Jennifer Aniston, Patrick Stewart and more
Jennifer Aniston (The Morning Show) and Lisa Kudrow (Space Force) reminisce about the first meeting each other on the set of Friends. Daveed Diggs (Snowpiercer) and Anthony Mackie (Altered Carbon) compare notes on preparing for fight scenes in their new Sci-Fi series. Henry Cavill (The Witcher) and Patrick Stewart (Picard) reflect on the time they met at an audition.
Ramin Setoodeh: Who better to get inside an actor's head
than another actor?
Lisa Kudrow: It was fun. It was really fun.
Ramin: Variety Studio invites you to listen in as some of
today's biggest stars talk to each other about their craft.
Patrick Stewart: Every day my satisfaction and fun grew
and grew and grew.
Ramin: With Jennifer Aniston and Lisa Kudrow, Daveed Diggs
and Anthony Mackie, and Henry Cavill and Patrick Stewart.
Ramin: Welcome to "Variety Studio: Actors on Actors."
I'm Ramin Setoodeh.
Even though we aren't in studio this season, we are still
staying connected through great television and some of the best
performances of the year.
Ramin: Jennifer Aniston and Lisa Kudrow will be linked
forever through their leading roles in the classic TV series,
Now they're back in two different TV shows
that costars Steve Carell.
In "The Morning Show," Jennifer Aniston plays a TV anchor who
finds herself in the spotlight after losing her co-host
to sexual harassment scandal.
Jennifer Aniston: We are doing this my way because
frankly I've let you bozos handle this long enough.
Not the apology you were expecting?
Ramin: And in the comedy "Space Force," Lisa Kudrow
is a wife and mother who continues to manage her family's
misadventures from behind bars.
Lisa: How's school going? Are you making new friends?
Diana Silvers: I really miss D.C.
Lisa: Yeah, I do too. Also, my freedom.
But, honey, it's important to adapt.
Try to fit in. That's why I joined a gang.
Did I say gang? I meant club.
Basically it's a book club. How's daddy?
Jennifer: Do you actually remember when you first--like
when we first met?
Lisa: Yes, I do.
At the table read.
Do you remember what I was wearing?
Lisa: You remember what everyone was wearing, but--
Jennifer: I do.
You were wearing an appropriate Phoebe Buffay, like, a white
linen hippie shirt and you had a bunch of, like, seashells
and necklaces on.
Lisa: Oh, God bless.
Jennifer: And Courteney had on a pink baby t
with a white trim.
Lisa: Jeez, whizz.
I was trying to get into the character.
Jennifer: You still thought you were auditioning and you
actually already had the job.
Lisa: Well. What did you wear?
Jennifer: That I don't remember.
Lisa: I just remember hearing you at the table read
and everyone went, "Okay, that's Rachel. Got it."
Jennifer: Wasn't that kind of a magical, magical moment to
sort of hear everybody all together in the voices just
having imagined it for so long was just kind of like,
"Whoa, this is cool. This is--what's happening?"
Lisa: Everyone's take was, "Didn't see that coming."
And I think, you know, you need that for comedy.
Jennifer: You absolutely do 'cause hopefully that's
what the audience feels.
Lisa: Yeah, exactly.
It was really fun.
Jennifer: And they did eventually.
Lisa: And then you did "The Morning Show."
Jennifer: Right after.
Lisa: I just thought that was a good segue.
It's not abrupt at all, but it's my favorite show.
Watched all of them. You blew me away.
You were so completely the morning show host that I--it
wasn't you anymore, and that's what was just really thrilling.
After it was done, I would go, "Wait, that was Jennifer."
Oh my God, but you did the work.
It was just really clear.
Jennifer: There was so much material to mine, and then also
we had at least like three or four of the scripts outlined
and then #MeToo happened.
So--then we had to stop and refocus and incorporate all of
that into the story as well, which sadly fit in quite easily.
Lisa: Yeah. But you were pretty involved.
I mean, you were all with the scripts,
with the--all of it, right?
Like the tone and--
Jennifer: That's what I loved about Kerry Ehrin, our
show runner and head writer.
Reese and I both got to sit with her individually and talk about
what--portraits of this character, this archetype.
