Why 'Palm Springs' Star Cristin Milioti is Grateful to Focus on Activism During Quarantine
"I wouldn't be able to be as active as I'm being, or be as informed as I am, because I just wouldn't have time."
As we approach month five of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic and the one-month anniversary of George Floyd’s death, many aspects of normal life still feel unsettling. For Cristin Milioti, that includes promoting her new movie Palm Springs, out on Hulu July 10th. Although the actress is proud of the sci-fi rom com—which broke the record for Sundance’s biggest sale ever, BTW—right now, she wants to use her voice to talk about the Black Lives Matter movement. Rather than using her Instagram to hype up the movie, in which she stars alongside Andy Samberg, Milioti’s focusing on posting petition links, providing educational resources, and endorsing political candidates. However, the former How I Met Your Mother star admits that she would likely not be as politically involved if the pandemic hadn’t shut down Hollywood—and in turn, her everyday life.
Among socially-distant yard hangouts and lots of FaceTime chats with friends and family, Milioti has used her extra time in isolation—the “silver lining of quarantine,” as she calls it—to take a deep dive into educating herself on the systemic racism faced by Black people in the U.S. However, like many other white Americans, Milioti has been grappling with the fact that she didn’t recognize her privilege—or use it to fight for change—sooner. “I’m sitting in this shame of, ‘Oh my god, how could I have not done more until now?’” she reflects.
The 34-year-old, best known for playing HIMYM’s titular character and starring alongside Leonardo DiCaprio in The Wolf of Wall Street, has been an activist for other causes like women’s rights and the climate crisis in the past. But she confesses that until recently, she didn’t prioritize involvement in the Black Lives Matter movement. At the time of our conversation, she was in the midst of reading Robin DiAngelo’s White Fragility, which examines why white people struggle to confront racism. Milioti says the book helped make it clear to her that ending the injustices Black people in our country face is everyone’s responsibility.
“This is all of our cause,” the actress says now. “We all have to stand up, chip in, and take action.”
To do her part, Milioti has joined protests in LA throughout this month and plans on attending as many more as she can while the entertainment industry is still on hold. “I want to offer up my body, because police aren’t going to be brutal to me in the way they would be to a Black person,” she explains. “I feel like it’s my duty to be there to help enact the change that I want to see and be a part of.”
Even though Milioti admits she has a “hateful relationship” with social media (Instagram makes her “extremely anxious”), she says she can’t wrap her brain around a world where she wouldn’t be filling her Instagram feed with BLM resources right now.
As she continues to do this work, she’s also learning to confront her own flaws and tackle them head-on, as difficult as that process can be. “I’ve learned to sit in discomfort and breathe through it,” Milioti says. It’s a much different strategy than what Sarah, her Palm Springs character, would employ; the protagonist is not exactly a prime example of working through issues healthily. But when the movie’s Groundhog Day-esque plot causes Sarah to have no other choice but to relive one of the worst days of her life, she’s forced to no longer avoid her issues.
Just like Sarah, many of us, including Milioti, have been spurred by isolation and the protests to take a hard look at ourselves and each other. We’ve realized it’s time to stop ignoring the broken systems that exist in our country and work towards change—even when it’s hard, as the star can attest. Although she calls her mental health “an ever-evolving journey,” Milioti says she’s feeling a mix of emotions these days, from anger to remorse to passion, but one trumps all: optimism.
“I feel so much shame that it has taken me this long to get involved, but I’m extremely hopeful,” she says. “After seeing how much has been accomplished, it’s unforgivable that it took yet another murder of a Black man in broad daylight, but change is happening. This feels different.”