Photography by Elliot London
Haviland Stillwell is a multifaceted artist with diverse talents spanning acting, singing, and voice-over work, she's earned acclaim for her dynamic performances. Beyond her artistic endeavors, Stillwell is half of the visionary behind Team Stillwell, a production company strongly committed to prioritizing LGBTQ+ narratives. Through her company, she champions stories celebrating the rich diversity and experiences of the LGBTQ+ community, contributing significantly to the broader cultural landscape.
Symbonic: Tell us about your background and how you ended up in Hollywood.
Haviland Stillwell: I moved to LA from New York, but I grew up in Georgia. I knew from a really young age that I was an actor and performer. My dad was in politics and my mom was in the entertainment industry. When she was pregnant with me, she was president of a theater in Savannah, so I was basically born in a theater. It was kind of a natural thing.
I was drawn to acting and singing - like I felt it deeply. There wasn’t another option for me, as far as my drive and ambition and passion. My first speaking role in a film was in the movie Now and Then, which was amazing to be part of. Around that time, I realized I was a singer. I found it was one thing I did not get bullied for and it became a safe haven. I was also realizing I was queer, so having a form of self expression to focus on and hone was so important. My mother was friends with a lot of folks in the Atlanta drag community and it was fun to adjacently see a very open and loving community that I already knew I was somehow part of. I just didn’t really know how to come out or how to be all of those things in a way that I’d also be able to fully pursue a life as a working actor and be successful in mainstream entertainment. I guess you could say I’m still figuring that out!
I started college at Ithaca as an opera major, then transferred to NYU and finished as a voice major with a concentration in musical theater. I got an agent, started auditioning and booked my first Broadway show a few months after graduating, Fiddler on the Roof. After that, the revival of Les Mis. When that show closed, I moved with my Broadway friend Craig Ramsay to LA to pursue more TV and film. We wanted to immerse ourselves. I shifted my focus and also got into voiceover, while still performing in plays and musicals, and along the way, making two solo albums and continuing to sing and perform live. I’ve also really loved my journey as a producer. I remember growing up, observing movie stars who were also producers, who seemed to have a more involvement in the whole process. This has always been a goal for me, as i feel like i am able to bring even more of myself to the collaboration and help the project succeed. The first thing I produced was when I was in Fiddler in New York, one of my cast-mates, John Cariani who is a Tony nominated actor, and also a playwright and approached me about producing for his off-Broadway original commercial run or his play Almost Maine. I’ve produced many things since then, but since the pandemic, I’ve ramped up on producing a lot more with my spouse, Reed Stillwell, through our company Team Stillwell. We very much believe in living a life of creativity, doing things that inspire us, and working with people who are truthful, authentic and enthusiastic to push forward important stories and messaging.
We’re executive producers on a psych thriller in post -production called Under the Influencer that centers on a queer, female NFT artist. We’ve also recently joined the producing team for a Broadway bound musical, are making a documentary, and have several other projects in development.
I’m also very active on TikTok, where I’ve found an outlet for engagement that is really unlike anything. There, i can be my most campy self. I have fun doing my most popular characters (Raquelle from Barbie being the most requested), and peppering in new ones. When I think back to my childhood self - full of joy for acting - before bullying and self consciousness - this is the side of me that is probably the most unencumbered and free.
I just really believe, as an actor and producer, in representing the characters I am playing and the stories i am telling with integrity, respect and of course, i want people to be extremely entertained and hopefully moved to laughter and tears! Haha!
S: You’ve touched on visibility and I'm guessing that stems from some of your experiences. Does that inform the projects and intellectual property you choose to work with?
HS: Definitely. I like playing strong female characters and have had the privilege of playing some villains, and characters that are flawed. I love big characters, specific characters, women on a mission. There’s so much vulnerability required to be an actor — both on screen or stage and off. It’s such a constant balance of staying truthful and connected and also navigating the technical elements. I love it.
As a producer there's just so much diligent work that goes into a project. You have to be extremely passionate about what you're working on as a producer. If you're connected to what you're working on, you're more excited, more motivated to do your best to make it the absolute best it can be.
S: What projects do you have coming up?
HS: I have several projects coming up! Just shot two short films that were SAG-AFTRA approved during the strike. One is called Literal Nightmare, which I won an award for. We produced it along with our cinematographer, Rachael Hastings Adair and her wife Michelle Adair of One Match Fire. I starred in that with Aurora Sexton and John Mason, and Reed directed. In the other one, I am playing a mermaid, and I’m opposite the hilarious Jackie Monahan, Lisa Haas and Jill Bennett. And the the multiple producing projects, and several commercials and really fun video games, some still in production and some that have just come out this year like Harry Potter: Magic Awakened and Convergence: A League of Legends Story.
In the meantime, I’m sending high vibes for a resolution to the SAG-AFTRA and WGA strikes, with fair deals for all of us creatives. I am hopeful of the future ahead and feel lucky to have made my life about creativity and collaboration.