New Taylor Schilling and Pat Healy interview with ‘Under the Radar’ magazine
From Under the Radar
Austin Trunick [Under the Radar]: Taylor, what drew you in to this role and made you excited about the film?
Taylor Schilling: I think after reading the entire thing, I was very excited by how clearly this woman knew what she wanted. Though, what she wanted was the symptom of a broken person – she struck me as very sad and lonely. I loved the clarity that she moved through the world with, and that felt different than the sort of wide-eyed outsider that I’ve been playing in Orange for a while. That was a big draw. I’ve been trying to retroactively figure out what made me jump at it, but it was very interesting and it really excited me. The layers of it – the kind of play-within-a-play – and the frame narrative of the whole thing was so intriguing to me.
Your character really does take control and drives large portions of the story. Was that fun for you?
Schilling: Yes! It was fun. I had so much fun playing this part.
You mentioned the sort of play-within-a-play, and how you are in a way acting at acting through much of the film. Did those layers present an extra challenge?
Schiling: Yeah, because I was playing an actress. Well, she’s an actress in her own life. She’s a phenomenal actress, and she gets lost in what she’s doing. That experience of being transported, I think, is necessary to her functioning and escaping herself. But it was a tricky thing: there were always two things going on. There was the game and her desperation, playing this game and playing at being kidnapped. And then the glee underneath of that, because she was doing it so well. Those two things made it really satisfying to play with.
Pat has a long acting background. Did it benefit you, working with a director who’d had that experience on your side of the camera?
Schilling: I think, because he has so much experience as an actor, he was really able to give me room to explore on my own and, in that sense, had the confidence of someone who had been directing for a long time. Oftentimes I find that in people who are newer there’s an anxiousness in wanting to micromanage, and Pat just kind of let me go.
Can you tell me about the rehearsal process?
Schilling: We didn’t do a lot of rehearsal. We both did a lot of prep on our own, and we both talked about what we were looking for a lot. But we both dove in, and I think that’s what made it feel – in the playing of it – so real. We both had such definite points of view coming in that the fresh collision of that in each scene was very exciting. Sometimes that works and sometimes it doesn’t, but in this thing it worked. Sometimes that’s not the way to do it, but here it was great.
Pat, you’ve been working as an actor for a long time now, but this is your first feature as a director. How long have you been searching for the right project?
Pat Healy: About fifteen years. I made a short that played at Sundance in 2001, and then I became a writer for a long time. I was just trying to learn how to write, which wasn’t one of my natural skills. I became a writer-for-hire for a long time; I made my living that way for about a decade. But, I just don’t write microbudget. It was always hard for me; a car would explode, or something. This script came and just sort of fell into my lap. Mike Makowsky produced a short film that I had worked on with a bunch of his fellow Brown graduates and we became friends, and we talked a lot. Then he wrote this script for me to act in and I fell in love with it. I was speaking with my friend, Evan Katz, who’s directed a few things that I’ve done and he said, “It sounds like you should direct it.” I said, “Yeah, you’re right, I should.” And so I took it and I ran with it.
What were some of the elements in it that you fell in love with?
Healy: Well, I loved the story. First off, the premise of this sort of made-up job, these [alternate reality games], escape rooms, and all of that stuff. This taking it one step further with the fake kidnapping thing. And, you know, the situation is ripe for something going horribly wrong in a funny and tense way, as it does in the script. And I think that – and this is something I was not conscious of at the time – but looking back on it as someone who grew up and whose sensitivity was not valued, and as a kid who loved movies, I started to adopt this idea of what I thought masculinity was from old movies. It took me a long time to get around to being vulnerable and being sensitive as a grown up, and this movie – for my character, anyway – sort of charts that journey.
You mention old movies, and I know that screwball comedies were an influence on this. You can see a lot of that, even though it’s a much darker premise. Can you talk about how that played into your directing and your performances?
Healy: Well, screwball and noir are sort of opposite but sister genres, usually involving a schlub going down a rabbit hole with an alluring female – either a femme fatale, or someone who’s fun but a little crazy or off. And so, it’s in the vein of those things. I thought – and I’ve told Taylor this many times – that she reminded me very much of Carole Lombard, who was kind of the queen of the screwball comedies. She was a wonderful actress, as is Taylor, and she could do drama, but the way they can both turn on a dime, it’s a sort of roller coaster of hilarious, sad, dramatic, and scary. She not only has tremendous range, Taylor, but she can make these hairpin turns very quickly. That was what I excited me about it, because I thought of it as a screwball and a noir, and here’s this person who’s the embodiment of it, and she really brought that to the table.
How did the roles evolve or change as you were working on them together?
Healy: I felt somewhat intimidated by her.
Healy: I mean in a good way! Because there’s something that’s really interesting in the movie which informs it, in that she’s really good at [their game] and he’s really bad at it. He doesn’t know that, and she thinks it’s all part of it. I sort of felt the same way. I was directing and acting and sometimes I would forget to do certain things because I was so caught up in it. It would happen in editing, too. We’d be watching things she was doing and we would just get so wrapped up in them. [Laughs] So, I think that changed it for me. I understood being in his shoes, and really being affected by this person, and getting bulldozed by her and going along for the ride, too … I don’t know. I’ve been in too many bad relationships where I’d step out of it and I’d think, “Why did I do that?” But there’s always something – not that this is romantic or sexual, overtly – that is having a reaction to a very powerful, interesting and unique woman. That can get you into trouble, but the ride can be fun.
What’s next for each of you? Taylor, I know that the new season of Orange is the New Black takes place over a similarly truncated period of time.
Schilling: It takes place over three days. It’s pretty cool.
Has that been interesting for you? A fresh way to explore the character?
Schilling: Yeah, it is. It’s very akin to this. When things become compressed and circumstances are heightened, I think parts of people come out. That’s always fascinating. You always think, why is this happening on this day? But you actually understand that when it’s such a condensed period of time where something extraordinary is happening. In both Orange and in this, something very extraordinary is taking place over these two, three days.
And Pat, are you looking for your next directorial project?
Healy: I’m going to act for a while. This was a very long process, especially post. I’m looking at scripts, and I have about a dozen that I’ve written. I’m going to sort of wait and see this come out, and see what people think of it, and if people want to offer me things to do. I do have some acting gigs lined up. I think that in the fall I should be sufficiently rested – I hope!