Are we--like, "Who am I?"
And I, of course, bow to Diane Sawyer.
I felt like that's who I kind of modeled her after, and just
being able to find our Corys and Chips and Mitch--and Steve
was our very first one for Mitch.
Lisa: Yeah. Perfect, too.
Jennifer: And never thought in a million years he would say
yes, and then he said yes.
Lisa: Yeah, he was--he did it really, really well.
But your depiction of Alex's sort of breakdown in that last
episode, I've never seen anything done like that.
It felt so real and not painful 'cause she was sort of out
of her body.
It felt is that--how on earth did you approach that?
Jennifer: I just remember that it was supposed to be a
boiling point, and I think all of it kind of exploded and it
happened to happen right when we were on air.
And I think I just did sort of float out of my body and it was
a little bit like I'm mad as hell and I'm, you know,
not going to take it anymore.
And I think it's also something about being this age and knowing
and having heard these stories over and over
over the last few years.
There's such a rage that we as women are carrying and hearing
what so many women walked through and had to deal with,
and it was like this rage for all women.
Lisa: Yeah, we've all heard stories and you just know,
"Oh my God, there is no recourse.
There's no recourse. There's nothing to do.
What do I tell my friend? Oh my God." Yeah.
Jennifer: And it's too big.
It's too big, that man world thing.
"It's going to be his word against mine."
So it was a quite a fulfilling experience and--
Lisa: So it was an expression of that. Yeah.
How long did it--who approached you with "Space Force?"
Lisa: Well, I heard from my agents, Greg Daniels,
and I was thrilled 'cause I've known Greg since 1986.
And there was part of me that was always sort of like, "Greg
never wonders if I want to do."
You know, that actor thing like--
Jennifer: I've known him a long time. Yes.
Lisa: So I was thrilled that, you know, Greg's doing this show
with Steve and, you know, they want to know
if you want to do it.
And then Steve sent me a text saying, "It'll be fun.
Play my wife."
And I just thought, "Well, why on earth would I not?
Let's--and I should read it."
And I read it and I thought, "This is interesting."
Jennifer: Weren't you so excited to go get that job when
you heard, "Oh my gosh, I got to work with Steve Carell?"
Lisa: Yes, he's heaven.
It was really fun.
I mean, I was only there on that show for 5 days, but every--
Jennifer: For the whole time?
All of your whole body of work was done in 5 days?
Lisa: Yeah, yeah. That's how I do things.
Jennifer: By the way, like it. Sign me up.
So just 5 days for all the--most of them take--took
place in the cell, right?
Lisa: Yes, well, the unfortunate thing, I think, for the very
first day, we're shooting the episode where I have the most
to do with a conjugal visit and--that was the first day.
And so that was a lot.
But they were so great about, "Yeah,
not feeling exactly right.
Let's figure this out. You know, let's--"
Jennifer: Meaning the scene wasn't feeling exactly right so
that they would sort of stop in between takes and then they
would kind of workshop it and then say, "Let's try this."
Lisa: Figure it out. Yeah.
It was great, and brilliant fixes too.
I have to say like that, but it was fun.
It was really fun.
So since we've been in quarantine or staying home,
have you watched "Friends?"
Have you--I know you did watch--you used to watch.
Do you still watch "Friends" episode?
Jennifer: I love stumbling on a "Friends" episode.
I have to say--I think I stumbled upon this one time
where I was with Courteney and we're on the computer.
We were trying to find something to--an old "Friends" thing.
And then we stumbled on bloop--there's bloopers online,
like 15 minutes worth of bloopers.
That we sat there at the computer like two nerds
watching these bloopers, laughing at ourselves.
Lisa: I've done it, too. The bloopers.
Jennifer: Oh my gosh.
And then I just went--we went down this wormhole of like--I
don't even remember that.
Like, where did--who comes up with this?
Lisa: I've done that, hours watching the bloopers.
But it's--some of the more entertaining--sometimes more
entertaining than the shows were themselves.
Ramin: Daveed Diggs and Anthony Mackie star in two
sci-fi series set in dystopian futures.
In "Snowpiercer," Daveed Diggs plays a detective trying to
solve a murder mystery on a train where the passengers
are separated by class.
