Harley Quinn Smith is a rising star, a bit of a character – and a passionate vegan! Get to know her in our exclusive interview
She’s barely turned 20, but Harley Quinn Smith is already practically a household name, thanks to her big personality, and big talent.
The American actress has appeared in nearly ten films, including Tusk and its spin-off Yoga Hosers (along with bestie, Lily Rose Depp) and she’s also the bassist in the bubblegum punk band, the Tenth.
Her father may be the actor and filmmaker Kevin Smith, but don’t think for one minute her success is down to nepotism: Harley’s acting skills have caught the attention of Quentin Tarantino, and she’s due to appear in his film Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, which will be released in July of this year.
But we also love Harley Quinn because she’s a huge vegan – and it’s for all the right reasons, as I learned in this interview, where we dished on bubblegum punk, sassy rabbits, empathic superpowers and more.
What got you into veganism in the first place?
There were a lot of factors that contributed to my switch to veganism. My mom has been vegetarian for most of my life, so I grew up with someone, who meant the world to me, not eating meat. My mom never pushed vegetarianism on me, which is why I think it ultimately interested me.
The lady who fully sent me over the edge into veganism however, was my rabbit Cinnamon Bun. When I adopted her, she was in a really terrible condition. One of her ears was ripped in half, she had metal stitches that were unattended to, and she was covered in pee. She was absolutely, and understandably, terrified of all humans and was so distant to me for the first few months after I adopted her.
However, after many months of showing her how much I loved her and making it clear that I was never going to hurt her, she transformed into this completely different rabbit. It was like she took off her protective shell, and I could see her personality for the first time. She suddenly became the very sassy, loving, mischievous creature she is today.
After seeing what human compassion could do to an animal, I knew that I had to make a change in my life and begin to cut out animal products. It’s crazy to see how simple kindness can completely change someone’s life, which is a major lesson to be learned. Animals want to be loved and want to give love as much as humans do, but many humans overlook this because they’re different from us. But I promise, if you get to know a rabbit like mine, you will have no doubt about their ability to feel.
What’s your vegan go-to dish?
I am really not much of a cook, but I do make a pretty great quesadilla. I am known around my house for it. I also try to drink a smoothie with protein powder every day to make sure I’m getting the daily nutrients I need! There are so many great vegan protein supplements, so it’s always so funny to me when non-vegans question where we get our protein from. Vegans actually probably get more protein that non-vegans, because we have to pay close attention to it.
What are some of your favourite vegan beauty and fashion brands?
Oh I have so many. As for beauty, I usually don’t wear much makeup, but when I do I love (the ironically named) Milk makeup. I’m also a big fan of Tarte, because although they are not completely vegan, they do have really wonderful vegan options which is so cool to see. I sometimes think it’s more important to support the brands that aren’t entirely vegan, but have options because it shows that we as a community really appreciate that they consider our needs and it also shows how many there are of us who are seeking vegan and cruelty free products, because there are quite a lot of us now.
As for fashion, again there are so many. I absolutely LOVE the shoe brand Bhava. They make these incredible boots, which are also insanely comfortable. I always wear heeled or platform shoes, and Bhava makes my dream heeled boots. They’re so cute and such an essential in my wardrobe. I think I own every single color at this point because I pretty much wear them everyday. They even just made my bandmate and I these insane silver metallic boots to wear at our shows. I cannot speak highly enough about Bhava.
Another amazing brand is Delikate Rayne. It’s run by two of my closest friends, Meg and Komie Vora, and they are so passionate about providing sustainable, vegan options that are also beyond adorable!
You define your band, the Tenth, as playing ‘bubblegum punk’. What on earth is that?
Bubblegum punk is the genre that my bandmate, Taylor Blackwell, and I landed upon when we first started the band. We knew that we were somewhere in the punk range, but we couldn’t just leave it that because that would be putting ourselves in the same group as Dead Kennedys or Misfits, which we are undoubtedly different from (but I love them both very much).
We still have the passion and sentiment of punk, mostly using our music to call people out on their shit or to talk about what’s wrong in the world, but we’re a less aggressive version of punk, thus the bubblegum.
