You gained tremendous recognition for your work in Maggie’s Plan. Was that a special film for you?: I worked with Rebecca Miller for over a year on the film and building Maggie’s character. It’s rare that you get so much time to do that. There was this very close process of collaboration with her which was such a pleasure.
Maggie was special in that she had a pure heart and needed to feel that she was living truthfully. She also doesn’t suffer from guilt which unburdens her in a healthy way and she has the ability to see the overall picture better even though she often makes the wrong decisions. I liked how she was someone who is always true to herself and she knows in her heart the right thing to do before she does it or before other people know it.
She always has direct access to her inner self that is pretty rare in people and a great quality to have. I also think that’s what drew a lot of people to her and so many people have told me how much they loved Maggie which meant a lot to me because I invested a lot of me in her.
People tend to identify you with the characters you play. Do we see a lot of you in your various screen alter egos?: It seems like after every film I do my friends will tell me how much of me they see in those characters. Of course, my immediate reaction is that that can’t be true because they’re all different roles and I try to build distinct characters for every film.
But I also love to bring something of my own being and personality to each role and usually the character will be some strange blend of both of us. In a way it’s good that my friends will recognize me in my roles because I’m trying to make as deep a personal connection with my characters so the film and the story I’m helping to tell feels less fictional and as real as possible.
You grew up in Sacramento which has also been home to other top actresses such as Brie Larsen and Jessica Chastain. Is there something about the city which creates pent-up artistic ambition and desire to seek fame and fortune elsewhere?: I’m not sure it’s something specific to Sacramento but I think all smaller towns have this sleepy feel compared to places like New York or Los Angeles which you think of as much more connected to the world.
What was the reality of moving to a big city like New York like?: The first few years were hard. I lived a bit everywhere – Chinatown, West Village, Greenwich Village. I first lived with six girls in a tiny loft that was like a closet without heating. In the winter it got so cold that we all slept dressed up, with hats and scarves. I still live there and I don’t think I could live anywhere else.
New York is my favourite city on earth. I love its energy and when I was getting ready to apply to university I knew had to move there, which I did in 2002 after I had already fallen in love with every single Woody Allen film.
Was acting something you pointed towards from an early age?: First I wanted to become a nurse. I don’t know why, but I’ve always had this fascination with uniforms and caps. But then I started taking dance classes and that set me off in the direction of wanting to act in musicals.