Billy Porter tearfully opened up to Rachel Brosnahan about what it means to be an icon to queer youth. Emilia Clarke and Regina Hall bonded over their characters’ hair. And Julia Roberts blushed talking about Patricia Arquette’s nude scenes. The latest edition of our Emmy Award-winning series “Variety Studio: Actors on Actors” brings together the greatest stars in TV to discover what unites them, and to tease out the insights only an actor understands. In time for Emmy season, we bring you 26 performers whose work moved, shocked and inspired us — candid on the page and vibrantly alive in video interviews airing on PBS SoCal starting June 18.
Patricia Arquette: Early on, you were the highest-paid actor in Hollywood. How did that feel to have that conversation happen? Did it feel like pressure, breaking that glass ceiling?
Julia Roberts: It never felt like pressure. All the salaries in those days where there was just a lot of money to be spent making films — in a comical way, I thought, OK, sure, this is ridiculous, but I’ll be part of this party. I’m just walking in a path that Barbra Streisand has hacked out with a machete, so to be the gardener that’s picking some weeds that have come up since these incredible women before me have made a path for all of us to be artists in our own right — it was nice to feel that I had a little puzzle piece to that.
PA: You went from doing these gigantic movies and then started taking little movies that you’re basically getting scale, right? So that must’ve been a conscious choice for you.
JR: I think the big moment in my career was when I had done a lot of films in a row. I think it was after I did “Sleeping With the Enemy,” and I saw some really great actors that I admired what they were doing. And then there were a few movies that I thought, “Why is she in that movie? She’s better than that narrative.” I just had this instinct to stop doing anything if it didn’t feel that passionate.
PA: Your new show, “Homecoming,” is an interesting emotional departure. A lot of people see you oftentimes as …
JR: Much nicer?
PA: Well, you have this beautiful way of breaking the moment with humor, but this character is really kind of darker.
JR: It was a dream job pretty much from start to finish. If someone asked me to be with that same group over and over and over, I wouldn’t hesitate. You want youth, and innovation, and just a new point of view. And we had all those things in abundance, as a collective. For me to come into a television show … The first production email I got, I thought, why do I not understand what this is telling me? Thirty years of call sheets and production emails, how do I not understand what this is telling me? It’s just different nomenclature. We filmed it like a movie in two parts. Is that what you did on “Medium”? Because you were on that show a really long time.
Escape at Dannemora
“All the salaries in those days where there was just a lot of money to be spent making films — in a comical way, I thought, OK, sure, this is ridiculous, but I’ll be part of this party. I’m just walking in a path that Barbra Streisand has hacked out with a machete…”
BILLY PORTER: We’re dealing with this whole group of disenfranchised people. The world has not heard their story before. It is breathtaking.
And I’m a part of the LGBTQ community. I’ve been surrounded by these ladies and these men and didn’t understand the magnitude. Here I am on set, and for the first time I’m going, the “T” in LGBTQ has largely been ignored. By me. Not because I wanted to ignore it. You know, we came out. We went to the front lines to fight for our lives, and then the pill came, everybody got healthy, and everybody moved on. These women and these men teach me what real authenticity is about.
RACHEL BROSHNAHAN: Even in watching the first season, how much these actresses have grown is extraordinary.
BP: It’s such a gift. I have the same interesting connection to your show. Never in a million years did I ever think that we would have a black president before we had a white woman. I had no idea about the woman thing, the depth of it. Your show reveals what women have had to endure.
RB: As someone who’s never done comedy, I drastically underestimated how much comedy has the power to move people. I have been so moved hearing from our audiences what they learned from the show, the different ways in which it makes different women feel powerful. The theme is so universal, this idea of a woman finding her voice in a brand-new way. Because she always had one.
BP: She always had a loud one.
RB: I think something that we don’t share is that unflappable confidence. I’ve never been so terrified as when I’m standing onstage to perform comedy. And it’s been a process of reaching deep and learning to feel powerful using my voice. And that’s something that we’re all collectively learning at this moment in time — so it feels as relevant as ever. In terms of finding your voice, is there something that you haven’t done yet that you’re dying to do?