Daveed Diggs: You should thank her for that.
She keeps the borders tight, she keeps the Ravel at bay, and she
keeps first class above the law, but Mr. Wilfred is doing things
differently this time.
Ain't that right?
Ramin: On the second season of "Altered Carbon," Anthony
Mackie portrays a warrior trying to survive in a society
where human beings have attained immortality.
Anthony Mackie: Well, the golf has taken rocks
we've been to.
We're right back where we started.
male: I thought you swore you never return.
What compelled you?
Anthony: Boris actually compelled me.
Daveed: Totally unprompted, I'm supposed to start by asking
you about "Altered Carbon," bro.
So what's it been like?
Anthony: "Altered Carbon" was great.
I mean, I had never done anything really that big before.
Like, even if you look at the "Avengers" movies, I've never
been the lead of one.
It became a definite hustle.
Daveed: I was about to say, like, I'm having a similar
experience just in general, like, with the TV grind.
I've never been, like, a lead of a TV show before.
You got to sort of be responsible for the mood of the
set, kind of, 'cause you're the one who's there all the time.
It's like--it actually is like there's some heavy lifting
emotionally to be smiling that much.
Anthony: I'm a big fan of "Hamilton."
When you guys were doing "Hamilton," you must have felt
like Mick Jagger with all the fans and the--
Daveed: It was really intense.
One of the things I kind of appreciate about these specific
sort of fandom worlds is how much the art that you consume
is part of your identity, right?
There's like an identity politics that play with it that
I find really interesting because--mostly because
it's just allowed to be like celebrating openly in those
spaces, which is really wonderful and you end up
with this--like this wild mix of people.
But you come to "Hamilton," you get to dress up like Angelica
Schuyler or you come to a Comic Con
and you get to dress up like Falcon.
You know, like you do these things that are extensions
of your own identity.
Like, my identity is totally made up of the rappers
I listen to and stuff.
I don't like go outside dressing like Tupac.
Like, I can't do that. You know I'm saying?
Anthony: A lot of people do.
For you, it must be crazy 'cause the past--I would say the past
3 1/2 years for you, the past 4 years has been you like
a actors, artist, creator--a creative entity's dream.
What has that been like?
Like, can you--do people look at you different?
Can you not go to the grocery store anymore?
Do your family always bother you?
Like, now that you're not little Didi no more,
how does--what's that like?
Daveed: I'm a--you know, I think most of the things
I struggle with are sort of what is private
and what is public, right?
Once you are a different kind of public figure, there's kind of
an expectation of access that I don't know that anybody plans
to have to navigate.
I don't know how much that occurs to--maybe
for younger folks, you know.
I didn't live on social media as a kid.
Like, I don't have that relationship with it to where
I've already made these choices about what's public
and what's private.
So I find myself reassessing that in real time every day.
Like, actually this is for me. This ain't for you all.
Anthony: Right. Right. Right.
So with "Snowpiercer," did they ever at a point in time--like,
did you watch the movie and try to pick up mannerisms or?
Daveed: I watched it right when I read, like, the very
first version of the pilot script that we got.
So I was aware of it and then I read the graphic novels,
but I really tried not to do that.
But I think the mood--like, there's a tone of that film
that is so specific, and I think the show is different.
I don't remember who said this to me.
Some director I was working with said that understanding the tone
of the piece is 80% of the work and I really believe that in a
lot of cases, and it took us a while, I think to zero,
even like watching the first season now.
Like, now we're a few episodes in and I was like,
"Oh, there we go.
Now we understand what we are making," you know.
TV is a trip, you know.
You sort of--you're just like rehearsing the whole time.
You don't ever--you never know what it is.
Anthony: You never have to get it right.
That's what I love about it.
It's like, "You can mess up as much as you want
and we'll make it right."
Daveed: Yeah, it's beautiful.
That part of it is beautiful, once you can relax into it.
That's what I'm trying to learn, you know.
Anthony: Have you ever done, like, any physical work,
any stunt work, or is this your first time like having
to fight and kick?
Daveed: This is definitely the most I have done.
Yeah, I mean, this is--in front of the camera for sure
the only stuff I've done.
