Lucy Hale on 'A Nice Girl Like You' and telling sex-positive stories in 2020

The 31-year-old actress talks about dating rumors, how female sexuality informs her work and auditioning for "Fifty Shades of Grey."
In her new film, "Nice Girl Like You," Lucy Hale plays a character with a sexual to-do list.
In her new film, "Nice Girl Like You," Lucy Hale plays a character with a sexual to-do list.Photo Illustration/Getty Images

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/ Source: TODAY
By Alexander Kacala

Lucy Hale's resume working in television and movies shows a roster of diverse characters.

From "Pretty Little Liars" to the recently canceled "Katy Keene," she's played characters who are fierce, smart and not afraid to defy gender norms.

In her new film, "A Nice Girl Like You," her character, also named Lucy, creates a to-do list to try and combat her own prohibitive nature when it comes to sex and relationships.

"I'm a list maker in general but I've never made a sex to-do list myself," Hale told TMRW. "But, you know, in the movie we actually went to a strip club and we actually went through a sex convention. And so I actually got to cross some of those things off my own list.

"Your sexuality should be empowering," the 31-year-old continued. "I think that women should not shy away from that. We should all be able to openly talk about those things in public without feeling any shame or embarrassment. We should just own it and let it empower us."

TMRW had the opportunity to chat with Hale about the importance of sex positivity, why the media seems obsessed with her story about auditioning for "Fifty Shades of Grey" and how she deals with pervasive rumors surrounding her own dating life.

"I would say that women are supposed to be quiet about certain things and polite about certain things and that it can be perceived as brash to talk about your sex lives. And it can be a little aggressive for some people, but I always found that silly."Edward Berthelot / GC Images

TMRW: How do you relate the character of Lucy in "A Nice Girl Like You"?

LUCY HALE: I don't want to call her naive ... she's very well-educated but she's a little sheltered when it comes to her personal life and her sex life. And she hits her rock bottom and goes through a really bad breakup and she realizes that she needs to go through this path of self-discovery to figure out the kind of person she wants to be and the kind of person she wants to be in a relationship.

So she ends up making this really wild sex to-do list, and she plans on checking each of these things off of her list. And throughout the movie, she discovers who she is through her sexuality. I do kind of relate to Lucy in that way. I don't think I'm as sheltered as she is and I definitely wouldn't go and make a sex list like this. But the reason I wanted to do the movie is because you don't really see female characters doing things like this. Usually it's men in movies and I thought there was a lot of really cool, sex-positive ideas within the script for a female character.

"My mom was a labor and delivery nurse, so we lived in a household where we just openly talked about things."

T: Where do you think a lot of that hesitation comes from or that anxiety and that fear to tell these stories?

LH: It's hard to pinpoint when, as people, we stop talking about our sex lives openly. I would say that women are supposed to be quiet about certain things and polite about certain things and that it can be perceived as brash to talk about your sex lives. And it can be a little aggressive for some people, but I've always found that silly. Our sexuality and our sexual lives and our personal lives, that makes us so much of who we are. I mean, our sexuality is, I would say like 90% of who we are.

It's how we interact with people, the decisions we make. I've always kind of been an open book about those things. My mom was a labor and delivery nurse, so we lived in a household where we just openly talked about things. It's hard to say why people are almost embarrassed about it because we all do it. We all think about it.

T: As somebody in the media, how do you fight that stigma?

LH: It's cool that I can kickstart different conversations that some people might be a little too hesitant to talk about. We're in a time where we need to embrace these things about ourselves and sort of take back the power that's been repressed for a long time. For me, that's just getting the conversation started. And then that was one of the really cool things about this movie is that I knew people would be like, "Oh, this is different for Lucy and especially for a female character." And, like I said, you just don't really see it that much.

"I mean, our sexuality is, I would say like 90% of who we are."Jordan Strauss / AP

T: Has there ever been like an experience where you were working on a project and something came up where there was some sort of inherit bias against the topic because it was deemed too sexual or inappropriate?

LH: I mean, all the time. In film there's way more liberty to do those things. But most of my work has been in TV and most of my work has been on teen dramas. So I always found it interesting that the more sexual scenes on TV for men, they let them push it. But for women, you always had to have a tank top on or we always had to tone it down a little bit. I always found that it was the women they wanted to tone down, whereas they were sexualizing the men more often, which I thought was really interesting. Because in TV already, all of the the sex scenes are just totally not realistic in general.

"But as far as dating life, I'll never, ever talk about that again in public... probably."

T: As a celebrity, how do you reconcile what you keep private and what you make public, especially when it comes to sex and dating?

LH: When I was younger, I used to care about everything that was being said or care about who people thought I was dating. And I would post pictures of who I was dating. I'm just not that person anymore. If there are rumors out there about me that are not true ... I don't say anything. I don't buy into it because if you buy into it, it kind of feeds your life. And that's not who I am or what I'm about anymore. I love what I do and I love the art of what I do and I love creating things with people, but the whole celebrity thing is just weird and creepy to me. I really find it strange that we care who people are dating. There's a lot of other things we could be focusing on.

But that being said, I do love being involved with the people who support me. So I'm very active on my social media and interacting with my fans. I'll post pictures of my dog and my nieces and stuff, but as far as dating life, I'll never, ever talk about that again in public ... probably.

T: A few sound bites of you have been circulating (again) when you chatted about auditioning for the lead role in "Fifty Shades of Grey." Why do you think the media loves latching onto this narrative?

LH: Yeah. It's so funny. Because, like I said, it's just about every time I talk about it, it does seem to make headlines more so than other things I talk about. That just goes to show that women being sexual or talking about sexuality, especially in a movie, it's still so taboo and controversial and we still have a ways to go. Because if that were a man talking about it like that, it wouldn't be given the time of day. But I think because maybe I have a cleaner image and I'm talking about my sexuality, maybe it's the contrast of those two things that makes it interesting to people. But I don't know. I mean that, that audition in general was just an interesting one for me ...

T: What did you learn most about yourself while making this film?

LH: I realized because the first time I read the script, I was a little uncomfortable reading it too because it is, you know, there are some very forward ideas and messages. And so that was another reason why I wanted to do that because I was like, no, this is definitely going to push me out of my own comfort zone, too, because I can be sometimes on the timid side about those things. So for me, it was just freeing as an actor to get to talk about certain things that I don't feel are talked about enough.