Nicole Kidman, Chris Rock and more
Nicole Kidman ("The Undoing") and Chris Rock ("Fargo") discuss acting in dramas, and Josh O'Connor ("The Crown") and Anya Taylor-Joy ("The Queen's Gambit") reflect on their movie "Emma".
Ramin Setoodeh: Have you ever wished you could hang out
with some of your favorite Hollywood stars?
Nicole Kidman: Hey, we get the chance to do it.
Chris Rock: Such an amazing gig.
I love it.
Ramin: Variety Studio invites you to listen in as today's
biggest actors talk to each other about their craft.
Josh O'Connor: So many actors are so kind because we're
constantly being empathetic.
Anya Tayor-Joy: Putting ourselves in other people's
Ramin: With Nicole Kidman and Chris Rock, and Josh O'Connor
and Anya Taylor-Joy.
Ramin: Welcome to "Variety Studio: Actors on Actors."
I'm Ramin Setoodeh.
As you can see, we're still not back in our studio, but we know
you'll enjoy these revealing conversations with some of the
best TV performers of the year from locations around the world.
Ramin: Nicole Kidman and Cross Rock are two movie stars
who made a big splash in TV series this season.
In "The Undoing," Nicole Kidman plays an upscale New Yorker
whose seemingly perfect life is turned upside down when her
husband gets involved in a murder.
Grace Fraser: You came home.
You crawled into our bed, and I held you.
I held you, and I broke for you, and we made love, Jonathan.
We made love, and I thought you'd lost a patient.
How can I ever believe you?
Ramin: And in the fourth season of "Fargo," Chris Rock
shows his dramatic side as a 1950s mob boss.
Loy Cannon: And, look, maybe you feel like these Italians own
you, but you've got no idea what it feels like to be actual
owned, to be property, until now 'cause I own you.
You're gonna help me win this war,
or I'm gonna put you on the ground.
You hear me?
Nicole Kidman: You're a dramatic actor now, Chris.
Chris Rock: Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, I drama it up
from time to time.
Nicole: But you're a great writer.
And how do you come in when you're-- 'cause
I obviously can't write.
How do you come in and do "Fargo"?
Do you contribute to the writing?
Do you change it?
Do you come in and do it word-for-wordá*?
What is your process?
Chris: My--honestly, I mean, with "Fargo," I didn't-- you
know, it depends on the writer.
Me and Noah, we had conversations about things that
maybe I thought were missing occasionally.
You know what I mean? Like, hmm.
Nicole: Yeah, yeah.
Chris: "Hey, I know this guy is giving his kid to the
gangster, but trust me, his hardest conversation
is gonna be with his wife."
Like, I'll say that to Noah because there's no wife scene
here, you know what I mean?
So then suddenly a wife scene will show up
that Noah writes, by the way.
Chris: But, so, I learned, you know,
good actors ask questions.
That's what I learned, and it's not what you say.
It's how you say it, and that's how I try to contribute.
Nicole: So when you come and, say, to do "Fargo," do you do an
enormous amount of preparation?
Because what was incredible, to me, and everyone always says
this--and you probably get it--is you have
such an appealing voice.
So your voice vocally is warm. It draws you in.
And so then to be that juxtaposed against Lorne,
and what he's doing and his motivations, was so fascinating.
I mean, it's great casting.
Chris: Thank you. You know what's weird?
I always say--I did a movie with Morgan Freeman years ago, and I
would watch them give him pages on the day, and he would
literally, just, in a rehearsal would be so good, and I always
say acting is 80% voice.
Nicole: Yeah, yeah, no, I hear you.
Chris: Some people have a voice that is believable no
matter what the hell they're sayin', and some people, you
know, you can see a lie comin' a mile away.
Nicole: But I always wonder, do you come up with a whole path
that leads to you stepping on set, or are you just, "Okay, I
show up, and I'm gonna fly it"?
Chris: I don't know.
No, you know what this weird thing is?
At some point, I started realizing, "Hey--" it's like you
stop thinkin' like a actor, per se, and just say,
"I'm a person, okay?
I'm the age of this character.
I'm from the same place this character is from.
I have the same relatives this character is from."
So I try to find all the parallels to me in this
character so I'm not acting, per se.
You know what I mean?
Nicole: Yeah, absolutely.
Chris: I think, "Okay, look, I could've been a gangster.
I know gangsters that don't yell.
I know--" you know what I mean?
Like, I just find all these things I have in common with
this guy, and I find that better, especially, like, if
you're not playing, like, a historical figure.
