Comedian Will Ferrell and his friend of 30 years, Harper Steele, are getting high praise for their road trip documentary Will & Harper. Currently, the film is at the Sundance Film Festival seeking distribution, and the duo has been chatting with journalists about their friendship journey, which started back on Saturday Night Live and was only strengthened several years ago when Steele revealed that she was transitioning.
Ferrell and Steele both joined SNL back in 1995; Ferrell was a new cast member, and Steele was in the writing room. They quickly became friends and collaborated on material that played to their quirky sensibilities long after Ferrell left the show. “If you’ve ever scratched your head and said, ‘Why did Will Ferrell make that?'” Ferrell shared, “there’s a good chance that [she] was involved.”
Shortly after the pandemic, Steele sent out an email titled “Here's a Weird One,” to let her circle of friends know that she was transgender. Ferrell was immediately supportive but also recognized that he had a lot to learn. So he suggested to his friend, who loves road trips, that they set out together on a 17-day voyage across the U.S. Luckily for us, they brought cameras.
The result, Will & Harper, is being hailed as a film that will save lives and it received a standing ovation during its Sundance premiere that left Ferrell with tears in his eyes. What makes the film so special is that it shows two friends willing to grow together and learn from each other. Steele was worried that Ferrell would view her differently now and that their friendship dynamic might change. Ferrell wanted to reassure his friend that he supported her but also wanted to be able to ask questions.
When asked during a Variety event about how much knowledge he had of the trans community at the time, Ferrell was quite honest.
“Baseline knowledge? Zero,” he answered. “I know I'd met trans people before, but I didn’t have anyone personally in my life, so this was all new territory for me, which is why I think this piece is so exciting for us to kind of put out there in the world. Because I think it’s a chance for all of us in the cis community to be able to ask questions that—I know for me it was a chance to ask questions. And also, just to listen and be there as a friend to discuss this journey.”
It's clear that the public agrees, with responses to Ferrell's comments pouring in on X, formerly Twitter. People were quick to praise his willingness to not only admit his ignorance, but to learn, particularly as his questions were rooted in kindness and love. Others applauded the actor using his star power to shine a light on trans issues, and hoped that it would be a positive example of others in positions of power.
With the positive feedback Will & Harper has received, here's hoping that it will get picked up for wider distribution so that even more people can learn from—and laugh along with—Ferrell and Steele's heartwarming friendship.
Will & Harper is a heartwarming documentary that follows comedian Will Ferrell and his close friend Harper Steele on a road trip shortly after Steele opened up to her friend about transitioning.
Will Ferrell is being lauded for his honesty in admitting his ignorance about the trans community, but his willingness to grow.
I love this because he's showing it's ok to admit ignorance if it comes with being willing to learn. Did not have Will Farrell unexpected Trans advocate on my bingo card but isn't it nice to be pleasantly surprised for once too? https://t.co/hxNzS7PWl5
— Dr Emily Garside (@EmiGarside) January 23, 2024
Something I love about what Will Ferrell is doing here is not just being an ally as best he knows how, but admitting that he didn't have any knowledge and expressing a willingness and desire to learn as a friend.
It's nice to see a bit of good news rooted in kindness. https://t.co/xaHxi9uVrS
— Ianus J. Wolf (@IanusJWolf) January 24, 2024
This is so heart warming. We need more big allies like this that are willing to learn and use their platforms to educate https://t.co/oLf0eFqLUl
— Mike (They/Them) (@_MxMike) January 23, 2024
See the full interview from the Variety event at the Sundance Film Festival, where the film is seeking distribution.