In the first big feature filmВ ChloГ« Grace Moretz has put out in two years, The Miseducation of Cameron Post (in theaters Aug 3), the 21-year-old actress plays a lesbian high schooler, living in a small town in the '90s, whose conservative family sends her to gay conversion camp. Shot for under a million dollars over 23 days by an unknown director, Cameron Post was the smallest and riskiest movie Moretz had signed onto in years. Her agents didn't want her to do it. вЂњEveryone told me not to,вЂќ she says, as we sit across from one another, iced coffees in hand, on the set of a photo shoot in Downtown Los Angeles. But coming off a sequence of big-budget pictures like The 5th Wave and Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising, Moretz says she hit a point where she was unhappy with the state of her career. She felt like she was failing her own potential as an actor. So in a rare professional move, she pulled out of the massive studio projects she was attached to at the time, stepped away from Hollywood, read dozens of scripts, and fell in love with Cameron Post. вЂњIt could have very easily gone in the wrong direction,вЂќ Moretz admits. вЂњThe movie could have been super offensive to a lot of people. But I trusted Desi Ed. Note: Desiree Akhavan, the director, andвЂ¦ I fought for her.вЂќ Moretz's decision to do the film got it funded, and it went on to win the Grand Jury Prize at Sundance earlier this year, the festival's highest honor.В
Taking risks both in life and in career doesn't scare Moretz. But living inauthentically does. It's why the Georgia native and her family have stayed thick as thieves, a tight-knit group that includes her four older brothers and her mom, who raised all five kids on her own after their father left when Moretz was a tween. вЂњA badass,вЂќ Moretz calls her mother with reverence. One of Moretz's siblings, Trevor, works as her manager, and when powerful Hollywood forces aim to take advantage of the former child star, he's there as her advocate. вЂњTrevor and I were the only ones who were like, 'We should do Cameron Post,'вЂќ she says.В
It's this commitment to honoring her truest self that has preserved every idiosyncrasy in Moretz that the entertainment industry might have beaten out of someone less self-possessed. From her participation in politics andВ feminist activism to her enviably bold eyebrows (which she never plucked, despite the trends) to her sometimes controversial career moves, Moretz refuses to be a follower. This beyond-her-years wisdom made our interview particularly inspiring. Read on to learn Moretz's take on dating, feminism, confidence, and why she doesn't feel like your typical Gen Z kid.
On whether she's a millennial or part of Gen Z:
вЂњI definitely don't feel like a member of Gen Z. I know that I'm right on the cusp of both Gen Z and millennial. It's a weird era because I talk to 13-year-olds, and I have no clue what they're saying. Like technically, we're in the same place, but in reality, I'm just like, no, we're not. I mean politically alone. I grew up in a political environment under Obama. I was a child of Obama. I was a child of equality and acceptance, or at least of liberal thoughts and liberal progression. I remember when he won. I was what, 9 years old? So the formative years of my life, where I was learning about government, were under quite a liberal system. When I was 13, I wanted to figure out about politics and what democracy was, but that's just because I was a weird kid who was super interested in government-very rare for people who were my age then. But now, you talk to 13-year-olds, and they're just naturally progressive and outspoken in a way. They have to be because of things like the Parkland shooting,вЂ¦ because of everything that's happening in politics, which wasn't happening when I was younger. So I feel disconnected from Gen Z in that way.вЂќ
On sexual fluidity:
вЂњI think that there's something incredible to say about the new generation's pulse and zeitgeist. I think it's nice that when I talk to young teens, a lot of them don't like to be seen as gay, straight, or anything. They're just kind of open. And I think that's a beautiful progression. I think that's the way I've always seen it. I have two gay brothers in my family, and when they came out, in my head, I was always like, Why do they have to tell us who they fall in love with? Why is that something that they have to explain? That always confused me. So for me, it was always just like, I want to get to a place where coming out isn't a thing. Where it's just kind of, Oh, I fell in love with this person, be them gay, straight, trans, non-binary, whatever it is. I think love should be seen as love.вЂќ
On combatting sexism in Hollywood:
вЂњI was raised with a single mother in a family of four boys and me. What created my feminist outlook was, first and foremost, my mother never made me feel different from my brothers. She treated me the same as the boys, the boys treated me the same as them, and it was kind of an equal playing ground forever as a child.вЂ¦ My mother was always a feminist icon in my eyes. She's just a badass. She's a 13-year cancer survivor. She birthed all of us-she birthed actually six of us and lost one. She's a really wonderful woman. So that's where it started. But then as I grew up in this industry, I was faced with the stark reality of sexism in the Hollywood workplace. And that was something that hit me quite young. It hit me at like 14-that's when I was very aware of it-when I did my first big lead, in Carrie. That was kind of the jumping-off point when I realized, oh, sexism is a thing, and I'd have to actively figure out how to speak up for myself and find my own voice.
