Haviland Stillwell makes every minute hustle. She catches up on my interview questions while she’s on a cross-country flight from Atlanta (the next Hollywood) back home to LA. She’s going into tech week on a new musical she’s directing (VOTE! a comedy which the NY Times called “full of verve”) when I decide to interview her about what it’s like to be Barbie’s #1 frenemy. But playing Raquelle on Barbie: Life in the Dreamhouse is hardly her biggest or most interesting project, as I soon discovered.
Stillwell has credits in Broadway shows (Les Mis, Fiddler on the Roof), film (Magic Mike XXL, Baywatch, Selma), TV (Sky1’s Living the Dream, CSI:NY) and voice over work. Behind the camera and backstage, she produces and directs a variety of projects that keep her globetrotting. She’s also released two solo albums, one of pop songs, and one of classic jazz, musical and rock covers.
As she’s taken on more directing projects, she’s had the chance to put out a message of civic engagement. She’s not here for political apathy or throwing in the towel in the face of more and more signs of the End Times. She is here for everyone getting educated on the issues that matter and then taking responsibility for changing them.
AfterEllen.com: Whats the best part of playing Raquelle on Barbie: Life in the Dreamhouse?
Haviland Stillwell: Playing Raquelle was such an absolute blast. It was a show I worked on for about five years, so getting to create and hone the character for that length of time was a dream come true. I grew up playing with Barbies, and in fact still have them from childhood. I’m kind of a neat freak, and relish in throwing out needless things, so I don’t have a ton of things from growing up, but I do love those dolls. I was always able to create a totally new story, direct it, play all the parts. It was sort of the beginning of my life as an artist! So, having the opportunity to work with Mattel and create a character like Raquelle was just amazing.
AE: Have you gotten any feedback from children about Barbie: Life in the Dreamhouse?
HS: OH YES. My fanbase has a wider age range now! People send me pics of their kids watching the show and dressing up as Raquelle. I have a number of friends whose kids are super into the show, so I will send them voicenotes telling them how awesome their parents are… in my Raquelle voice, the signature rolled R included, obvs. That was something I did in the studio one day early on, and the writer/producer, David Wiebe, fell out laughing and was like, “YES. That. Yes. Keep that.” And a star was born. HA!
I’m also the voice of the Barbie Smart House. You tell the house what you want, and I make it happen. Easy as that. I’m ready to be the next Siri now!
AE: I heard you were recently married. Was it a wedding that would have made Barbie jealous?
HS: LOL! My wedding was so wonderful, but girl, Barbie doesn’t play that jealous game. She has it all, because she believes she can be and can do anything. She simply sees the good in everyone and everything, and look how badass her life is. That’s why Raquelle gets so annoyed all the time – she’s constantly getting her jealous villain on, and really all she has to do is just enjoy her life. But that wouldn’t be as funny. We have to laugh at ourselves for how ridiculous we are.
My wedding – thank you for asking – was beautiful. We got married the morning after Orlando, so everyone was understandably shaken, and we really focused the whole event on love and connectivity. It was a solid way to be together as a community, saying “we aren’t afraid. We are choosing to live in love. And all of you are part of it.”
AE: What made you want to get into directing?
HS: Oh, because I’m hella bossy! So, Why not make a living off it? I mean, I’m serious, but also, I love to collaborate and make cool stuff and I find it exciting AF to sculpt a full experience and guide other artists to be the best versions of themselves.
And…I’m a southern girl. We love a good story. And things that sparkle. We love that, too.
AE: Are politics a big influence on the work you choose?
HS: I prefer to do work that makes a high impact, so yes, sure, being smart about whats happening in the world is super important. I want people to be inspired to live in joy. Enjoy!
My agenda is to do my best, and to empower others to lead with their hearts and think with their brains. It goes beyond politics. We have to be smart and compassionate and purposeful. We are all Obiwan – we are our only hope.
AE: Has your agenda changed from 2016 to now?
HS: I’m certainly more aware now of the importance of education.
It’s dangerous to choose to be ignorant and unaware of whats happening in the world. As an artist, It’s my responsibility to entertain, and Ideally, to inspire and educate through entertainment. And frankly, as a woman in Hollywood, it’s more important than ever to be strong, smart and forward focused.
AE: Tell me more about the play you’re directing at the Rockwell.
HS: VOTE! is a comedy about student council elections. It is a small cast, 9 actors in total, and Rockwell is a total rock concert comedy sort of experience. You’re definitely right up in the casts’ faces, which is so fun. They just did Rocky Horror with Frankie Grande. VOTE! is running this weekend at the Rockwell in LA and you can get tickets HERE.
AE: How has #MeToo affected your community?
We’ve blown the roof off this joint! Everyone is like, “wait – we can speak up now? AWESOME.” Similar to keeping any secret out of fear, when you silence yourself on one thing, it’s hard to be truly free on anything. This is the beginning of a major paradigm shift. The power is shifting and it’s palpable. I’m so psyched for how much bigger and better the opportunities for women are already showing up, just from the sheer fact that we can be more real, and that the culture of abuse is crashing down.
I work with people across the gender and letter spectrums, in tv, film, voiceover, theatre and music, as an actor, singer and director. I have a strong philosophy that we have to help each other out. When one rises, we all do.