BP: What’s been significant is that I’ve been able to do it on my own terms. I always say it’s easy to be who you are when what you are is what’s popular. When I entered this business, it was not popular to be black, gay, out. I took every hit that came with that. People were telling me that my authenticity was my liability. You’re too much of a sissy. My masculinity was always in question. But the service is inside of my authenticity, choosing my authenticity over my fame. Choosing myself over whatever this show-business thing could possibly be. That is the gift of this moment for me right now. It was not easy. I’m going to be 50 this year. I’ve been in this business for 30 years.
“I always say it’s easy to be who you are when what you are is what’s popular. When I entered this business, it was not popular to be black, gay, out. I took every hit that came with that. People were telling me that my authenticity was my liability. You’re too much of a sissy. My masculinity was always in question. But the service is inside of my authenticity, choosing my authenticity over my fame.”
EMILIA CLARKE: What was the journey that you had to take to say, “Hey guys, I know I’m ridiculously funny and completely gorgeous, but I also would like to do something serious.”
REGINA HALL: “Scary Movie” was a broad comedy. It wasn’t easy for me to get comedies then. It was not a romantic comedy, and those comedies — I always felt like the men had the good jokes and then they had a pretty ingénue girlfriend. So I didn’t quite fit into that either. It’s always been a fight. Eventually I just had to go in over and over and audition until they were like, “I didn’t see this.” Slowly but surely, people were like, “There you are.”
EC: Let’s talk about fans, because you’ve got many.
RH: It’s important. They make you want to do your best. They grow up with you. Do you feel that?
EC: Yeah, I really do. Having my first experience be something that does already have such an in-built fan base, with the books — I was like, I can’t mess that up. I didn’t want to upset the fans.
RH: Yes. They do get upset. You haven’t had stalkers, have you? Not to be dark.
EC: Yeah. Nothing too bonkers.
RH: Do they think you were their queen?
EC: I would love it if someone just rode up on a horse and was like, “My queen, hop on board!” I get silent stalkers. In London, what you have is you walk past someone and very politely, you’ll hear, “Is that …?” And they’ll carry on.
RH: Sometimes people will say, “What have you been in?” Oh, God. I’m not going to list my résumé. Sometimes they will say, “Miss [Regina] King, can I have a picture?” Then I say, “Wrong name! No picture!” Then they feel horrible. I feel horrible that they feel embarrassed. But it’s a lesson.
EC: They should know.
RH: I’m not going to go running up on Brad Pitt going, “Mr. DiCaprio!”
EC: Exactly. But I also get “Are you my cousin’s sister?”
RH: They do that. They think you went to high school together. Then you say, “I’m an actress.” And they say, “In what?” That’s hard.
EC: That’s where I’m lucky. I just get to say the show. Or I run.
Game of Thrones
“It’s always been a fight. Eventually I just had to go in over and over and audition until they were like, ‘I didn’t see this.’ Slowly but surely, people were like, ‘There you are.’”
ELLEN POMPEO: I think that Caucasian actresses don’t understand the nuanced struggles that you have as a black woman, and the roles you choose — what you’re sidestepping, what you want to make sure gets out there. It’s a whole different layer of difficulty that I certainly didn’t understand when I started my show. I knew that we were doing special things by showing people of color as doctors, which hadn’t been done on television in a long time. But when we’re young actresses you’re trying to get any role you can. You don’t have time to have empathy. I’ve had a tremendous education, not always in the most pleasant of ways. I’ve had to observe and have a lot of uncomfortable moments, which is fine, because I’m happy to have uncomfortable moments as long as I’ve learned.
TARAJI P. HENSON: That means you’re growing. Growth is uncomfortable. When I booked “Empire,” I had a momentum going that I’d been waiting my entire career for. I seized every opportunity. If I was getting 5 or 10 million a movie, I wouldn’t work so much. I’m working because I have bills to pay. I have dreams. I have to get it in.
EP: For me the performance that stands out is “Hustle & Flow.” Your quote should have shot up after that.
TpH: It did not. I think the industry knew I was talented. But it’s about money. Are you bankable? I had to continuously prove that. I’ve been trying to prove and improve. I was asking for half a million. I didn’t get paid that until I did my first Tyler Perry film. He was the first person who paid me $500,000. I was never in a position where I could not take a job; by the grace of God, they have all been really good characters. But it was never a situation where I was like, “I’m not going to do that.” Now, I’m finally there.
