Welcome to Quarantine Diaries, our new feature series where we get up close and personal (via Zoom screen) with our favorite celebs. They'll be giving us an honest peek into what their "new normal" looks like—from new rituals they've adopted since quarantine, to work projects in the age of isolation, to the beauty and health products they've been using to self-soothe.
Samara Weaving is radiant even on a Zoom call. It’s one in a litany of minor perfections she possesses, the sort of thing that would drive an ordinary person crazy: you’d hate her, but the 28-year-old Australian actress is so witty and easy to talk to that you can’t even have the satisfaction of nursing a good grudge. From her affable nature to her formidable acting chops, it’s easy to see why Weaving’s star is on the rise. And with her next project—Ryan Murphy’s new miniseries Hollywood—dropping on Netflix today, it’s safe to say that she’s just getting started… assuming we ever get out of quarantine, that is.
As we all sit tight in isolation, it turns out that Weaving has a formidable array of coping tools from a variety of unlikely sources. The inherent instability of an acting career has made her a pro at handling uncertainty, and her own struggles with mental health have taught her how to face anxiety head-on—whether it’s the generalized, here-for-no-reason anxiety Weaving is used to grappling with or the anxiety of, you know, riding out a global pandemic. Hoping to borrow a few tips from her, I caught up with the Ready or Not star about the daily rhythm and minor dramas of life in quarantine.
How are you doing?
I’m good! Well, there is the nagging anxiety of humankind in decay, and I definitely haven’t worn this shirt for four days in a row. But other than that, excited to speak with you today! How are you doing?
How is anyone doing? Like, this is definitely not the most makeup I’ve worn in a month and a half. It’s fine.
It’s interesting watching in real time how people deal with fear, whether it’s denial or panic. It’s sort of that animalistic freeze—flee or fight instincts kick in. And you can see it even with friends or family. Everyone knows that person who’s like, “Oh, it’s just like the flu, it’s fine”—kind of undermining it. That was definitely my response when it first started happening. I was like, oh, maybe the media’s making it a little bit fear-based and panic-based. But now it’s very real, and we all have to do our part. It is a little terrifying knowing that for me, especially as a healthy young person—we’re essentially weapons, if that makes sense.
No, that makes total sense.
My sister actually had the virus, and it was bad, but she’s healthy and fine now. We were talking about it, and it sort of dawned on me that, well, it wouldn’t affect me perhaps that terribly; however, if I touched a bag of chips at the grocery store and then someone who is more susceptible to it touches that bag, like, am I a murderer? I think that’s where my anxiety is coming from. I just don’t want to kill anybody. Like, we’re the bullets in this situation.
This feels like a dumb question because the answer is obviously “everything,” but what you say are the most major changes to your daily rhythm?
That’s not! That’s not a dumb question, because actually my husband and I—my fiancé, sorry. But fiancé sounds so pretentious, you know what I mean? So I just skip to “husband.”
No, I get it. I’m quarantining with my girlfriend’s parents, but I’ve just been referring to them as my in-laws because it sounds a little more legit.
Yeah! Yeah, have your little pod, hunker down.
So, you and your fiancé—
Yeah, me and my fiancé, we kind of have a similar routine in that he’ll come out and we’ll share our desks and we’ll do our work. We’ve both worked from home before, so in that sense not much has changed. It’s more the social aspect, and the environmental change of visually going outside and seeing everyone wearing masks and steering clear of people. And talking online, like this interview. Actually, one of the benefits is that my family lives in Australia, and we wouldn’t talk as much normally ‘cause we’d all be so busy, but now that we have so much time on our hands, we can get together over Zoom or FaceTime a lot more. I hope we keep that up after this whole thing blows over. That’s the other thing to remember: it’s not forever. Even if it’s five years, you know, it’ll go away.
What’s the stuff that you miss the most about your daily life pre-quarantine?