It's like he is who you make him in a lot of ways, and the closer
he is to me, the more fun we're gonna have,
I guess, I would say.
Nicole: Yeah, but I mean it's interesting to me because you
have your lane that's totally yours that you can exist in and
in a hugely successful way, and instead, you go, "Okay, I'm now
gonna go take a huge bite out of drama, and I'm gonna do it
and accomplish it," and that's crazy brave.
You don't need to do it.
Chris: I don't need to do it, but I need--I don't know.
I need to feel good about myself.
You ever meet an artist that likes good art and does bad art?
Like people with great taste, and you're like,
"Why is she so horrible?
She has the best taste."
You know what I mean?
Like, I never wanted to be--we all have those friends.
Oh, my god.
Okay, we gotta talk about "The Undoing."
So how do you study for the whole untrusting wife thing?
Nicole: Well, having a partner like Hugh Grant, I love
working with people that I'm not because I'm quite shy, and if
I'm working with someone that I've got a history with, I feel
so much freer and safer, so having Hugh as my husband
was fantastic for me.
Nicole: But it was so beautifully written, this show,
and it was so interior, a lot of it, and we had this director
called Susanne Bier, who's fantastic with detail and nuance
and the thriller, and all of those things, so I could get
really get lost in being this woman who is basically, I mean,
the title, "The Undoing."
Her whole life just sort of becomes undone, and she has to
find her resilience or find the desire to leave him and to exist
on her own and all of those things, so there's a lot of
complexities to it, which is what I was really drawn to.
Chris: I mean, I thought everything was kind of top
notch, and just the way it captured just that part
of New York that Upper East Side-y--
Nicole: Privileged, white privilege that is coming,
Chris: Yes, yes.
Nicole: But then you have Noma cast as this incredible
lawyer, and I always wanna call her out because she was a
theater actress, who we were like, "Yeah, we're gonna give
her a shot to really own this," and she came on, and she just
commanded, like we all got in line.
I mean, she has such a great--talk about a great voice.
Chris: Yeah, she has an amazing voice.
Nicole: Yeah, so did you have to shut down on "Fargo"
when you were shooting?
Chris: We shut down--woo, that was a crazy day.
Yeah, we shut down in March, and it was one of those things where
you're filming, and then you just hear "'Chicago Hope' shut
down," and you're like, "Huh?"
You know, like, other products were shutting down around us,
and people were walking off the set, you know, like the grips,
and it was crazy.
Nicole: Oh, I know.
But how did you then hold-- 'cause I'm fascinated by people
that had to stop in the middle and hold the character and then
still deliver that performance.
How did you do that?
Chris: It was hard. It was hard.
I mean, I lucked up in the sense that I used the pandemic to get
in shape, so I didn't have to worry about it physically.
I came back kind of looking like the guy.
Mentally, yes, I had to wrap my mind around
even wanting to do it.
You know what I mean?
Nicole: Yeah, yeah, yeah. Yeah.
Chris: And I had to leave my attitude at the door 'cause
you're like, "Why are we even doing this?
Is this really important?"
Chris: Like, I have a mask on, and everybody's got a mask
on, and we're worried about people dying.
Is acting really that important right now?
Nicole: Yeah, and then, what was your decision to go for it?
Because you could've gone, "no"?
Chris: You could've gone, "no," but, you know, we had--I
don't know--eight, you know, whatever, six already done, so
you do have an obligation to your crew, and you do have an
obligation to, you know, the other actors.
Nicole: They were probably scared too.
Chris: And you also, you know, get out of your own head
and realize we were all scared.
We're all in this together.
And let's try to give a, you know, a great performance.
Nicole: Also, there's a freedom when you perform,
where you wanna feel like, "I can touch you.
I can breathe on you."
We are actors.
There's not really many jobs where they go, "No, you have to
work without a mask," and you either have to kiss somebody,
breathe on them.
You know, when you say that to people, they're like,
My other question is do you love being an actor?
Do you love being a comedian?
Do you wanna stay in this forever?
Are you a lifetimer?
Chris: Yes, I think I'm a lifetimer.
I wanna do this as long as I'm doing it well and I'm working
with good people, and I'm challenged.
The day that it's routine, just get rid of me.
I don't wanna be around, but I love, you know, new.
So as long as it can be new, I'll love--I'll do it till
I drop dead, you know?
Are you tryin' to get out of the business?
What're you--are you a lifetime--
Nicole: No, I've tried.
I've literally had that thing where I've gone on--when
I was pregnant, I was like, "Well, I'm done now.
I'm really done. I can feel it.
I've got my vegetable garden.