EP: It’s impossible to have this conversation without talking about race. It’s such a significant piece of pay parity.
TpH: It’s not going to change until privilege reaches across the table and helps. Otherwise, we’re playing a rerun. The only narrative that I wish I could change is my money. It’s almost like they want this incredible performance for a discount price. The black movies — we don’t get big budgets. I have to wait until Scorsese or someone with a franchise film calls.
EP: You hear that? She wants a franchise movie. Who’s calling?
Taraji P. Henson
“It’s not going to change until privilege reaches across the table and helps. Otherwise, we’re playing a rerun.”
Taraji P. Henson
MICHAEL DOUGLAS: So, that was a real guy, although he had died before you did “Escape at Dannemora.” Did you do homework about the character beforehand?
BENICIO DEL TORO: Well, yes. There were transcripts of all the testimonies of the other two characters that survived the escape. So I just read that. Ben Stiller, the director, was really keen on me playing this part, and he gave me the first episode. And I just thought it was very clever the way they were setting up this character.
MD: You shot this thing in the prison. Were any of the extras actually prisoners?
BdT: I don’t think that the extras were serving time.
MD: I’m a big fan. I’m always interested in you, because you remind me of both Jack Nicholson and Sean Penn, where you’re able to bring an audience in with your own sense of pacing and time. Do you think about what the pace of a scene is going to be?
BdT: Every time I act, I always feel like I’m rushing. And I’ve had a few directors say to me, “Take your time.” So now when I work, I keep hearing the echo of these directors. And maybe even from acting class.
MD: You study with Stella Adler’s?
BdT: Yes, I did. There was a teacher there named Arthur Mendoza.
MD: I studied with a guy name Wynn Handman. I studied with him 50 years ago, and my son, who’s 40 now, recently worked with him. My issue was confidence. I struggled early on.
BdT: What I got from the acting class — which, by the way, in “The Kominsky Method,” I love you as an acting teacher — was that it was really serious. Acting is like studying to be a doctor.
MD: I had someone early on tell me, “The camera can always tell when you’re lying.” So I had this whole period where I was just so tough on myself.
BDT: Let me tell you something, you don’t lie. And if you do, I don’t get the lie.
MD: One day, I was getting ready for “Fatal Attraction.” I said, “I could be a lawyer; I went to school. I could maybe have had an adulterous relationship. Not saying I did, but maybe I could have.” And then all of a sudden, I said: “No, no. Acting is all about lying. Just making people believe.”
BDT: But there’s the truth. When I watch you, I get the feeling that you’re really there, and that’s so hard to do. You’ve done it consistently for decades. Four?
MD: Five. We got to know each other on “Traffic.” Although people forget that neither of us were in the same movie. It was three different stories.
BDT: There were a couple scenes that never made it into the movie. I remember we were shooting downtown, and I drove to Westwood, where I was living. As I got there, the phone rang. It was Steven Soderbergh, the director. “Where are you?! We have the scene with Michael!” It was my first scene with you, and I was dying.
On my way back, I hit traffic for real. I’m killing myself. I walked in, and you were smiling. And we did the scene; it was like cheesecake — we went right through it. You understood that I was bashing myself all the way from Westwood. Thank you, because it really showed you understood the human condition.
MD: I think producing helped me see the big picture. And part of the big picture is, my response is to try to make every other actor as comfortable as he possibly can be. You only do your best work when you’re relaxed. And I only want to be in movies with good actors and good people.
BDT: I learned from you, and I try to be as kind, especially with newcomers.
Benicio Del Toro
Escape at Dannemora
The Kominsky Method
“Let me tell you something: You don’t lie. And if you do, I don’t get the lie.”
BENICIO del TORO
Patricia Clarkson: Film is so fast and fleeting. You always say you’re going to stay in touch, but it’s hard with all of the people we meet. But when you work on television, it really is a lot of time spent together and a lot of long, emotional days. I found great comfort in knowing that my journey wasn’t brief. Even though this character tortured me in many ways internally, it somehow eased the pain. Were you intimidated at first, taking on Gwen Verdon?
