The Recruit Star Fivel Stewart Can’t Be Tied Down to One Genre

The actress, who came to prominence with roles in Umma and Atypical, brings a different dynamism to the new Netflix spy thriller.

by Patrick Sproull

A portrait of Fivel
Photograph by Dean Bradshaw

Every spy thriller needs something real to cling onto. For all the spectacle and bombast of the genre, the characters are ultimately what compel the viewer. In Netflix’s zippy new thriller series, The Recruit, Fivel Stewart is perfectly happy to be that real, tangible human connection. She plays Hannah, the long-suffering roommate and onetime love interest of Noah Centineo’s Owen. As Owen, a novice CIA lawyer, finds himself plunged headlong into a dangerous international mission, Hannah remains at home to pick up the pieces in his wake.

Stewart­—who rose to prominence playing Izzie in Netflix’s Atypical and Chris in the Sandra Oh-led horror Umma—spoke to W over Zoom from Montreal, where she’s filming the Fox procedural drama, Alert. Coincidentally, it’s the same city where she shot The Recruit last year. Ahead of the series premiere on Netflix, Stewart spoke about Hannah’s arc across the season, her ambitions to dip into every genre, and why Pinterest will always be her favorite social media platform.

Was the spy genre something you were keen to dive into?

Never. I don’t want this to sound negative, but it was probably one of the last genres I would look to being involved in. But now that I see The Recruit onscreen, I do sense an eagerness I never thought I would feel about doing something action-packed. I think, though, the trajectory of my career after The Recruit has its beautiful life, and I look forward to doing genres that are my taste.

What genres are those?

Storylines that really speak to the audience. Atypical had such beautiful storytelling. It met so many people’s hearts and it represented so many people who weren’t comfortable with themselves and now they’re flourishing because of it.

Maybe I want to do every genre. I’ve never really looked at [my career] like that. Alert is more of a procedural, which I never imagined myself doing. Atypical was more heartfelt. Umma was a horror. Roar was adventure. And The Recruit is spy.

In The Recruit, it does feel like Hannah and Owen are at a very different place in their relationship by the end of the season. How can you see that relationship progressing if the show continues?

One thing I wanted to make clear throughout the season was that Hannah wasn’t just still in love with him, she really cared for him. I was hoping it would be clear Owen felt the same way and I think, in the end, you can see that. So, in future seasons, if there are any, I hope their relationship is a healthy one, that there are respected boundaries, that they’re both at a mutual understanding of where they are. In life, there are a lot of relationships like Owen’s and Hannah’s, where one is still in love with the other, but they’re friends. I’d hope that relationship can be clearer.

Onto the Social Qs questions. How has your relationship with social media changed over the years?

How I feel about social media is back and forth, hot and cold. I didn’t have an Instagram when Atypical came out—I was very against it, and then it came out and everyone was like, “You’ve got to get an Instagram.” But I’ve never allowed myself to get obsessed with it. When I’m alone, I do find myself scrolling unnecessarily and then I’m like, “Okay, stop, this is unhealthy.”

I do try to use my platform for inspiration and positivity. The people I follow are the people I am currently hanging out with, or else it’s meditation, cooking, or fashion-related accounts. I don’t follow anything that’s not going to be food for my brain. I don’t think [social media] is necessary, but at the same time, I’m 26—I like to keep in touch with my friends over Instagram and send funny memes.

Your Atypical character, Izzie, and her girlfriend, Casey, garnered a very large following. How have you interacted with the fan base?

Playing Izzie and having the whole “Cazzie” fan base is just one of the best things that’s ever happened to me. I love their drawings; I love what they have to say. In Montreal, it’s happened the most where people come up to me [and say] “You’ve helped me so much through my life and coming out.” Playing Izzie has been one of the most eye-opening experiences of my life and has really locked down that this is what I want to do.

Do you have a favorite platform?

Is Pinterest a platform?

Google says it is, so yes.

Okay, great. I am definitely a Pinterest hoe. I love looking up vibes for my house. If I’m bored, it’s Pinterest for skincare routines, for recipes, for cooking. I go on Pinterest more than I go on Instagram.

Do you have any social media pet peeves?

Filters. They’re fun, but an 11-year-old shouldn’t be looking at that and getting disappointed with what they look like in real life.

How do you unplug?

When I was 19 or 20, I had less worries in my life, so I could decompress a lot easier. That looked like stretching every night before I went to bed—I never missed a night for, like, a year—and focusing on what I was eating. I was chanting for a while. I wrote a lot. I prayed constantly. Now that I’m 26, I’ve lost sight of that because there’s so much more in my head. And with social media, there’s so much more that I feel I need to live up to. These days, decompressing looks like trying to go back to those roots; it’s writing, reading, stretching, working out, and taking care of my body, whatever form that takes.