Dakota reprises her role as Anastasia Steele in Fifty Shades Darker, the sequel to the BDSM monumental hit, Fifty Shades of Grey (2015) based on the erotic novel of the same name in 2011 (penned by E.L. James) which sold over 125 million copies.
Johnson, 27, is the daughter of Melanie Griffith and Don Johnson. She is softly spoken, thoughtful, and despite her ‘wild’ image, she says she’s really a homebody at heart. She chats to MiNDFOOD about such diverse subjects as fame, architecture and being in the south of France at the time of the terrorist attack in Nice.
This is the second movie in the 50 Shades trilogy. What made it exciting and different this time?
Well, I feel like the first one we were setting up the story and setting up the characters and telling people who they are and what they are doing. And in this one, it was more about really kind of discovering Anastasia’s arc as a woman and also her sexual journey. She’s trying to figure out who she is and what she likes alongside this other person.
In a very short time you went from being an unknown actress to a movie star. Can you talk about these big changes in your life?
Well aside from the obvious, like me sitting in this room here with you, and traveling a lot, the thing that I have realised that has changed the most is that now I am in a position where I get to have constant conversations with the people I admire. I get to talk to them about the movies that they are making, I get to not only be in a room with filmmakers and actors that I have admired my whole life, but I get to conspire with them and talk to them about what we like and what we don’t like. And that is the biggest thing that has changed, that I am surrounded by brilliant people all the time.
You shot some scenes in Paris and I read that you were in the South of France at the time of the terrorist attack in Nice. What do you remember about that?
That was an incredibly devastating moment. And what’s bizarre is that I was driving from Cannes to Monte Carlo, and a few hours before we had driven through Nice and we were thinking whether to stop and have dinner but we decided to go back because I had to work very early and we had to shoot at 4 AM the next day. So then the terrorist attack happened and I had my little sister with me and I went into extreme momma bear protective mode. And it was mostly that I felt that we shouldn’t be there. I felt that we were invading a space that needed to grieve on its own. And I thought that we should have not shot that day. But then we found out that our entire French crew was safe and all of their families were safe and our crew was safe, everyone said that we should go back to work the next day and not let something like that stop us from doing our job or living our life, which I thought was incredibly powerful. And although it was heartbreaking for me, we went back to work and we finished the job.
You have some other interests outside acting, like architecture and dance. How involved are you in both of these fields at this period of your life?
Well, a lot with the architecture because I have been working on my house for about a year now, so that is taking up a lot of my time. And the ballet, not so much anymore because we finished filming. It’s not technically ballet. I don’t really know how to explain it, it’s expressionist dance from the 30s and 40s. It’s kind of opposite to ballet and it’s not necessarily pretty. (laughs)
What do you like about architecture?
I enjoy the history in it, but I have only just started learning more about it because I became obsessed with mid-Century houses and then found one that I loved and that was lucky enough to be able to buy it. And then just it’s more even mid-Century furniture designers and light fixtures and faucets and things. It’s in LA.
What’s your favourite room in your house?
I love cooking. I really, truly love cooking so much. And the kitchen in my house is actually hidden, so it’s like a little cove and it’s not really a hangout area. There’s not so much space, but I did pick a paint colour the other day called “Alligator Alley” and I am pretty proud of that. (laughs)
The film deals with issues of control and with the women’s movement going on at the moment, I was wondering, how do you balance control? Standing up for yourself and finding your voice with so many people trying to mould you?
That’s a great question. I have kind of realised recently that I kind of abstain from social media and trying to explain who I am to the world because I don’t feel that I need to explain who I am to anyone. And if there’s some sort of perception of me, then that’s what that is. My job is to be an actor and make movies and hopefully produce films and direct films, but it’s not to try and make sense to anyone.
If you look at the trilogy and exploring pain that Christian Grey experienced which made him who he is, can you talk a little about the healing power of love? Can love heal a person and in what way have you experienced that?
I do think that love can heal a person, even if it’s just a little bit. I’ve felt that when I come home from a project, and I have my best friends, who are my like heart and soul and they let me fall apart and they let me be messy and confused and exhausted. And that kind of love, I think that sort of acceptance, is very healing.
How important is music to you?
I grew up in a household where both my mom and my dad both have pretty exquisite tastes in music. And my two older brothers are musicians and my younger brother is a musician. So, I grew up having kind of a vast knowledge of music and constantly having it affect me. So then when I started working, they kind of just go hand in hand to me. And also when I see films and the music amplifies the story and you understand more about a character because of a song that is playing, it’s all one to me.
Do you play music when you read a script?
I am constantly playing music, always. I always have a record on or something. I listen to everything.This morning it was Bruce Springsteen. (laughs)