'Trinkets': Quintessa Swindell on Tabitha's Journey to Independence and the Powerful Finale (Exclusive)
By Philiana Ng
Spoiler alert! Do not proceed if you have not watched season 2 of Netflix's Trinkets. Here's what co-creators Amy Andelson and Emily Meyer had to say about the series finale.
One of the most compelling character arcs on Netflix's Trinkets has been Tabitha's journey. In the beginning, Tabitha was -- on paper, at least -- the archetypal high school girl from a wealthy family with all her ducks in a row. But as the series progressed, it became abundantly clear Tabitha's seemingly idyllic life, complete with a hotshot boyfriend (more on that later), a road map to success and popularity to boot, was simply just a facade.
Through her forever friendship with fellow kleptomaniacs Elodie (Brianna Hildebrand) and Moe (Kiana Madeira), Tabitha transformed into a woman who found her true happiness. And at the end of the series, kicked her insecurities and demons to the curb. In the powerful series finale, Tabitha and her friends banded together to publicly out the abuses she endured at the hands of her ex-boyfriend, star athlete Brady -- not for revenge, though that's part of it, but to give power to survivors' often-silenced voices.
It shouldn't be surprising Trinkets went there. Over the course of two seasons, the series has expertly explored LGBTQ identity, racism, kleptomania, abuse and blackmail. With Trinkets' run over, series star Quintessa Swindell, who identifies as non-binary, opens up in a candid interview with ET about filming the finale, Tabitha's roller-coaster journey to independence, why they're satisfied with the character ultimately choosing herself and saying goodbye to the series.
ET: Before we get into season 2, what drew you to Tabitha initially?
Quintessa Swindell: Originally, I was auditioning for a bunch of roles on the show, and it was fascinating because when I saw Tabitha, I was like, "Oh, a popular girl enduring an abusive relationship. Are they going to be able to give that one to me? Am I going to be able to do that justice and represent that onscreen the best I can?" In the beginning, I was trepidatious as far as my ability to get it in general, but out of all of the characters, Tabitha stood out to me the most -- just replicating some of the stories that my friends had gone through when we were all in high school. And it made the character so compelling. When I had gotten the role, I was extremely excited and thankful that Kiwi [Smith], the showrunners and our directors gave me the opportunity to do it. To this day, I'm still so thankful that they entrusted me with that to the fullest.
When we meet Tabitha in season 1, it becomes clear that she is in a toxic relationship with her boyfriend, Brady. What was challenging about getting into that mindset to portray that accurately?
What made it all the more easier is the writers and the people that we were closely working with whenever we would film those episodes. And honestly, [13 Reasons Why's] Brandon Butler [who plays Brady] did such a phenomenal job at communicating before we would have those scenes and us taking a moment on the side, just kind of talking through everything and talking through the points that we wanted to really get to on camera. Obviously, it was a little bit traumatic because any representation of abuse -- mental or physical -- on camera can be so unsightly, but I feel like there's a role that the actor has to play in visibly showing those things and showing the strength that a character has to get through it and in the process of enduring it. We wanted to make it as honest and as real as possible in its portrayal. Navigating all of that was a process, but we got through it, and hopefully, it represents well on camera.
At the end of the series, Brady gets his comeuppance with the stunning presentation in the high school cafeteria of the abuse he wrought on Tabitha. How powerful was that for you to be a part of and to see come together?
As writers, as directors, and as actors, or just as a person in general, we've all heard stories of people who have endured abuse, and so when it's finally our chance to display the visibility of it onscreen, there's a duty to do it the right way that we can. I feel like when the writers wrote that in, I was completely shocked. It was exciting to see them put everything together and to watch it unfold. I remember we were shooting something and we started to move over to another area, and they started setting up the cafeteria scene, and I was like, "Oh! It's going to look like this?" It was phenomenal. It was beautiful.
Honestly, for me, it was a little bit hard to look at sometimes because I'm like, "Damn." Young women, and a few of my friends where I grew up in Virginia, just having gone through experiences like that. It was such a beautiful way to portray the fact that no abusers should go unnoticed. There are repercussions someone should face who has actively participated in abusive practices. When they did that scene, I was so taken back. I'm hoping when people watch it, they really take that in and understand that no conversation should be less un-had [sic], and the trust that one has within their community to rise up for them is inspiring.
One of the main things that makes Trinkets special is the core friendship between Elodie, Moe and Tabitha. Even from the start, it was so unlikely that these three different personalities would coexist in the same world. Why do you think the main trio and their friendship really worked?
