Will Ferrell didn’t know what the next path was in his decades-long friendship with Harper Steele, but he was determined to document each step of the way.

The actor, who first connected with writer Steele on “Saturday Night Live,” explained to IndieWire’s Chris O’Falt during the IndieWire Studio at Sundance, presented by Dropbox, how Steele coming out as a trans woman affected their relationship. In short: it didn’t.

Ferrell and Steele’s friendship in part contributed to Ferrell even being on “SNL” in the first place.

“The early days of ‘SNL,’ I was feeling a little shy. But Harper and I had a lunch in which she kind of got to see my funny side and we connected on a human level. She reported back to them, ‘He’s actually funny!’” Ferrell said of his casting.

However, even after so many years of knowing each other, Steele shared that she had a very “scary moment” sending Ferrell a letter explaining being a trans woman.

“You don’t know how people are going to react,” Steele said. “My relationship with Will is very important. We do speak the same comedy language, and that is where we connected so hard. So I didn’t want to lose that.”

She added, “Will was immediately like, ‘I support you and let’s talk about this at some point.’”

That “point” became documentary “Will & Harper,” which Ferrell produces. The duo set out on a cross-country road trip together to discuss not only their friendship but also the state of the U.S., where anti-trans bills are being passed in multiple states.

“Every day can be, for anyone who is trans in the world, you really just have to take on the day and be comfortable with who you are,” Ferrell said. “The film was a chance for me to see what happened with my friend, or if anything had changed. It was a chance for us to take 17 days on the road, one-on-one, to really kind of dig deeper than just our friendship being in comedy as collaborators, and for me to kind of ask all the questions that I had with my friend who was the first trans person who I had intimately known.”

Steele noted that despite not liking being on camera, making “Will & Harper” proved to her how more accepting the average person is, regardless of whether they live in a red or blue state.

“As a trans woman, the political side of the movie, I projected a lot of fear on my country,” Steele said. “I went out there as a trans woman expecting what our media and what politicians are telling us, which is very hyped up. And what we met out there on the road was that Americans by and large either are not confrontational and don’t give an eff about me, or they are happy to talk about it. Thankfully I found that with help, and not everyone gets help, but I was able to find that. There is still danger out there, absolutely. But I just had to balance that fear with a certain reality that gave me more hope for being in that place that I love, which is all over the country.”

Check out the full interview above.

The 2024 Sundance Film Festival runs January 18 to 28, with festival talks taking place January 19 to 26. See all the videos published so far from the IndieWire Studio at Sundance, presented by Dropbox, here.

Dropbox supports and champions independent makers, crews, and teams behind the camera who bring their unique perspectives to life at the Sundance Film Festival. We’re proud that over 60% of films at the 2024 Sundance Film Festival leveraged Dropbox in their filmmaking process.It takes a monumental effort for film projects to go from ideation to completion, and Dropbox is dedicated to helping filmmakers get their projects across the finish line faster. Filmmakers used Dropbox as one organized homebase to keep video files secure, to remotely collaborate with teams around the world, and to get real-time video feedback with Dropbox Replay.

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