Hailee Steinfeld: Civil War was Dickinson's 'busiest time'

Hailee Steinfeld: Civil War was Dickinson's 'busiest time'
Hailee Steinfeld returns for the final season of "Dickinson." File Photo by Chris Chew/UPI | License Photo

LOS ANGELES, Nov. 3 (UPI) -- Hailee Steinfeld, who returns as Emily Dickinson in Dickinson Season 3, premiering Friday, said the new season portrays the poet thriving as a writer during the Civil War.

"This was known to be her busiest time as a writer," Steinfeld told UPI in a video interview. "I love the fact that she was able to speak out without necessarily being on the front lines herself."


The Apple TV+ series takes a fictional look at Dickinson's life and family. The characters speak with modern slang, and the show utilizes modern rock 'n' roll music.

Dickinson takes inspiration from actual poems and historical events. The show portrays Emily's romantic relationship with sister-in-law Sue (Ella Hunt), and was nominated for a GLAAD award in Season 1.

"They still had to keep it secret because it's 1860, and queer relationships aren't outwardly a thing," said Hunt, 23. "It's really tough at points, but I think it's the most tender and beautiful of the Emmy/Sue arcs this season."


Steinfeld, 24, said Emily's relationship with Sue has been a constant through the historical changes of each season. Emily was in her 30s during the Civil War, and her relationship with Sue remains strong.

"They are able to be their truest selves when they are with each other," Steinfeld said. "It's this beautiful, messy, complicated, very loving and heartbreaking relationship that the two of them have."

The whole Dickinson family takes part in Season 3's story. Emily's sister, Livinia (Anna Baryshnikov), never married, so she is coping with her disappointing love life while supporting the troops.

"Both of these women chose incredibly non-traditional paths in which they did not commit their life to serving the men around them," said Baryshnikov, 29.

Emily's brother, Austin (Adrian Enscoe), married Sue. In Season 3, he rebels against his father (Toby Huss), but soon comes crying back to his mother (Jane Krakowski).

"Austin also has found himself in this box of massive expectations that his father has heaped upon him," Enscoe said. "He's expected to run the family business without question, and that's just not what he wants to do. He's expected to go off to war to fight for the Union."

Steinfeld said Emily is sensitive to Austin's struggles with their parents. Steinfeld said Emily also feels guilty for pulling Sue away from Austin.


"Although the love of her life happens to be the love of his, she has her moments of feeling selfish and feeling sad," Steinfeld said. "She feels like she's almost mourning the loss of Sue, in a sense, this season."

Friends of the Dickinsons become embroiled in the Civil War. The Dickinsons' former boarder, Henry (Chinaza Uche), joins the Union Army, in which he becomes a teacher for the First South Caroline Volunteers.

"Henry's desperate to find his purpose since being separated from his family," said Uche, 34. "[This] is a group of young men who are really asking him the hard questions, and are both looking for a leader and also leading him."

Henry's wife, Betty (Amanda Warren), remains at home in New England. Warren, 39, said the Civil War leaves characters like hers taking on additional responsibilities back home.

"She's on the front lines of what's happening at home, just like a lot of women who during earlier time periods throughout history have had to step up," Warren said. "Domestic life has its own battles, as well, as we see with Jane's character, with Mrs. Dickinson, too."

Season 3 will be Dickinson's last. Steinfeld next will appear in the Marvel series Hawkeye on Disney+.


Since her feature film debut in 2010's True Grit, Steinfeld has also embarked on a music career. As a songwriter, Steinfeld said reading Dickinson's poems for three seasons has inspired her music.

"I feel like after having spent so much time playing this character, this woman who wrote so fiercely and so fearlessly, it's definitely had an effect on my own writing for sure," Steinfeld said.

New episodes of Dickinson premiere Fridays on Apple TV+.

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