Variety Studio: Actors on Actors


Reese Witherspoon, Hugh Jackman, and more

Regina King (Watchmen) and Reese Witherspoon (Little Fires Everywhere) discuss how motherhood influences their acting choices. Anne Hathaway (Modern Love) and Hugh Jackman (Bad Education) talk about playing real life people. Kieran Culkin (Succession) and Dan Levy (Schitt’s Creek) swap notes on portraying wealthy families.

AIRED: July 17, 2020 | 0:26:33

Ramin Setoodeh: Have you ever wished you could hang out with

your favorite Hollywood stars?

Regina King: Yes.

Ramin: Variety Studio invites you to listen in as today's

biggest actors talk to each other about their craft.

Anne Hathaway: I just wanted toshow this person that I

loved them.

Ramin: With Regina King andReese Witherspoon, Anne Hathaway

and Hugh Jackman, and Kieran Culkin and Dan Levy.


Ramin: Welcome to "Variety Studio: Actors on Actors."

I'm Ramin Setoodeh.

Even though we aren't in studiothis season, we are still

staying connected through greattelevision and some of the best

performances of the year.

Ramin: Almost 20 years ago, Regina King and Reese

Witherspoon appeared together inthe comedy, "Legally Blonde 2."

Now they're both starring insome of the most talked about TV

shows of the year.

Ramin: In the TV adaptation ofthe comic book "Watchmen," Oscar

and Emmy winner Regina King plays a police detective who

transforms into a masked crime fighter.

Regina: You are mad that my sitter bailed and you had to

suffer through Black Oklahoma without having someone to roll

your eyes at.

Don Johnson: Sitter bailed?

Regina: Yes.

Don: Well, you and Carl missed out 'cause Black Oklahoma

was delightful.

Regina: You are not allowed to call it that.

Ramin: Oscar and Emmy winner Reese Witherspoon stars in

"Little Fires Everywhere,"where she portrays a privileged

journalist whose carefullyconstructed small town life was

shaken to the core by new residents.

Reese Witherspoon: We pay really well.

I mean, we pay what's fair.

And whatever you thought wasfair, that's what we would pay.

But I just--you know what I meant was house helper,

house manager.

That's what I really meantbecause I'm so unorganized, but

it was just a suggestion.

So take it or leave it.

Regina: Hello, Reese.

How are you, my dear?

Reese: I'm good.

I mean, it feels a littlesurreal to be seeing you from so

far away when I saw you sorecently, but I miss connecting

with you.

I was so looking forward to doing this interview in person

because, as you know, I'm a huge fan of your work.

Regina: Ditto.

Reese: We've only known eachother since we were--I feel like

I met you when I was 23 years old.

Regina: I know.

We have grown children.

Reese: I can't--and I remember--and I can't remember

if we met first and then we did"Legally Blonde" together or we

met each other on "Legally Blonde."

I can't remember.

Regina: We met each other on "Legally Blonde."

Reese: We did?

Regina: Yeah.

And, you know--like, since we were on "Legally Blonde,"

remember when you got to [inaudible] to play that part,

and we were just fanning out andjust--you got to do that again

on "Big Little Lies" with Meryl Streep.

You know, how do you do that?

Reese: Well, I try to makethem an offer they can't refuse.

I set targets.

I knew I wanted to work with you, too.

When I saw you--I remember seeing you in "Jerry Maguire"

and I was like, "I'm going to work with her.

You had a spirit inside of you and I was like, "That woman

is truth.

She is intelligence, she is beauty, she is soul, and she

is honest."

And the thing I love about you is that you are determined to

make a lot of change in our business by committing to hire

more women, more people of colorto put them in the driver's

seat, you know.

And now we have the ability;the emergence of television and

streaming and all these emergingtechnologies that are looking

for fresh perspectives.

And it's this amazing moment where we are taking all of it

back and going, "Wait, what arethe decades, if not hundreds of

years, of stories that haven't been told?"

And I feel like if we all looklike we're busy and doing three

and four and five jobs, it'sbecause we're trying to make up

for lost time.

Regina: Speaking of like--youknow, when you're talking about

creativity, when I watched "Little Fires Everywhere"

and--I'm just curious 'causeyou guys were in Paris, you guys

were in New York.

You know, I'm sure you didn't necessarily go to all those

places, but there was--wheneverwe went to those places, we felt

like we were there, you know.

I just found it so exciting because as a producer myself I

know that, you know, this is what--it's not this

humongous budget.

What was the planning, you know, going into that?