I've done a fair amount of like stage combaty stuff.
I'm really good at falling.
That skill set is--has been useful.
And I'm--honestly, like, I enjoy the scenes where I get beat up
so much more than the ones where I have to beat somebody up.
Like, I actually--
Anthony: No--you know, it's funny.
When I did "Captain America: Winter Soldier," that movie
taught me so much as far as being fully ready.
Like even now going into the "Falcon Winter Soldier," one of
the biggest reasons I was so thankful about doing "Altered
Carbon" was because "Altered Carbon" put me in a position to
go right into the show and be in, like, the best movie shape.
So what would you say you prefer?
Like, if you could do one role and become Robert De Niro,
what kind--what role would it be?
Daveed: In terms of roles, I like that I have had the
opportunity to do a bunch of different things.
Somehow I have had the good fortune partially by having a
team who understands me and partially by, like, just being
rigorous about it had the luxury of doing things that are really
different, and I want keep doing that if I'm going
to be doing it.
Anthony: Yeah, I think it's important that people realize it
'cause I agree with you 100%.
Like, as a young black actor, your career is only as good
as your team's level of understanding you.
And I see it--I've been in the game 20 years now.
This is my 20-year anniversary.
And I've seen a lot of actors come, I've seen a lot of actors
go, and the one thing that I feel like my team has done
completely different is keep my project interesting
and catered to my sensibilities.
So wherever I am in my life at that time, my agent and
my manager will be like, "Why don't you look at this?
I think you would like this, you know, right now.
I think this is something that will speak to you."
So I go into it with an understanding of voice
and I go into it passionately.
But I'm a firm believer in your career will always be made
by other people saying no.
When I was working with Spike Lee, this movie he was doing
called "She Hate Me" came up and he offered it to Jeffrey Wright.
Jeffrey Wright said no.
And then he offered it to me, you know.
So I was like, "Thanks, Jeffrey."
You know, so there are--and that movie is kind of like
a cult classic now.
There's so many things like that in my career where someone else
is saying no gave me the great opportunity.
Ramin: Henry Cavill and Patrick Stewart, both known
for their roles in comic book movies, are headlining
new TV shows.
On "The Witcher," Henry Cavill plays a trained fighter
who lives in a medieval fantasy universe.
Henry Cavill: Did you sing to her before she left?
Joey Batey: I did actually and she--why?
What are you implying?
Oh, we are so having this conversation.
Come on, Geralt. Tell me. Be honest.
How's my singing?
Henry: It's like ordering a pie and finding
it hasn't filling.
Ramin: And on "Star Trek: Picard," Patrick Stewart returns
one more time to play the beloved Star Trek character,
the captain of the Starship Enterprise.
Patrick: Out there in the light system, right now beings
who have as much right to life and liberty as you and I,
all commander data, are being hunted down by an enemy
who seeks to exterminate.
If you say this is not a job for StarFleet
then I'm sorry, but you are a waste of space.
Henry: So, Patrick, we met many, many years ago.
You were casting for "The Lion in Winter."
And I was incredibly nervous to audition in front of an actor
of your caliber, and I went into the audition.
I had spent weeks learning my lines.
And by the time I got in there, I'd whipped myself
into such a frenzy that I completely flubbed the audition.
You gave me very, very kind words and that gave me such
strength throughout my career.
And I've never forgotten it because I tend to find as
an actor, we can judge ourselves incredibly harshly
if we get it wrong.
And I feel like acting is a skill which doesn't always
appear when you reach into that abyss, hoping that
you can clutch it and pull it out.
And on that day I did not, and you were very, very gracious
and you let me know that I did the right thing
and that meant a lot to me.
So thank you, thank you for that.
Patrick: Oh, Henry, that's a delightful story.
It probably says more about me as a producer than it does
about you as an actor.
Henry: Whether it was for better or for worse,
it was--definitely it was a good moment.
It was a good moment.
I was with "Next Generation," which I watched growing up.
I was watching an interview recently and you had said that
initially when you joined the cast, everyone was doing a lot
of joking around on set and there was a lot of good times,
and you were a lot more serious and it was a lot more of a sense
of, "No, we got to take this seriously."