Michelle Williams: I miss her. You know, when you play these women … Maybe you don’t miss playing Adora.
PC: I love her. I don’t judge her.
MW: But it’s the same as having a long run in a play. When you spend so much time with these women, it’s hard when it’s over. I’ve always loved making movies because you create these families everywhere you go. And this felt like the most long-term family that I had stayed in. And I miss that still.
PC: You have to sing and dance and be this extraordinary woman that everybody loves. How did you prepare?
MW: It’s using whatever material is available via YouTube. It’s something I’d picked up on “[My Week With] Marilyn”: You watch all this material until it absorbs, and you can see it play in your mind’s eye. And then there’s the down and dirty of learning it. My dialect teacher is at Juilliard, so I go to the classroom. It’s getting the education I never had, in reverse. When Sam [Rockwell, who played Bob Fosse] and I weren’t doing one thing, we were training for the next; I consider it the most incredible honor and joy to be supported. A lot of indie filmmaking is feeling unsupported, which has its own benefit.
PC: There is no net.
MW: And you’re developing it for yourself.
PC: On television, there’s a lot of net. You can fall and someone will catch you.
MW: When you initially start thinking about a role, how does that process evolve while you’re shooting it?
PC: What’s most important for me is — with enormous respect for writers — not to dwell on the script. The lines will come. It’s most important that I have an emotional center of this character. That I know the character’s demons and angels; you’re going to need both at the drop of a hat. And a director can’t help you with that often. I call it walking the part. I cling to one thing the character has said, and I think of it all day. And once I feel the emotional life, then I start to look at the words.
“On television, there’s a lot of net. You can fall and someone will catch you.”
Don Cheadle: In this atmosphere, where you have the person who sits in the highest office supercharging a lot of this stuff, is that what gave you the inspiration for “Who Is America?” Was it specifically about Trump’s election?
Sacha Baron Cohen: Yes, it was. Under Obama, there was no motivation to do it. I thought I would never do this kind of undercover stuff again, because it’s exhausting. It’s terrifying for me. It’s occasionally dangerous. And then Trump gets in, and I immediately felt disappointed and angry. This was a guy who I’d had no respect for. I’d interviewed him as Ali G. And in “Borat,” I defecated in front of Trump Tower.
DC: He was on your radar.
SBC: That guy becomes the president? And he gets to be the president through adopting these despicable views that were so reprehensible that everyone dismissed him. People felt powerless. I thought, I have to do something with this anger and frustration.
DC: So when you do have someone that you want to go after, how do you pick a character?
SBC: The characters are designed to appeal to some of the people that I was trying to speak to. The character creation is a kind of reverse creation. Who would Dick Cheney sit across from and ultimately then sign their waterboard kit?
DC: Obviously, we improvise on our show, and we find our ways into scenes. But we always have the safety of “Cut!” You’re hanging out there. Was there ever a time on your show where you went, “OK, I probably went too far”?
SBC: I don’t want anyone to get hurt, but I want to see people’s real thoughts. I’m provoking them sometimes to see the effect of this new political culture that we’re in. It’s not just Trump. We’re in the biggest revolution that’s happened in the history of civilization. We are in the internet age. It’s bigger than the Industrial Revolution. It’s transformed the way people think; no one knows what facts are anymore. It allows people who are spreading lies to actually seem like they’re legitimate.
Trump without Twitter probably would not have become president, which is why Jack Dorsey is in the White House, having a meeting with Trump. He’s sitting across the president, who’s actually the biggest celebrity endorser of his corporation. And Jack Dorsey and Twitter cannot implement any restrictions against white supremacists or racists.
Sacha Baron Cohen
Who Is America?
“I thought I would never do this undercover stuff again. It’s terrifying. It’s occasionally dangerous. Then Trump gets in.”
sacha baron cohen
ROBIN WRIGHT: Do you want to talk about the difference between “Wonder Woman,” working with Patty Jenkins, and the one that’s going to come out?
CHRIS PINE: Those questions, we’re going to have to go through — what contracts have I signed?