Reese: Well, "Little Fires"was just an incredible journey.

I felt so fortunate to be able to partner with

Kerry Washington.

She's--she just worked so hard.

And, you know, when you're partnering with people, you

still never know until you get going what it's going to like.

So the partnership with her--LizTigelaar was our showrunner, and

all the writers--we had this incredibly inclusive writers'

room that had women who had an immigrant experience, had an

adoption experience.

I mean, it's so amazing.

Regina: Well, it's been particularly interesting with

your career as of recent becauseyour work has been so connected

to film.

And then these past couple ofyears, you know, you've just--as

a producer especially, you know,you've really tapped into the

streaming, you know, cable world.

And how did you land there?

I mean, you have three big shows, you know.

Reese: Right, well--I mean,it--none of it was--I don't--you

can't anticipate what's going tohappen in our industry, but it's

incredible how media has changedand the importance of home

viewership and that there's thisbar of excellence now, right?

And I see that in your show.

It is so beautifully made.

I should say "Watchmen."

I've been just binging it.

It's beautifully made, incredibly written.

The production value is off the charts.

And I think people are now having these really premium

experiences in their homes, butthey're also going, "I want to

see stories about people wholook like me and have the world

that looks as diverse and inclusive as my world."

Regina: Oh, I totally, totally agree with you with that.

I did one of these--this lastyear and one of the things that

I was talking about--you know,the question was asked, how do I

see my space in this shift?

And, you know, I had to be honest and say being so young

starting in the business; no, I did not actually go into it

thinking that I am going to getbehind the camera, I am going to

have representation.

No, I did--I was just working.

I was just doing what I enjoydoing, and it was--it's probably

motherhood that had a big deal to do with being conscious of

the need to create more storiesthat are reflective of the world

that we live in.

Reese: Well, tell me why motherhood.

Regina: Being a mother just likekind of cracked me open and made

me realize that my purpose ismore than just being an actress.

Reese: And that it's okay to want more.

Regina: Right.

Reese: I think so many times, you know, I was told just be

happy to have a lane, you know.

And when I was first trying to produce, it wasn't easy.

People didn't want to just be helpful.

I had to work twice as hard.

I had to have twice as many hitsfor people to say, "That's a

real thing.

She is a real producer."

'Cause I say even after we did our first two movies, "Gone

Girl" and "Wild" weren't making any money.

I could barely keep the company open.

But I feel like there was a bigshift about 5, 6 years ago where

people just said, "Okay, there really is an audience for

these stories."

And I feel similar to you aboutmotherhood was a big inspiration

for me because I had a little girl and I thought, "Who's she

going to see on film?

The women I'm walking throughworld and seeing as superheroes

in the world that I live in are not on screen."

But now it just feels like the world shifted in a way that

opened up so much for all of us.

I just think that we are part of such a beautiful artistic

community, and I feel like it'sa great time to be an artist in

our business.

And I cheer you on every time Isee your name up there and I see

you directing, I see pictures of you directing.

Regina: Would you ever direct?

Is that something you ever thought about doing?

Reese: Oh gosh, I don't thinklike that, but I love producing.

I love it.

I love putting groups of people together.

It's really fun for me figuringout what everybody's superpower

is and letting them feel free with their ideas and do their

best work, I love it.

Regina: I don't know, I might try to push you out there.

Reese: I'll be in anything you direct.

Call me.

Ramin: Anne Hathaway and Hugh Jackman, co-stars of the Oscar

winning musical, "Les Misérables," are singing a

different tune on TV.

On the anthology series "ModernLove," Anne Hathaway plays a

woman coming to terms with her bipolar disorder.

Anne: Do you have to buy like one of everything and then by

the time you want fruit saladagain and everything is gone off

just a little bit.

My conscience won't let me make fruit salad for just me.

Unless of course you have a lotof kids running around and a

wife to help you eat your fruit.

Do you have a wife, and kids to help you eat your fruit?

Ramin: In the television movie"Bad Education," Hugh Jackman is

a charming school superintendentwith many dark secrets.

Hugh Jackman: This kind ofbehavior goes beyond the bounds

of immoral, it's cruel, it'sheinous, it's sociopathic even.

Allison Janney: Sociopathic.


Anne: I'm so happy to be talkingto you because this is--this

just feels less nerve-wracking than normal.

Hugh: I'm with you.

I'm thrilled.

I've known you for--I think we met when I was asking you to

help me with the Oscar.

I think that's when we really got to meet, 2008.

And we just immediately became friends and then thank God we

got to work together, and I prayevery day that it happens again.