All of our personalities are a little bit similar to our characters. It was a treat just to see the representation visibly on a platform such as Netflix and by Awesomeness. But those aspects are what made the show so brilliant and so honest in this portrayal of high school kids because the trope of a high school student isn't a monolith. Neither are all our personalities or our experiences. So I feel like in some sort of way, that's actually what made the most sense and what brought the girls together even more because we are so different. A lot of the time with young students and everything, you can't really have a tribe unless everyone is similar, and for Trinkets, I feel like that really pummels that myth.
It's like, no, you can have a group of girls together or a group of people together and have them be different. That's what makes their friendship even more special because you're able to contribute to each other in completely different ways. You handle personalities in completely different manners, and everyone has their background of carrying out a situation because we've all grown up so differently. I thought that that made it so beautiful. But I'm so thankful that the creators let us all come together and really trusted that process and trusted the honesty of us and our uniqueness.
Switching gears to Tabitha's complicated romantic history. In the beginning of season 2, Tabitha seemed to be exploring something new with Luca (New Mutants' Henry Zaga). But he turned out to be an adult taking advantage of an impressionable teen. Did that surprise you at all?
Yeah, it was really interesting because when I read all of the stuff about Luca, I was so surprised and also so upset for Tabitha because, "Damn, this girl was just starting to take care of herself." But I think that eludes further to Tabitha's necessity of self-discovery, her strengths and her personhood. That situation, terrible as it may be, allowed her to understand that maybe she should start functioning a little bit on her own and find whatever she was looking for -- particularly in guys -- within herself and trusting herself to not have to depend on anybody else. Tabitha starts to understand the taboo, not only because of the situation she finds herself in, but also with the girls around her. Elodie starts that journey with herself and the situation with Sabine. And so does Moe in a way. Moe has so many things that go up against her this season. Every character is on their own journey of selfhood, so I feel like Tabitha really started that process after Luca left. Maybe even before in the first season with Brady, but it definitely gets the shine this season.
There was the possibility of Tabitha having something more with Moe's brother, Ben (Andrew Jacobs), but chose not to pursue that. Instead she chose herself, which is an incredibly powerful decision to decide to be alone. What did you make of that decision?
Yes! Oh my god, that's growth, honey. That's growth. I thought it was powerful. After Luca, Ben came into Tabitha and Moe's life, I was just like, "Girl, don't. No matter how nice the guy is, you're not in that place." And with the whole situation with her parents, I feel like relationships and marital statuses, all of those things are really put into perspective: What does it really mean to be an active and engaging romantic partner? With Ben, getting to know him, opening up and sharing so much about both their experiences and then sitting him down and being like, "Look, it's not you. It's me." And being honest, open and direct, that was something Tabitha has been playing at for a while now. "I'm a very strong, powerful young girl, and I can make decisions for myself," and that wasn't the case [for a while]. With this season, she really starts to move away from her parents and starts to find herself and find her voice, and that translated quite beautifully with the relationship with Ben.
The girls all chose their friendship over everything else, and I love the final scene on the beach. Was that the ending you envisioned or hoped for?
Yeah. I didn't know how they were going to tie everything together, but the way in which they did at the beach, I thought that was incredible. It was the most beautiful day to shoot. We went in late the night before and we shot all day the next day, but I have to say that entire moment was probably my favorite moment filming this season. It was just the connectiveness of the entire team together on this beach. I cried a bunch. I think we all did because it was the most satisfying ending any of us could have asked for. It was this relief, this letting go of all of these things that were holding us back.
Elodie, in particular, made that profound release of emotional baggage. Not forgetting about anything [with her late mother], but rather coming to terms with it. Moe was in a very special place and as was Tabitha, as all of them together contributed to that ending at the school. I couldn't have asked for [it to end] any other way. It's definitely a special moment, and you asking this question really makes me reminisce. I'm looking at a photo of us on this bridge, and I'm like, "Wow, you guys are great. I love them so much," but yeah, it was phenomenal. It was really beautiful.
We get a flash-forward at the end of the finale, where it's revealed Tabitha is doing great things as a photographer showing at an art gallery. Have you thought about where she ends up past that point?
Yeah, absolutely. There have been a few scenarios that pop into my head. From my perspective, Tabitha probably left Portland to go to a more robust city. I always pictured her moving to New York working at a gallery or as a gallery assistant. Her photography is thriving. Her closet is thriving. Her hair is on point, edges are laid. She's living. She's in a very beautiful place, but I think she's elsewhere.