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Emily Hampshire attends the 2024 Netflix Primetime Emmys after-party in Los Angeles, Calif., on Jan. 15.Emma McIntyre/Getty Images

Clad in a stylish oversized sweater that says her horoscope sign (“Virgo, but my full chart made someone go, ‘Oof’”), actress Emily Hampshire is in a reflective mood, talking about her new movie, Fitting In.

“You know, it’s weird, I feel like the stories that come to me are all related. And the thing that keeps coming up in my life is this search for identity,” she says.

Known as a respected Canadian actress before her seismic breakout as Stevie Budd on the Emmy Award-winning series Schitt’s Creek, Hampshire became a household name during COVID-19, a time when we weren’t allowed to leave our homes. While Hampshire says that she’s played a variety of moms over her career (“Bad moms, Lifetime moms, I was the mother of a ghost baby”), she was immediately drawn to the mother-daughter relationship at the heart of Fitting In, a vulnerable kind of comedy from writer/director Molly McGlynn.

Hampshire plays Rita, a breast cancer survivor coping with online dating postmastectomy while raising her teenage daughter, Lindy (Maddie Ziegler). When Rita finds out that Lindy will never be able to have her period or bear children because of a diagnosis of MRKH syndrome, the mom makes the issue all about her.

Easily rattled and quick to show anger (Hampshire was drawn to a stage direction in the script that said, “You are never sure if Rita will hug you or slap you”), Rita is tasked with supporting a daughter she’d rather be parented by. It’s one of the most complex and interesting performances of Hampshire’s career.

“I liked how it was about this generational thing that gets passed down to all of us,” she says. “It’s hard to know what makes you feel like a woman. Are you desirable if you have breasts, or if you don’t? What if you can’t bear children? I like that this movie asks more questions than it answers.”

In an interview with The Globe and Mail ahead of Fitting In’s release in theatres Friday, Hampshire discusses her own coming-of-middle age, coming out as pansexual after the success of Schitt’s Creek and the joys of working on a female-driven set.

When you first read the script to Fitting In, what was happening in your life and career?

I was busy, which is what you always want as an actor. I knew it was Molly’s personal story before I read it. The thing that stuck out to me was when Lindy was searching for someone else who had MRKH, the only person she could find was Eva Braun, Hitler’s wife. That kind of gallows humour is something I respond to very much.

Moms in teen movies have a tendency to be one-dimensional. What was special about Rita?

Rita is a whole human and if anything, going through her own coming-of-middle-age. I grew up in a very Catholic and Protestant household where children are seen and not heard. This is a co-dependent relationship where you feel like Lindy’s the mom and Rita’s the teenager.

The film talks about themes of gender and sexuality. You’ve been vocal about your own pansexuality, which came as you were transitioning from being a well-respected Canadian actress to a new celebrity status with Schitt’s Creek. What was it like to face that in the public eye?

I’ve been an actor since I was 11, so my coming-of-age was spent in an audition room. And so, I would wear a skirt and do the things that you’re supposed to do in the male gaze. When I did Schitt’s Creek, I came out of that, partly not knowing who I was, but being allowed to figure it out. And I fell in love with someone and just realized it was okay to love whoever I loved. So I stopped seeing myself in the male gaze and I started dating women. And that translated to having what I think is a better self-image. Now, when I go into an audition room or a meeting, I realize: “They don’t know what they want.” They want you to show them you. So it’s all a part of growing up, but I lucked out by being on this show that was very progressive.

What was it like working on a female-driven set where nearly all the key roles, from the writer/director to the producing team to the cinematographer, were led by women?

This is Molly’s story. Usually, a writer/director is protective of their script, but she gave me total ownership of the character. I also was in awe of just how much Molly cared about Maddie. It kills me to think about how protected she was on that set. When I was acting when I was younger, if you were sick, you got a bucket. I felt good if I had frostbite and kept going. When COVID happened, I couldn’t believe that the film industry would shut down. I was so used to the idea that the most important thing is to never stop filming. But the world has changed a lot, and I noticed it a lot on this set. I think it’s because it was a female-run production about a female issue with a director who was so caring and human and lovely.

This interview has been condensed and edited.

Film Review
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Maddie Ziegler, right, and Emily Hampshire in Fitting In.GERRY KINGSLEY/The Canadian Press

  • Fitting In
  • Written and directed by Molly McGlynn
  • Starring Maddie Ziegler and Emily Hampshire
  • Classification N/A; 105 minutes
  • Opens in theatres Feb. 2

Critic’s Pick

Fitting In is a raw “traumedy” about the kinds of subjects that make Republicans lose their mind: queer desire, female genitalia and blurry definitions of gender. Six years after her first feature Mary Goes Round premiered at TIFF, Canadian filmmaker Molly McGlynn returns with a clear-eyed coming-of-age movie that is one of the riskiest films our country has ever produced.

A standout Maddie Ziegler plays Lindy, a 16-year-old track star who’s very excited to lose her virginity to her boyfriend Adam (Reservation Dogs’ D’Pharaoh Woon-A-Tai) until a staggering medical diagnosis of MRKH syndrome completely derails her life. Turning away from her best friend (Djouliet Amara) and single mother (Emily Hampshire) in her time of need, Lindy experiences what can only be called a medical horror show in a painful journey toward self-acceptance.

Thanks to its wonderful cast and McGlynn’s polished direction, Fitting In is an unflinching portrait of a young woman with an open heart and an underdeveloped vagina. The film is full of warmth, as well as gallows humour. – C.L.

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