Laura Dern was in the midst of her awards tour for Marriage Story and Little Women when she first heard about COVID-19 on the news. “I remember friends who made international films that year started telling me about it before I really even understood on the news,” Dern tells StyleCaster.
By the time she won her first Oscar for her role in Marriage Story in February, Dern was well aware of the dangers of the novel coronavirus. Her international press for Marriage Story and Little Women had been canceled, and the production for the third Jurassic World movie, Jurassic World: Dominion, had been shut down.
And so Dern took that time to research COVID-19 and how to stop the spread of the disease and eventually end it. Inspired by her role in 2014 film Wild—in which she played Cheryl Strayed’s mother, Bobbi, who died of lung cancer—Dern researched more about lung cancer before a friend introduced her to the American Lung Association, which she partnered with in April, alongside CVS Health, to raise awareness around the organization’s COVID-19 Action Initiative, which invests $25 million into COVID-19 research.
“For so many of us, COVID-19 has been a tragic teacher, but a teacher nonetheless about lung health,” Dern says.
Ahead, Dern talked to StyleCaster about her desire to return to work on Jurassic World: Dominion, raising biracial children in 2020 and the world’s “moral demand” to wear a mask.
On the environment’s impact on the pandemic
“I became even deeper entrenched [in learning about COVID-19] because my mother, due to environmental pesticide exposure, had a severe lung crisis. She’s doing well now, thank God. But she’s high risk, so I’m very protective, but also learning every day about how our lungs are being impacted by our environment and by chemical and pesticide exposure. There’s so much more to learn about how to take care of ourselves, our community and our planet so that we can be healthy.”
On how wearing a mask is “not a choice”
“I was actually talking to some Korean actors and filmmakers about why don’t we wear masks in America? Even going through an airport, there’s so much exposure to viruses. I was amazed to think that we were a culture that was never considering masks and there are a number of cultures that, on a regular basis, protect themselves, their family and their loved ones.
As you’re walking through all of this, you feel like you just want to scream, begging people to wear a mask and know that’s not a politicized issue. It’s about kindness and about compassion. We are a community that is delicate. This is our ethical role right now….We have to get beyond the divide of politics, and we must protect each other. Wearing a mask is, in my opinion, one’s responsibility and moral demand. It’s not a choice.”
On her reaction to Nick Cordero’s death from COVID-19
“I was heartbroken. My daughter and I knew him from the show Waitress that he was so brilliant, so funny and remarkable in. One of my best friends in the world wrote the musical, so we knew him and his fight through her. We really were devastated as fans and as admirers, and we have listened to him and loved his work for years now. It’s a heartbreak for a million reasons for that family and a leveling reminder of when people are getting comfortable and people are deciding who’s at risk and who isn’t. We don’t know enough about this virus to say. No one is immune. That’s a tragic reminder but a reminder nonetheless about us staying safe.”
On how the pandemic has affected Hollywood
“We went from being as public and as busy and world travelers and as much in and out of airports and in and out of large gatherings as possible to this virus. That was an unusual dichotomy. I was starting work on a Jurassic Park, which was and is very exciting. Because [the pandemic] had begun, that’s the movie we’re all trying to get going again. It deeply impacts all workplace environments. It just so happens, as an actor, your workplace environment can not include [Personal Protective Equipment] or mask-wearing. And that’s tricky, needless to say, and its own risk. Everyone, including extraordinary epidemiologists, have been working on figuring out how film production can go back and as safe a way as possible.
On raising biracial children in 2010
“I’ve been very aware of, like most of us, of the horrors of discrimination in this country my whole life. I’ve been raised by an activist fierce mother who taught me a great deal. I am raising biracial children. I share in all that they’re feeling at this time. I’ve watched Black Lives Matter as an extraordinary educational organization and watched their work. Their work even in the immigration crisis in the last few years. Their work about making life matter and black lives matter specifically is extraordinary messaging that shouldn’t be messaged. We should have all been palpably aware of this forever and made an effected change and demanded change. My prayer is that everyone everywhere is reconsidering their life, both educating themselves, being honest about what being anti-racist looks like, not just not being racist.”
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