I'm living in Tennessee, and I'm done, and there is just this--"
it's not a choice.
I feel like it runs through my blood.
I grew up with a father who was a psychologist, so I have this
ability to see things from many different points of views, which
I'm so glad I have as an actor.
I'm really willing to change.
I'm always willing to say I'm wrong, and I'm always
willing to say I'm sorry.
Chris: I find that the great actors are very self-aware.
Nicole: Well, I mean, you would hope
you're not rigid as an actor.
I mean, "rigid" as an actor is not a--I always say you can't be
a control freak as an actor 'cause you're not in control.
Chris: You're not in control.
I mean, just the ability to say you're wrong, you know, is--
Nicole: Yeah, we'll say, "Okay, I'm gonna try it this way.
If you don't like it, I'll do it your way.
I'll do it that way, sure."
And I struggled sometimes with my ability to listen to my own
voice and go, "No, no, this is something I should fight for.
This is something I should really know, performance-wise,
is gonna work in the character.
Ramin: Josh O'Connor and Anya Tayor-Joy co-starred in 2020's
big-screen adaptation of "Emma."
Since then, they've received rave reviews
for their latest TV turns.
Ramin: In "The Crown," Josh O'Connor plays a young Prince
Charles whose life changes dramatically when he marries
Prince Charles: People were laughing at me, laughing in my
face at the end of a week in which half of Australia
has also been booing me.
I don't deserve this.
This is supposed to be my tour, my tour as Prince of Wales to
shore up one of the key countries in the Commonwealth at
a very delicate moment politically, and thanks to you--
Princess Diana: Thanks to me, people have shown up.
Thanks to me, people are interested.
Prince Charles: No, thanks to you, people are laughing in my
face, booing the heir to the throne, booing the crown.
Ramin: And in "The Queen's Gambit," Anya Taylor-Joy
portrays Beth Harmon, a young woman who battles inner demons
to become one of the best chess players in the world.
Beth Harmon: I'm fine being alone.
female: Do you imagine that you saw the king as a father and
the queen as a mother?
I mean, one to attack, one to protect?
Beth: They're just pieces.
And, anyway, it was the board I noticed first.
female: The board?
It's an entire world of just 64 squares.
I feel safe in it.
Josh O'Connor: I should just start this whole thing off by
saying that "Queen's Gambit" was my favorite television show
through all of them.
Anya Taylor-Joy: Josh.
Josh: I completely loved it, and I feel like, with film, you
can kind of work your way through it, and you do all
the prep, and then you do the film, and it's like, you know,
if it's an indie film, which is obviously a lot of your
background and my background was in that kind of indie film
world, it's like a six-week shoot, and then you're done,
whereas I feel like the marathon, the kind of--the
stamina you have to have for a television series is so much.
Like, how do you not--like, you look so fresh and under control,
and, like, nailing it.
Anya: Oh, thank you.
Josh: How are you not exhausted?
Anya: Thank you.
Honestly, I started going to bed at 8 p.m.
I became a grandma, and I was very content about it because
there were maybe four straight weeks where I had 4 a.m.
pickups every single day, and I just started going to bed at
7:30, and it was wonderful.
Anya: I felt like a grandmother, but it was--it
I just--do you know what it is?
I think--and I'm sure that you agree with this.
There are certain characters that just carry you
through a job.
Anya: Like, it's just almost a compulsion to tell this story
where you wake up in the morning and you think, "What on earth am
I doing with my life?
Why am I awake at this time?"
Anya: But there's something about the character that just
makes you wanna get up, and you feel like you're doing something
vital, which sounds ridiculous, obviously, considering the time
that we're living in, but, yeah, I think it was the character but
also the people around.
Like, on "Emma," everybody there, like, there were
definitely days where I just felt so tired, but every new
person that came in was such a breath of fresh air, and you
guys were so supportive.
You were a nightmare on "Emma" because you were the only person
I could not stop laughing, like--
Josh: You really couldn't handle me at all.
Anya: You made me feel so unprofessional.
But from the moment I met you, I was like,
"Oh, this is gonna be a nightmare.
He's gonna make me look so bad."
Josh: Well, I was gonna say that I think, like, in terms of
"Emma," because we were both on that, I just think the scene in
the carriage was the first day of "Emma," and you and I kind of
came in, in the studio, and we're in this tiny carriage, and
people were, like, rocking it, and we had to do this
incredibly--kind of like--quite a dark scene.
I mean, it's like--
Anya: Yeah, but also a pivotal scene.
Josh: And a very pivotal scene.