CP: I found this time, the tables had turned on me as a man, in terms of how I interacted and played on the screen. I loved, as the character, my woman. My partner. She’s my partner. So that came to define this man. What a wonderful thing, as a character, to be in love. As a man on screen in a big film, it was interesting because my ego comes out: “Well, I want the big fucking fight. Let me climb something.” And Patty’s like, “ No, not about you.” She said “not about you” more times making this film.
RW: Not about you. This is about Wonder Woman.
CP: Yeah. I could look good in high boots and a short skirt. Give me a shot. Even in the world of playacting, is it powerful to walk on the set, playing the president of the United States with a Cabinet full of women?
RW: It’s interesting to be a female antihero that everybody loves to hate. And as a viewer, you’re like, “Wow, this is such a delicious ride. But morally, am I supposed to be her cheerleader?” It’s so layered. Because she’s female and in that role, it stands out more than if she were a man as that character. Doing those things, it wouldn’t be as shocking.
CP: That scene when you open up the Cabinet doors, and all of the older men have been fired, and it’s this new group of women: it’s an image that we have not seen. Unfortunately, it gave me chills, because it is just not a reality yet. It reflected some of the movements that we’ve been having in our industry.
RW: I think in the last few years, actresses just saying, “We have to bust it wide open” — I feel like the glass ceiling is cracked. Finally. We just need to allow more time for more transparency to occur. And that transparency starts with getting rid of old conditions and traditions. We need to pump the machine a little bit more. The top 100 films are predominantly male directed and female produced. So female producers, huge increase. We just need to get more writers and directors and roles for women.
CP: Creating the machinery and the movement in the industry, where young women are getting educated in directing, so there’s a clear path toward success, instead of obstructions.
RW: And giving them the chance. You’ve got to give that, because all of those guys got a chance at some point in their career.
House of Cards
I Am the Night
“I think in the last few years, actresses just saying, ‘we have to bust it wide open’ — I feel like the glass ceiling is cracked. we need to pump the machine a little bit more.”
GINA RODRIGUEZ: With “You,” you guys had a life somewhere else. To be at Lifetime and then not to see its potential, but then to go to another service like Netflix and to be exposed to many more people.
PENN BADGLEY: It was a near-death experience. There was a two-week period where we were technically canceled.
GR: All I could read was about the desire for your character. And your character’s not great.
PB: I think the logline on Lifetime was “How far are you willing to go for love?” But I was always like, “No, that’s not what that is.” To me it’s like, “How far are we willing to go to forgive an evil white man?”
GR: What’s up with your crazy eyes?
PB: This is something that people talk about. I’m like, “Isn’t that acting?”
GR: I make crazy facial expressions on “Jane.” They’re always pulled from somebody I saw on the train in New York.
PB: That’s totally foreign to me. I don’t find it difficult to access what apparently people define as creepiness or even rage. Somehow people find it more roguish and charming. It’s like, “I’m killing people in the next scene.” And maybe there’s something to that, that we’re not evolved enough yet not to be attracted. This is the evil-white-man thing.
The cultural norms incline us to forgive a certain kind of person, namely someone who looks like myself, less so someone who looks like you. The titular character in my case is someone who is doing unforgivable things, and yet we keep performing backflips to figure out how it is that we’re going to forgive him. I got a lot of responses on Twitter. Just a lot of what we like to call thirsty.
GR: Oh, yeah.
PB: So I had this measured response: “Let’s maybe check ourselves a little.” And I was really pleased and surprised to see how much that elevated the conversation around it. I think if you’re not careful, because it’s on Netflix, you could binge it all too easily. And then you’re like, “Why do I feel off?”
It’s a meta thing. You
can lean into the pop culture element of it, and then you continue the conversation off-screen. You’ve found that, right?
Jane the Virgin
“I think the logline on Lifetime was “How far are you willing to go for love?” But I was always like, “No, that’s not what that is.” To me it’s like, “How far are we willing to go to forgive an evil white man?”
NATASHA LYONNE: I think maybe one of the things I admire so much is that we can be in the middle of the deepest, heaviest, “What does it all mean existentially?” on our TV programs. We both chose to make very existential shows. But then I can watch you flip, and you can light up in the room. For me, I need to go outside, I need to smoke a cigarette and then I need to reassemble before I can shift from heaviness.
