21st June 2023
Interview: Chris Richmond
Photo Credit: Joe Moe
At just thirteen years old, the list of film and television titans that Alexa Swinton has collaborated with would be the envy of any aspiring actor triple her age. It's an almost breathtakingly accomplished resume, evoking the likes of the careers of a young Dakota Fanning or Kirsten Dunst. She worked in 2021 with M. Night Shyamalan in his unsettling but effective feature Old, and can soon be seen under the wing of Bradley Cooper in his next directorial effort Maestro alongside Carey Mulligan and Sarah Silverman. As well as multiple appearances in Showtime's Billions, she can currently be found in HBO's Sexy and the City reboot, And Just Like That . . ., as Rock Goldenblatt, child of Charlotte, in a ground-breaking depiction of non-binary childhood in a mainstream show. It's truly overwhelming filmography for such a young performer, but it's clear that she's got her head screwed on tight. We were lucky enough to chat to Alexa about what she makes of achieving such huge success so early in her career, and her answers were remarkably sophisticated.
How did you feel when you got the role in And Just Like That? How did they tell you?
I first got an email from my manager asking if I had any skateboarding skills. Funny enough, I had worked on my skateboarding skills for my role in Billions. When I was seven, I took a month of intensive skateboarding classes for a short scene in an episode. They asked me if I could do my stunts and I said I could - even though at that time - I hadn’t yet learned how to skateboard. Actually - I did end up with an injury - but not from the set. My younger brother accidentally skateboarded over me when I was coming down a ramp and I fell backward. On AJLT - my very first scene - actually - the very first scene in the whole show on Day 1 of filming in 2021 - I had to do a very physical scene. I had to skateboard into the hallway, move a table, and do a bunch of actions - also say my lines. It went super well and I think everyone was excited about that - it was a good sign for the show. When I first booked the show - the offer came through - we were all so excited. At the time I did not know the exact scale of just how big Sex and The City was then, but I do now. It is like the biggest show of the ‘90s, and so iconic! It is a true fan favourite, and I am so happy to be part of that universe now.
What was it that appealed to you about the role?
I think it was the unique qualities that Rock’s character displayed that made me enjoy working on the show. The Rock Tik Tok was an audition scene and I loved putting my spin on that. At the time, I had been doing this funny dance move from the internet - it was like a face gesture with a beard - and I have no idea where that even came from - but my mom Inna Swinton was coaching me on the audition - and we were playing with it in our studio and she was like - let’s use that weird beard gesture! I was like - okay - and we did. Plus - there was some Justin Bieber inspo there too. And - this creation made it into the actual Rose/Rock scene. I don’t think there was ever a character similar to Rock on television and I am really proud that I am a part of telling this important story. I am really happy I got the chance to play someone who is so fashionable, fun, exciting, fresh, quirky, and a little bit sassy sometimes!
What can we expect from Rock in the upcoming season of “And Just Like That?”
Well, what I can tell you is that there is a trampoline involved somewhere. I think we will see Rock as more of a moody teenager, and they will be wearing more gold this season thanks to me! There is a jewelry brand that I adore called Mejuri. Their pieces are very simple, elegant pieces and I thought that Rock would wear something like that. With that in mind, I wore some of the pieces to a costume fitting and suggested to our incredible costume designers, Molly Rogers, and Danny Santiago, that a simple gold chain from the brand would be cool for Rock this season. They agreed, reached out to the brand, and got some cool stuff! Now Rock wears this gold chain. This is a small detail, but it is the kind of thing you can do as an actor to make the character your own. That way Rock has my style and I have Rock’s style too. I love fashion and I am looking forward to contributing in this way to my characters to the extent I get that opportunity.
What were the challenges of joining an already established franchise such as Sex and the City?
I think people just have set expectations about my character from the movie and from the show too, but Rose and Rock are just different characters. I think breaking character standards and expectations is part of Rock’s journey and part of their life on the show. Overall, I think that’s a lot of what Rock is about creating new standards in the Television space.
At just 13 years old, you've already appeared in a wide variety of roles. What have been your highlights so far? What roles have you enjoyed the most? What's been the most challenging?
Last summer I was fortunate to work on Maestro with Bradley Cooper and Carey Mulligan, as well as with a bunch of other super-talented people. The movie is about Leonard Bernstein, and I think that has been a huge highlight of my acting career thus far because I got to work with Bradley and the incredible team and enter this world of the 1970s. I was Nina Bernstein, Leonard’s youngest daughter. I had to immerse myself into the world of the 70s with the music, language, color, and lifestyle in general which was all very exciting!
Rock is another huge highlight for me as well. Being a part of the “And Just Like That” world is a pretty big thing and I’m just so happy to have this opportunity. I love getting to work with the incredible Kristin Davis and Cathy Ang. I had such a great time on set with them!
Finally, another big highlight for me was working on the movie Old. I got to spend a few months with my mom, Inna Swinton, filming Old in the Dominican Republic during COVID. This was the height of the pandemic and we were in this magical world. We filmed on a beautiful beach with a wonderful cast - including Thomasin McKenzie and Gael Garcia Bernal and Vicky Krieps. inside a COVID bubble. My brother Maxim Swinton and my dad Rolfe Swinton even got to come to visit when we had a hiatus in filming! Such a treat in the depths of COVID lockdown.
What was it like working with M. Night Shyamalan while you filmed Old? What did you learn from him?
M. Night is so energetic and smart and cool. I learned a lot from M. Night, one thing that I found most valuable was learning about including your family in your work. My mother, Inna Swinton, is a writer herself, and she just finished writing her new TV show. Her show involves our family in many ways as writers, producers, and actors. I found this to be similar to what I learned from M Night because he included his family in all of his work. His oldest two daughters were involved in Old. One of his daughters, Saleka is a very talented singer/ songwriter who opened for Gideon on his tour. She also wrote a song for Old! It’s really beautiful seeing how he includes his family so much in his work.
You seem to be featured in Maestro by Bradley Cooper. What can you tell us about the project so far, and what's Bradley like to collaborate with?
I think Bradley is one of the most focused people I have ever met. He gave 100% of himself to Maestro and created this world of Leonard Bernstein which got everyone in the cast and crew so immersed in the world of the 1970s. It was such a great project to be a part of and I felt as if I learned so much from him and his work process. It is really beautiful seeing someone who enjoys the serious parts of acting and directing, while also managing to have fun with the cast and crew. I had such a great time working on the film and being his daughter, as well as Maya Hawks and Sam Novellas’ sister. When I mention the serious part of acting, I mean Bradley was so devoted to becoming Leonard Bernstein, even when he was not in the scene and just directing. I think he was always in character with how the filming process worked. Since the film took place in the 1970s, we all went to locations that made the scenes realistic, which I would consider to be more method immersive acting. One very cool thing is that we filmed in the real house of Leonard Bernstein. We got to live their lives for a minute, which is why for me it wasn’t just reading lines in front of the camera but more living the lives of the people we’re trying to honor in front of the camera.
And Just Like That Season 2 is out tomorrow.