And I was super-nervous and was already a big fan of yours from
"The Witch," and I what I found amazing is that maybe we both
have that sort of--I don't know--like,
a need to fall into a character.
Like, I don't think it's--because I don't think it's
a kind of God-given talent or anything.
I think it's just this thing of, just, like, you have to believe
it, otherwise, it's no fun.
Anya: Well, I really felt the support from you, and I think, I
mean, that's something that I wanna talk in terms of your
relationship with Emma in the show because it really is--
Josh: There is.
Anya: --there's no way to describe what having a
meaningful partnership with the person that you're acting
opposite with, and I just thought, "Watching you and Emma
kind of dance around each other, I mean, I'm sure it was
wonderful when you had moments of levity, but you're really
nasty to each other.
It's heavy, you know?
It's heavy watching it, and I wondered how you guys kind of--
'cause it seems like you have a really good basis of friendship,
and that's what allows you to go to those places with somebody.
Josh: Yeah, well, I guess what's so amazing and has been
amazing about "The Crown" is you also--you're constantly
surrounded by these kind of, like, big hitters like Olivia
Colman and Tobias Menzies and Helena Bonham Carter, and
they're all sort of like--like their tools are sharpened, like
they've been knockin' around for a while.
They know exactly what to do and how to play it, and they have
the same insecurities we all have, and they--you know, they
struggle with the same things, but Emma
just same into the show.
She's never done anything, and she just walked into this role,
which is such a kind of huge role for many reasons.
Anya: Incredible but terrifying.
Josh: Like, yeah, totally terrifying.
She was the kind of--the beginning of fame and celebrity
as we know it now, and so I think the pressure of that--I
was all kind of prepped for, like, "I'm gonna be the most
supportive actor that this actor's ever worked with, and
I'm gonna be there for her, and if she ever needs advice,
I'll be there."
Like, week two, I was going to her for advice.
I was like, "How--I'm stressin' out.
I'm panicking. I don't know what to do."
She was just so, kind of, cool.
So, with "Queen's Gambit," what was that company like?
'Cause it was such an incredible, so, group of actors.
Anya: Oh, it was--yeah, being completely honest, that group of
people was one of those beautiful, serendipitous
blessings that you get on job sometimes where every person
that was supposed to be there was there, and we were all just
intrinsic parts of a puzzle, all working towards the same vision,
and it was strange how we all did have the same
picture in our mind.
But, also, I didn't have any--and this is a question I
want to ask you 'cause my relationship with my characters,
they're all very varied, but they're very intense, and they
are incredibly real for me, and by the time I got to bed, I had
no energy to put a boundary up between myself and the
character, and so I would wake up in the morning and go,
"Oh, I feel awful," "What is this feeling?"
and then realize, "Oh, it's her, and you're just gonna be in this
for the next, you know, 18 hours," essentially, and that
was wonderful because it meant I was never reaching
for any emotion.
You know, I've never had a performance before where I
was--there was just no trying, it was there, but it was
complicated separating my emotions and realizing what was
me and what wasn't, and I'm curious, A, what your
relationship to characters is like in general, but, B, what
it's like when it's a real person 'cause I've never had to
really do that with somebody who's alive.
Josh: Yeah, Prince Charles is a tricky one because, in some
ways, he's a real--well, he is a real person.
Then, some ways, I think, because of that, you have to,
like, part ways with the real version of him in order to kind
of capture something unique or different.
But I just think that the sacrifice you sometimes have to
make is this piece of yourself and--because I know you are like
me and like many of our friends and colleagues who will go job
to job to job to job, and I remember thinking when lockdown
happened, "Oh, this'll be great because it'll stop us all from
working," and, like, obviously, it wasn't great, but, in a way,
I was like, "Oh, maybe this is gonna give us a bit of air to go
like, "And what do I like doing?"
Because I think we do spend a lot of time, like--and it's
beautiful, and that's why so many actors are so kind and
their mental health is so healthy is because we're
constantly being empathetic.
Anya: Putting ourselves in other people's shoes, yeah.
Josh: Yeah, totally, but then at the expense sometimes of,
like, "Well who am I?"
Josh: I know it sounds a little bit over the top, but I
do think it's a thing.
Anya: I got it completely.
Josh: So what--like, how is that for Beth?
Anya: By the time I was finished with Beth, I was done.
Like, it was a good space for us to part ways because I've never
given so much of myself to a character before.
It's such a weird thing to do because I usually think about
characters as so different from me, and I make it a real point
to make them walk differently, to have a different caliber of
voice, to laugh differently, to cry differently.
