Photoshoots > 2016 > V Magazine – “Stars of Sundance” Issue by Charlie Engman
ACTRESS (AND GRANDDAUGHTER OF ELVIS PRESLEY) PICKS UP WHERE SASHA GREY LEFT OFF IN STARZ’S SO YONG KIM-DIRECTED SERIES THE GIRLFRIEND EXPERIENCE
THIS IS AN EXCERPT FROM “STARS OF SUNDANCE” IN V101.
Riley Keough is no child star. On the contrary, the choices the 27-year-old makes—like the ones to star opposite Jena Malone in So Yong Kim’s Lovesong or in Starz’s The Girlfriend Experience, executive-produced by Steven Soderbergh—are clearly her own. She’d developed a relationship with Kim after Kim directed their collaborative short for Miu Miu’s “Women’s Tales” series, while she’d met Soderbergh when he directed her in Magic Mike. The daughter of Lisa Marie Presley and Danny Keough (yes, that means her stepfathers included Michael Jackson and Nicholas Cage), Riley has had the luxury of seeing superstardom from so close up, she can’t help but handle her own career with discretion and poise: a modeling gig here, small but powerful performances in The Runaways and Mad Max: Fury Road there. It’s a steep climb, but Keough is determined to be in control of her image—and to make her name all her own.
In fact, in both Lovesong and the aforementioned 13-episode series, her characters are in constant fear of giving away too much of their selves. In other words, for both projects, restraint from Keough was tantamount. “They definitely are both naturalistic in tone,” she says, of her two Sundance premieres. “I do tend to enjoy working with directors who like that aesthetic.”
The TV show, written and directed by Amy Seimetz and Lodge Kerrigan, happens to share the name of Soderbergh’s 2009 film, which starred Sasha Grey as an escort named Christine, but who goes by Chelsea. A few years back, Soderbergh expressed to Keough that he was interested in exploring GFE (as Keough calls it) further, but from someone else’s angle. “I guess, for whatever reason, he thought I’d play [Christine/Chelsea] well,” says Keough. “He had Lodge and Amy meet me to make sure I wasn’t crazy or whatever and we all got along. He’d picked them to direct the show. I think they got some notes from him, but Steven basically put together a group of people and let us go do our thing.”
To be clear, Starz’s GFE isn’t quite the same story as Soderbergh’s, and Christine isn’t the same character. “The shared name is sort of a cheeky thing,” says Keough. “The show wasn’t based on the film, it just has the same subject matter.” For a television debut, that subject matter would scare some, but Keough insists that playing an escort wasn’t what made her second-guess signing on. “I was definitely nervous. I had never done TV before. I’d heard that you get to set and you have to do everything very robotically. I was nervous about the freedom to have opinions about things because I am…opinionated,” she laughs. The rumors, she assures, in this case weren’t true, but those nerves may have come in handy for a provocative performance. “I definitely don’t have a problem doing sex scenes, but I tend to like to do things that initially make me feel a bit nervous. I don’t think you can really grow at any job unless you do things that freak you out. And I’m sure GFE will make people uncomfortable, but I have fun doing that.”