And then throughout the series as the show went on, you
actually opened up a bit more to the idea of actually
being really good fun.
And did you try and bring some of that to "Star Trek: Picard"
because I see a lot more in the way of warmth in the character
and lightness in the character?
Patrick: Yes. I am not a writer.
So although I was allowed--as a co-executive producer, I was
allowed into the writers' room.
But I would just sit there with my mouth open, listening to
these great ideas that would flash backwards and forwards
across the table and then be thrown out of the window and
I want to go, "No, no, no. That was wonderful."
I love being in that room.
I wish that I could have recorded everything moment that
I sat with our writers.
The only things, I think, that I actually contributed in terms
of dialogue were jokes.
Like tea decaf was my idea.
I thought it was time to have some jokes with the character
because there was a lot of grittiness
surrounding our lives.
And I was very reluctant, very reluctant to go back
to that franchise.
But every day my satisfaction and pleasure and fun grew and
grew and grew, and I am so glad that they came up with the idea.
Henry: And so for you with Picard, was there anything that
you wanted to bring to this character, which was going to
differ particularly from "Next Generation?"
What were your goals for the character for--the evolution
for the character?
Patrick: During the 7 years that we filmed "Next Generation"
series and the four feature films followed it, without
intending it, Picard came closer and closer and closer to me, to
Patrick, so that after a while there was no place that I could
identify where Jean-Luc left off and Patrick Stewart began.
They became one.
So I didn't have to sit and brood about, you know, what kind
of breakfast I'd had that morning as my character
before I went on the set.
There was so much already at work within me.
What I did want and I--to the writers, I cited the movie
"Logan" that I did with Hugh Jackman.
The last of the "X-Men" movies found the two of us in
conditions that were totally unlike anything that we
experienced before, and it was thrilling for both of us
because we were continually being challenged
in very different ways.
So I said to all my fellow producers,
"I would like the same thing.
I don't want you to rewrite "Logan" for me.
But the contrast between the Picard that I had been in "Next
Generation" and the 17, 18 years that had passed had changed
and affected him.
He was now angry, moody, guilty, sad, lonely; all of those things
which he had never been before.
So without changing the most internal parts of the man,
he had to be different.
His responses to the world were different from what the "Next
Generation's" Jean-Luc had been.
And you will understand how much fun that was.
Henry: Yes, absolutely, absolutely.
You almost described my character then when you were
saying angry, sad, lonely.
It's all of these things that Geralt of Rivia tends to be.
In the books which the character comes from, there's the luxury
of lots of inner monologue and long, complex, nuanced dialogue
scenes with all the character.
And so I had to try and find a way for the audience to connect
to my character in the same way that the reader would connect to
the character in the books.
And every time Geralt came on screen, I wanted the audience to
try and work out who he was.
He clearly wasn't a bad guy, even though he's done some bad
stuff and he has a very brusque, stony exterior.
And so I wanted to try and show that perhaps that was a stoic
exterior instead of stony.
And the less he would say, the more the audience would think,
"What is he thinking?"
And it became more of a performance of reactions to
other characters and listening to other characters, and that
for me was the major goal with my character.
Patrick: And you did a lot of your own stunts, didn't you?
Henry: Yes, yes.
For me, it was a--when it comes to that kind of thing like
stunts, I've always enjoyed doing the physical stuff.
For me, Geralt--if an audience is watching Geralt on screen,
it must be me.
They must believe that it is me.
Each little piece, even if it's a very, very long shot of him
walking down a hill somewhere--if it's not me,
I feel like I've betrayed the character in some way.
And so I try and do all the stunts for my characters if
possible, and I really enjoy doing it for Geralt especially.
Patrick: The fights in particular are extraordinary.
I used to love doing stage fights,
and then one day I didn't.
Ramin: We hope you've enjoyed our look inside the world
of actors on actors.
Please join us again next time.
Jennifer: TMI. Sorry. Editing.
Daveed: Everything is good. You're recording.
We can just start talking.
Patrick: My screen here is telling me that
I have low battery.
Lisa: Yeah, thank God for editors.
Jennifer: Thank God.
Anthony: The one back here?
Henry: To my left?
Lisa: Hang up, right?