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Maisie of “The Kissing Booth 2” on Chloe and Representation Onscreen

[ Written on July 25 2020 by adminS ]

In the newly-released Kissing Booth sequel, Elle Evans (Joey King) returns to navigate senior year as she manages a long distance relationship with Noah Flynn (Jacob Elordi). But her insecurities peak when she meets Noah’s Harvard “friend” Chloe Winthrop, a “breathtaking, supermodel goddess” played by Maisie Richardson-Sellers.

Though Elle wants to hate who she sees as a romantic rival — and an encapsulation of everything she isn’t — she simply can’t dislike Chloe for too long. Chalk that up to the charisma and coolness that Maisie brings to the role, transforming the character from an “other woman” stereotype into a should-be heroine. “I think [Chloe] wants to uplift anyone that she’s around who she thinks is genuine and true,” Maisie tells Teen Vogue. “She is the kind of person who would host dinner parties and have everyone from all the different walks of her life come together and meet.”

After all, Chloe is a well-traveled, multilingual, sophisticated young woman attending a world-renowned institution. She tells great stories, and when she’s on screen, people gravitate to her.

Those things are true for Maisie as well; in fact, Chloe tells a story about a fictional trip to Zimbabwe, which stems from a real-life experience Maisie had while in South Africa. The 28-year-old was born at King’s College Hospital in London and raised by two actors. She grew up with her father in Brixton and her Guyanese mother in Dalston, who she credits with introducing her to West Side Story, which piqued her interest in film. With degrees in anthropology and archeology from Oxford University, she has always been “fascinated by the diversity of cultures and human experiences.”

“I come from theatre,” Maisie says. “I was obsessed with For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide/When the Rainbow is Enuf. It moved me so deeply…so I put on the play, the first-ever production in the Oxford Union. The diversity of roles that I play is what intrigues me about acting. I want to play as many different worlds, people, and opinions as I possibly can.”

Prior to The Kissing Booth 2, she was best known for playing the role of Charlie, a pansexual shapeshifter, in The CW’s Legends of Tomorrow, and she also acted in Stars Wars: Episode VII and The Originals. Now, she has transitioned seamlessly from the supernatural realm to the world of romantic comedies.

Maisie believes The Kissing Booth 2 ultimately tries to challenge viewers to reimagine platonic relationships and confront their gendered assumptions where Elle, Chloe, and Noah are concerned. And as Chloe, Maisie plays a character we haven’t often gotten to see in teen rom-coms. Besides Gwyneth from the OMG Girls, Chloe is the one other Black supporting character in The Kissing Booth series, which is led by three white actors.

“So often, especially in this genre, we don’t see a lot of diversity, which is why I’m excited to finally be a part of this film and to change that,” Maisie says. “So many people around the world only experience people from different racial backgrounds, sexualities, or genders through the content they watch. I think we have a responsibility as creatives, artists, and storytellers to make sure that we are moving the social consciousness forward.”

Growing up as a young biracial girl, she felt the familiar, sharp pang of her Blackness being questioned. Her peers referred to her as the “whitest Black person they knew” and called her “bounty,” after the British chocolate-covered candy with coconut on the inside. Maisie says she was often the only Black girl and the only person of color in her classes; she was always the “bursary scholarship kid” in private school. In university, there were no Black students in her graduating class nor many Black professors.

Maisie seeks to help transform this homogeneity through acting. Though the sequel ever-so-slightly addresses the heteronormativity of its predecessor, The Kissing Booth is a symptom of an entire industry built around white, cisgender, heterosexual narratives. For Maisie, who uses she and they pronouns, watching Bette Porter (Jennifer Beals) in The L Word served as a “huge turning point” for her at 15 years old. The L Word inspired Maisie to find her own community, and she hopes a particular storyline in The Kissing Booth 2 will do the same for others.

“Even though I was already queer…I didn’t know how to be queer. I didn’t realize it could be so unique to every single person because all I was being fed was stereotypes and very shallow opinions,” she says. “We need to start [incorporating] these interesting storylines into these very commercial films because that is normal. There are queer people everywhere you look, there are people of color everywhere you look.”

Maisie says that her memorable performance in For Colored Girls showed her art’s profound ability to foster conversation and bridge differences. She is one of the co-founders of Shethority, an online collective created in 2017 by DC Comics actresses offering a space for woman-identifying individuals to empower one another. In addition to being named one of “The New Faces of Pride” by E!, Maisie is launching her own production company this year called Barefaced Productions. The first Barefaced film that she’s co-written and directed is Sunday’s Child, which follows a young queer woman of color in Los Angeles journeying from a place of isolation to self-acceptance and visibility.

“In Guyana, ‘barefaced’ is a pet name for someone who’s being quite cheeky, challenging the norm, outspoken and slightly controversial, but in an affectionate way,” Maisie says. “I was often called ‘barefaced’ growing up and I love that sense of taking off the veil and just honestly seeing something. I’m really excited to start seeing and creating content whereby every stage of the process is reflective of the stories that we’re telling.”

While a third Kissing Booth film isn’t yet confirmed, she says she would love to see Elle and Chloe become best friends. The biggest takeaway she wants people to get from The Kissing Booth 2 is that you should step into your light and bask in it rather than trying to hide it.

“I really want them to lean into their differences, to celebrate their uniqueness, and to know that those are their superpowers,” Maisie says. “Wherever you are in your time of life, you may feel ashamed of being the one who stands out. Just know that one day, that is going to be one of the most celebrated things about you.”

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