I want them to be their own person, but for Beth, it was the
first time that I just thought the only way to tell this
accurately is to give bits of myself up, and that can
be--that's kind of strange now because I'll be sitting at a
restaurant, and I'll hear someone say, like, "Oh, she,
like, holds her face the way that Beth does."
And I'm like, "Oh, gosh, I--"
"Me, Beth? What? Uh--"
Anya: I sound mental, but I know that you understand
what I mean.
Josh: No, I truly get it.
Anya: I'm so completely mental.
Josh: I honestly, honestly, I get it.
But often I think about, like, the moments where I've really
desperately tried to cling onto a character.
You live with this person.
You really care about this person, and then you have
to say good-bye.
Josh: I think the other thing with Prince Charles was the--you
know, obviously, real Prince Charles, who knows what he's
like, but the character, he's kind of nasty by the end of
season four, and we had this, like--we go on, doing press, and
the journalists were, like, really finding it hard to part
me from Prince Charles and being like, "I don't like you.
You were nasty to lovely Emma Corrin, and I was like,
"I promise you I wasn't."
Anya: Well, A, shows that you did an incredible performance,
but, B, this is such an interesting thing, and let's
separate the fact--let's separate real Prince Charles
from this situation and make it about, you know,
the person that you portrayed.
I find it very difficult when people say nasty things
about my characters even if they are nasty.
Josh: Same, same.
Anya: 'Cause it's our job to protect them, and it's our job
to defend them, and when you're playing them all day long, you
have to be okay with their choices because
you are making them.
You have to justify them in your own mind.
Josh: Yeah, so it means that, if someone says to you like,
"Oh, and that was--like, you played a really horrible
character," I still am like, "You don't understand.
You don't get it."
And it is--but I think that is--I that's a cool--kind of,
wrapped up in the same thing--isn't it?--of just, like,
we sort of fall in love with them, and then it's hard
to--yeah, it's hard to say good-bye.
It's hard to, like, see them as a viewer as opposed to, like,
being them and--
Anya: But I think what's also really fascinating about what
you've done with Prince Charles is I find, even at the end,
I find Charles incredibly sympathetic 'cause you do feel
for him because you do feel for a young man desperately trying
to have some kind of original--like, you know, in the
confines of an institution that, by nature, is not about
originality, it is not about you living your own life.
It is about living your life for GC.
Josh: The thing I would always say when people were
like, you know, "Charles is not nice," my backup was--I was
always like, "Well, he's not."
I mean, he behaves badly in the end because I think
that--because he's attempted to be reasonable, and he's
attempted to try and save himself, and I think he does
love Diana in a kind of strange way as well, but then there's
this great thing that Peter Morgan, the writer,
said to me earlier on.
He was like, "This boy," he was like, "just try to remember this
boy shares his mother with an entire nation of people."
And I was like, "Oh, my god."
And then he went--and this is the one that I was, like,
stabbed-- "In order for his life to start, like, taking meaning,
his mum has to die."
Anya: Oh, my gosh, of course.
Josh: And it's like, that's insane.
It's terrible affliction on some young kid.
Anya: That's a lot. That's pretty heavy.
Josh: It's a lot, yeah, so it was like every time I was like,
"Ugh, I'm being a bit nasty" or, like, someone says, "Oh, is that
a bit harsh that you're playing--like, the way
you're playing now a bit?"
"No, I don't think it is.
I think he's gone through the ringer."
Anya: Will you miss him, or are you good?
Josh: I'm actually good.
What about--I mean, you're gonna miss Beth, aren't you?
Anya: I don't think Beth's ever gonna really go away,
and I've kind of come to terms with that.
It's been very, very strange.
When the show was first unleashed into the world, I just
felt very exposed, and I felt very frightened 'cause I was
also isolating in Northern Ireland by myself, and so it
just felt like this thing that I'd given my whole heart to that
was so precious to me was just suddenly available for anybody
to think whatever they wanted to think about it, and I was like,
"Oh, please be gentle."
Ramin: We hope you've enjoyed our look inside the world of
"Actors on Actors."
Please join us again next time.
Chris: I think I've seen all your movies, Nicole Kidman.
I think I have. I'm a fan, Nicole.
I just am.
Josh: Hello, everyone. This is very--this is so fun.
Okay, I'm gonna start off. Am I just going to start?
Yeah, I guess I do, don't I?
Chris: That's a whole nother interview.
Nicole: Which we will have.
Chris: We'll have that at a bar someday, yeah.
Josh: So there we are.
That's the end of our "Actors on Actors."
Anya: So there we are.
Yeah, we did good.
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