I loved MUCH ADO ABOUT NOTHING. I think Joss Whedon has found something quite charming and essential to William Shakespeare's play - he makes it feel more immediate than Kenneth Branagh did, and I think Whedon's directing rhythms synch up perfectly with Shakespeare's. I'd love to see Whedon tackle another one of the Bard's plays in the future, if he gets the time - he's quite busy at the moment figuring out how to destory the world in THE AVENGERS 2. MUCH ADO ABOUT NOTHING opens in limited release this weekend, and wider in the coming weeks. If you're a fan of Joss Whedon, William Shakespeare, or both - and in a more perfect world that would be everyone - you should see it.
I was able to talk to Amy Acker about her work with Joss in MUCH ADO ABOUT NOTHING, and I really loved her portrayal of Beatrice. Beatrice puts on a good front, but when it comes to love, she's just as yearning as the rest of us, and Amy Acker finds that need in her performance. She's also very funny, and her chemistry with Alexis Denisof is just terrific, but you ANGEL fans knew that already. I found her as charming as she was onscreen. and I thank her for the time for this interview.
Nordling: I want to congratulate you; I thought MUCH ADO ABOUT NOTHING was fantastic. My favorite adaptation of that material so far. I wanted to ask you; there are a lot of people who have played Beatrice throughout the years, what was the unique aspect that you wanted to bring to this role?
Amy Acker: You know, I was so nervous thinking about it in those terms. My first job out of college was MUCH ADO, and I played Hero, and I had always just loved that character, watching the lady play the role, because we actually did it from June to November so I had all that time. You know, Hero doesn’t say so much, so just watching her play the part; it was always a dream of mine to get to say those words. I think just having the combination of Joss and Alexis, and getting to play that character, there was something exciting about just doing it, you know? We had so little time to prepare, and it was something I’ve been wanting to do my whole life, and all of a sudden it was like, “We’re doing it in two weeks.” Which made it good, because I could have definitely psyched myself out. Like, “I can’t play this, there are too many good performances of it!” The other thing is, we didn’t know if anyone was going to ever going to see the movie, we didn’t know if Joss was filming it on his Flip camera… We had done the reading at his house, and so it kinda felt like, let’s just do what you feel is right.
Nordling: The physicality of the performances is really funny; the chemistry between you and Alexis is really great. So what was that like, getting the phone call from Joss, “Okay, come to the house, we’re shooting MUCH ADO, and we’ve got 12 days.”
Amy: If Joss calls, it’s like, “Hey, this is Joss,” and I’m, “Yes, I’ll do it!” Whether it’s go out to dinner, or anything. But I feel so lucky to have been brought into that circle, and he’s given me the opportunity to play so many roles that I think that if I’d seen them on the page, I would have said that no one would ever cast me as this, you know. There’s a trust with him that’s there and makes doing anything with him exciting, and terrifying because it’s usually out of your comfort zone. That ends up usually being the most rewarding job, though. So he called and said, “I have to ask Alexis too,” and I was like, “Obviously.” So he called, and we were starting, I think, like three weeks later. So we went over to his house two days after that and read the play. We were helping him come up with people – “Oh, what about if you asked this person?”
Nordling: Well, I liked that he changed Conrade, who was a man originally and he changed the sex. I thought that was fantastic.
Amy: I can’t even imagine going back.
A: Now it seems natural. Joss definitely has a particular rhythm to the dialogue that he writes, and he kinda brought it to this, which makes it really fascinating; Shakespeare done conversationally. How difficult was that? Were you wanting to go back, say, “Let’s do this more traditionally,” or was Joss just… “Let’s just talk?”
Amy: I remember being on set on ANGEL, and there was a party scene, and there were all of these monsters there. And one of the guys was trying to make a monster voice, and Joss was like, “No, monsters just talk like people.” So even though it was Shakespeare, I feel like Joss taught us that lesson so long ago – “And the monster’s like, ‘Hey dude, come over here.’” And so it had that same sense, and I think he brought so many people who were involved with his stuff, because we all love that about him. We love that he makes things that are so not conversational, like if you’re reading a page, you could be like, “That is not a normal situation,” and he makes it seem like anyone can relate to it.