Anne: Me, too.

Hugh: It builds a camaraderie, I think, between us.

Your research on Les Mis.

You came to the set with allthis research, which I actually

found through Tom Hooper, our director.

He said, "You should check outthis research that Anne's done.

It's like really good for everyone."

And so--and it was unbelievablebecause Amy Hammond, who's a

dramaturgy by training and nowdoes research and everything is

practical and not just like, "Look how much research I've

done," but this--you can reallyuse this to create a character.

And I would have worked with her on everything apart from

"Wolverine" movies since then for--in the last 8 years.

Everything I've done, she's been--

Anne: Did you use her on "Bad Education?"

Hugh: Yeah, I used her for "BadEducation" and it was incredible

because I felt--I feel real weight playing someone who's

alive who's living in the Bronxright now who's--you know, I'm

depicting the worst time oftheir life and I'm not doing it

to tar and feather them.

I'm not doing it to kind of say,"Ah, isn't this terrible what

he did?"

You know, obviously we tell these stories as a cautionary

tale to learn something, but youknow I'm doing it at the expense

of the most painful part of someone's life.

So I wanted to make sure that we really did justice to the

situation, that we were whereverpossible true and not just sort

of making things up.

I saw hours of footage.

There was one bit from, you know, whatever news channel

interviewed him.

And the interviewer went together to the bathroom and

they just had the camera rollingand Frank is chatting with

the character.

Like that kind of thing I was just watching, it was gold.

Anne: I was going to say, did you feel like that was a

treasure chest?

Hugh: Oh, yeah.

Anne: Was there anything aboutthat particular moment that you

remember about the way he waswith himself when he didn't have

to perform?

Hugh: Yeah, there was a warmth.

There was a warmth to him, and that's what I think I really

wanted to focus on in playing his character.

We are not all one thing.

And it's so easy to vilify people, judge people.

They went to jail.

They did something terrible.

And of course it was terrible, but how does someone who's a

good person get to that?

How does the quicksand overlying, you know, become to

the point where you've stolen $12 million, you know?

So, yeah, tell me.

You--did you--you worked with Amy for "Modern Love," right?

Which I just thought was spectacular, by the way, Anne.

Anne: No, you can't compliment me before I compliment you.

Hugh: I did it, I did it.

Anne: Thank you, thank you.

Hugh: Did you work with Amy on that?

Anne: You know what?

I didn't.

I had Terri Cheney, who was thewoman whose story my episode was

based on.

I spoke with her, asked her a lot of questions.

It was really important for us,you know, dealing with bipolar

disorder that we understand notjust as the woman whose story it

was, but also as a bipolar womanwhat annoys her and what upsets

her and what does she feel thatstories about bipolar disorder

get wrong.

And then right at the end of theconversation she says, "And by

the way, I wrote a book."

And I said, "Oh, you did?"

And she said, "Yes, I wrote amemoir about what it was like to

come to terms with being a bipolar person or someone who

has bipolar disorder."

And I was like, "May I please read that?"

So I just--the script was so vivid.

My conversation with her was so--to me felt so complete.

Hugh: The scene in the diner,in that moment, the release that

you could feel as an audience inwatching your character finally

just speak all these things thathave been held down; terrified

of people finding out, it's overfor me, all that fight or flight

can happen but no one can findthis out or it's all over was so

inspiring as an actor, but as a human being.

It was so beautifully done.

What were you thinking?

I mean, at the end of that scene, did it transpire in a

different way than what you thought it would?

Anne: Very different.

Very different.

So Quincy Tyler Burstein, whoI--who was my co-star--one of my

co-stars in "Modern Love," sheis who you want to be with in a

scene when everything's going perfect, but she--not a lot of

things went perfectly when we were shooting the scene.

So she was especially who I wanted to be with in

that moment.

So unfortunately a location waschosen that was underneath the

subway platform and that was where we had to shoot

that scene.

So we have this 7-minute longscene and we had trains going by

every 2 minutes.

So we would be doing the sceneand she would say something, and

I would be getting ready to saymy line and a train would go.

And we all just agreed on setthat the way we were going to do

it was we weren't going to yell, "Cut."

I was going to hold it until thetrain passed, and then sound was

going to say we're good and thenI was going to say my line and

then Quincy was going to say hers until the next train went

by, and that's how we shot that scene.

And the scene cut together fine and I'm so happy.

Because if we let annoyance orfrustration or any of that stuff

creep in, it would have undermined the scene and it

would have probably shown up in the final edit.

But yeah, that was hard.

