I met Danielle Macdonald almost three years ago at the Sundance Institute. We were working on first-time writer-director Geremy Jasper's film Patti Cake$, about a young woman in New Jersey who's on a quest to become a rapper. Initially, I turned down Geremy's invitation to help develop the role of Patti's mother, Barb — not because I wasn't grateful, but because I doubted myself as a dramatic actress. I'd spent years chasing my dream to be a singer and had finally found my confidence on the stage. I didn't want to fuck up his passion project. But he persisted, so I said, "Fuck it. At the very least, maybe I'll see Robert Redford walking around Park City in cutoffs." Next thing I know, I'm on the plane to Utah.
The first time I sat down with Geremy and Danielle to read through the script, I was stumbling over lines, messing everything up. It was exactly what I'd feared would happen: that I'd choke. I apologized profusely to both Danielle and Geremy; they simply smiled back at me and told me they weren't worried.
I was so caught up in my own insecurities that I never stopped to consider Danielle's. Danielle is Australian and had never rapped before. She was taking on a role that required her to learn a Jersey accent, how to rap, and then how to rap with an accent. She was working her ass off behind the scenes, and yet she was taking care of me. Helping me gain confidence. Helping me get out of my own way. And doing it all, quietly and confidently, by her own example.
Danielle is a quiet adventurer. She is the person you want to sit next to on your first day of school. She is the person you ride around town with in a Chevy, playing the Violent Femmes cranked up to a ten. She is the person you want to grab you by the hand and jump off the cliffs in Mazatlán. Danielle is effervescent. She is a singular talent whose heart is as warm as a strawberry moon.
Danielle may be eighteen years my junior, but she taught me to lighten up, take a chance on myself, and rise to any challenge. She's as rare as they come and a great reminder to keep your eyes open and let the angels in.
Bridget Everett: Where did you find the inspiration to take the leap and do Patti?
Danielle Macdonald: I wanted to be an actor — that's ultimately what I dreamed of doing. So this was an amazing opportunity to play a really incredible character in a story that I loved, a script that I couldn't put down. That's ultimately what made me want to do it, even though it scared the shit out of me.
BE: It's good to have things scare the shit out of you, though, right?
DM: Yeah. When I'm doing something that scares me and challenges me, I'm actually really happy. I work well under pressure, and it feels like I'm getting outside of myself and challenging myself. I like that feeling. I like the payoff.
By the end of the Sundance Institute, I was pretty much begging Geremy to let me do the film, even though I knew it was going to be a lot of work, that it may not happen. I was like, I just so badly want to be a part of this because these people are all amazing. It felt really real and authentic, and there was so much understanding and trust between all of us. [I felt] like it could really go somewhere special.