Brigette Lundy-Paine, like many young people born in the 1990s, may have missed the Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure phenomenon.
The cult sci-fi comedy starring Alex Winter and Keanu Reeves as time-traveling rock-band buddies premiered in 1989, with a sequel, Bill & Ted's Bogus Journey, following in 1991.
But nearly two decades later, a third film, Bill & Ted Face the Music, is premiering with Lundy-Paine cast as Ted's daughter, Billie. To prepare, they watched the original for the first time, and "I was like, in love with it immediately," Lundy-Paine declared.
"I loved the innocence of it," explained Lundy-Paine, who is also known for Bombshell and playing the queer character Casey on Netflix's Atypical. "And the humor is just such a special brand of pre-stoner-comedy stoner comedy. And there's just such a lightness in the way that they interact with each other. And a movie that's about friendship, and especially when it comes to the sort of vulnerabilities of male friendship and adventuring together through time is just [a] dream, everything I love."
Even dreamier, as Billie, Lundy-Paine got to exist in a universe where Holland Taylor served as Great Leader; the plot is a little complex, but essentially, Taylor presides over a council whose aim is to save the space-time continuum. The now middle-aged Bill and Ted (and Billie and Bill's daughter, Thea, played by Samara Weaving) play critical roles in this undertaking using the power of music and a time-traveling phone booth.
"I kind of feel like that is the universe we do live in," Lundy-Paine said of Taylor's omnipotence. "I mean, even before this, she was the Great Leader."
Although Lundy-Paine did not share any scenes with Taylor ("Which I'm so sad about," they said. "But shout out to Holland Taylor. We will meet one day"), they did do a lot of preparation with Weaving, an Australian actress who starred in last year's hit horror film, Ready or Not.
Since, as with Bill and Ted, the friendship between Billie and Thea grounds "the essential nature of this film ... we just spent a lot of time together, goofing off and drinking daiquiris and walking around New Orleans," Lundy-Paine said. The pair also studied music history, as their characters meet many famous musicians throughout time as part of their quest.
As characters, Billie and Thea subvert the "daughters" trope in Hollywood. Taking the mantle from their fathers, they pass the Bechdel test with flying colors by being heroes in their own journey. They do so in a way that defies any expectations of gender or sexuality. "I don't think that they really fit into any of those boxes," affirmed Lundy-Paine, who said the pair has an "innocent genderlessness," the way children might.
"As a nonbinary person, I definitely bring a nonbinary genderlessness to whatever character I'm playing, if the role allows for it," said Lundy-Paine, who came out as nonbinary last year. "And because Bill & Ted is is so innocent, then the genderlessness was sort of allowed to flourish in that setting."
This genderlessness can also be seen in the clothes of Thea and Billie — an eclectic mix of garments that include overalls and what appears to be a tie-dye surf shirt. They had their own say in their dress.
"We were able to pick our own wardrobe, which was really special in a ... gender-confirmation situation, because it's often not the case," they said. "And so Sam and I both were committed to creating a genderless look."
Bill & Ted's costume designer, Jennifer Starzyk, who worked with Lundy-Paine and Weaving on wardrobe, said the clothes reflect the "unique, smart, artistic, musical ... badass" qualities of Thea and Billie. "The outcome was effortless, eclectic, genderless, colorful, and free-spirited."
Starzyk hopes that the characters and clothes "inspire people to simply be individuals and dress for themselves. Wear what makes them happy. When you love your outfit, that energy comes through your spirit and happiness and confidence exudes from you."
This kind of representation is refreshing coming from a big studio like United Artists. GLAAD reported that last year, no film from a major studio featured trans or nonbinary characters.
"It's not a surprise," Lundy-Paine said. "I think that we definitely have a long way to go when it comes to trans and gender-nonconforming representation, especially in major Hollywood films."
"I think that a lot of the time we imagine ... that there's no fathomable way to have a trans character just be themselves and just be part of storytelling and whatever story needs to be told.," they said. "And I think that that is more like a social and cultural issue than it is Hollywood's issue on its own. I think that we have a lot of unlearning to do. We have to become more flexible thinkers as a society when it comes to gender."
Lundy-Paine recently watched Disclosure, the Netflix documentary about trans representation in film, which gave them insight into the need for not just more characters, but more three-dimensional representation. Trans and nonbinary stories are "something that we either imagined must be a joke or a tragedy," Lundy-Paine lamented. "And I very much look forward for it to just be a reality and sort of genre-spanning truth of just humans."
In this vein, Lundy-Paine has a dream role they'd like to broadcast to Hollywood power players. "I want to play hot boys," they said. "So whoever is responsible for writing hot boy movies, hit me up."
In addition to showcasing characters like Billie and Thea, Bill & Ted moves the needle for social change by showing how music can unite people regardless of age, location, race, or time. Lundy-Paine believes music has this power in the real world as well.
"I mean, look at 'WAP,'" they said of Cardi B's sex-positive anthem. "You know, the whole world's rallying around wet ass ... I think music has always done that, though. Music has always held an essential truth, I think. And I think often it takes us time to catch up with music. So yeah, I think it definitely has a magical power."
In addition to Cardi B, Lundy-Paine is finding comfort in socially distant and divided times by listening to Barbra Streisand's "People" on a record player that was gifted to them and their partner after they moved into their home together.
"It just is such a special song, especially for right now, because we're all our tenderest selves, and we're all just such people who need people," they said.