The last series I watched was Better Call Saul. I wanted to see this world and this story that was familiar, yet brand new and fresh to me. Aaron Paul and I told Vince Gilligan that if he ever wanted us to appear on the show, we’d definitely do it…it’s a fond memory, a romantic reminiscence. Breaking Bad changed my life—my occupation, my personal life, my financial security. Everything adjusted with that show. It was a phenomenally creative experience and I’m very proud of it.
When did you first get the acting bug?
I was born in Hollywood, raised in Los Angeles. My parents were actors, so going to studios was part of my upbringing. Basically, I went into the “family business.” The life of an actor was not tremendously successful for my parents. My dad wanted to be a star and didn’t become a star, and that really affected him. My goal was to be a working actor, to pay my bills. To this day, my most cherished professional accomplishment is that since the age of 25, acting is all I’ve done for a living.
Have you chosen roles that offer financial security?
I never want to be in the position where I have to make an artistic decision based on financial need. I’d been without money my entire childhood. My family home was foreclosed on by the bank because we couldn’t pay our bills and we were kicked out. I know what it’s like not to have money and I have a great respect for it now. The more I save, the more I know I can stay acting and, therefore, be able to pick and choose the things that I really want to do.
In Your Honor, you play Michael Desiato, a judge who has covered up his son’s hit-and-run. What attracted you to the role?
I’m a father. The question that I would ask any parent is, “What would you do to save the life of your child?” The universal answer, that crosses cultures, languages and borders, is: “I would do anything to save the life of my child.” That’s the premise of Your Honor—my character willingly becomes a criminal because he truly believes that doing so is the only way to protect his child. The first series was about a man who loses his principles for what he thinks is the greater good. [This season] is about if there can be redemption of the soul. Can Michael find forgiveness for the lies and collateral damage that he’s perpetrated? Can he get some sense of honor back? No pun intended.
Editor’s Note: This Q&A was conducted by Kelly-Anne Taylor for the Interview People. Kelly-Anne is a commissioning editor and podcast host at The Radio Times. Your Honor is currently streaming on Showtime.
5 Minutes with …
Was it challenging to play an iconic person like Whitney Houston in I Wanna Dance with Somebody?
What I realized, and this helped to put everything into perspective, was that she was only human. She was amazing in part because she was only human and achieved that much. To me, true empathy when it comes to working on something like this is to go, Yes, she had one of the most amazing voices in the world. But she was just as human as I am. Whitney had as many conflicts as I do, as many arguments with herself, as many problems as anyone else. In that context, it then didn’t become a challenge—it actually became like a dance between me and my imagined Whitney. And as soon as you kind of take people off of a pedestal, when you take people and you ground them, it becomes so much easier to do your job.
How did you prepare for and research the role?
I had coaches for dialect and movement. But I actually overdid it when it came to research. I watched every single one of Whitney’s videos on YouTube countless times, and it became like a prison. Funnily enough, that’s not usually the way I roll. Like, I’m pretty relaxed when it comes to prep for work. But this took a toll on my mental health. I had to take a break from the script and Whitney for about a month.
Was there added pressure playing a non-fiction character?
Yes. I’ve been thinking about this recently…so, you know, there’s the normal stuff: learn the accent, how her lips move around a song, what she physically looks like, how she presents herself. But there was also managing my anxiety around what I want to create and what I think other people want to see. That was a real tussle for me, because there is this kind of struggle about being a people-pleaser when you’re a performer. And I constantly had to be reminding myself, Tell the truth of the story. It shouldn’t be perfect. This is an affectation, you are pretending. So allow yourself the freedom to do that. That was a lesson that I learned two weeks before we finished [laughs]. It’s hilarious to me. I’m like, God, I wish I knew that right at the top!
Do you worry about any backlash from American actors as a British person playing an American of color?
Yes and no. I think there are not enough parts for black people and people of color in general. So really the problem isn’t with me playing Whitney, the problem is with the higher-ups not investing in the right places. As a black woman, being in this industry, I am going to [irritate] some people. They might be white, they might be black, they might be both, they might be anyone else. I am going to do things that upset people, but I can only follow my instinct—and trust that when people hire me, they’re not hiring me because I’m British or whatever it is, they’re hiring me because I offer a service, I’m good at my job and I have integrity. Am I worried? Yeah, but I’m trying to do this thing where I don’t worry about what people think about me anymore.
Editor’s Note: This Q&A was conducted by Lucy Allen of the Interview People.
Kevin Smith said that you’ve inspired him in some ways…do you feel you have had a positive effect on his movies and other work?
It’s weird to talk about myself and be like Well, yes, I did this for him, whatever. But I’ve heard him saying that out of his own mouth. He saw something in me, he thought I was funny and he wondered if other people would think I was funny. So he put me out there to see. He says that along the way, I have always been a Yes! person…if he has an idea, I’m never like, “Don’t do that, you’re gonna fail buddy.” I’m like, “Yes!, let’s try it! What can I do to help?” Kevin definitely has great ideas and is super-talented and smart. It’s been a really good team-up.
In 2019, you made your own movie, Madness in the Method. When did you decide you wanted to direct?
It was on Clerks II. Kevin was up in his editing suite and everyone else was ready for the first shot. They were like, “Come on, let’s get going, we’re gonna be late.” Kevin was in the zone and was like, “One more minute.” So I said, “Kevin, let me direct a shot.” I was joking around, but he said, “Go for it.” It was an easy shot, but I got to say Action! and Do it again. I don’t know, man, just right there, I was like, Wow, this is awesome. I’d really love to do this for a full movie.
How did you get Stan Lee to do a cameo?
We worked together on Mallrats, we did an Audi commercial, and I saw him at comic conventions all the time. But it’s not like I had his phone number and talked to him or anything. I did have his assistant’s number, so I called him up and was like, “Bro, I know this is a big ask, but is there any way you think that Stan would be able to come down and we can get him in and out in like two hours at the most?” He called back and said, “Stan told me you have to be done in two hours because he has to go home and eat dinner with his wife. He never misses dinner with his wife.” That was so sweet to me.
At what point were you able to pursue a movie career full-time?
I would say in 2001, with Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back. From Clerks to Dogma, I worked construction, roofing, and delivering pizza. After Clerks, I went back to my normal job, roofing, for a while. And then when we went to do Mallrats, I quit roofing because I was gonna be gone for a couple months and the guy couldn’t hold my job. When I got back from Mallrats, I went to Vancouver and did the movie Drawing Flies. Then I came back and I started doing construction with my buddy. Another buddy owned a pizza place, so he gave me a job delivering pizza. I was delivering pizza and doing construction, like tiling and bathrooms and stuff. After we did Chasing Amy I still did that. It really wasn’t until after Dogma, because that’s when I came to California.
