is it rooted in kindness, but it is also a place for us to recognize women who have made an impact on our lives,” Steinfeld says of the Inspiration Wall. “With so much going on in the world right now, it’s amazing to see women coming together from across the world to lift each other up.”

And so who did Steinfeld choose to post on the wall? Well, for her, it was a “no-brainer.” “For me, it felt like a no-brainer to nominate my mom,” she says. “She is my greatest role model, always believes in me, and I wouldn’t be the woman I am today without her.”

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