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Variety Studio: Actors on Actors – Sam Rockwell and Renée Zellweger


Ramin: Oscar Winner Sam Rockwell and Renee
Zellweger are movie stars who know a thing or two about acting, dancing, and all that
jazz. Ramin: In the limited series “Fosse/Verdon,”
Sam Rockwell masters all the steps to keep up with the role of legendary director and
choreographer Bob Fosse. female: When am I gonna find out if I get
this part or not? Sam Rockwell: You already got this part. You had the part before you walked in here. female: Well, why didn’t you just say so when
I came in here? Sam: You didn’t ask. Ramin: Renee Zellweger, star of the Fosse
musical “Chicago,” takes on a new stage, her first major television role. In the debut season of anthology thriller
“What/If,” Zellweger plays a powerful woman with a dark secret. Renee: Or are you really willing to devalue
the memory of your dead sister and allow all those sick little children to continue to
suffer and die all because their one potential savior in this unfair world had, what, a moralistic
breakdown? Sam: Yeah, I’m playin’ Bob Fosse, as you might
know, and you did “Chicago.” Renee: Yes. Sam: So, we have something in common– which
I watched recently. Renee: Oh, you did? Oh, yes. Sam: ‘Cause I’m too lazy and I wasn’t gonna
read the play or go to see it on stage. So I watched it, and you were great in it. You’re great in it. And it’s really good, and it educated me on
the plot again. And how was the preparation for the dancing
in that? It was pretty rigorous? Renee: It was fantastic. It was Broadway boot camp. Sam: Yeah. Renee: You did a couple of numbers in, the
“Fosse/Verdon” piece. Sam: A little bit. Not as much as Michelle Williams, but yeah,
yeah, but I did a lot of training beforehand. But, yeah, I mean, I’ve always been a physical
kind of actor, but I–I was a hoofer before, but not like this, and I’m sure you were,
too. But, like, this is serious hoofin’. This is serious dancin’. Renee: yeah, a different discipline. Sam: Yeah, I think we’re both physical actors,
you know? We express–right? Don’t you think? Renee: Oh, yes, I think so. I mean, I find that it’s more interesting
when you find a way to express something subtly, physically without the words. I think you say so much more with the way
that you move or you don’t move than you do with a line. Sam: Absolutely, did you–? So, this is your first TV series, and this
is kinda my first one, but I did episodic stuff. Did you ever do espisodics early on, before,
you know, you–? Renee: No, I didn’t. Sam: Never did any, like, “Law & Order” or
“ER” or anything? Renee: No, but it’s probably not because I
didn’t want to. It’s ’cause nobody cast me. They didn’t give me a job. both: [laughing] Sam: So, what’s it like workin’
on this show? How do you feel about it? Renee: I had fun. It was a lot of fun. And, you know what was really interesting? What really surprised me was everybody was
everybody was tellin’ me, “Get ready.” They were sayin’, “Oh, you better get ready
’cause TV, the pace of TV is, like, whew.” Sam: Yeah, yeah, bang, bang. Renee: But haven’t you found that making movies
in the last few years has been kinda the same? Sam: Sure, yeah, no, it is. It’s just, it’s exactly right. I mean, I found it, like, I did eight episodes
and I found it like just making four independent movies. Renee: Yeah. Sam: It was just like we made four independent
movies, but we made ’em in a row. That’s kinda how I– it was the same pace,
as you say, like, three, four takes sometimes, yeah. Renee: Yeah, that’s what it looked like, actually. It looked like film to me. It looked like film. Sam: Well, good, I mean, that’s good, thanks. I hope– Renee: And that’s pretty funny to
me. When we were talkin’ abut it earlier, that’s
a good way to get your movie made these days, call it TV. Sam: Yeah, it’s a sneaky way to make a movie,
that’s right, a long movie. Renee: Call it television. Yeah, I was really surprised ’cause now it
seems like the way that you get your movie made is that you lie and you say, “Oh, yes,
yes, no, we can do this 12 weeks of work in 3 weeks, no problem, no problem.” And then you just– Sam: Well, that is the
thing. I mean, it does, you know, that you really
don’t have enough time, but you get– somehow, you figure it out. But you’re right. It is kinda like the way independent films
have been sorta going for a long time. Renee: Which I love, by the way. Sam: It’s fun, it’s exciting. Renee: I love that process. It is, and I love– Sam: I don’t know about