Nordling: There’s a big feeling of comfortablility between everyone in the film.
Nordling: My favorite sequence is when Benedick is strutting, and he’s trying to show off. Tell us a little bit about that scene. How did you all coordinate that together?
Amy: This is when I come out and tell him to come in to dinner, and he’s working out… that was basically me trying not to laugh.
Nordling: And that was Alexis basically trying to make you laugh, right?
Amy: Yes, that was mostly Alexis. We had rehearsed that scene, and we had done it a few weeks – that was one of the last scenes that we got to, and he had done it totally different, and then on the day he said, “I got this idea,” and we were like, “Yes! We should do that!”
Nordling: Strutting like a peacock. One of my favorite moments in the movie actually is the very first scene. It paints a whole different perspective over the entire film, and the whole play. How did that come about? Was that something that Joss came up with?
Amy: That was something that – we all had a feeling of their relationship that there had been something, which is in there, you know, you can interpret it to be that way. We had all agreed there was something that had happened, and somebody was wronged, and people made bad choices, and people were upset, and that was sort of where this came from. I think that was… it paints a picture throughout the whole movie, with the noir feeling that Joss wanted it to have, but also… for Beatrice especially, once I knew that, it was like, “Okay, this was the character I’m playing.” It really changes it when it’s not there.
Nordling: It’s wonderful. There’s no dialogue, and it sets the tone. And because of that scene, it’s so obvious to everyone else but Benedick and Beatrice that they do love each other. This romance is obviously going to happen, so let’s make it happen.
Amy: I think even if it’s not there, people are like, “This is obviously going to happen,” but it’s nice to know that there’s something that it’s grounded in. I like that he put that in there.
Nordling: I wanted to know a little bit, if you could tell me, about Nathan Fillion’s decision to play Dogberry like he was in LETHAL WEAPON.
Amy: (laughs) Well, Nathan was kinda the last person who agreed to do it because he was so busy with CASTLE, and he was like, “I don’t have time to learn the lines,” and everyone was scared about doing this. And Joss was adamant – “We have no time, so you have to know everything, day one, just be ready to go,” and Nathan was, “ I don’t think I’m going to do it,” and we were, “Oh, he has to do it! Please please please!” And it was like the day before, he finally agreed to do it. And so there were people like Riki (Lindhome) and Tom (Lenk), and they were just – anytime he wasn’t working they were sitting down in Joss’s amazing screening room, and they would lock those doors in there, and ran those lines and got him comfortable, and I don’t know how he decided to make those choices, but I’m glad he did. (laughs)
Nordling: This Is something that feels like you all could do this every year, every other year, make it in your schedule, go to Joss’s house and make a Shakespeare film every year.
Amy: It was so fun. I wish that would happen.
Nordling: What Shakespeare would you all like to do next? Maybe a tragedy next time…
Amy: I did hear him say… I know that HAMLET is his number one thing that he loves. But I don’t know if he’ll do another Shakespeare or not.
Nordling: He should, he did a really great job. It’s a really infectious movie. I could tell the enjoyment that you all had saying the lines and you all say them like you’re cherishing every word, but at the same time… I get really irritated when people say “Shakespeare’s work,” because it really isn’t. You just have to listen to the cadence and just pay attention.
Amy: I know he’s hoping that people will watch it in schools, which obviously Joss didn’t think about at the time, but there was a teacher who was, “Will you come talk to my class?” I think he will do that!
Nordling: Well, there’s one particular scene that might not play well in school, but other than that…
Amy: It’s like a drinking game, too. We might be encouraging bad behavior. (laughs)
Nordling: Oh, there’s so much alcohol in that movie, the liver should have a speaking part. “Please stop this!”
Amy: Maybe it will turn people off from drinking by the end!
MUCH ADO ABOUT NOTHING opens in New York and Los Angeles this weekend, and wider next week. If you can, bring some wine and drink along with the rest of the cast in the movie. If you can keep up, that is.