Katherine Waterston Talks About Her Character in “The World to Come” and Why She Doesn’t Have Twitter
Katherine Waterston (Tina Goldstein in the Fantastic Beasts films) has been making waves with her latest project, The World to Come. This queer 19th-century film follows the story of two women, Abigail (Waterston) and Tallie (Vanessa Kirby), who are both unhappily married to men and end up forming an intimate bond. There’s a reason this film has everyone talking – it took home the Queer Lion Award for the best LGBTQ-themed film at the 2020 Venice Film Festival.
For projects like these, research is incredibly important, and Waterston sure did hers. She recently opened up about how she prepared for the role of Abigail, why she’s happy that movies like The World to Come are being made, and the reason she doesn’t have a Twitter account.
Waterston not only portrays one of the main characters in the film, but she also narrates it. She admits that it was not exactly easy to settle on how she would do it. She really had to think about what she wanted her voice to sound like, eventually settling on a whisper.
We all obviously have those voices within our heads, chattering away all day long. But what the hell do they sound like? Do they sound like us? Are they loud? Are they whispers? And I did a lot of bad at[-]home recording before I sort of found a place that felt not humiliating.
The film has received a lot of support from the lesbian community, and Waterston expressed her happiness over this, saying that she did extensive research to portray the character truthfully. She did her best to find out everything there is to know about women who loved each other from the 19th century. That was no easy feat since very few accounts like these exist, but she did find some material she could use to connect with her character.
There’[re] obviously very [few] accounts of these women, particularly working class women, farmers’ wives. We don’t have their journals. We have the journals that were preserved in grand homes in England, like Anne Lister’s diaries. There [were] also these amazing letters from lesbian medieval nuns that were found from the 12th century. One of them addressed the other as, ‘My sweet honey, sweeter than honeycomb,’ and I thought it was so beautiful and very Abigail. So you find these things; you kind of go digging around to see what you can connect to.
Articulating the feelings of a woman like Abigail, who is unhappily married and now falling in love with another woman, was also a challenge, but one Waterston enjoyed taking on.
These women, who had been potentially put into arranged marriages, [who] never got to choose a damn thing in their lives, are now having this. How do I articulate this? It’s the sweetest thing. It’s the best bestest [sic] thing, ha! And obviously, it’s so tragic and awful, but also beautiful. And I was so moved by that moment of requited love.
Social media has been abuzz ever since the film was released, especially Twitter, which is filled with GIFs and images from the film. Has Waterston seen any of it? Well, no. But it’s not because she doesn’t want to; she simply doesn’t understand how Twitter works.
I don’t understand Twitter. I don’t know how to look at it. I don’t know how to read it. I am a 900-year-old great[-]grandmother. I cannot — I’m just from another time and I can’t work it out.
As for what her thoughts are on people pointing out that most of the lesbian films being made right now happen in the past, Waterston says that she didn’t think about it that way while filming, but she has an interesting theory on why it’s happening this way.
I think one reason, maybe, is because we’ve neglected an extraordinary past and we’re trying to fill in and build out our histories, and I think that’s important to do. And we’ll be busy doing that for a very long time because we’ve just been watching the boys’ stories for a really, really long time. There'[re] loads to explore.
Have you watched The World to Come yet? What did you think?