Editor’s Note: This Q&A was done by Andrew Talcott and was edited for length. To read Andrew’s full interview with Jay—and find out how Jay overcame his stage fright—read below!
When did Clerks III begin shooting?
I think it started on Kevin’s birthday last year and we were in Jersey for almost two months. It was awesome, because my wife produces the movies. She’s produced Yoga Hosers, Jay and Silent Bob Reboot and now Clerks III. She runs all the touring and the Convenience Tour and all this stuff with Lionsgate. So it’s great. She came back to Jersey with me and was working producer, and then my daughter came out of course, and my mother-in-law and so the four of us were staying in an Airbnb. It was really cool to be back in Jersey. I have family still in Highlands and we also have our comic-book store in Red Bank.
How did you and your wife meet?
She was going to college at UCLA and her plan was to take a year off and then go to law school. During that year, Kevin was like, Oh my gosh, I need help with this. Can you help me do this? She said sure and did it really fast. Then he kept asking her to help out with other things: Can you book my and Jay’s travel? Can you talk to the venue and see if they can make sure that we have a hotel room? She just did everything really fast and Kevin was like, Wow, I need you to work for me. After like three or four months, Kevin’s like, Hey, let’s open a company together called SmodCo. So they opened the company. But yeah, her plan was never to be at all in any type of entertainment. She wanted to be a lawyer.
When you first shot Clerks, you were nervous about being in front of the camera. How did you overcome your shyness?
I just had to step it up. During Clerks, I was able to get away with needing more time or privacy to feel comfortable. But when Kevin said to me, “Hey, we’re gonna do Mallrats, it’s going to be a studio movie and I wrote a character for you—Jay and Bob are in this movie—but you can’t be like you were on Clerks. Not only can you not do that because, it’s a studio movie, it’s not gonna be just ten of us working on set, like a bunch of friends, putting duct tape around a hockey stick to hold up as a boom mic. There’s gonna be a first AD, second AD, there’s gonna be like forty people on set at all times. You gotta get over this.”
So again, in my head, I was like, I can’t pass up this opportunity. On set, I was [still] nervous, but I was like“ I can’t not do this.” So I sort of just pushed through it and, each day, it got a little bit easier and more comfortable. But honestly, I was nervous throughout the whole movie, but not as nervous—but I still didn’t feel confident. Then I did an independent movie called Drawing Flies right after Mallrats and I was still nervous, but I got a little more comfortable. It just got a little bit more comfortable, more practice, a little easier.
You know the next thing I had to get over? Kevin used to do An Evening with Kevin Smith and he would bring me on stage in front of like 1,500 people and say, “Welcome Jason Mewes!” It was so awesome. Everyone would scream and it was such a cool thing that I loved to do. But then, when I’d get out there, it was like, I was on camera in Clerks again! Someone would go up to the mic and say, “This question’s for Jason. Hey Jason, what was it like filming Clerks for the first time?” And I’d be like… It was good. Kevin afterwards would be like, “Bro, you gotta learn to answer better. Like answer the question, but give a little bit of a story.” It took years to get over that. Thankfully now, you know, it’s been long enough. I do my own A-Mewesing Stories. It’s interesting to go back and think it took four or five movies for me to get comfortable in front of the camera where I didn’t get nervous anymore. And it took me being on stage at least twenty times in front of an audience before I started feeling comfy, answering a question with a little bit of a story and not just being like, Yes. No. It was great.
5 Minutes with…Keith Richards
After almost 60 years, do you enjoy the whole thing of being on tour, waiting for the concert?
It’s no big drag to travel around. You get to see people that you haven’t seen for a long time…hanging around with musicians and good friends. [The concert] is just something that you do at the end of the day. Actually, I’m quite happy to do it 60 years. After all, what else would I do? [laughs] I made this job up because I couldn’t think of anything else. I’d make a lousy plumber, you know? I’m very fortunate in finding what I wanted to do—and what I could do—very, very early in life and there’s never been any real doubt about that. So, in that case I’ve been very fortunate and give thanks and praises for it.
Did the passing of [drummer] Charlie Watts bring [the band] closer?
Yes, I do think so. When things like that happen, you do tend to draw together more, which I think is for the best of the band. The Rolling Stones are far bigger than any of its parts, you know. I always feel like I’m working for the Rolling Stones. I have no choice, I have to do this…I’m not complaining, I gotta say that. I’m sitting here, I’m ready to go to work.
I think the older you get, the healthier you become. Do you wonder about this yourself?
You know, if I ask questions about it, I might not like the answers. I’m just a fairly old bloke in pretty good shape. I spent half of my life taking up [unhealthy things] and half of my life giving them up. I don’t recommend this for everybody. I’m far from being indestructible. I just don’t break easy, you know?
Was smoking the hardest thing to give up?
I’d given up things far more addictive than nicotine. Actually, once I started doing it, I found it very easy. I stuck on the patch and said, “No more!” I know this doesn’t work for everybody. I’d tried to cut down smoking, but by the end of the week I’d find I’m smoking more. I really got disgusted with it eventually…and that was it. I found I had more stamina after that. Yeah, it’s definitely good. Give it all up. It’s good for you.
I get the impression that you are actually very young, a young spirit, a young man at heart.
I hope so. I’m holding out for my age as much as I can.
Are your grandkids curious about their granddad’s adventures in rock ‘n roll?
They are not old enough to know who I am. This is an incredible process, watching the little things grow up. I love ’em all. Yeah. I’m a grandfather, okay. [laughs]
Editor’s Note: Keith Richards turned 78 last winter. He formed The Rolling Stones with Mick Jagger and Brian Jones in 1962. The Stones are currently on a (briefly COVID-delayed) summer tour of Europe. This Q&A was conducted by Ken Summit of The Interview People.
5 Minutes with…
Actor/Director Hugh Laurie
You have directed before, on House and other projects. Coming off of [Agatha Christie’s] Why Didn’t They Ask Evans? how do you assess yourself as a director at this point?
Upper Case Editorial
I’m not as calm as I would like to be [laughs]. I tended to become more agitated than I would have liked to have been. I think the problem is that any job you do in life is only difﬁcult or easy in relation to how much you care about the outcome. Brain surgery is pretty easy…if you don’t mind the patient dying. But if you care a lot about something, things could be almost inﬁnitely difﬁcult or inﬁnitely problematic, I should say. There will always be things that you wish—if only it could be this instead of that—and I confess that I was at times not as level-headed as I wish I could have been.
What are the most important qualities you need to be an actor, and what are the most important qualities you need to be a director?
Wow. I suspect the list of qualities you need to be a director may not be containable in a single person. You probably need seven people to do the job of a director in the way that it really ought to be done. It seems to me that the calls upon your judgment and time and energy and stamina are almost inﬁnite. And the opportunity for making mistakes, likewise, is almost inﬁnite. I think the similarity between acting and directing is that actors and directors need to be people who watch people. They need to watch people and know instantly what is true and what isn’t.
