Phoenix native Haley Lu Richardson is known for taking chances with her films.
The actress starred in the coming-of-age film “The Edge of Seventeen” and quickly followed that with M. Night Shyamalan’s “Split.” But she particularly relishes the bravery it took her director Rachel Lee Goldenberg to go forth with her new film, HBO Max’s “Unpregnant.”
In it, Richardson plays 17-year-old Veronica, whose decision to get an abortion leads her on a 1,000-mile road trip to New Mexico with her former best friend, Bailey (Barbie Ferreira).
Melding the topics of abortion, teen pregnancy, friendship and self-realization was “extremely ambitious,” she says.
“I honestly didn’t know it was going to work until I saw the cut together movie and took a breath,” Richardson says about the film, which debuts September 10. “We accomplished what we set out to do.”
The former Arcadia High School student calls the film important because it’s bound to generate conversation. She admits the role was a tad bit scary.
“The thing that scared me about it was the same thing that excited me—doing justice to this in the tone of a comedy,” Richardson says. “I thought this was something we could do for the world, and the impact was the main draw.”
Although it’s labeled a “comedy,” “Unpregnant” is gutsy in that it outlines the stages of relief, grief and sadness when a woman has an abortion.
“It’s something that was really important for Rachel, who directed it, just showing what it actually looks like in the clinic,” Richardson says.
“When Veronica’s in the clinic, we wanted it to be as real and just this is what it is. She wanted to show it as clearly as possible.”
Richardson, 25, is excited for her family, many of whom still live in the Valley, to see “Unpregnant.” The film will celebrate its opening at a drive-in theater in California, so her parents are driving from Phoenix to watch it.
Richardson lived near the Biltmore until she was 16, when she and her mom “went crazy and decided to move to LA.”
“I’m not complaining,” she says. “It was pretty crazy of us. I don’t know how my parents agreed to let me do all of this stuff. I’m definitely glad.”
She’s been quarantining with fiance, actor Brett Dier, playing videogames and watching movies. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Richardson hasn’t lined up another film yet, but “After Yang”—directed by her “best friend,” Kogonada—is due out next year. The film follows a father and daughter as they try to save the life of their robotic family member.
“I miss working, acting, being on a set, being around people and the collaboration of it all,” she says. “I hear things are starting up. Shows are starting, and everyone’s taking precautions. I hope to work soon and feel that fulfillment.”
She hopes to visit Arizona soon, too, and “relax.”
“The vibe of Arizona is such a different experience,” she says. “I feel like the weight’s lifted off my shoulders. My fiance and I love Sedona. We love to hike, go swimming. I love swimming because even the pool is literally a hot tub. I love drinking wine, hiking and drinking more wine. That sounds pretty nice right now.
“It’s just magical. The desert in general is where I feel like I belong. I feel like, in another life, I was a Martian from Mars and the desert on Earth is the closest thing to that.”
Besides Sedona, she enjoys the restaurant Flower Child and the au gratin potatoes at Durant’s.
“They put freaking nutmeg in their cheese potatoes, and it changes everything,” she says. “As good as cheese and potatoes are together, add nutmeg and the possibilities are endless.”