By Devan Coggan
December 13, 2019 at 02:03 PM EST
Hilary B. Gayle/Lionsgate
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Margot Robbie might have followed you on Twitter, and you didn’t even know it.

The 29-year-old actress stars in Bombshell as Kayla Pospisil, a chirpy conservative news junkie who works at (and worships) Fox News. So to better understand Kayla and her fanaticism, the Australian Robbie created an anonymous Twitter account and followed as many young, right-wing American women as she could find.

“I didn’t grow up watching Fox News, and I didn’t grow up in the same place as [Kayla]… I was struggling to understand that point of view for a while, and Twitter ended up being the most useful tool,” Robbie explains. “Because people are extremely vocal on Twitter.”

Much of Bombshell is based in fact: Jay Roach’s drama chronicles the downfall of news titan Roger Ailes (John Lithgow), whom multiple Fox employees accused of sexual harassment (allegations Ailes denied until his death in 2017). Charles Randolph’s script can be both humorous and unflinching, following some of Fox’s most famous female faces as they grapple with their own experiences with Ailes — including then headliner Megyn Kelly (Charlize Theron) and former Fox & Friends cohost Gretchen Carlson (Nicole Kidman). Theron is uncanny as Kelly, while Kidman plays Carlson with a steely resilience — but perhaps most affecting is Robbie’s role as Kayla, a fictional composite character inspired by several of Ailes’ anonymous accusers.

“Kayla is an amalgamation of many women’s stories, and some of the specifics you see in scenes with her are taken from real-life interactions those women experienced,” says Robbie. Kayla begins the film as a loyal foot soldier in Ailes’ army, seeing Fox as not just an employer but part of a larger crusade to shape American morals. Her faith fades, however, once she’s subjected to sexual advances.

Hilary B. Gayle/Lionsgate

Robbie herself has spoken out against harassment in Hollywood before, joining others in the wake of the #MeToo movement, but she admits making Bombshell opened her eyes to how insidious — and hard to define — it can be. “I felt like I’ve done nothing but talk about sexual harassment in the workplace, and I thought that I had a pretty comprehensive understanding,” she says. But Bombshell showed her that even victims of sexual harassment don’t always recognize it — and an unspoken culture of silence can help perpetuate it.

Robbie empathetically traces Kayla’s journey from wide-eyed believer to uncertain skeptic. It’s new emotional territory for the actress, yet falls in step with her career goal to tackle surprising, diverse roles (like Sharon Tate in Quentin Tarantino’s summer smash Once Upon a Time…in Hollywood and pigtailed hell-raiser Harley Quinn in 2020’s Birds of Prey). Getting inside Kayla’s head was a new kind of challenge, she notes, but a welcome one — even if it meant spending hours on Twitter trying to understand unfamiliar politics.

“The homework part was difficult,” Robbie says. “But the emotional side was difficult in a different kind of way.” Some things are perhaps best learned offline.

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