Will Ferrell’s New Documentary Educated Him on the Trans Community: “This Was All New Territory For Me”

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Summary

  • Will Ferrell’s new documentary Will & Harper explores his 30-year friendship with Harper Steele, who came out as transgender in 2022.
  • Ferrell had “zero knowledge” of the trans community before Steele’s transition, and hopes the film will spark questions and allow the cis community to listen and learn.
  • While Ferrell didn’t want to exploit their friendship, he saw Steele’s transition as a chance to explore transgenderism and have a rational conversation about the subject.


Will Ferrell is embracing the transgender community in the new documentary by Josh Greenbaum, Will & Harper, which makes its premiere at the Sundance Film Festival this week in Park City, Utah. The film centers on the relationship between Ferrell and his longtime friend of 30 years, Harper Steele, who came out as transgender in 2022. Ferrell met Steele during their time together on Saturday Night Live, where he performed from 1995-2002, and she served as a writer from 1995-2008.

Speaking to Variety to promote the new documentary, Ferrell spoke about how Steele came out to her friends, making reference to an email he received three summers ago. The actor/comedian said everyone was supportive of her, but the news begged the question, “How can we help you?” Check out Ferrell’s comments below:

“It was three summers ago in which Harper emailed a lot of her close friends with the headline: ‘Here’s a Weird One.’ She went on to explain she was going to transition and we were all of course excited to hear the news and surprised to hear the news. All of us were extremely supportive and expressed love…but that sort of opened the questions like, how can we help you? What do you need us to do?”

The news of Steele’s transition sparked the idea for Will & Harper, a documentary that sees Ferrell and Steele embark on a road trip across America to chronicle this new stage in their friendship. The official synopsis for the film is as follows:

“When Will Ferrell finds out his close friend of 30 years is coming out as a trans woman, the two decide to embark on a cross-country road trip to process this new stage of their relationship in an intimate portrait of friendship, transition, and America.”

Before Steele came out as transgender to her friends, Ferrell says he had “zero knowledge” of the trans community. He would go on to say that while he had met transgender people before, he didn’t have anyone close to him personally that he could ask questions of. He’s hoping that Will & Harper will spark questions, but even moreso allow the cis community to just listen:

“I had met trans people, but I didn’t have anyone personally in my life. So this was all new territory for me, which is why I think this film is so exciting for us to kind of put out there in the world. It’s a chance for all of us in the cis community to be able to ask questions and also just to listen and be there as a friend to discuss this journey.”

Related: BBC Responds to Complaints Over Doctor Who’s “Inappropriate” Transgender Character


Will Ferrell Didn’t Want to “Exploit” His Friendship With Harper Steele

Will Ferrell and Harper Steele in an interview with The Hollywood Reporter.
YouTube

The 56-year-old Ferrell, who recently appeared in Greta Gerwig’s Barbie as the CEO of Mattel, also sat down with Harper Steele for an interview with The Hollywood Reporter to promote Will & Harper. Upon getting the idea for the documentary, he made it clear to Steele that while he didn’t want to exploit their friendship, he saw her transition as a wonderful opportunity to explore transgenderism, and ask a lot of questions. The pair are hopeful that the film will show others that a rational conversation can be had on the subject:

“Of course, I made it clear to Harper that I don’t want to exploit our friendship, but this could be a wonderful way to explore this topic. Obviously for me to learn, and ask all the questions that I have about what you’re going through, and who you are…eventually we landed on the same square that if we could actually get someone to film it, maybe it would be something that people would watch, and give them a different perspective, or just show off that two people can have a conversation about this.”

Will & Harper makes its premiere at the 2024 Sundance Film Festival on Monday, January 22. Ferell, Steele, and director Josh Greenbaum are hoping the documentary will find a distributor, which will in turn bring it to the masses. In the meantime, you can watch their interview with The Hollywood Reporter below.

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