What got you started writing the adaption of Why Didn’t They Ask Evans?
It’s a murder mystery, but it has a kind of slight screwball feel to it. And one of the most remarkable things about it is that—and this I believe is unique for
Agatha Christie and maybe even unique for murder mysteries—the real mystery is not who the killer is. I mean, it is a mystery and we have to track that down, and he or she must be apprehended and brought before the law. But the real mystery is What does the question of the title mean? It’s like a 100-dimension Wordle where you’re trying to solve this puzzle and, until you solve it, it’s not really satisfying. You might catch the killer, but until you understand—until you decipher the question and answer the question—it doesn’t really satisfy. I think that is her genius.
Most of the clever repartee and witty dialogue in this series comes from the women characters. Do you agree…and did you have a part in that or was it all Dame Agatha?
I’ll make a confession now: Frankie Derwent, the heroine of Why Didn’t They Ask Evans? was my ﬁrst- ever crush. I found her absolutely intoxicating. She’s quick and funny and bold and ready to take a chance. I just found her such good company. I was completely knocked over. And I do agree with you. The female characters, they’ve got some strong stuff. I would never in a million years dream of taking any credit. Along with the rest of us, I am just hanging on to the coattails— well, it wouldn’t be coattails—hanging on to the hem of the skirt of Dame Agatha for the ride.
Editor’s Note: Hugh Laurie adapted and directed Why Didn’t They Ask Evans?—a tale of two amateur detectives who get in over their heads investigating a murder—for a limited-run series debuting on BritBox this spring. For eight seasons, Laurie played the title role in the medical drama House, which was set in a New Jersey hospital and co-starred Lisa Edelman, who sat for a 2014 photo shoot and interview with EDGE. Lucy Allen of The Interview People, who interviewed Kristen Stewart in our last issue, conducted this Q&A.
10 Minutes with… Barry H. Ostrowksy & Gary S. Horan
10 Minutes with…
Barry H. Ostrowsky President and Chief Executive Officer, RWJBarnabas Health
Gary S. Horan, FACHE President and Chief Executive Officer, Trinitas Regional Medical Center
EDGE: As of January 1, Trinitas is now part of the RWJBarnabas Health system. What were some of the boxes that needed to be checked for this to happen? Horan: Ensuring that we maintained our Catholic mission was of primary importance to us. It has been, and will continue to be, a core component of Trinitas, which remains a Catholic institution with continued oversight by the Sisters of Charity of Saint Elizabeth. We also looked to partner with an entity that could help us advance our mission of caring for our most vulnerable citizens.
To be successful in the future, we also knew that health systems would have to coordinate care more seamlessly among providers, hospitals and care settings. We believed that we needed to join with an organization that would enable us to continue providing care in our community for years to come—against a backdrop of healthcare trends that disproportionately affect safety-net providers like Trinitas. For instance, it is becoming increasingly difficult to recruit physicians and nurses as a standalone hospital; they are looking for more variety and better possibilities for advancement—which being part of a larger health system can provide. So, starting about five years ago, we began looking at a number of strategic partners in New York and New Jersey. When we engaged in more meaningful discussions with RWJBarnabas Health, it was evident that they were the partner that we wanted to continue to pursue.
Ostrowsky: There was complete alignment on our goals, and our mission statements are almost identical. That was a very important component of the merger. In our view, nothing needed to change in terms of the strategy and the commitment and the culture. We both focus on taking care of communities and Trinitas does a fabulous job of this. And of course, its clinical services are of the highest quality. We want to take care of more and more of the population of New Jersey in a culturally competent way and, thanks to the addition of Trinitas to the system, we shall.
EDGE: What changes might patients notice on their next visit to the hospital? Horan: They will notice a branding change, with a new RWJBarnabas Health logo and, through advertising, they will see that they now have access to an entire system of specialists. Conversely, RWJBarnabas customers now have greater access to the things that Trinitas does especially well, such as wound healing. Ostrowsky: When an organization like Trinitas joins another group of institutions—in our case an integrated system—it needs to get a real advantage. We were in a position to offer that. All of the presumed advantages in terms of clinical and social care are now available in a convenient, seamless way for Trinitas customers. For example, if you need a service that isn’t immediately available on-site at Trinitas, we have it in the system with an easy referral because that “seamlessness” is something that already exists within our system. Also, I should mention that we are an academic-based healthcare system and Trinitas was already teaching clinicians, which means we’ll be able to further expand our academic footprint. So patients may notice more teaching going on. Horan: Barry mentioned social care. RWJBarnabas has a very significant behavioral health footprint, which made our behavioral program a particularly good fit with theirs. Ostrowsky: Yes, Trinitas has definitely distinguished itself in this area. Its services are clearly accretive to our clinical success as an organization, which—together with our Rutgers partner—made us probably one of the top three in the United States in terms of the complexity and breadth of our commitment to behavioral health services. The merger adds to that in terms of scale, including the number of beds and clinicians, giving us a very wide and deep platform of social services. If individuals presenting for medical care at Trinitas are vulnerable because of food insecurity or any of the other social determinants, they now have access to a full suite of social programs. We, as a system, are able to mobilize significant resources—including financial, human capital and technology—that may have been outside the grasp of a standalone hospital, as Gary was saying earlier. I don’t like changing things that work. When you look at Trinitas—the results it has produced for the community, the culture of the institution and those who lead it—there is no reason to make any changes, other than ensuring Trinitas has the resources I mentioned to continue to do the job it has done. In terms of leadership at the management level and department-director level, it is such a great group of people. I call Gary Horan a dean of this industry and he is truly that. Horan: I think Barry and I are both excited about what it means to have our School of Nursing folded into the RWJBarnabas Health system. We graduate 150 to 170 nurses a year at a time when there is a shortage of nursing personnel. Being part of a system offers those graduate nurses an opportunity to stay within the system instead of being scattered all over. Ostrowsky: We currently have 900 openings in our system for nurses. No graduate from the Trinitas nursing program is going to go unemployed for more than three seconds—we have gotten graduates from this nursing school in the past and if I could do it legally I would insist that every graduate comes to work in our system! But yes, the nursing school is a great asset not just for us but for the entire industry, and we want to see that supported and hopefully expanded. In fact, I have actually discussed with the dean of the school, Roseminda Santee, what it would take to scale up.
EDGE: What other aspects of the merger stand out as “win-win” situations? Ostrowsky: Trinitas has twelve Centers of Excellence that we will be able to learn from, including a specific focus on cardiac care, oncology, emergency services and, as we discussed earlier, wound care and behavioral health. That will help RWJBarnabas Health to scale several high-growth service lines, such as cardiology, oncology, neurology and orthopedics. I also see us benefiting from existing academic partnerships between Trinitas and Union County College, the College of St. Elizabeth and Kean University.