MAYA RUDOLPH: I personally think it’s just a matter of blood sugar. You can figure it all out with blood sugar.
NL: I have another theory, which is that because of “SNL” and, first, The Groundlings, that there’s a deep training ground in there that’s very real. You give them what’s really a very formal education: Under all conditions, the highest of stakes, at the most pressure in the world, deliver.
MR: Yes. Very much so. Also a manual: “Here’s the language of comedy or improvisation. These are the rules of improvisation because if you use these, then things will move forward.” I like a road map.
NL: I really enjoy inhabiting a more surreal, nebulous, mercurial space and then getting in there and moving things around. I enjoy it in the murkiness a bit.
MR: Well, you like a lot more chaos than I do. Why “Russian Doll” now? It’s interesting to me that you’re doing it right now in your life, because I feel like if people don’t know you and everything that you are capable of in front of and behind the camera, now they know. The secret’s out. Sorry, but your secret’s out. But why is it now?
NL: Speaking frankly, it’s a bit of a challenge to receive so much positivity and almost ask myself, “What took so long?” Because obviously we’ve known each other for 20 years, and I’ve been wired this way pretty much the whole time. And I guess things just sort of appear on their own timeline in a way.
MR: In creating a show, sometimes as actors, we don’t think that we can do that. Not everybody gets the memo, “If you build it, they will come.” If you want to do it, do it.
NL: That’s what’s so radical about it.
MR: And what took me so long to figure that one out? I feel like I was telling myself, “Oh no, you can’t. You can’t create your own stuff.” And now I’m like, “Fuck it. I don’t care.”
NL: Well, I think it’s a new era. I mean, we’re women, which means 97 different things. And mortality and this inner panic: I’m going to actually get to make things, and I don’t want to run out of time. Adulthood, inevitably, it only goes in one direction … the end. Why did you similarly choose to be interested in a show about mortality, and why now?
MR: It’s an itch that I just want to scratch. I want to talk about it, I want to know more about it — the idea of what else is there? Is this it? On a bad day, I’m going to say, “This is fucking it. This is bullshit.” And on a great day, I’m going to say, “What if we get to see our loved ones? What if there’s something else? What if this is the beginning?” You fucked me up so good the other day because you sent me a YouTube video.
“We both chose to make very existential shows. But then I can watch you flip, and you can light up in the room. For me, I need to go outside, I need to smoke a cigarette and then I need to reassemble before I can shift from heaviness.”
TRACEE ELLIS ROSS: So, my dear friend, what was it like directing “American Horror Story”?
SARAH PAULSON: It was my first time directing. That was the hardest thing I’ve ever done. I had to contend with the fact that I, by nature, am a panicker. And the one thing you don’t want in your director is watching their eyes spinning in abject fear.
TER: After the fact, how did you feel about it?
SP: I really want to do it again.
TER: What do you love about it?
SP: I love talking to the actors. And I love to try to find a way to tell a story with the camera.
TER: When I directed my second time on “Black-ish,” I wasn’t in everything. I got to feel my style emerge, and it was really exciting. I think the biggest difficulty for me is having to think about what I look like. Because as a director, I put my hands all over my face while I’m watching the monitor.
SP: Me too. I had my hands in my hair.
TER: They kept having to touch me up, and I was like, “This is such a waste of time.” I also found the first time I directed “Black-ish,” I did not get enough coverage of me. I went into the editing room, and I was like, “We can’t use that.”
SP: I think it’s extraordinary what “Black-ish” does in terms of where it’s willing to go.
TER: I’m really proud of it. What I really have attempted to stretch about it is, I’m not one thing. We rarely see black women who are thriving and not just surviving. We rarely see married couples that are actually in love and who enjoy and respect each other. And that drew me to the role. Did you have a chiropractor after the two-headed girl? Because you had to tilt a particular way.
American Horror Story: Apocalypse
Tracee Ellis Ross
“It was my first time directing. That was the hardest thing I’ve ever done. I had to contend with the fact that I, by nature, am a panicker. And the one thing you don’t want in your director is watching their eyes spinning in abject fear.”
SAM ROCKWELL: We have something in common. I’m playing Bob Fosse, and you did “Chicago,” which I watched recently.
