Strength, Power and Representation with Rachel Miner
When I sat down to talk with Rachel Miner last week, I was speaking with her for the first time. But it felt like reconnecting with an old friend. Rachel is an actress who formerly played Meg on Supernatural and is the Executive Director of the nonprofit Random Acts. Rachel was kind enough to sit down and chat with me about Random Acts, badass women, fandom and more and while we were at it we talked about Samantha Smith’s “Rise” campaign, (which you can read about here.) Check out our conversation below!
Nerds and Beyond: So, “Wayward Sisters” premiered just a few days ago. I know you have been a pretty vocal supporter of the movement, so I wanted to start with asking: what did you think of the episode, and given today is the Women’s March, how do you think “Wayward” will have an affect on women’s empowerment and vice versa?
Rachel: Well, for starters, I absolutely loved the episode. I loved not having the backstop of having to sexualize the women in this TV show – these characters are strong and they are standing on that strength, which is great. I have so much hope for this show and I can’t wait to see the characters grow on their own and in relation to each other. And there has been an awesome call and response between “Wayward” and “the real world.” They are each raising the bar for each other, and it just happened to hit at just the right time. But I want to make sure – we have to give credit to Riley (@rileyisokay) and Betty (@betty_days) for starting it all. They are really special people who aren’t afraid to stand up.
Nerds and Beyond: Not only has “Wayward” been a beacon for women’s empowerment, but it has also been a beacon for representation in many different ways. I know you’ve spoken in the past about representation, so what are your thoughts on the importance of representation not just on “Wayward” but in media in general?
Rachel: You know, we as humans take cues as to where we fit based on the outside world and media. When I started this new phase of my life [in a wheelchair], I felt as if I simply didn’t exist. Because as humans we have this odd habit of only believing something to be real if we have seen it before (like athletes who break records, once it’s broken everyone else seems to feel able to accomplish the same feat.) So yes, I didn’t feel like I could exist as this new version of Rachel. I didn’t want to be “the sick, dying, victimized girl” or even “the stoic, sad story that makes everyone one ugly cry at the end,” and I hadn’t seen other examples of how I should order my life now. It is just so very important that we have a diversity of lives and lifestyles represented so that hopefully each of us can find some patterns that resonate with us. And if there is enough of an assortment of lifestyles and pathways shown to us, perhaps we will feel more and more comfortable forging our own.
Nerds and Beyond: So, if you were to be on “Wayward Sisters,” what would you want your role to look like?
Rachel: The writers and producers’ visions exceed my own. Whatever I could come up with wouldn’t compare to what the writers are able to create. And I definitely do not expect anything when it comes to a spot on “Wayward-“
Nerds and Beyond: No, I know, but I mean I don’t expect anything and I still definitely imagine who I’d be in “Wayward…”
Rachel: (Laughs) That’s true… So that being said, I would love to keep Meg’s wit and intelligence, that’s something I loved about her, and I would love to be an example of disability on television. When I got sick, something changed in me and I didn’t want to go back to acting. I didn’t want to be the “disabled, sickly” character. I want to play a character where it’s just a different type of existing or strength. It’s just a story. And hopefully “Wayward” will be that place where those stories can play out, whether that’s with me or in some other way.
Nerds and Beyond: I want to shift a bit to the idea of “power.” Because I think power comes up a lot whether it’s on Supernatural or in politics or even in just day to day life and relationships. And, now you are in this position at this organization that is certainly using its power for good. So what are your thoughts on an individual’s power to affect big change?
Rachel: Well, for starters, Random Acts has been the most incredible experience of my life. Random Acts and Gishwhes and the SPNFamily have this ability to harness energy and a willingness to change the world and do incredible things. People are reimagining life and what it can be, and I don’t even have the words to describe how it makes me feel.
When it comes to Random Acts, one of the important points is there are large organizations that might try to tackle some of these entrenched problems in society in a very maybe successful but also top-down kind of way. I think this can sometimes leave people feeling like the problem is very much at a distance and maybe not something that we can tackle ourselves as individuals. So I think one of the beautiful things we get the opportunity to do with Random Acts is to connect people on a very personal level to the humanity of these situations and to the individuals who are affected and to how we as individuals can do something about any of these problems. I think one of the magical things we can do as an organization is we can really help form a community and a sense of hope that is far reaching all around the world but is much more real and tangible and active and not too distant and analytical. We never run the danger of situations and people just becoming numbers and concepts that aren’t tacklable. Individual power for big change is real. It’s magical to be a a part of and witness.
Nerds and Beyond: You mentioned before the power of the SPNFamily so I just want to touch on that and also fandom as a whole. What do you think is the power of fandom, especially with one as strong as the SPNFamily?
Rachel: The power of fandom is representative of the power we all have. It’s a unique outlier where we each support each other’s individuality. We embrace differences and passions and our unashamed pursuits of what we love. The rest of the world plays it safe, but in fandom we can take those masks off and it allows for a magic that is going to help change the world.
Nerds and Beyond: It sounds like you are maybe part of a few fandoms yourself – I actually know you are at least a Star Wars fan from your last interview with us. However, that was before The Last Jedi had come out, so I have to get an update. What did you think?
Rachel: I saw The Last Jedi three times. The significance of that is I’m someone who says “I don’t have time to pee!” and yet I loved it so much I managed to see it three times. It represented everything I love about Star Wars. I am a big nerd for history and philosophy and religion, and I think they did a good job referencing Buddhist lessons and texts which the philosophy behind the Jedi in Star Wars has always been based in. And I love the Rebellion and the strength and camaraderie that is shown there, and the vision to change things. Especially the female representation – Rey, Leia, Rose, Holdo, all showed true strength.
Nerds and Beyond: There’s something about that moment where Rey lifts the rocks using the Force in slow motion… It’s kind of like the “No Man’s Land” scene in Wonder Woman – it just makes me cry every time!
Rachel: Yes! It’s something about badass women in slow motion.
Nerds and Beyond: There should be a Facebook group just for this.
Rachel: There should! You know, sometimes across a day I kind of have dips in energy and inspiration but I try to always stay in that state of feeling really inspired and energized. And one of the tricks that I use is I will watch some of those scenes like the “No Man’s Land” scene periodically just to help me be imbued with that sense of inspiration and passion and that feeling that I can get through something or change something for the better. That is definitely one of those scenes that to me just represents that undaunted will to protect and do good, which speaks to my soul. I’ve cried so many times over that scene. I feel the same way with some scenes with Rey in Star Wars too where it’s unpolluted positive will and strength.
Nerds and Beyond: And here we are back to women and strength, where we started.
Rachel: But I think it makes sense because it’s all coming full circle in life, too. A lot needed to change, and for the first time it is.
Thank you, Rachel, for your kind and inspiring words. Find Rachel on twitter at @rachelminer1 and follow us at @nerdsandbeyond.