Dianna Agron, a recent transplant to New York, has learned through firsthand experience that city living comes with its share of overexposure: if you live near a hotel, you might just catch glimpses of guests in the nude as part of your daily routine.
Sitting in the Drawing Room of the Crosby Street Hotel in her SoHo neighborhood, the 31-year-old is safely shielded from her usual (and accidental) views and is instead ready to discuss — what else? — nuns.
In her first major role since starring as Quinn Fabray on “Glee” for six seasons, Agron joins Melissa Leo, Margaret Qualley and Morgan Saylor in “Novitiate,” out now.
“I really have relished, in the past couple of years, taking on different roles. I never really want to play the same character twice and luckily there has been opportunity to navigate that,” says Agron who, after stints in Los Angeles and London, moved to New York earlier this year with her new husband, Winston Marshall of the band Mumford & Sons.
“Novitiate” tells the story of a teenage girl in training to be a nun in the early Sixties.
“I didn’t know about the massive reforms in the Catholic Church, which is what we’re covering in this film. I grew up Jewish as well, so it really was a departure from the world of religion that I knew,” Agron says, adding that the subject of faith to her has been “ever changing.” “Whether you’re very religious or not, faith isn’t dependent on going to an organized religion, going to a temple, church, mosque, etc. And I liked investigating what that was for my character.”
In the time since the film premiered at Sundance in January, Agron and the rest of the cast have been approached by viewers who are eager to discuss their experiences in the church.
“The ones I think that really want to talk to us the most are people who grew up in Catholic schools or grew up very religious in Catholic [homes],” she says. “It’s fascinating to have a movie that talks so deeply about faith and love and what it means.
“Novitiate” was filmed in Nashville, a city in which Agron connected more deeply to her musical roots.
“My husband’s a musician and most of my friends are musicians, so it was exciting on off days to be able to go into the studio and absorb that,” she says.
In mid-September, she held a residency at the Cafe Carlyle in New York, performing covers of her favorite songs from the likes of Bob Dylan and The Doors, which brought her back to performing publicly. But this was in a much different setting from the tours “Glee” did at venues like the O2 in London and Radio City Music Hall in New York.
“I had all these funny memories there…the first time I stayed there [was] because I was going to the Met Ball and [it was also] my 21st birthday,” she says of the Carlyle. “Obviously that venue has just hosted incredible [people]: Eartha Kitt, and the Rat Pack, etc. I’ve missed singing publicly and I thought being in New York felt like the right place to pursue that.”
Though it was on a much more intimate scale than, say, the O2, Agron nonetheless battled her share of nerves.
“I just think there are so many ways that you can talk yourself out of doing something. If an opportunity is presenting itself, it’s probably for good reason — somebody thinks you can do it,” she says.
Agron has toyed with the idea of doing an album — though the pop music she performed on “Glee” is out of her favor.
“I’ve noticed a change in even my vocal quality because I’m also singing on my register again,” she says. “When I was singing on ‘Glee,’ it was on the highest part of my vocal register that I can access. I really am more of an alto singer and I was singing it on that show as more of a soprano singer, which I can hit, but it’s not where I feel the most confident and comfortable. I think I’ve had a complex ever since I was 13 because there was this boy who used to follow me around school singing ‘Walk Like a Man, Talk Like a Man,’ because my voice had changed and I was one of the first girls to have a significant drop in my voice.”
That complex — with age, with experience, with a new phase of life — has slowly faded.
“I definitely learned to have a thick skin to carry into the rest of my life,” she says. “You’re going at everything with the best intentions. Failure and perceived failure are two very different things.”
Hair by Brittan White @ Kate Ryan Inc. using Oribe; Makeup by Joseph Carrillo @ Kate Ryan Inc. using Dior Addict
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