When Dakota Johnson spoke to AOL Entertainment over the phone during a recent “Fifty Shades Freed” promotional tour stop in Paris, she began the conversation by bringing up the latest wild news story making headlines.
“Did you see this thing about Homeland Security papers being left on a plane?” she asked, referring to the Super Bowl anti-terrorism documents that were, well, left on a plane.
“I have,” I responded with a nervous laugh. “Reading the news between interviews, I assume?”
“Reading the news and also [thinking], What the f-ck is going on?” Johnson replied. “I think people are so freaked out by the world that they’re losing their minds — especially me.”
Au contraire! Throughout our interview, the actress could not have been more thoughtful, self-aware and open as she was. Johnson, unapologetic in her both her willingness to be picky about who she works with and her decision to largely forgo social media for the sake of her mental health, continues to learn more and more about herself and her abilities with every project she takes on, and that excites her.
And as she begins to look beyond the “Fifty Shades” franchise, Johnson will surely always be thankful for the opportunities that it’s given her, going so far as to tell us that she “wouldn’t have a career” without it.
Below, AOL Entertainment talks to Dakota Johnson about wrapping up the “Fifty Shades” film franchise, pushing herself to become an even better actress and her appreciation for her fans.
How does it feel to be wrapping up this era of your career?
Dakota: It’s pretty amazing. I feel very grateful and proud of these movies. I feel proud that we finished them. We got to the end, and I’m still alive and that is a win. [Laughs] I just feel kind of stoked, honestly. I’m happy, and I hope that the fans like the movie. I think the third one is really focused on making the fans happy, and that’s really important to me. They’ve given me the most incredible life. I’m excited to move forward and keep making movies — ones that maybe I don’t have to be naked in.
The fans of the “Fifty Shades” franchise are incredibly passionate and protective of this material. What’s it been like interacting with and hearing feedback from fans over the last several years?
Dakota: I can’t say that I interact and hear feedback much, because I don’t have social media, so I don’t really get that conversation which I think is really good for my mental health. I would not be able to handle that sort of critique and judgement. I’m such a private person that I just can’t vibe with that, but the thing that I experienced the most with the fans is their incredible support and their loyalty. It was truly amazing to me. The fact that they keep coming back to see the movies and being equally as excited about them is amazing. Without that, I wouldn’t have a career. I wouldn’t have the platform that I do.
What have you learned about yourself or your acting craft while working on the three “Fifty Shades” movies?
Dakota: I’ve learned so much. I’ve learned about the kinds of people that I want to work with and that, truly — with conviction and grace and self-worth — I can really make any one of my dreams come true with hard work. I’ve also learned that I don’t need to compromise myself or my self-worth for my dreams. I’ve learned that it’s okay to stand up for myself, even if that means that I’m not necessarily liked. That’s okay. I’ve learned that I don’t know the depths of my abilities or what my bounds are. There are no walls or cap on what I’m capable of doing. Every job I do, I’m surprised and I learn. I’ll never get used to this job, and I’ll never get bored of it or feel totally comfortable with it.
You said you learned that you don’t know the bounds of your own abilities. What’s something recently that you were able to do while filming that surprised you?
Dakota: I did this movie “Suspiria,” and I did 90% of my own dancing [in it], and that was an accomplishment. That was the kind of job that I was so terrified of in the three years that we were prepping it, that until the last day I was like, “I can’t do this, I can’t do this, I can’t do this,” until the last day when I said, “Okay, I did it.”
A lot happens in “Fifty Shades Freed.” There’s a marriage, a honeymoon, a new house, a kidnapping of a relative. How did you approach taking all of this on during filming?
Dakota: It is a lot. It’s so much. I don’t know [how I tackled it], because I didn’t choose what she goes through. Mostly, with each thing she faces, she makes a choice whether to be empowered or to just kind of lay down. 9 times out of 10, she chooses to be empowered. Maybe even 10 out of 10.