EDGE: This merger was finalized during a global pandemic. Did COVID impact the process? Horan: The actual merger process, even during the COVID pandemic, went very smoothly. Obviously, meetings that normally would have taken place in a face-to-face setting were done virtually. But that was not as great an obstacle as it has been in other industries. Also, remember that Trinitas had been through this before, in 2000, when Elizabeth General and St. Elizabeth’s merged to form Trinitas Regional Medical Center. That was very tricky, but it became a model for consolidating a Catholic and non-sectarian hospital. That experience prepared us in some important ways for the merger with RWJBarnabas Health. Ostrowsky: I think the way the teams came together to plan and execute our merger is a case study that’s worthy of being written up. There was incredible cooperation—a total of around 300 meetings between our staffs—and it shows in the results. Our alignment on the goals and the mission led to effective integration planning and execution. For me, this is a picture of what it looks like when you undertake a transaction like this and do it right.
What did you say to [director] Pablo Larrain when he first asked you to play Princess Diana in Spencer?
Umm..not No. [laughs] I didn’t have the most developed relationship with her story. I’ve always admired her from afar, but really from an amorphous, unarticulated place. I love Pablo’s work and he was so positive about it. When he described the prospective three days that we were going to examine and kind of fall into, I thought it was a cool way of approaching the thing. Considering she’s an extremely famous person and people think they know a lot about her, it’s so interesting to examine the moments in between, where she’s alone, even though it’s obviously a total work of fiction. I think that’s why we make movies.
What was it like when you knew you’d got Diana’s voice?
I consider my ear to be kind of attuned to things, but I had to completely trust my coach. When we first started on day one, I was like, We can’t work anymore…am I ready? Does it sound good to you? And he was like, Absolutely. It got better as we shot, so I know he was just saying that to give me confidence. There was really not much more he could do. He wasn’t going to be like, Actually, you’re not there.
What was your favorite outfit?
The Chanel couture dress on the bathroom floor, definitely. The one that’s on the poster.
Her walk was so specific and you did it brilliantly. How did you get that?
Thanks, but if you put it side-by-side I don’t think they are exactly the same at all. There is a kind of projection that happens with the audience. You have a few things right and then everyone fills in the blanks for you. She was a little bit lighter than me, taller, a little bit more linear…I wish I had a more interesting answer…I just looked at a lot of pictures.
Did you get the curtsy right away? It’s very subtle.
It’s tiny! People do too much and then fall over. It’s just a tiny head tilt and one foot. It’s harder for women—obviously, only women do it—but women who wear heels, that’s harder. I can do it though [laughs] I’ve got balance!
What were the most challenging scenes for you?
The stuff I couldn’t get ready for, which would be the stuff with the kids, because they are just unruly little animal people [laughs]. The whole thing between all of us needed to be even more real than what I could prescribe while faking it. So yeah, the scenes with the candlelight and we’re playing the game at night, and the dancing stuff. The kids are ad-libbing the whole time. We’re just playing a game and it’s really hard to ad-lib in the accent. With a movie like this, to a certain extent, you get there and you let it grow and you kind of let it find itself. But those two things were the only sort of unknowns, which is the most fun. But scary.
Editor’s Note: This Q&A was conducted by Lucy Allen of The Interview People.
Tell me about Jan Levinson, the emotionally complicated sometimes-girlfriend of Michael Scott on The Office. How did you play that character without turning fans against her?
I love that you can see into all those layers. I don’t know that I was trying to walk that line you talk about, but to me, from the minute I said the first line as Jan Levinson I sensed she was very complex. Maybe it was just the lucky combination of the writing of Jan and me playing her.
You just finished your first day on the new season of Dancing with the Stars, didn’t you? How are you feeling?
I’m exhausted, but I feel great. It’s just go, go, go with this show. I haven’t had a day off in two weeks, so I’m like, Okay, so is that the pace? I guess so. Yeah, it’s intense.
How do you know you’re “good to go” when the music starts, as opposed to an acting role? Is it a different mental process?
It is. I had a big “Aha” moment the night before because it’s live television, which is really refreshing and different, something that we don’t get a lot these days. It’s similar to theater in that you have to be on—you have be ready to go when they say go, and you know you’re going to get one chance. With film and television, it’s different in the sense that you have to be ready to go…but you also know that you have time to finesse. Sometimes with film and television, you show up and run through it a couple of times, and it’s out of order, and you have to bring all of your skillsets to prepare your emotional self—where your character is in that moment in time and in the arc of the story and the arc of the evolution of the character.
Also, in television and film, you can really communicate so much through your eyes.
And you have lines, and sometimes you have songs. You have more than one scene to show people who the character is. Here, you have one moment. You have one chance. You have no lines. It’s in this giant universe of lights and explosions, and they’re barely on your face because they’re watching your body. It’s a much bigger, broader stroke that you have to make as a performer. That was a big realization to me.
Fans may remember you from your starring roles in the film Lambada and the TV series Dirty Dancing. I guess Dancing with the Stars was not your first tango.
I started acting professionally at six, and I’d started dancing at five. [When I was younger] I think I would have told you that acting and singing and songwriting were my hobbies, and that I was going to be a ballerina. In my little girl mind, that was what I thought I was going to do. I think Dancing with the Stars is this wonderful opportunity to reawaken my little girl fantasy and dream. It’s the closest I’ll ever come to being a ballerina.
Editor’s Note: This Q&A was conducted by Gerry Strauss. Gerry spent a little more time with Melora and they chatted about her roles on Transparent and The Bold Type, as well as her work as a director on an upcoming documentary based on her friend Paula Cole’s iconic song “Where Have All the Cowboys Gone?”
Basketball Hall of Famer Nancy Lieberman
This year marks an impressive milestone for the WNBA. When the league began its inaugural season in 1997, what did you feel was the best-case scenario?
I felt like the WNBA would be fantastic. It had the backing of the commissioner, David Stern, who had been working on it since 1984. I really admire him for that. He was very, very serious about this opportunity for women and had already talked to the owners and had people in place, with a game plan of what the WNBA would look like. I remember him asking me to come into his office in New York. He closed the door and said, “Nancy, before I am done being commissioner of the NBA, there will be a W one day.” I was like, “Excuse me, what are you talking about?” He said, “My only hope is that you will still be around to play in it.”
And at 39 you were, in that first season.
Those first two or three years, it was a dream playing in front of 10,000, 15,000, 18,000 people in sold-out arenas. The hype, the backing of the NBA guys who were so excited to see the league happen and flourish—and the fans! You can’t give enough credit to the fans for buying tickets and believing in women and what we were trying to do. We’re playing in major arenas on network TV. It was a beautiful thing. The men didn’t have that when the NBA started. I knew you needed long-term sustainability to have success, so you needed money and bandwidth. The only ones who could really deliver that was the NBA…and it did.