Hugh: I'm so glad you told me that.

I mean, it's a beautiful scene, but--from both of you.

It really is.

Anne: Thank you.

So how many times did you play "Wolverine?"

Because it occurred to me that,you know, you as Hugh were

saying goodbye to the characterat the same time that Logan was

saying goodbye to his life.

So can you tell me--us more about that?

Hugh: Yeah, that's another great question.

I knew it was going to be mylast one way before we wrote it.

I just made that decision.

So I was working with a directorthat I've worked with three

times before, who I trust implicitly, Jim Mangold.

And I remember when we shot the last scene of "Logan," for

example, he came up and he goes, "You good?"

I said, "I feel really good about that."

And he goes, "Let's just keep going.

Let's do another."

I said, "You sure?

I feel okay."

And he goes, "Man, let's just stop the clocks.

Let's not worry about everything.

This is the end of 19 years."

He just allowed me to just kindof--not just as an actor, but as

Hugh to remember that moment.

Anne: Wow.


Ramin: Kieran Culkin and DanLevy are both stars of TV shows

about the dynamics of wealthy families.

On "Succession," Kieran Culkin is Roman Roy, the youngest son

of the cutthroat family that owns a multibillion-dollar

media company.

Kieran Culkin: Right now hisgiant Cyclops eye is looking in

this direction and he's feelinglike maybe he bought a giant

pile of bull.

So now here I am to inquire inthe politest terms possible what

the is going on.

Ramin: And on the comedy"Schitt's Creek," Dan Levy plays

David, the self-absorbed son of the Rose family.

Dan Levy: I think you're givingyourself a lot of credit.

My wedding was already ruined.

But for what it's worth, I am continuously impressed by you.

Now, can you please walk me downthe aisle before people

lose interest?

Dan: So I guess I'll start at the beginning.

How did you get to become a part of "Succession?"

Did the job land in your lap?

Did you have to audition for it?

What was that like?

Kieran: Definitely had to audition for it.

It was sent to me to read for the part of Cousin Greg, and I

immediately got to who Cousin Greg was when I went, "Oh,

that's not me."

I couldn't do this, but I likedit enough to want to read on.

I got the writings, keep reading, whatever.

And then Roman walks in the roomand his first line, which you

won't be able to use on PBS, is, "Hey, hey..."

And I went, "Who is this guy?"

And then I saw that he was kindof horrible and I immediately

loved his voice.

And then by the end of thefirst episode, he offers a kid a

million dollars to hit a home run and gets to tear up this

check in front of this poor kidand I'm like, "Oh, that would be

a really fun day at work."

Very few times when I thinkyou get to really, really enjoy

saying somebody else's words andbeing somebody else, and I had

the best day that I was like, "Idon't even mind if I don't

get it.

I had a really fantastic day today."

Dan: How early on in the processdid you know that you were a

part of something that wasreally kind of special and would

have legs?

Kieran: A while.

So now here's--I mean, Iwouldn't say that--I still don't

even really have a sense of what you just said.

I don't really know.

I hear people say nice thingsabout the show and I'm like, "I

don't know--"

Dan: Do you watch the show?

Kieran: I've seen it.

And yes, I--

Dan: You can't watch the show and walk away thinking like,

"It's fine."

It's not one of those shows.

Kieran: I think the first few episodes it is that.

So I remember--even when I readit, I was like, "It's very well

written and everybody that's involved--this is great.

And dialogues are great.

I'm having fun playing this part, but why would I really

want to watch the show?"

That was really how I felt when we shot the pilot.

I saw it and I remember thinking, "Great quality.

Great writing.

It's shot wonderfully.

I don't care about these people.

I don't care."

And then we got picked up, I thought, "Great, I get to keep

being Roman."

And that was sort of my attitudewhile we were shooting like

episodes 2, 3, 4.

Somewhere around like episode 5, I came home.

My wife asked me how work was and I was like, "Good."

And she was like, "Really?"

I was like, "I don't know whathappened, but I sort of think we

have something here.

I just care about these people now and I don't know why."

And it felt validating 'cause that's how I felt when I read

the scripts, when we shot it, and then when I watched

the episodes.

That's how I feel.

It's not that it's bad at the beginning, it's just--it just

takes a while for you to like care, I guess, and I--

Dan: I think that's the inherentkind of the structure the first

season of any kind of television show.

It's like it's very rare to getthose first few episodes feeling

totally lived in because nobodyknows sort of what's going on.

Kieran: Our showrunner Jesse, he really is in charge.