вЂњThere were moments where I was 14 in auditions, and you have directors saying things like, 'You're a very sexy young woman,' and me thinking, How do I even reply to that? What does that even mean? I'd call my brothers and be like, 'Why'd they say this to me?' and then they'd explain it. They'd be like, 'This is what you say,' and 'This how you walk into a place protecting yourself and knowing who you are.' Then I found my voice because at that point, I was 14 and I'd been working since I was 5, so I had a very long career. So the conversations I would have with these big studio heads, who were usually men, started to be like me giving very realistic, progressive feedback about the plot points to make the movie better. They would just be taken aback by it. I figured out, oh okay, my points are real. I do know what I'm talking about. So stick with that; stick with your education and what you know, and speak from a point of actual knowledge.вЂќ
On the challenges of being a #bossbitch while dating:
вЂњI think it's always difficult. Especially in a male-female relationship where for me, I've always been the breadwinner. And I, from the time I've been a child, have very much had a career on my side. It's hard when there is such a thing as toxic masculinity in the sense that there are a lot of guys out there who can't handle that. But it very easily and very quickly weeds out the weak. So for me, it's like, if you can't handle the fact that I am going to be working my total ass off 11 months of the year and the fact that I bought my home for my family at 18 years old, and the car I drive is something that I paid for myself because I work literally all year round-little things like that for some reason really dig into some men's masculinity. If you can't handle that, or just be okay with the fact that I am a very strong woman, then great. I gotta go. There've been so many dates I've been on where I was like, 'Cool, okay. I gotta get out of here.'вЂќВ
On where she found her confidence:
вЂњI feel like it took a very long time. Took a lot of therapy too. Lot of therapy. I think for everyone, especially young women, therapy is the most incredible thing you can do. It gives you tools to deal with what we've grown up in just by being women. Just because we were born with female genitalia. It's a system that's worked against us for a very long time. Therapy literally gives you tools to be like, Cool, first of all, I'm not alone, and I'm not crazy. I'm not histrionic. It takes all those factors away, and you go, Okay, great. What does that insecurity mean about myself really? And who actually am I? And what are these tools to be able to speak my own mind?вЂќ
On why her eyebrows are so good:
вЂњMy mom was super strict on me not plucking my eyebrows as a little girl. So that was my first thing. Even when it wasn't cool and all my friends had thin eyebrows and everyone was like, 'You have a boy's eyebrow,' I was like, 'Well, eff you, this is my eyebrow,' and then it became cool. So I got really lucky with that. But I just don't touch 'em. I don't really do anything to them. I use some brow gel every now and then, Glossier Boy Brow. In Cameron Post, I darkened my eyebrows a good bit with tinting. I dyed the edges because I have way more hair than you can see-because I'm so blonde, it doesn't really come out sometimes. They're thick in the movie.вЂќ
Don't go just yet: Next, read our exclusive interview with Hari Nef.
Photographer: Harper Smith; Hair:В Gregory Russell; Makeup:В Mai Quynh; Stylist:В Sissy Sainte-Mariel;В Skin:В SK11