Not a lot of fans are aware that you also played in the first Olympic women’s tournament, in Montreal in 1976.
I feel very, very lucky to have been young enough—but also old enough—to be a part of both. I was a high school senior and missed my graduation to go to the ’76 Olympics. But first we had to qualify. No one thought we were going to make it, so we ended up winning the qualifying tournament in Rochester…and there was no budget! Billie Moore, the Olympic coach, and Bill Wall, the head of USA Basketball, put our travel on their credit cards. How about that! Pat Summitt, Lucy Harris and Ann Meyers were among my teammates. It was fantastic. We were in the locker room getting ready to play for the silver medal and Billie Moore looked at us and said, “Ladies, tonight we go out there and we play. It will change the course of women’s basketball for the next 25 years.”
And you were how old?
I had just turned 18 at the games. I’m sitting there going 25 years?! I can’t remember what I did yesterday or what I have to do tomorrow. She had such a handle on history, on where the game would be and where it would take us. And she was absolutely spot-on…it did impact women’s basketball on every level. Now I’m just proud to be part of basketball. I’m humbled. I’m an athlete from the ’80s and it’s 2021 and I’m still relevant, coaching the Big 3 for Ice Cube, and doing TV for the Oklahoma City Thunder. I’m really happy. I love being around this game.
Editor’s Note: This Q&A was conducted by Chuka Erike. He spent an additional five minutes with Nancy, who shared her thoughts on playing with guys, the meaning of greatness and some words of wisdom she received as a teenager from Muhammad Ali.
The following is bonus web only content:
If you could go back and talk to the teenage Nancy at Rockaway High, what would you tell her?
Never stop working, wanting or dreaming. Everything is possible. All you have to do is prepare and play hard.
At what point did you realize you would be living a life in basketball?
You know, I needed sports more than sports needed me. Everybody has their path and situations that go on, good and bad, and mine was a little difficult in terms of my home life. So I fell in love with a game that brought me a lot of joy and confidence. It helped build my self-esteem and the people I met, my lifelong friends, came through sports. Every kid should play sports for the right reasons: They are with their friends, they are having fun, and they get to compete and repeat. It becomes such a fun time in your life. As I look back now, I say to myself, “Wow, I got to have fun.” I played AAU, I played in all those different tournaments, then to be able to be on that USA team and play with some of the best women in the world, Hall of Famers, and finally become a professional. How could I ever look back on my career and not have gratitude and not have just tremendous love and amazement? People would love to have my career, our career—Ann Meyers, Lynette Woodard, Cheryl Miller and all my teammates on the 1975-76 Pan-Am/Olympic team. We really opened the door for the generations that came after us, which is the amazing part because you play in the now, but you want to have an effect on what goes on in the future. And we did that.
That seems like a lot of pressure.
It depends what you perceive as pressure. I don’t have that thought in my brain. I don’t think about pressure, I think about privilege. It’s a privilege to play in a championship game. It’s a privilege to play or coach in the NBA or the BIG 3. It’s a privilege to win two college championships at Old Dominion. I don’t get scared…I respect everybody, but I fear nobody. That’s what Muhammad Ali taught me when I was 19 years old. It was one of the first things he said to me—and I sure do appreciate everything that he imparted to me in my life for over 40 years. I often think about all the people I have had the opportunity to meet, to mentor, enjoy and to win with, these lifelong friendships with men and women in sports, in business. It’s crazy. And then to be in an airport and people come up to you. Yesterday, I was leaving West Palm, because I was visiting my mother, who is 91 and I hadn’t seen her in about a year and a half because of COVID. These guys wanted to talk to me and one wanted me to sign something for his 8-year-old daughter. To know that you’ve done something right for the right reasons is very fulfilling and is actually a blessing.
Speaking from your standpoint as one of the greats of the game, do you have a sense of what elevates certain athletes to the top of their sport?
The mind. What Kobe Bryant called the “mamba mentality.” Jordan had it, Muhammad Ali had it, I have it. A lot of people are great, a lot of people are Hall of Famers, and then there’s that next level up. If you were a game-changer, well, that’s special. I had to break the rules for this generation to have what they have—people were racist, people were bullies and people were condescending. I am who I say I am…you don’t get to tell me who I am.
Could you have imagined all the twists and turns in your basketball odyssey?
No, I could not have. I have had to be resourceful. I was not as fortunate as Sue Bird, Tina Thompson, or some of these kids who had long careers in the WNBA. I didn’t have that opportunity. I did anything and everything I could to play. I played for the Lakers in the Summer Pro League, and two years in the USBL, getting waxed by guys who were NBA level. But I had IQ, I had skill and I had will and I wasn’t afraid. I played for the Utah Jazz in ’86 with Frank Layden, then I ended up crossing over to the G-League and coaching for Donnie Nelson, the Mavericks president, and worked my way up into the front office. I had to do things. I had to be nimble. I had to be flexible. Tamika Catchings—she’s like my sister, the Hall of Famer—she played all those years in the WNBA and then when she retired they reward her with a front office job with the Indiana Pacers. Now she is running the Indiana Fever WNBA team. I didn’t have that. My road was different, but no less impactful. It actually made me bigger and better, expanded my mind and my thinking. And I have met so many wonderful people that championed me, so I’m really good with my path.
Editor’s Note: This Q&A was conducted by Chuka Erike, who has spent a decade working in the basketball and tennis industries. In January 2016 he was honored by the NBA with the Community Assist Award. Chuka is currently working on a children’s book on athletes and their pets—written from the perspective of the pets!
5 Minutes With… Tovah Feldshuh
Your new memoir, Lilyville, explores the evolution of your relationship with your mother, Lily, interwoven with the evolution of your acting career. It was not always an easy relationship, was it?
No. My mother was born on a table in the Bronx in 1911 and believed that you shouldn’t praise your children too much, lest they grow too proud and evil should strike them down. This wasn’t just a Jewish tradition, it was a peasant tradition, I think from her family’s roots in Eastern Europe. Training your child, correcting your child, fixing, preserving and protecting your child was the priority—and it was a priority I absolutely did not understand or appreciate, in the sense that I could not equate that with love. By contrast, my father had unbridled, unconditional love for his children. My mother and I struggled. It was tough. When I turned 18, I asked her if she loved me—it was right out of Fiddler On the Roof—and she said, “Who sat in the station wagon while you were at your piano lessons? Who took you to Hebrew school? Who takes you to the voice lessons you insist on having? Who carts you all over the place to fulfill your desires? That’s me.”
Did she approve of your career choice?