He is the captain, and it is what it is because of him and

his staff of writers.

So I want to know how "Schitt's Creek" started.

How do you even like get a show with your father?

How does that start?

Dan: I brought him the idea, which at the time was kind of

like a grain of a concept abouta wealthy family who loses their

money and an exploration of whathappens to this wealthy family.

And a lot of that, for me, was playing on this, like,

collective consciousness we have now about how wealthy

people live.

I mean, it's all over reality TV and we have this kind of

intimacy into the lives of verywealthy people that I thought

was worth exploring in a sort of satirical way what do these

people look like when they have nothing.

I think my show is sort of likeif your family on the show were

to lose everything and reallyhave to refigure their lives out

and their priorities out.

Kieran: I think they'd be completely lost without money

and power, yeah.

Dan: To that point watching"Succession," the sheer level of

indulgence and the worlds that they have managed to create,

like, what does that do to performance, if anything?

Kieran: So that's interesting'cause I'm not one of these kind

of actors.

I'm more like a belly guy.

I'm like, "Yeah, Roman likey that.

Go do."

So the only thing that I can sort of say--like, he doesn't

understand any other worlds.

This is what he was born into.

He can quite literally say anddo whatever he wants, and he can

always wiggle his way out of any problem.

It doesn't matter.

But they're little things.

Like you said, the helicopter--they have a

consultant on set for like how very wealthy people live.

Dan: There is a wealth consultant?

Kieran: There's a consultant on set.

I haven't actually met this person, but the writers talk

to them.

Dan: And this person is wealthyor just has spent their life

observing wealth to the pointwhere they can get paid to give

their--that is a fascinating job.

Kieran: But they say things--youknow, there's cool ones where we

do a fitting and we get there in the day and they're like,


They'll say something like, "These people wouldn't have

winter coats because they leavetheir building, they go into

a car.

They leave that car and go to their private jet.

There is no like strolling around."

Like, they would have one in their closet, but they would

never use it to wear to go to work.

They're taken care of all day.

Dan: That's wild.

Kieran: So I wanted to ask you when you actually

started acting.

'Cause I know we've been talkingabout you as a showrunner and as

a writer and everything like that, but I haven't actually

talked to you about acting in.

Dan: Annie and I--Annie Murphy,who plays my sister Alexis on

the show, she and I were both--she's so good.

And we were both like very, very green.

And for me, I hadn't really thought about the process of

acting because I was spending somuch time writing and prepping

the show that the night beforeour first day of shooting I had

a full panic attack thinking, "I have to act with Catherine

O'Hara and my dad tomorrow.

I don't even know what I'm doing."

And so Annie and I in that firstday, like, really just held on

to each other and said, "Okay, we're both in this together."

And fortunately, Catherine andmy dad are so wonderful in terms

of setting a tone on set that it's so egoless and so much

about the collaboration.

And I want to continually work with people that are in it for

the right reasons.

Kieran: And in my experience themajority of people are that, but

then you do get surprisedsometimes when somebody comes in

and it's like the--when you're working with a group of people

that are really excited, they'renice, and they help create a

safe environment and you can just throw stuff.

Like in our show, we have a lot of that.

There's a lot of--like, somebodywill just say something and I

go, "Okay, I guess we're doing this scene.

I didn't know it was going to be like this."

Dan: Did you find that that wasreally helpful or a challenge

or both?

Kieran: At this point, I'm justa little bit like, "Let's play."

I don't know.

Sometimes I show up to work andI get the slides I'm like, "Oh,

you guys--you wrote it in the middle of the night?"

And it's like go through that and I have new lines and I

go--they're like, "Do you know your lines?"

"I don't know, man.

Let's just roll it.

Let's just see what happens."

It's fun.

It's just fun.

Dan: I mean, I would say we're about 75% scripted and then

25% improv.

I think--you know, when you're working with, like, Catherine

O'Hara or my dad, who have comefrom Second City and--you have

to, I think, leave room for thekind of spontaneity that they

bring to whatever they do.

Ramin: We hope you've enjoyed our look inside the world of

actors on actors.

Please join us again next time.

Regina: If it feels like I'mtalking really loud, it's 'cause

I can--I'm like reading lips right now.

Anne: This is it, Hugh.

This is the future of filmmaking.

We're doing it right now.

It's going to be us in rooms adjusting our own lighting.

Kieran: I don't know how to sign off.

So we'll see.


Regina: Reese--

Reese: You can't hear me very well?

Anne: I thank the editor in advance.


Dan: Now it's--now my entire house is on a...




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