Besides the Dead Kennedys and Misfits, which bands do you love?
My favorite group in the world is the grunge band Hole. They’re always going to be my number one inspiration because no one has ever fascinated me more than Courtney Love. It’s my dream to write, direct and star in a biopic of Courtney. She has the most incredible life story, but for so long she’s just been known as the wife, and then widow of Kurt Cobain, she wasn’t really regarded as her own person with her own talents. Her lyrics, style, screaming, attitude – all of it has really shaped who I am as a musician.
Additionally, my band would not exist were it not for Carrie Brownstein and Sleater Kinney. I was auditioning for a show that Carrie was making that was based on her memoir ‘Hunger Makes Me A Modern Girl’ and it made me fall in love with music again.
How did you initially get interested in music?
I started playing bass when I was about 12, but I stopped during high school. It wasn’t until I was auditioning for this show, when I was 18, that I picked up bass again. On February 10th, 2018, Taylor and I went to a show at the same time I was auditioning for Carrie’s project, and since I was in the Sleater Kinney mindset, seeing these bands perform made me really want to start my own.
Taylor and I agreed we would start a band and a year later to the date, we released our first album, ‘Dunes’. I also started playing bass in the first place because of Lindsey Way. She is just the most badass musician and has been such a major inspiration to me. She does these backbends while she plays bass, which is seriously the coolest thing maybe ever, and after seeing pictures of her doing them I was like, okay I need to learn bass NOW.
How does it feel having a Gen X icon for a dad?
Wow, it is very cool to see how many people he’s positively affected. People will always come up to him and tell him how he’s changed their life, which is a really beautiful thing. I think it’s also just made me want to work harder because I hope to be able to positively affect that many people’s lives one day as well.
You’re in a big new Tarantino film soon, Once Upon A time in Hollywood. What was it like working with him?
Working with Quentin was a dream come true. I’ve had a Pulp Fiction poster hanging next to my bed for years. He’s one of my biggest idols in film, and to get to be apart of one of his films is something I still cannot get my head around. It was an absolute honor to be directed by him, but my favorite part was just observing him work. As an aspiring filmmaker, it’s so interesting getting to see how different directors work, and to see someone like Quentin in action was just so surreal. I still cannot believe it happened.
You were also in two movies directed by your dad, Tusk and Yoga Hosers. How was it working your him?
Getting to collaborate with my dad is something that is so important to me. It’s really special that we get to do what we love together, and I never take it for granted.
I know a lot of people look at our working relationship and automatically hit us with claims of nepotism, but honestly if you had the same interests as your kid and had the opportunity to make something together, are you telling me you would pass that by?
My dad and I know how lucky we are to be able to make films together. It’s such an integral part of our relationship because we’re both such creative people, that making art is such a huge part of both of our lives and to be able to do it together, there’s really nothing better.
We just wrapped Jay and Silent Bob Reboot, which I think is maybe my favorite thing we’ve done together yet. I think it’s really going to take people by surprise because it’s hilarious like the first movie, but this one has a lot more heart and emotion than I think people are going to expect.
Ok, now for the big question: which do you prefer – music or acting?
My heart is really split down the middle for the two of them, but lately I’ve been more drawn to music because of the control you have over it. The fun can get sucked out of acting real fast because of the tedious auditioning processes and whatnot, but with music, you control the content. You decide when you want to write and put out an album, you decide how it sounds, you decide what you get to say.
It’s strange because although music and acting often coincide – you can’t have a film without music – the two are so different from each other. With music, you know what is going to happen. You can plan it out every step of the way, but acting is just a big guessing game. You could book a job tomorrow and need to move across the country for months.
Well, it’s clear you have a lot of talents! But if you could have an actual superpower, what would it be?
I would love to have Mantis’ ability from Guardians of the Galaxy. She is an empath, so by touching someone she’s able to know how they feel. I think that would be so cool. It would also be my dream come true if I could communicate with animals. Also, flight would be pretty dope.
To learn more about Harley Quinn Smith, please click here.