I did not have her approval. There was no support. She was very transparent in not wanting me to go into theater. My older brother David had gone into theater so that was one child “down the tubes,” and now her second child…what did I do to have these two kids in the arts? Well, in my case, I had to construct this whole fantasy life just to feel good!
Did that change with your success on Broadway and all your awards?
No. The first confluence of our values was the day I married. She said, “You can do anything you want now…you married a Harvard lawyer!” She had married a Harvard lawyer, so she could finally breathe a sigh of relief. However, as our lives progressed, and I became a mother, my mother and I had more and more in common. She lived long enough for us to solve all of our problems.
Part of the reason was that I wanted to. I didn’t sit there waiting for fate to come my way. When I turned 40, she asked, “How much longer are you going to blame me?” I said, “Not another minute.” Our journey was so enormous that, rather than writing a memoir about my life, I thought it would be more interesting to relate it to this woman who lived 103 years, to give my readers, my audience, a rich overview of having a mother who was born before women’s suffrage and who lived through the Spanish Flu, Roaring Twenties, the Great Depression—during which she put herself through NYU—and World War II, when her husband was drafted at 32. I loved my mother. She was hilarious. On her tombstone it says Mother Grandmother Matriarch Comedian.
Editor’s Note: This interview was conducted while Tovah was on a six-mile bike ride around Central Park. For another five minutes (and then some) on Lilyville and the mothers and daughters she’s played, visit edgemagonline.com. Lilyville is published by Hachette Books.
How have you been coping with Coronavirus?
I’m a New Yorker, so we stayed in New York City. I feel very safe in New York because, no matter what people say about New York, I’m sorry but it’s a great city and New Yorkers really do watch out for each other—even though it may not look like it. Eventually I was able to go upstate to an area where there aren’t many people. But, of course, our hearts were here with the frontline workers and with all the wonderful citizens who have been so ill. In a way, I feel like the whole world has been given a pause to reﬂect on where we’re going, especially in terms of health…but also with climate change. If we can change our behavior that quickly for COVID, we can change our behavior that quickly to protect the planet and each other. I hope that we as a whole world use this opportunity to come together more. And I hope our country is part of that.
Do you think theater will bounce back?
I think it will change and that’s not necessarily bad. It will become less expensive, less exclusive, maybe more the people’s theatre, as it was in Shakespeare’s day… I don’t have a crystal ball, but I think that maybe we’ll go back to a different phase. Broadway now has so many musicals and very, very big, big shows and they’re great—I have great respect and admiration for all that’s involved—but theater used to be a more intimate experience for the audience, a more speciﬁc experience, perhaps. I believe the theater will carry on forever because it’s the people’s theater really in the end. We tell stories that illuminate the human heart. And there will always be an audience for that, if we have to do them standing outside or on a bus or who knows what. But I worry about my friends who are theater actors and are so used to working non-stop. I’m very worried about them.
How did appearing on (the Netﬂix French-language series) Call My Agent in 2020 come about?
I had been a fan since I was told about it by a French friend. I never dreamed that I would be in it. It was probably a secret wish, but I never mentioned it to anyone, except maybe my husband. And so I was very surprised to get this script when I was shooting a ﬁlm in Nova Scotia, with an offer and a script about me. It was the ﬁrst time in my life, without reading the script I just said Yes right away.
How do you look back on playing Ripley in Alien…and that so many people look to her as a role model?
All of us on Alien are very pleased that the ﬁlm still resonates for people. Ripley was written basically as a character, a kind of “every person,” and it was unusual then, especially not to have a woman go, “Oh, my goodness!” The writers and the producers and (director) Ridley Scott did not want that, and neither did I. I think now we’re so far away from that in terms of women’s strength and women’s situation. We have a long way to go, but it’s changing so rapidly.
Editor’s Note: This Q&A was conducted by Jason Adams of The Interview People. Jason interviewed a number of celebrities in 2020, including Elle Fanning, Javier Bardem and Vanessa Kirby, who plays Princess Ann on the current season of The Queen. Sigourney Weaver has completed ﬁlming for Avatar II and III, which are slated for release late next year. Season 4 of Call My Agent (Dix pour Cent) will be streaming on Netﬂix later in 2021.
Three-time U.S. Open doubles champion
Was there something extra-special about winning your own country’s championship?
Yeah, of course—it felt great. Everybody knows the U.S. Open. You won the U.S. Open? Well, that’s pretty cool. There was a lot of pressure. It’s one of the two biggest tournaments of the year. In doubles, John [McEnroe] and I wanted to win. In singles, I don’t think it ever entered my mind that I had a chance to win, but I wanted to do well. It was a big two weeks.
How did you get to know John and become his doubles partner?
I met him when he was 12. We both were training at Port Washington. I’m four years older, so that’s a big age difference, but we were still quite good friends because he was deﬁnitely a precocious kid. He didn’t act like he was 12. The summer that he got to the Wimbledon semiﬁnals, in 1977, we became really good friends and literally, we were hanging out every day. We both did well in doubles tournaments with other partners. It was kind of just an organic thing: Maybe we should try and play together. It seemed to be the most natural thing to be able to travel to the same tournaments and be in the same matches. We thought it would work out really well, which is what happened.
When you were growing up in Chatham, it was the height of the tennis boom. What was the competition like at the junior level here in New Jersey?
There weren’t a million future pros. The god of New Jersey tennis was Jeff Miller. Jeff grew up in Scotch Plains and he was beating the best players—the best men player—in the state at age 14. He was amazing. Jeff was two years older than me. I couldn’t have competed with him in a million years. I won the state tournament the year after he graduated, as a junior.
When you joined the men’s tour after college, you were stepping on the court with players like Bjorn Borg, Guillermo Vilas, Jimmy Connors, Ilie Nastase…how do you not feel intimidated?
When I was in college I had the opportunity to play in tournaments with pros and I beat some top-ranked guys and lost close matches to other ones. Obviously you are nervous, but also excited to match skills with them. Then I became such good friends with John McEnroe and practiced with him every day for maybe two years. As he improved and suddenly became one of those icons, I would say C’mon, I’ve beaten this guy plenty of times. You know, so much of doing anything is about belief. Do you believe it can happen? Then it can. If you don’t believe it can happen, it’s not gonna. Plain and simple.
Editor’s Note: Peter Fleming won 60 doubles titles during his career, including four Wimbledons and three U.S. Opens. He was the world’s #1-ranked doubles player in the mid-1980s and achieved a #8 world ranking in singles in 1980. Peter lives in England and works as a tennis commentator. He graduated from UCLA and is a member of the Intercollegiate Tennis Hall of Fame.
What have you been watching during the COVID-19 shutdown?