I actually kind of miss the chaos. I never knew what my schedule was going to be, and I didn’t like that, but now I miss it a lot! I would get a schedule on Friday night that’s like, okay, Monday you’re going to some fancy event and then on Tuesday you’re going to have an audition, and then on Wednesday you’re going to go and meet with this director, and it would all be so random and then I would have to do my research and kind of scramble. But there’s no rush to do anything anymore, so there’s this lack of urgency because we don’t know when we could go back into production. It’s very “We’ll get 'round to it when we can,” which is great. I’m enjoying it. I don’t want to look back on this time and recognize that I could have enjoyed it. I’m very aware of my privilege, in that I don’t have children to worry about and care for, and that I have security financially and security in physical terms. And I am struggling with the guilt around that as well. But I guess in 20 years, when everything’s fine, I don’t wanna look back and regret panicking and not doing anything because of anxiety. I don’t mean the pressure of, like, you could have learned to play the violin and—
Right, or bake sourdough. There’s definitely a lot of pressure to use this time for self-improvement
Right, yeah, yeah. Not like that, but just relax—like, you can actually do whatever you need to do for yourself or whatever you feel like doing that’s inside these parameters. I mean, I’m trying to become a cinephile because I’ve always had a sort of insecurity about being in the film industry and actually not knowing an awful lot of film references. So that’s my plan, and all I have to do is sit there and watch, so it’s a pretty good one!
In 20 years, when everything’s fine, I don’t wanna look back and regret panicking and not doing anything because of anxiety.
What have you been watching?
Last night we watched Bottle Rocket, which was so great. And we watched Deerhunter, which was fantastic. It holds up. We were watching a lot of Robert de Niro movies and a lot of Scorcese and Francis Ford Coppola films, and then I was like, “I’m really needing some female energy.” [LAUGHS] So we’re watching more female-driven pieces. The other day I actually watched The Beguiled, which is really beautiful. And then because of Hollywood I’ve really enjoyed revisiting a lot of older films, like Rear Window. Great film.
That one is perfect for right now. Like, boy, do I know what it’s like to be stuck in my house and staring longingly at the outside world.
Completely true! I used to pick an actor or director and follow their career and the choices that they’ve made, but I think we’re sort of hopping around and mixing it up. Like, we’ll do Murder Monday, and then on Tickle Tuesday we’ll do a comedy, and then Wednesday it’ll be weird, wacky, something offbeat.
The movie theater chain Alamo Drafthouse is doing something like that. They’re streaming independent movies, and every week they do Terror Tuesday and Weird Wednesday.
That’s awesome. It’s so inspiring seeing how humans can just sort of pivot and still try to connect as a species through things they love, and through technology. It’s kind of wonderful to watch. And I wonder how it’ll change the landscape afterwards.
Are there any new hobbies or rituals that you’ve adopted to fill the time or help cope?
Sure, I’ve been doing a lot of reading, a lot of writing, and I do love a good puzzle. I know everyone’s doing puzzles these days, but I really do love a puzzle. However, I was very ambitious with going from a 500 to 1,000-piece puzzle. Like, that’s a big step. So you can’t see it, but there’s a 1,000-piece puzzle that’s staring at me right now. It’s been there for two weeks, so we have a love-hate relationship. I see you, puzzle. I see you. It’s not over.
How have your self-care rituals changed in this time?
It’s so funny, living in L.A. it can be so easy to make fun of people who talk like that, like, “What’s your self-care?” But it’s really important! Especially for me, because I have general anxiety disorder, so I can definitely start spiraling pretty quickly. If I’m anxious because I’ve got a really big meeting coming up and I’m nervous, that’s fine because I can pinpoint why I’m anxious. But I just wake up sometimes and I’m like, cool, I’m just anxious for no reason. And then you’re trying to figure it out, and it’s like your mind’s trying to put a hat on a hat rack and it can’t find what hat rack it’s meant to be on. I find myself going, “What should I do, what should I do, what should I do?” And I just have to remind myself to be like, “Okay stop, it’s not what should I do? It’s what do I need?” And most of the time I just need to calm down, whether that’s closing your eyes for ten minutes and doing deep breaths, or whether it’s like, “Okay, you need to get out of your head. Put your mask on, put your gloves on, get out of the house and just go for a walk.” Or maybe do some yoga—something that maybe you don’t feel like doing, and then five minutes into it you’re like, oh yeah, that was the right decision. Because the thing about self-care is that, at least for me, I don’t trust my gut. Like, “I need to just cut myself off and go watch TV for four hours”—is this an excuse? Or would it really help me to hop on the phone to mum or maybe journal for a little bit? It’s easy to sort of succumb to “I’m doing self-care, I’m watching TV, I’m eating popcorn, it’s fine, it’s self-care,” even when it’s not.
Yeah, sometimes self-care is vegging out and letting yourself off the hook, but sometimes it’s taking a shower and eating a vegetable even though you don’t want to.
