At first glance, Havana Rose Liu’s Bottoms character — a pretty cheerleader dating the beloved football quarterback — might look like any other love interest out of a typical high-school rom-com. But like everything else in Emma Seligman’s sophomore film, she’s not all that she seems. In this raunchy queer take on teen-movie tropes, the filmmaker presents us with an absurd comedy about two horny lesbians who start a female fight club at school, and no matter how deranged, seasoned comedy duo Rachel Sennott and Ayo Edebiri always land the joke.
In Bottoms, Liu plays Edebiri’s soft-spoken, out-of-her-league crush, Isabel. Much like her character, she is introspective and full of surprises. You might not guess it, but her favorite thing to do on the set of Bottoms was film the fight stunts (“It’s like an extension of dance, and I find that very invigorating”). And while the 25-year-old native New Yorker is newer to acting, the release of this film has her feeling the most sure she’s ever felt about anything. “I mean,” Lui says, “Emma’s a genius and she doesn’t disappoint.”
Isabel is one of the few characters in Bottoms who doesn’t label her sexuality. Was that intentional?
That’s one of my favorite parts about her. Her story centers around the quality of her relationships over gender or sexuality; she’s really looking at the connection itself over what box she fits into. Anytime there’s something left up to interpretation or a little bit of room left, I feel it’s grounds for people to feel seen. I definitely intended to keep it a bit vague.
You have a wonderful and hilarious sobbing scene in the film. Do you ever cry in public?
Oh, I’m a big public crier. Growing up in New York, it’s the safest place you could cry. I’ve had really big sobs on trains. I’ve had sobs walking down Broadway. New York is so welcoming to that. They’re okay with you being a mess. There’s something so okay about crying in public. Please cry in public; I’ll hand you a tissue, and if you need a hug, I’ll give you a hug. But otherwise, be free.
Is there anywhere you won’t cry?
No, there’s room for emotion everywhere.
What’s something you always carry in your bag?
I’m so fucking weird. I have a ton of things. I’m superstitious. I always carry scissors and a little spool of red string. I always put the red string around different parts of the body when I’m not on a project and make a wish on it: It’s like a way of feeling like I’m coming home to my own character. I always have some notes that people have written to me. Always have a notebook for myself that I write in. I have a little rock that I found with my grandma, and now I carry it around with me.
Are you a very sentimental person? I’m getting that vibe.
I’m overly sentimental. I enjoy it when other people are sentimental too. I think it’s really nice when people feel precious about memories and experiences, and that feels like a point of connection to me.
When you journal, do you always use a pen and paper or are you a Notes app girl?
I’m a strong believer that if you are gifted with an idea, just put it down. I have a running notes section on my phone for different art pieces, performance pieces, poems. Sometimes I need to really think through something I’m experiencing, and then I have a journal for that. I have a stapler in this fucking little bag. And I’ll staple things in my journal if I need a texture to remember or something like that.
What’s your go-to journal brand?
Moleskine. And I really like Muji. I walk in there and I’m like, Oh, this is what God looks like.
Do you gossip?
I was reading this thing recently about how gossip is a very primal activity to understand abstract thought. I was thinking about how we’ve come to think about gossip as being negative, but talking about people in a way that’s to understand how they think about things or why they make the decisions that they do — I don’t think that’s bad. If you’re shit-talking people, then I don’t like that. I am comfortable talking about other people in the third person when they’re not present in a way that’s exploratory. Gossip has gotten a bad rep.
Do you have any people you won’t gossip with?
I will gossip with anybody who feels like they’re down.
What was the last app you downloaded on your phone?
It’s called Keezi. I actually re-downloaded it, but it’s this little app that has lots of different sounds, and you can record sounds to different buttons, and then you make music with all the different sounds you make. It’s really fun. I had this thought of a melody in my head and I couldn’t find out how to express it because it wasn’t a piano or guitar, so then I looked this app up and I actually recorded a car noise and another noise. Then I put them together, and I was like, That’s what I was trying to capture.
How do you leave a party?
An Irish good-bye?
Yeah. If there’s somebody who I felt like I didn’t get to see, then I’ll go say hi and bye, but otherwise, yeah, I’ll see people soon. Love you, bye.
Are there any makeup products you won’t leave your house without wearing?
Right now, sunscreen, because I went to a dermatologist and they said I have a ton of sun damage. I was like, I think those are freckles but okay. I like lipstick in my bag at all times, and I’ll just put it on my lips and my cheeks.
Bottoms is about a queer fight club. What would be your go-to move in real life?
Probably some kind of bite.
What is your best tactic for flirting? Do you have a go-to method?
No, I found that most of my relationships have come from me not wanting to be with somebody, so I feel as if it’s like being shut off and mean.
No. 1 rule for a date?
Be present. Don’t be on your phone.
Do you have a red flag when it comes to dating?
I haven’t really ever dated; I just end up in these long-term monogamous relationships. But I feel like a red flag in terms of partnership is lying.
What’s your No. 1 rule for getting over a breakup?
Oh my God, fall into the arms of your family and friends. Make a lot of art.
As a New Yorker, if you’re walking down the street and you see someone filming a movie, do you stop and stare or do you keep walking?
Before acting, I didn’t really think anything of it; it was just happening all the time. Now I just look to see if my friends are there. I don’t really like to drool over fame, and I never was a fan of anything, which is honestly a huge loss. I wish I was a major fan of something. I feel like to have that much passion about a stranger is so exciting. But it was never me.
Was it strange watching fans stop to watch you film the Martin Scorsese and Timothée Chalamet Chanel ad?
I cannot confirm or deny that I am involved in any such project.
What’s your No. 1 rule for canceling plans?
I’m usually pretty honest about why I’m canceling. I love this idea of a “rule.” I wish I had more rules in my life; like this is making me think I need some fucking scaffolding in place.
This interview was conducted before the 2023 SAG-AFTRA strike.