After ﬁnishing Tiger King, I sat down with my wife and sons and wrote a list of all the ﬁlms they should have seen, and we’re working our way through those in my DVD collection after dinner. I wanted to introduce them to things like Being John Malkovich, old war moves like Where Eagles Dare, Lawrence of Arabia and Bridge Over the River Kwai. Also on the list is Tree of Life, Magnolia, Punch Drunk Love and Moneyball. We could never watch my own ﬁlms—they would wonder what kind of narcissist I was.
What are you listening to?
I’m listening to a lot of podcasts, such as The Ballad of Billy Balls, which is set in the late-70s in New York and is about a girl’s attempt to discover a punk singer called Billy Balls. I’ve also been listening to Anton Lesser, who I played with at the Royal Shakespeare Company back in the 80s for Richard III. I also read the new Hilary Mantel novel, The Mirror and the Light.
What else are you reading?
I brought down a whole bunch of scripts to our little place in Sussex right on the edge of the Downs. I always ﬁnd reading for pleasure diversionary and not as profound as something I’m going to be performing on stage. I did enjoy the coming-of-age story my wife wanted me to read, called The Art of Fielding, by Chad Harbach, about a college baseball player aiming for a national championship.
What do you miss the most?
I’m itching to get back to football with my friends in the garden. I play every Monday and Friday with the same guys I’ve played with for the last 17 years. I love the camaraderie and skill of six or seven a side. I’m missing it so much, because it makes my head feel right when I’m ﬁt.
What will you be working on when things loosen up in the industry?
There will be another Shazam movie—people are realizing superheroes can be funny, which is good. I’m reading the script for Temple, as we are meant to be working on the second series. I’m going to be doing Oedipus next year with Hellen Mirren, so I read that every couple of days to try and let it get under my skin.
Editor’s Note: Mark Strong’s acting résumé includes unforgettable turns in Zero Dark Thirty, Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy, The Imitation Game and the two Kingsmen movies. He also stars in the British TV series Temple. This Q&A was conducted by The Interview People.
How powerful can a book be?
A book can be the most powerful tool in the cosmos. A book can change lives. A book can be deadly. A book can lead others to make the world a better place. A book can start wars. Don’t take books lightly; weigh them with criticism and experience. Read the good ones. Use the lousy ones to level the bedposts.
Has your Hollywood life helped you to become a better student of the world?
Absolutely. I have always said that I might not have had the most formal education, but movies have helped me to study and to learn about history, politics and the arts. I will be forever grateful for that…I feel very fortunate because I get to study history while I am working. It’s almost better than just sitting in front of a book and having to study it. I do like to do that as well, but when you are learning it the way we do by visiting a lot of historical places, it’s even more fun.
Do your movies make people smarter?
I like the fact that [historical] movies make people smarter…we don’t see that too much in Hollywood these days.
Which role do you identify with the most?
That’s a tough question. It’s almost as if you are asking me which kid is my favorite. I remember Turner & Hooch the most because one thing after another went wrong. Try to make an emotional connection with a dog!
Forrest Gump is my favorite. I ﬁnd him very inspirational. Why do you think it’s had such an impact on people? He lived at the speed of common sense. I think we’d all love to do that, but Forrest did it every day of his life.
What was it like to know that Toy Story 4 was the last Toy Story, the last time Sheriff Woody would be voiced by you?
It was a lot more emotional than I really thought. You know, when we recorded the last session, the whole creative team was there. It was a historic moment for all of us, and it was a very emotional one, as well.
Do you enjoy doing voiceovers?
I loved to be the voice of Sheriff Woody. He grew so much, and has become a lot deeper and profound than I thought he would ever be. He will always be a part of me now.
What advice do you give young actors?
Act at every opportunity. Be the person in the duck costume if that’s the only role open.
Editor’s Note: This Q&A was conducted by Suzy Maloy of The Interview People. Suzy writes for several magazines and web sites. Recent interview subjects include Chris Hemsworth, George Clooney, Robert Redford, Don Henley and Goldie Hawn.
You started in movies really late. Do you think it was good in a way for you?
Absolutely. I was 20 years on the stage in New York prior to getting the movie career, as such, though I did do television work, I did some movies. I think the training—both in the profession and in life—was to my beneﬁt. When I was working in the ‘70s and ‘80s, the drug culture was booming and a lot of people didn’t make it through it. I was very peripatetic when I was young, back-and-forth cross-country, to New York to Los Angeles to San Francisco, trying to ﬁnd the doorway, where to be able to get in. It’s just being in the right place at the right time.
Which is better, to be the President, to be God, or to be a movie star?
It pays. None of the rest of them pays. Not nearly as well.
What are the cons of being a movie star?
Well, ﬁrst, it’s what I wanted from a very young age, I wanted to be in the movies. But as you start to watch your career go on, you realize that you didn’t want to be “star.” If you are a character actor, you don’t want to be a star, because you can’t be a character. A star very rarely gets roles like Quasimodo. Bob De Niro could walk down the streets unrecognized after he had done Bang the Drum Slowly, Godfather II and Raging Bull. He had done all these well-received movies, but he could walk down the street unrecognized. That’s character acting, when you hide, when you become the character, that’s the essential difference to me.
When you were a kid, did you ever dream about being the President?
No, I only dreamed about being an actor. When I was a kid, I went to the movies every day I could ﬁnd enough money. President? CEO of something? No. Later on, I thought it might have been interesting to have been a racecar driver.
Is that on your bucket list?
I’ve done it!
Is there anything left on your bucket list?
I wanted to be a jet pilot. I wanted to be a sailor, a water sailor. I wanted to be a cowboy—I’m a good horseman, I love horses and live with them. And the rest of it is just to be here, to enjoy life.
When you play the President, do you take pleasure in it?
The pleasure is in working. Believing that you are the President or God or the devil or whatever, the only joy in that is bringing the character to life. I don’t get any personal sense of the power of God or the power of the President. Make believe is make believe. I hate for people to somehow gloss over that and say, “Oh my God! God just walked in the room!” Don’t do that.
Editor’s Note: Morgan Freeman played the President in his most recent ﬁlm, Angel Has Fallen, co-starring with Gerard Butler. He is due to star in four ﬁlms in 2020, including the action comedy The Hitman’s Wife’s Bodyguard, with Ryan Reynolds, Salma Hayek and Samuel L. Jackson.
This Q&A was conducted by Sarah Williams of The Interview People.
What is it about A Star Is Born that affected so many people?
It sort of reminds me of what my voice teacher told me many years ago. You never want the audience to be leaning away from you as you are singing at them, but rather that the audience is leaning into you because they want to hear you. I have talked to so many people about this film. I’ve gotten so many messages. The true star in this film is bravery…the true star in this film is perseverance. I think it’s the ability to go on when things are hard and I think that that is a tale that can be told forever.
The singer you play is so different from Lady Gaga. As an actress, how did you develop the character of Ally?