But I think it’s also about not being too hard on yourself. I’m lucky enough to have a great therapist and a great support group, but some people’s worst fear is being stuck alone with their own thoughts and not having distractions. It’s really good to have those tools in order to figure out, okay, thoughts aren’t facts, you know? At least now there’s a real reason to be anxious, as opposed to when you wake up and you’re like, “Cool. Hi, anxiety. Guess we’ll just hang out. Be friends.” Make friends with your anxiety, guys. Easier said than done, I know.
What about makeup and skincare right now? I find that making myself go through the steps of my routine is really grounding and helps me feel like each day is a new day.
You know what’s really interesting? On set I don’t drink much water because I don’t want to have to go to the bathroom all the time because a lot of people are waiting on you, and if you’re wearing a huge ball gown it takes forever, and whatever. But I’ve been drinking a lot of water recently since this, and I’ve noticed what a difference to everything it makes. I was blown away a little bit. I didn’t realize the power of H2O, man! My skin doesn’t have as many lines and spots and weird things, and my nails are growing, and my hair is shiny!
Have you been doing at-home facials or trying new products?
He’s gonna kill me, but I’ve been experimenting on my fiancé. He has the longest eyelashes and the most beautiful brows, and they’re blond, but he has brown hair, so I’ve been tinting them. And I think he likes it. I think he’s into it. And I’ve been tinting my own eyebrows and eyelashes as well, just ordering this stuff online. It’s called Godefroy Tint Kit, and then the eyelashes one is called 28-Day Mascara. Eyelashes is tricky, but it can be done. You just have to keep your eyes wide and not blink. Oh, and I’ve been doing my own nails at home, too, with an LED UV lamp light.
Are there any rituals or routines you have that help you feel like you’re actually starting the day?
Totally. I mean, for me, it’s getting out of my pajamas and putting on a different set of clothes. But in terms of skincare, I have such sensitive skin, ever since I moved to L.A. I definitely wash my face with Cetaphil, and then I use watered-down tea tree oil for spots. A facialist I saw told me serums are really important, so I’ve been using some serums.
What serums are you using?
I think… oh, god, I’ve got to go back to the bathroom and check. [SAMARA LEAVES AND COMES BACK WITH AN ARMFUL OF PRODUCTS] What is this? I don’t know what this is, but I put it on my face. It’s hydro—hyaluron—
Hyaluronic acid? It’s very moisturizing.
Yes! Because I have very dry skin. Here’s another one that I use: iS Clinical Active Serum. It has a slightly tingling sensation. It’s good for the morning, it’ll wake you up. And this one from Tatcha is The Essence—it feels like your skin is drinking water. This is the crazy one that I use when I’m dying, it’s Augustinus Bader’s The Cream and The Rich Cream. I use it when I feel like a vampire has drained all the water out of me. This is the sunscreen, iS Clinical Extreme Protect. I use that so I don’t wrinkle, but that’s literally for five minutes a day now. But that used to be my go-to. Oh, and this is in my pocket. Lucas’ Papaw Ointment. It’s a miracle.
Oh, what is that?
It’s just papaw ointment.
I don’t know what that is!
It’s fresh fermented fruit, that’s all it is, just papaya extract. It’s for burns, cuts, cracked skin, rashes, but it’s also really good if right before bed you put it underneath your eye. I’ll literally use it as a lip balm, anything. You can’t go wrong. I have a tub of this stuff.
Are there aspects of your new normal that you want to carry with you out of quarantine when this is all over?
Yeah! Again, I feel guilty for saying it, but I am really enjoying myself, because I can take my time to self-reflect and reevaluate what’s important to me and realize what I really want to do. Like, oh, I really do love my job. That’s a big one, especially after working straight for a year—it’s easy to start resenting it and how tiring it is, and now it’s like, oh, no, no, I miss it so much and I’m so excited to go back. In terms of things that I want to keep, I don’t know. I’m sure when we start going back to some kind of normalcy I’ll recognize something that maybe profoundly has changed, and I don’t recognize it right now. I think the biggest thing is contacting my family and friends in Australia way more than I used to. I don’t think I was a big phone or FaceTime person before this, and I’m becoming one. And the drinking water thing, water’s been an interesting one. I’m just going to have to pee a lot on set now from now on.
Images by Samara Weaving and Pixie Levinson via Skype.