for eight months, but it’s exciting for, like, two months. Renee: Right, but that, yeah, I love keeping
going. I love that you keep going and that you kind
of have to be courageous in the choices that you make in the moment ’cause you might not
get to do it again, you know? I like that. Sam: That’s right, the adrenaline of losin’
the light and all that kinda stuff, yeah. Renee: Yeah, I love that. I love it that you’re not gonna have time
to do whatever it is, and so, “Let’s just keep going.” You have to be so prepared. So, this is your first TV show. Sam: Yes, it is. Renee: And so I’m gonna ask you a really complicated
two-part question. You ready? Sam: Yeah, ready. Renee: Okay, I wanted to know if there was
a difference for you in doing television versus films and what your experience was with that,
and why you decided to do TV? Okay, I lied, it’s three parts. And what made you wanna do “Fosse/Verdon”
as your first TV show? Sam: Well, I got Tommy Kail, who directed
“Hamilton,” he and I are buddies, and he’s awesome. And he was kinda– he was our fearless leader,
and he and I, we were in London in this hotel and he said, “Hey, let’s do some TV thing.” And he brought me the book “Fosse,” said,
“Lin-Manuel’s doin’ it.” And I said, “I’m in, let’s do it.” I was, like, immediately. Just, I don’t know what it was. I just kinda had this identification with
Bob Fosse and I can’t explain why, but I just felt like it was in my wheelhouse for some
reason. I couldn’t tell ya why exactly, but I felt
like I could do it. You know, we’re both kind of slight and wily
and, you know, there’s similarities. So I thought it was a good fit. And then, you know, as we said before, it’s
a sneaky way to make a movie ’cause you’re doin’ four movies, essentially, right? ‘Cause each one’s an hour, and so, it’s four
independent movies. So, and I knew it’s inevitable, TV, you know? And when we started out, TV was much different. Renee: Yeah. Sam: And now it’s– the quality has just gone
through the roof, so. Renee: It’s sort of like the writers went
first because they saw that they had opportunity to make their own stuff, and then the directors
followed, and then here we go. Yeah, like you said, it was inevitable. And when I think about it, I don’t really
think about it as a medium. It’s just the material. Sam: It’s just the material, and– Renee:
You know, ’cause the process is the same. Sam: The process is the same, and people see
it– a lot of people see it, too. Renee: That’s true, that’s true. Sam: You know, which is kinda nice. What made you do “What/If”? And how do you like working with Netflix,
and what’s that like? Renee: Oh, yeah, oh, that’s been a lot of
fun. Now, I met Mike Kelley about it. I liked the premise. I like what motivates him to write. I like that he’s sort of inspired by big social
events that sort of shift where we are as a culture. Like he did “Revenge” based on “The Count
of Monte Cristo,” and also the Madoff scandal. Sam: Yeah, it was really good. Renee: And he was talkin’ to me about where
we are right now, and it’s this sort of socio-ideological divide, and he thought, “How interesting to
explore all of the choices that we make out there, as internationally, we seem to be,
I don’t know, testing the parameters of our morality. The choices that we make as individuals as
we are trying to, I don’t know, expand on our own lives in some way, to foster our own
successes, what sort of maybe concessions we’ll make in our own moral paradigms in order
to get a little bit of an advantage with whatever it is that we want.” And it felt so relevant to me. And he talked about the characters that he
likes to write and how they’re sort of subversive, that they’re so much more complicated than
they reveal themselves to be on the surface, that they bend over backwards to hide who
they really are. And I find those characters to be the most
interesting to play. So I thought, “Yeah, let’s go.” Sam: And what about your character? Why do you like your character? Renee: Oh, he said, “Okay, think Anne Bancroft
in, ‘The Graduate.'” So that was my, “Oh, oh, I’m there,” moment. He said, “Now, imagine that she didn’t channel
all of her dissatisfaction and self-loathing into alcoholism, but into creating a new identity
for herself. All that power that she wastes on the young
man down the street, what if she instead created an empire for herself? What if, instead, she figured out a way to
manipulate the world instead of the other way around?” And I thought, “When do we start this show? Let’s go.”

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