Three Great Things: Beanie Feldstein

The actress and vocalist, currently starring in The Humans, shares some of the things she loves most deeply in the world.

Three Great Things is Talkhouse’s series in which artists tell us about three things they absolutely love. To mark the November 24 release in theaters of The Humans, starring Richard Jenkins, Steven Yeun, Beanie Feldstein, Amy Schumer, Jayne Houdyshell and June Squibb, the effervescent and hugely talented Feldstein shared some of the things she loves most passionately in life. — N.D.

I am a real lover. I become obsessed with things easily, and I love so many people deeply. I often get made fun of because I call everybody my best friend. But in The Mindy Project, Mindy Kaling said, “‘Best friend’ is not a person, it’s a tier.” I love that. “Obsessed” isn’t a word I use for one thing, it’s a tier, so I found this really difficult.

Dairy-Free Desserts
I am the biggest sweet tooth you will ever meet; I just don’t care at all about chips or salty, savory stuff. I’m very allergic to dairy, though, so I tend to eat vegan desserts, because I know they’re definitely dairy-free. If I weren’t allergic to dairy, I’m sure I would just say that I love desserts.

I always joke that I have a vegan dessert map of every city I’ve ever been to. If I’m somewhere in London, I have my little mental map of where the good bakery in that neighborhood is. I look forward to my sweet treat at the end of every day; it’s something that gives me great joy, and I love sharing in that experience with other people. It’s joyful and everyone’s happy. For any event in my life, my partner always gets me a cake because she knows it’s my favorite sort of celebration.

“I look forward to my sweet treat at the end of every day; it’s something that gives me great joy, and I love sharing in that experience with other people.” (Image by Mrdidg from Pixabay.)

In the past couple of years, there are so many options for people with food allergies, and it’s amazing what you can get nowadays. My map of desserts has really grown over the years! One day, I want to write it down and have someone illustrate it for me, because I see it clearly in my head. Whenever I’m in a new city, the first thing I do is always try to find, say, a new fun donut shop or a patisserie that doesn’t use dairy. It’s a fun way to explore a city through my love of frosting!

The Music of James Taylor, Carole King and Joni Mitchell
I can’t pick just one of them, so I’m choosing the musical space between James Taylor, Carole King and Joni Mitchell. It converges in the recording of “Will You Love Me Tomorrow” on Carole King’s Tapestry, because – and this is my favorite fun fact! – Joni Mitchell and James Taylor sing backup on that song. Carole asked Joni and James to sing the backup on it and if you listen to it knowing that, you’ll really hear that it’s them. I’m not someone who keeps up with contemporary music all that much, I prefer to listen to older music. Because my parents love them and I listened to them so much as a kid, James Taylor, Carole King and Joni Mitchell, together and individually, shaped the soundtrack of my life.

When I met my partner, we discovered the other person had also grown up on that music, so it’s become this incredibly beautiful connective tissue between our childhoods. There’s so much humanity and validation in the way these three artists write about being a person. And they each sing so differently. Carole has such a specific gravelly, earthy voice, James’ voice is almost like butter, and Joni is sort of ethereal. I’ve always thought of it like they’re the ground (Carole), the water (James) and the air (Joni). They each get inside my soul in such a specific way, and I can always find a song in their songbooks or one of their albums that fits exactly what I’m feeling. I love their stories individually and I love their stories intertwined. They’ve always meant so much to me. It started with James Taylor and then Carole King, and then as an adult, I’ve learned more about and gotten much more deeply obsessed with Joni Mitchell.

When I was nine or 10, my mom took me, her best friend and her best friend’s daughter (who was my childhood best friend) to see James Taylor at the Greek Theatre. Me and my friend were the only kids in the audience. The security guard closest to the stage saw we were singing along and knew all the words and had that little kid excitement towards James Taylor, so he took us to the front of the stage and James knelt down and said hi to us. It was such a moment. I remember thinking, “Why are we the only kids here?” I couldn’t understand why other kids weren’t listening to Fire and Rain. I’ve always been an old soul, and I think there’s a reason that music was in my childhood. I felt it deeply, even if I didn’t understand it deeply.

The Berkshires
The Berkshires is just my happy place. I went to summer camp there and then my parents fell in love with it and we started going there every summer. It’s just a really magical pocket of New England and there’s so much artistic spirit in it. What I love about the Berkshires is that it has a much slower pace and there’s so much incredible nature you can be fully immersed in, but you’re also surrounded by people who have such a gift for the arts. You can be amongst nature all day, but then at night go see a play or go to the Berkshire Theatre Group or get to see Jacob’s Pillow. And then, of course, there’s Tanglewood every year! My parents would take me there, and it was just so exciting that I could combine those two elements of art and nature at the same time. I think it lowers my blood pressure in a way that is difficult to do, because I’m a pretty high-strung type-A person.

When my partner was growing up in Liverpool, she didn’t know that the Berkshires was a real place. James Taylor sings about it so much, because that’s where he lives, but she didn’t think anything of it. She just thought it was a lyric in a song, not a real place she could go to, so it was really wonderful when I got to take her there for the first time.

Beanie Feldstein’s happy place. (Image via Timothy Valentine / Flickr.)

The camp I went to, Kenwood, is a traditional sports camp in Kent, Connecticut, which is loosely defined as the Berkshires. I also went to a performing arts camp in upstate New York, in the Borscht Belt, called Stagedoor Manor, which was everything you would think a theatre camp would be, and more delicious – Sondheim fanatics screaming Sondheim lyrics all the time! Kenwood was a much more classic camp experience – staying in bunks, playing sports all day, singing songs that aren’t written by Sondheim – but it was magical.

Coming back to desserts, I was on the Upper West Side recently and remembered that nearby there was a Van Leeuwen, which has vegan ice cream, so I went with my partner and some friends. We were standing outside eating vegan ice cream in the cold (because of COVID…) and there was a gaggle of about 12 or 15 tween girls walking into the store in Kenwood sweatshirts and sweatpants. I couldn’t help myself and said, “Hi guys, I went to Kenwood too!” My partner said, “I haven’t ever seen you this lit up.” When you love camp, it never leaves you. It’s like being under a spell. I went for 10 years and I loved it more than anything. So to see those girls, all so happy and in their matching outfits, was so sweet. The Berkshires to me, even as an adult, brings me that feeling of escape.

Featured image shows Beanie Feldstein with Steven Yeun in The Humans. Image courtesy A24 Films.

Actress and vocalist Beanie Feldstein is currently starring in The Humans, opposite Jayne Houdyshell, Richard Jenkins, Amy Schumer, Steven Yeun and June Squibb, and recently starred in and produced Ryan Murphy’s limited series Impeachment: American Crime Story, playing the role of Monica Lewinsky. Feldstein previously starred in Olivia Wilde’s hit comedy Booksmart, opposite Kaitlyn Dever, for which she received a 2020 Golden Globe Award nomination for Best Performance by an Actress in a Motion Picture: Musical or Comedy, and in Greta Gerwig’s Oscar-nominated Lady Bird, opposite Saoirse Ronan and Laurie Metcalf. She made her feature film debut in Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising, alongside Seth Rogen, Zac Efron, Rose Byrne and Chloe Grace Moretz and also starred in the comedies How to Build a Girl and The Female Brain, opposite Sofia Vergara, Cecily Strong and James Marsden. Feldstein made her Broadway debut in 2017 in the Bette Midler-led production Hello, Dolly! and in 2020 will play Fanny Brice in the 2022 Broadway production of Funny Girl.