Harley Quinn Smith — just say her name and you’re bound to do a double take. Born to filmmaker Kevin Smith and actress Jennifer Schwalbach Smith, Harley was destined for the big screen, and she even made a debut when she was just a baby (one-year-old Harley Quinn was in her dad’s movie, Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back in 2001). Even though she made appearances in an array of movies it was not all about that, and just like any other kid, she grew up normal. Harley also couldn’t help but laugh when asked how it’s like growing up with famous parents. She tells #TeamCLEO that she wasn’t really aware of it. “It wasn’t until later in my life that I figured it out. It’s the only life I’ve ever known so it’s very normal to me. I’ve had a very amazing life, I’m so lucky to have an amazing family who are supportive and a loving group of friends so it’s very normal to me,” she adds.
A jack of all trades, 20-year-old Harley has it all going on right now. The thespian has a budding Hollywood career with credits in the latest comedy by her father Jay and Silent Bob Reboot, which reboots the much-loved pair of Clerks and Mallrats fame. Prior to that, Harley Quinn appeared as "Froggie" from the Manson family in Quentin Tarantino's Once Upon A Time In Hollywood. Harley Quinn was also seen in the film All These Small Moments, a touching coming-of-age story which stars veteran actress Molly Ringwald and premiered at Tribeca Film Festival (2018). Harley Quinn is also known musically, and juggles all this and her band, ‘The Tenth’. Her biggest music inspo? Courtney Love. “From what I understand she has always been herself, no matter what people thought she’s always been exactly who she is. She’s just such a controversial human and that’s so fascinating to me. I just absolutely love her so much,” she gushes.
Her first love, though is giving back. From speaking out against bullying and working with The Humane Society of the United States and animal rescue organisations, she has always loved activism. So much so that she didn’t really take acting seriously until five years ago. “Before that I had no intention of acting, growing up I’ve always had a really big passion for helping animals,” she says. And the way she started her vegan lifestyle has to be the sweetest story, yet!
#TeamCLEO caught up with Harley as she wrapped up her latest, a thriller called Last Summer, that has Jessica Biel on board as executive producer. Harley couldn’t help but mention that it’s her favourite character she’s played so far so we’re definitely adding it to our watch list!
"Harley Quinn and Shannon Elizabeth in a scene from Jay and Silent Bob Reboot"
You’ve had cameos in a few of your dad’s movies but what was it like working Jay and Silent Bob Reboot?
That was an incredible experience; being able to make a movie with your family and friends is a rare experience and I feel so lucky to have that. I had so much fun just hanging out with some of the people I love the most for months in New Orleans, and the movie really reflects the experience we had. I think people will be really surprised by how emotional it really gets.
Did having your friends and family on set add a little more pressure on you?
In a way it kinda does because I care so much about what the people I love think. But at the same time it’s really comforting to have them there, so it kind of ends up evening out. It weirdly just feels normal in the end.
Once Upon A Time In Hollywood was so predictably Tarantino. What was it like filming it?
That experience was probably the most memorable of my life and I learned so much on that film. Being able to watch Tarantino do this thing, watch him firsthand and learn from him was something I felt so lucky for. I hope to be a filmmaker myself one day, so that was such a gift.
Did he give you any advice?
It wasn’t so much that I got advice but I just was able to watch him — we didn’t have any phones or anything like that on set so all I did all day was watch him. I was really mesmerised by the way he worked and I was able to take everything in since I didn’t have any distractions. I was able to just really focus on the moment and absorb everything that I was witnessing and learned a lot from watching.
Has acting always been something you wanted to do growing up?
No, I only started to act about five years ago. Before that I had no intention of acting, growing up I’ve always had a really big passion for helping animals. That’s always been something that meant a lot to me.
And that slowly transitioned into animal activism?
I was always really interested in different animal issues before I even made the connection to veganism. Growing up I really cared a lot about the ivory trade. That was my first passion, helping African animals. And that later turned into something much bigger which is my veganism and my animal rights activism. That’s always been a passion of mine growing up and it’s only gotten bigger and bigger.
Is that how you got into veganism?
No it actually wasn’t. Weirdly I didn’t make the connection for a very long time. It was really after I adopted my rabbit, she made me want to change to a more compassionate lifestyle and that’s where I made the connection between my animal rights passion and veganism. I was like “Oh wow, I’ve actually cared about all these stuff my whole life”, I just never put two and two together.
So was the transition hard going into veganism?
I actually did not find it hard. I think the hardest part about it was realising how many different things fell under the umbrella of veganism. Switching my diet wasn’t hard at all but it was realising that I couldn’t wear leather or any animal products and realising that I needed to make sure that all my cosmetics are cruelty-free. Veganism is a lifestyle, not a diet, so there’s just so many things that fall under the category of veganism that might not be obvious.
You’ve also got your own band, ‘The Tenth’, what’s your main inspiration for music?
All my band members have different inspirations that they bring to the table but my individual, biggest inspiration is the band Hole. I’m a Courtney Love fan. She has always inspired me and I’ve always had a fascination with her and her music.
Any reason why?
I don’t even know how to describe how I feel about them. I’ve always loved everything about Courtney Love; her style, her personality or the way her voice sounds when she sings — I think all of that has always been so intriguing to me. She’s very much herself and from what I understand has always been herself, no matter what people thought she’s always been exactly who she is. She’s just such a controversial human and that’s so fascinating to me. I just absolutely love her so much and everything that band has put out. Their lyrics are some of the most beautiful lyrics to ever be written.
So how do you juggle between acting and music?
It’s definitely a challenge. I think that I’ve realised over time that it’s a bit of focusing my attention on one thing, doing that for a few months then going back to that other thing — I give it my full energy. I realised that it has to be one or the other so I just kind of jump back and forth between the two, because I love both so much and can’t live without either.
What would you say your signature style is?
I would say my signature style is vintage. Pretty much everything I wear, with an exception of a few things like shoes because of the leather, are vintage. It’s so environmentally friendly to shop at second hand and thrift stores.
What is your opinion on sustainable fashion?
I think that where you put your money really counts. Putting it towards sustainable fashion is so important — whether that’s shopping somewhere eco friendly, second hand or modern sustainable brands. It’s really a step in the right direction. You always need to have the world and earth in mind. I think sustainable fashion is something that everybody should be thinking about.
What is the advice you would give someone?
Have as many creative outlets as you can. I used to think that I could only do one thing and that I could only choose one art form. Even if art isn’t your thing; do as many things as you can, don’t limit yourself. I feel it helps you be happy.
We love a diverse cast!
“I think where you put your money really counts. Putting it towards sustainable fashion is so important.”
PHOTOGRAPHY STORM SANTOS HAIR AND MAKEUP EMIL Y CHRISTISON STYLING VERONICA GRAYE ADDITIONAL PHOTOGRAPHY TPG IMAGES/CLICK PHOTOS TEXT AND INTERVIEW AINA NUR SARAH