RENÉE ZELLWEGER: Oh, you did?
SR: I’m too lazy, and I wasn’t going to read the play or see it onstage. You were great in it. How was the preparation for the dancing?
RZ: It was Broadway boot camp. We spent months on a makeshift stage on a loading dock in Toronto. Rob Marshall took Fosse and expanded on it, but there was a lot of the original vocabulary incorporated.
SR: Did you get cramps in the middle of the night?
RZ: We didn’t have a middle of the night. We worked around the clock. Didn’t realize what a blessing it was until now. I just remember joy. We were working hard, but it didn’t feel like work.
SR: Michelle Williams [who played Gwen Verdon], she was like, “They seem like normal people, but these dancers are superheroes. What they can do with their bodies is extraordinary.” They don’t complain. They’re soldiers.
RZ: Did it change the way you thought about your work?
SR: I’ve always been a physical actor, and I was a hoofer before, but not like this. This is serious hoofing. We’re both physical actors.
RZ: It’s more interesting when you find a way to express something subtly, without words. You say so much more with the way that you move, or don’t move, than you do with a line.
SR: I did episodics early on. Did you?
RZ: No, I didn’t.
SR: Never “Law & Order” or “ER”?
RZ: No. I’m sure I tried. But probably nobody would give me a job.
SR: You got any good audition stories?
RZ: I was trying to think about that a lot recently, with the things that are going on in our community right now, the current reset. I have things where I’ve felt like a jerk, because I watched myself spiraling.
SR: I remember going in for “ER,” for Noah Wyle’s part, I think, and that was terrible.
RZ: Why was it bad? What did you do?
SR: I came in with a lab coat. Talk about gilding the lily.
RZ: Did you bring a patient with you?
SR: I brought a hypodermic needle, but without the needle, just the plastic part. They looked at me like I was from Mars.
“It’s more interesting when you find a way to express something subtly, without words. you say so much more with the way that you move than you do with a line.”
AMY ADAMS: First of all, my husband wanted me to make sure and tell you how brilliant you are. We were discussing the level of commitment to that particular level of tension and how impressive it is that you’re able to hold that tension. How do you do that? I know it’s a big question, but that takes a toll, I imagine.
RICHARD MADDEN: It’s hard because I’m not a Method actor in any way, but you kind of can’t come out of it between takes or at night, because I get home and I’ve got eight hours till I’m back in makeup again. I can’t get happy again because I need to bring myself all the way down. It’s just a constant level of anxiety; it gets destructive, actually.
AA: When I had my daughter, I was a lot more like that. I couldn’t come out of characters. I went through a particularly challenging shoot, and what I realized is, I’ve gotta figure out how to come out of it or I can’t do it.
RM: What’s your secret?
AA: Just making the decision, and then it takes practice, you know? But usually it hits me at about two in the morning.
RM: I still really struggle, because you want to shake it off and get rid of it, but you’re so deep down that rabbit hole. It took me a few months after I finished “Bodyguard” to get myself back.
AA: I understand that. It’s funny because watching “Bodyguard” I was like, “I so identify with this character only because I’m just paranoid and anxious.”
RM: And then that’s going into using your own paranoia and anxiety for things.
AA: I try not to use my experiences. I work really hard not to carry past experiences around with me on a daily basis, so to access them for work feels like I’m trudging into stuff I want to work through. I try to create a space for my characters where I can live and use my relationship with pain or anger or fear or anxiety, but I don’t use my own experiences. Does that make sense?
RM: Yeah. I’m very much against actors using acting as therapy. But I’ve gotten in my way a lot on jobs where I don’t access my own things, and you end up not kind of doing the job you should because you can’t access those things. With “Sharp Objects,” what drew you to choosing that character, that path, those things you have to engage with?
AA: I think the fact that I wanted to run from it is what made me want to do it. This seems like a place I should explore if I feel like there’s no way I could get there.
RM: If I’m not good enough to do it, that’s the job I should try and do?
AA: The worst I’m going to be is bad, so I can live with that. Or maybe I couldn’t.
“I’d like to explore things
that are a bit not romeo.
i’ve spent 10 years playing
different versions of romeo.”