Meet The Breakout Star Of “Once Upon A Time In Hollywood”—Harley Quinn Smith Credit: Storm Santos

With a name straight out of a comic book, Harley Quinn Smith was always destined for stardom. Factor in that her dad is none other than director Kevin Smith plus some serious acting chops, and it’s no wonder that the 19-year-old actress was hand-selected by Quentin Tarantino to appear in his latest film, “Once Upon A Time in Hollywood.”

Most recently seen in the film “All These Small Moments” (starring veteran actress Molly Ringwald), which premiered at Tribeca Film Festival (2018) and began its theatrical run this past January, Smith is now set to star in two more films before the year is up. In addition to Tarantino’s star-studded and much anticipated film, which also stars Leonardo DiCaprio, Brad Pitt, Margot Robbie, Kurt Russell, Al Pacino and Dakota Fanning, Smith has also been cast as the female lead in the upcoming cult-classic film series “Jay and Silent Bob” reboot, which will hit theaters this fall.

The young entertainer grew up in the business with her filmmaker father and actress mother Jennifer Schwalbach Smith. She has appeared  in films such as”Yoga Hosers,” opposite her best friend, Lily Rose Depp, as well as Johnny Depp, Natasha Lyonne and Justin Long; “Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back” (at the age of 1); “Jersey Girl”; “Clerks II”; and “Tusk.”

We chatted with Smith about working with Tarantino, what she’s learned from her dad, and how it feels to be a star on the rise.

Harley Quinn Smith
Photo Credit: Storm Santos

What was it like working with such an iconic director?

It was such a dream. I’ve admired Quentin for so long and have had a “Pulp Fiction” poster next to my bed for years. It was such a surreal experience to be able to see him in action, doing his thing. It was so special for so many reasons, but one of the coolest things to me was that we weren’t allowed to have our phones on set, so everyone was totally present for it. I feel this allowed me to really witness things I might not have if I had the distraction of my phone. It also forces you to be more social than you may usually be, because you can’t revert back to your phone if you’re uncomfortable. I made so many amazing friends on this set because we spent all of our downtime talking, singing and laughing, not distracted by social media or anything; which is really the way I wish it always was. Also, why would anyone want to use your phone when you’re literally witnessing magic in front of your eyes? Watching Quentin direct and go through his process was the greatest gift of all time, I would never forgive myself if I let myself be anything but completely present.

What was your greatest, most fun memory from shooting the film?

There were so many, but one of the funniest memories I had was on one of my last days of shooting. I’m a cancer, so I’m always extremely sensitive, but when it started to approach my final days on this film, I became SO emotional to the point that one day my friend, Dallas, and I laid down on the floor on set and just started sobbing. People kept coming up to us asking if we were okay, which made us start laughing through our tears. We looked so ridiculous and it was just such a beautiful moment that I’ll carry with me forever.

Tell us more about your “Bubblegum Punk” band, the tenth.

The tenth means everything to me. I think that starting the tenth was my biggest time of self-realization. I had been acting for a while, and as much as I love it, it wasn’t giving me the creative fulfillment that I was yearning for. I’ve always been a writer, so being able to write lyrics and music just made so much sense for me to do. I just didn’t really put the pieces together that I could be an actor AND a musician until about a year ago, and when I did, it was like my life really began – as cheesy as it sounds. I’m now a big believer that artists should push themselves to have feet in multiple ponds, whether it be acting, writing, photography, directing, music. I just think that it’s important not to limit yourself to one creative outlet. The tenth was started by my best friend Taylor Blackwell and I, but now we have two new members, Eden Hain on guitar and Kelly Cruz on drums, which has really taken our sound to another level. I feel so lucky to be able to be in a band with not only excellent musicians, but also people who I love endlessly. I feel like I really lucked out.

Harley Quinn SmithPhoto Credit: Storm Santos

Does the band have any upcoming releases you can tell us about?

We do! I’m actually making my directorial debut directing the music video for our song, “I’ll Go When It’s My Time”, which will be released sometime this summer. We’re also going to be recording our next album in the fall of this year, which is really exciting because it will be the first recording we do with the bands’ newest members.

We hear you have a leading role in the upcoming film “Jay and Silent Bob: Reboot”. Can you tell us more about the role? Did your dad write it personally for you?

I think “Jay and Silent Bob Reboot” will really surprise audiences. It, of course, still has the humor that the first film has, but this one is much more emotional than I think people will expect. My dad did write the part for me. Working with my dad is one of the greatest gifts I could ever wish for. It’s so special to share the same passions as your parent, but then to bring it to another level, be able to work with your parent. I never take it for granted because I know how lucky we both are to share that together. Also if he wrote a part for a 19 year old girl and he didn’t ask me to do it, that would cause for some tension in the household – ha-ha! I can’t say who I play, but I will say that you should keep an eye out during San Diego Comic-Con this year…

What is the greatest career advice your dad has ever given you?

My dad has always stressed the importance of treating everyone on set with equal kindness and compassion. Actors have it pretty easy, you come in at your call time and go straight into hair and makeup or wardrobe, but you have to think about how in order for you to do that, everyone else has been there for probably an hour or more working hard so that you can come in and have a seamless experience. Everyone on a set works so hard and it’s important that everyone’s work is appreciated and respected.

Harley Quinn SmithPhoto Credit: Storm Santos

At a young age you felt compelled to become vegan and use your voice for animal advocacy. What/who encouraged you to do so?

My rabbit is what pushed me over the edge into my journey with veganism. When I adopted her, she was in a really terrible condition. Before she was surrendered to the shelter, she was kept by hoarders who had tons and tons of other rabbits. From that experience, her ear was ripped in half and she had a bunch of wounds that were unattended to. She was, understandably, so terrified of everyone and it broke my heart. However, after showing her months of love, compassion and understanding, she started to realize that I was never going to hurt her. She opened up to me and transformed into this totally different creature. It was after seeing what human compassion could do to an animal that I realized I had to make a change. It wouldn’t be right for me to continue on with a non-vegan lifestyle after knowing what I knew.

What kind of career would you like to have? Whose would you like to model after? Do you ever want to direct or is acting your passion?

Filmmaking is just as, or possibly even more, important to me as acting. I want my primary career path to be making my own films. It’s so important to me that the stories that I’m involved in telling are making a greater point that leads to change. I want the films I’m apart of to have meaning behind them that contribute to the changing times of the industry. To be honest, those scripts are often hard to come across, so it’s becoming more and more important to me that if I don’t see a script out there with the message that I want to be relayed, that I make the film myself. I can’t just sit around and wait for the films that I want, when I have the ability to write them myself. So hopefully my career includes lots of filmmaking, music making and change making for the animal rights world. As for acting though, I’d love to have a career modeled after Winona Ryder’s. She has played some of the most iconic badass, female roles and I just admire her so much.

What’s next for you after “Once Upon A Time in Hollywood?”

This year, I’m really focused on writing. I’ve been working on a few scripts that I hope to be filming next year. I’m also writing constantly for the band. The tenth has really kind of taken over my world so that’s where all my attention really goes now-a-days.

Harley Quinn SmithPhoto Credit: Storm Santos