When she was growing up, Margaret Qualley — the actress known best for Maid and, most recently, Poor Things — was the type of kid who would break into little dances to entertain her family during TV commercial breaks. Now that she’s grown up, she still does it — just with a more selective audience. “I wouldn’t do it in front of everybody, but with [my husband]? Sure,” she tells Rolling Stone, laughing. “I’m like, ‘What do you think of this?’ — like a precocious child.”
That feeling of comfort and the need to move inspired the new video she made for Bleachers‘ “Tiny Moves,” which Qualley choreographed, co-directed, and starred in. Bleachers, of course, is her hubby Jack Antonoff‘s band, and Qualley sees the clip as an affirmation of their love — and it’s timed perfectly since the couple got married last August, a few weeks after the video shoot.
“I just love dancing and wanted to make up a dance for one of Jack’s songs on his next album,” she says. “This song was just really poppy and fun, and it was so fun to dance to.” When she started thinking about it as a music video, the simplest storyline had Antonoff watching her tiny moves as she danced until the sun came up. “I kind of wanted it to feel like a love letter to Jack and something that I’d want to show the kids one day,” she says.
In the clip for the song, which will appear on Bleachers (out March 8), Qualley, dressed in a vintage white dress, walks along the Hudson River waterfront, with Manhattan shimmering in the background, until she finds a spot on the pavement in front of a car’s headlights. That’s when the upbeat drums and synths come in, and Antonoff sings, “The tiniest moves you make, the whole damn world shakes.” And then she literally shakes. “I wanted to make something that doesn’t look too performative,” she says. “It’s not like doing a big battement or pirouettes or something. It’s a dance that anybody could do.”
She contorts, spins, and arches her back to the beat, falling backward and kicking her head in a one-woman chorus line to “whoa’oa’oa.” Antonoff just stays James Dean cool, leaning against the car, until dawn breaks and the couple comes together for a tender moment — their bodies tell the story of the song.
Qualley, who has a background in dance, created her own choreography for the video. “I did a lot of PR for myself [early on] where I said I was a ballerina because I think it sounds so classy, but the reality is I’m more of a competition-style dancer,” she explains, referencing the hit show So You Think You Can Dance as her type of dancing. “I grew up in dance competitions, and I did do a lot of ballet, but I wasn’t trying to figure out how to make a career out of it.”
The biggest inspiration for her moves in “Tiny Moves” is Bob Fosse, the late choreographer who won Tony awards and nominations for Damn Yankees, The Pajama Game, and Chicago and who directed the film version of Cabaret. In the 2019 miniseries Fosse/Verdon, which depicted the tumultuous relationship between Fosse and his wife, Gwen Verdon, Qualley portrayed dancer Ann Reinking, and the experience rekindled her love for his approach to dance. “He’s the ultimate reference, both for choreography and cinematic style,” she says. “But I have more ambition as a choreographer than a director.” She points to Fosse’s “Snake in the Grass” performance from the 1974 film version of The Little Prince and the nighttime feel of All That Jazz, which Fosse co-directed, as the biggest inspirations for “Tiny Moves.”
Qualley and her small crew, which included creative director/stylist Patricia Villirillo and photographer Alex Lockett, found an ideal spot on the New Jersey shoreline that featured Manhattan as a stunning backdrop and set up the shoot around 6 p.m. They didn’t start shooting until around midnight and didn’t wrap until six in the morning. “We had all night, but we were racing against the sun,” she says. “At a certain point, we had to say, ‘It’s time to turn around, or we’re not going to get any of Jack.’”
The idea was to create a film that felt surreal but also endearing; she uses words like “sparkly” and “fantasy” since anyone watching the video would have to believe that Antonoff’s car was lighting the scene. The general look of it feels nostalgic, too, calling back to the Fifties with Antonoff’s leather jacket and Qualley’s dress from the Thirties. (And if you’re wondering, the white dress is indeed a nod to Antonoff and Qualley’s wedding.) To get the look of the dawn sky perfectly, the production team shot the video on film, and they spent a lot of the editing process making sure the colors looked vibrant.
The lighting complements the intimacy of the video’s final scenes, in which Antonoff leans his head against Qualley, hardly making eye contact with her. “It’s so sweet and shy,” she says. “I think it was just kind of sweet nerves. In real life, there’s not as much nervous tension — we’re married — but in the context of the video, I think it’s nice because it feels like a meet-cute. And it’s great because he’s not an actor.”
Qualley hopes to make more videos with her husband sometime in the future if the right idea comes to her. “I like doing everything with Jack,” she says. “He’s my favorite person to do anything with.”