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At its heart, the new Disney+ series Tiny Beautiful Things is about the messiness of life. The show, based on Cheryl Strayed’s collection of her “Dear Sugar” advice columns and produced by Reese Witherspoon and Laura Dern, pulls back the curtain on the people who help us navigate it all.
The series follows Clare (Kathryn Hahn), an advice columnist loosely inspired by Strayed, who proves the chaos of one’s own existence doesn’t prevent someone from effectively guiding others. Things are complicated for Clare: Her marriage is strained, she’s getting in trouble at work and her interactions with her daughter, Rae (Tanzyn Crawford), typically end in a screaming match.
Australian actress Tanzyn Crawford stars in Tiny Beautiful Things.Credit: Gabriella Angotti-Jones/The New York Times
Crawford, 22, an up-and-coming Australian actress from Perth who recently appeared in the Apple TV+ thriller series Servant, found plenty to relate to in Rae. Life is also knotty for the character – a queer teen who is exploring relationships, discovering who she is and trying to find her place.
In an edited interview, Crawford discussed her influences, her hobby of making and selling clothes and how she saw herself in her character.
Q. In the show, you play a very angsty teenager dealing with finding her identity, exploring her sexuality, navigating a complex relationship with her mother – all the typical teenage things, really. Did you pull from your own experiences as an adolescent?
A. Absolutely. When I got the original script, I called my mum up, and I was like, “Mum, this is an argument that you and I have had a dozen times over”. My mum is also white, and there’s moments in the script where that really comes into it. I was also a 16-year-old struggling with my sexuality, so that was very familiar to me. I just felt like I was like retelling my 16-year-old story for so much of it.
Cheryl Strayed: her advice column inspired the series.Credit: Willy Sanjuan/Invision/AP
Q. How did you stay emotionally stable going through all those turbulent feelings again?
A. Oh, I didn’t. Rae, my character, cries a lot. So I was already crying, and then I would come home and I would cry, and I’d call my mum up and I’d be like, “Oh, I just dug up so much stuff”. This is one of my first jobs, so I don’t really know how to deal with the emotional side and how to cut it off when you go home.
Q. How do you differ from Rae? While you two may have faced similar struggles, did you deal with them at all differently than she does in the show?
A. When I was 16, I didn’t tell anybody anything. So I really liked that at 16, Rae’s parents already know what’s going on with her. So that’s the complete opposite of me. I didn’t come out to my mum until much later. I was just concealing everything, pushing everything down. Also, I was home-schooled, so I didn’t really have a lot of people to talk to.
Q. Tell me about Premium Zoo, your curated vintage brand. How did that come to be?
A. I had just started selling some of my old clothes on Depop. And when I sold them all, I was like, OK, well, what can I do now? So I started thrifting for stuff and then seeing if anyone would buy that, and people did, so I just kept doing it. Then I saw a sewing machine that was on sale, and I started making my own clothes. It did so well that I thought, I can totally make a living just off this money while I’m at university. So I started taking it more seriously.
I’d always rope my mum into taking pictures with me. On a Saturday or Sunday, I’d style the clothes and put them in a backpack. And then we would drive all over the city to try to find aesthetically pleasing places to take pictures. I started importing some clothes because I wasn’t able to keep up with how many people wanted to buy things. It just kind of took off, and then Depop contacted me and asked me to be its brand ambassador for Australia.
Q. Is there an item of clothing that’s particularly significant to you?
A. I spent maybe two months painting my own jeans with like 40 different cartoons on them. But they’re my most prized possession now. They’re the perfect mum jeans. I’d sit at the table at my mum’s house until two in the morning just doing the tiny little details.
Q. Who had the most influence on you growing up?
A. Alicia Keys, my mum and my sister. Basically for the first 12 years of my life, I was following my sister around and copied everything that she did. She really influenced my style, and she has the same hair as I do. She always wore it out, and I’d be nervous to wear it out, and she helped me accept my Blackness.
This article originally appeared in The New York Times.
Tiny Beautiful Things is on Disney+
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