Evan Rachel Wood has always been cool.
As a teen, she was the bad girl role model for a generation in Thirteen. When we were all obsessed with vampires, she was Louisiana’s Vampire Queen in True Blood. She’s a futuristic robot in the mindfuck that is Westworld. (Cool.) She’s been nominated for Golden Globes, Emmys, and SAG Awards, and has taken home a Critics’ Choice Award. (Very cool.) She’s a champion of bisexual visibility, mental health, and surviving sexual trauma. (Even cooler.) And recently, she helped extend the deadline for survivors of domestic violence to take legal action against their abusers. (Need I say it again? Fucking cool.)
For the record, Wood calls this assessment “disputable,” even though the day she spoke with MTV News, it was all thanks to the crown jewel of evidence: She is now, officially, a Disney queen, voicing Elsa and Anna’s mom, Queen Iduna, in Frozen 2.
Queen Iduna cuddles with Elsa and Anna in Frozen 2.
If ever there was a time to believe in fate and happily ever afters, it’s now. Like many of us, Wood grew up on Disney. As a child, she would stage productions of all her favorite Disney movies in the backyard — and she loved it so much that she put on a similar performance as an adult with her band, Evan + Zane. “No joke, two weeks before I got called to do an audition for Frozen, I had just gotten done doing a Disney cabaret,” she says. A month and a half later, as Wood was heading out to Disneyland for the day, she got the call that would serve as her coronation. So, Wood doesn’t even hesitate to say she feels qualified for the honor.
Still, there is something heart-stopping about this particular moment in time. “You train your whole life for this, but it is quite a moment when you walk into the sorcerer’s hat in Burbank and all of the artwork from all the Disney movies that have ever been made before you are on the walls,” she says. “And then you’re up against that mic, and this is it, this is your moment.”
Nerves be damned, Wood killed it, giving sweet life to the mother of the most beloved royal sisters in Disney’s library, and with an offering of a lullaby that hums throughout the heartbeat of Frozen 2. It’s just like Jennifer Lee, writer and co-director of Frozen 2 and Chief Creative Officer of Walt Disney Animation Studios, knew she would from the moment she auditioned. “In her voice, you could feel this nurturing, loving mother, but one who knew so much more,” Lee said during a press conference for the film. “I knew she carried so much more than she was revealing, and … we all looked at each other and were like, ‘Oh my god, she’s here.’”
Wood and bandmate Zane Carney perform “Part of Your World.”
But perhaps those nerves — unnecessary as they seem — are the reason Wood has a hard time admitting she’s cool: She still gets jitters, and nervousness is the exact opposite of coolness. “I always get scared still,” she says. “I just do it anyway. I don’t know what it is. My dad says it’s always been there.”
That’s her version of bravery, she says, following an ethos not unlike that of John Wayne, Carrie Fisher, and probably a lot more famous people who did Big Things, all of whom at one point preached the relationship between fear and courage. “But I also,” she qualifies, “have a really hard time not being myself, and any time I’ve tried not to do it, I have a very violent reaction.”
To avoid that reaction, Wood has learned to notice what people crave — what she craves — and kick that door down. Others will follow, that’s a comfort she’s sure of, “because my truth is a lot of people’s truths,” Wood says. “They just need somebody that has a spotlight on them to use it to say, ‘Hey, you’re not alone, and I’m up here, which means you could be up here.’” Case in point: her 2017 Golden Globes look, a tuxedo, which was an extremely newsworthy choice for a woman at the time. (Plus, she laughs, there’s an added bonus to being bold in Hollywood: “Sometimes the film world can get a little stuffy, and so I try to ruffle their feathers a little bit.”)
Wood has grown her confidence bit by bit, slowly convincing herself over time that authenticity is a cornerstone of her path. The more she shared — about her sexuality, about her mental health, about her history with sexual assault — the easier it’s gotten to share. “People surprised me,” she says. We all walk around so afraid of each other, so afraid of our truths, that it’s become so easy to forget how much compassion we’re all capable of showing one another. Yes, Wood has felt some hate; overwhelmingly, she’s felt love.
She hopes everyone can feel empowered to lean into their fears. That’s how progress moves from the micro into the macro. “It’s speaking truth to power even when you don’t know how that’s going to be received,” she says. “There are no guarantees, and you’re going to have to fight for that truth, especially if it’s a new truth.”
Wood speaking at the 2019 Women’s March in Los Angeles.
Wood has recently taken her fight to the next level. Working with California State Assembly member Eduardo Garcia, State Senator Susan Rubio, and a small team of fellow survivors, she saw the Phoenix Act, a bill she fostered from inception through the entire legislative process, signed into law. Starting in 2020, California survivors of domestic violence will have more time to take legal action against their aggressor, offering a much more scientifically and humanly appropriate approach to process the trauma and build the strength to come forward than the previous three-year statute of limitations. This time, Wood wasn’t just speaking her truth; she was speaking on behalf of a lot of people’s truths. The responsibility weighed on her, and she was really, really scared. True to form, she did it anyway.
“Everything’s not perfect. I have days where I’m completely overwhelmed and anxious and don’t know how I’m going to get out of bed,” she says. “But I do know, because of what I’ve been through, the resilience of the human spirit, and now, no matter how hard things get, I know that it’s only temporary; that everything is temporary.”
As cool and together as she is, Wood is still making peace with herself. Her life hasn’t exactly gone according to plan. She thought her 2012 wedding to Jamie Bell would be the start of her happily ever after, giving her the life she’d dreamt of since she was a little girl. And it was, for a little bit, until 19 months later when they announced their separation, making Wood a single mom of a 1-year-old.
That forced recalibration wasn’t part of her fantasy, though she sees now that it was a necessary piece to become who she is now, 2019 Evan Rachel Wood: Disney queen, legislative ingenue, perpetual truth-teller, cool as hell, and unabashedly afraid.