I wanted her to be completely different. What I did not have at my disposal—which I usually have—is the ability to do it all myself. I had to be collaborative with everyone around me and that ultimately stripped away all of the armor of characters that I’ve built before. So for Ally, yes it was for me beginning with not wearing makeup every day, not wearing wigs every day, dying my hair back to my natural color, taking cues from the costume fittings that we did, dressing like her on a daily basis, working hours in the studio on Ally’s music, working with [coach and adviser] Lukas Nelson and figuring out how Ally’s sound would transform as she fell in love with Jackson—and how she would sound with him, and then how she would sound later. So for me it was very much about finding a new character but finding it without all the armor that I had before.
How do you stay in the moment when you have so much to think about?
I learned at the Lee Strasberg Institute relaxation techniques where you sort of flop in a chair and you drop each part of your body, one at a time, and you really sink into the chair and you really feel relaxed. Also, being unafraid to really be in the skin of someone else. For me, that was the thrill in this, that I got to be somebody else—somebody else whose story is somewhat like mine but also so not. I was like, “I’m going to make it, I’m a singer, I’m a musician, I’m going to get this gig, I’m going to fake being my own manager on the phone and I’m going to pretend that I’m the hottest performer in town!” And the thing is that Ally is not like that. Ally was just so insecure. So I had to relax into a vulnerability that I am not normally comfortable with, but I was able to do that because of [director] Bradley [Cooper]. Bradley really made me feel comfortable. It’s about loving the skin you are in and having that self-compassion.
As a music star yourself, how do you think Bradley did portraying a rock star?
As soon as I heard Bradley sing I was like, “Oh, my god, he could be a rock star.” So I believed in him fully, right off the bat and I still do. He just did a tremendous job, the way that he portrayed a rock star with such authenticity.
Editor’s Note: This Q&A was conducted by Samantha Fraser of The Interview People. Samantha has profiled a number of international celebrities, including Michael Bublé for the British magazine Sorted last December.
Jodie Whittaker, the first actress to play Doctor Who
Was there a jar on the set where people had to pay a pound when they referred to the Doctor with male pronouns?
No, there wasn’t [laughs]. But do you know, I was guilty of it when I was auditioning. Trying to learn my lines, I kept going Ah it’s so hard because he says this line. And I thought, Man, we’re indoctrinated to not ever put ourselves a little bit higher.
How much of a “woman’s touch” do you bring to the Doctor?
I have never approached a role thinking How would a woman play this role?…because I just am one. And I don’t know if a guy has ever gone How would a guy do this scene? You just are, and it’s your point of view. Essentially, I suppose my energy and my approach to this is coming from a very instinctive place, which feels genderless to me because it’s never been necessarily ingrained in me that that’s a specific way that a woman behaves and a specific way a man behaves. The best thing about The Doctor is I’m not playing either [laughs]… I’m an alien!
Obviously, you are providing a great model for young girls watching the show, but what would you say to young boys who might be watching the series for the first time?
That it’s okay to look up to women, and that that is exciting and not to be feared. That’s the thing that we all feel—this is a show for everyone. When we were growing up, there weren’t necessarily people on television that looked like us or sounded like us. I suppose it’s just that your heroes don’t have to tick the same box. But it’s 2018, I mean the fact that we are having these conversations and also—as a woman being the front of a show—it will be really exciting when women aren’t treated as a genre, you know? Just as a cast member. If you lead a show, it doesn’t mean it’s “for women.” I’ve been thrust into kind of a genderless role, which is incredible. But also, you know, let’s not have this conversation in 2020, hopefully.
When you first found out you got the part, what was it like keeping that secret from friends, family…and the world?
It was particularly hard keeping it from your close friends and family. Knowing I was moving to Wales [where the series is shot], and getting the question Do you want to do that next month? I was, like, Er… I don’t know, I might be a bit busy. I just had to kind of make out that I had a lot of social events going on.
Were you nervous about fan reaction?
I’m not on social media, so I chose to think it was 100 percent positive and there were no negative comments [laughs]. But I think actually being the first woman to play the Doctor is incredibly liberating. With this role—and ask any of the previous Doctors—the rules are out of the window because the most wonderful thing is that you regenerate. So you can bring everything new, everything from previous, you can make it your own and stay loyal to it. Getting a woman doesn’t change that.
Editor’s Note: Doctor Who has been produced by BBC since 1963 and over 800 episodes have aired. Jodie Whittaker is the twelfth Doctor Who. The sci-fi series has had a devoted, decades-long following in the U.S. and new episodes run on BBC America. This Q&A was conducted by Lucy Allen of The Interview People. When she’s not interviewing celebs you’ll find her and her dog, Cindy, on the beach in Santa Monica, CA.
You had a five-year absence in front of the camera prior to Hotel Artemis.
Well, I directed two movies and a whole bunch of television in between the last five years. I’ve been busy. That’s my priority, directing, and I’ve said that in my fifties that directing would take priority. I needed to really commit to that, but if I found something to act in that works, that’d be great.
The last role that you did in front of the camera was Elysium, which [also] had a class warfare theme. Is that a coincidence or is that something that resonates with you?
Yeah, it probably does. Income inequality is going to be a part of science fiction because that’s what we’re facing in the future…and climate change, problems with healthcare, no water in the sea, police brutality. These are all themes in Hotel Artemis. We’re looking at the next twenty-five years at what’s going to happen. That’s what science fiction is. It’s prescient about where we’re headed.
Why do movies depict such a grim future for humanity?
Well, we see it as grim. It may just be an evolution of where we’re headed. I mean, you look at The Matrix, right? That was a really prescient movie…people are like, Oh my God, this is where we’re going to be? That’s just crazy. But that is where we are now—I look at my kids on a Sunday morning and that’s where they are. And it’s okay. It’s just the evolution of our species. Technology has been a really, really fascinating point of departure of evolution for our culture.
Think how long it took for human beings to lose their hair on their bodies, right? We didn’t need it anymore because we got clothes. Well, it took about five seconds for technology and the digital revolution to change everything overnight. It took thousands of years for every other [type of] evolution. But digital technology has changed everything overnight—whether it’s the stock market, whether it’s the influence of media on our politics, whether it’s viruses, or algorithms—and how algorithms speak to each other—I mean, for science fiction it’s the best thing ever. Talk about being a working mom and raising boys. It’s just a great experience. I loved having boys. I’ve loved watching them. It’s fascinating to me because it’s different. Their puberty is so different. And I have such a close relationship with them. It has been really great for me in a way to come to really understand men, in a way, through them…it’s a beautiful bond. Yeah, the boy thing is special.
Editor’s Note: This Q&A was conducted by Izumi Hasegawa of The Interview People. She was born and raised in the Shusse Inari Shrine in Shimane, Japan, where she received a Shinto priest certification. She works as a film journalist and owns Hollywood News Wire Inc. and runs WhatsUpHollywood.com.