BAD GUY?

Poor Alexan­der Skars­gard.

Los Angeles Times - - THE ENVELOPE - By Yvonne Vil­lar­real

HBO’s “Big Lit­tle Lies” has been lauded for putting women — mul­ti­ple women — front and cen­ter. And rightly so. With stars Reese Wither­spoon, Ni­cole Kid­man, Laura Dern and Shai­lene Wood­ley pulling back the cur­tain on women’s in­ner­most thoughts — on mar­riage, on moth­er­hood, ca­reers, long­ing and hap­pi­ness — view­ers were treated to new in­sights and per­spec­tives, rare rev­e­la­tions in a still-male-dom­i­nated en­ter­tain­ment in­dus­try. But that doesn’t mean there was no need for men in the story. Far from it. Here, two of the key male play­ers tell us about the view from their side of the gen­der di­vide.

The be­fud­dled tweets came chirp­ing in: “Alexan­der Skars­gard in ‘Big Lit­tle Lies’ is si­mul­ta­ne­ously gor­geous and com­pletely re­pul­sive” and “I have very com­pli­cated feel­ings about Alexan­der Skars­gard now, thanks ‘Big Lit­tle Lies.’ ”

In the days and weeks af­ter the pre­miere of HBO’s lim­ited series about a group of women liv­ing in a wealthy North­ern Cal­i­for­nia com­mu­nity, Skars­gard’s role as Perry, the abu­sive hus­band to Ni­cole Kid­man’s char­ac­ter, had view­ers curb­ing their swoons. It was a re­al­ity Skars­gard ex­pected but didn’t fully con­tend with un­til about three months af­ter the series pre­miered in Fe­bru­ary.

“I wasn’t in the coun­try when it aired,” the 40-year-old ac­tor said dur­ing a re­cent visit to The Times’ video stu­dio. “I was very much in a bub­ble, work­ing .... It wasn’t un­til I got back to the States about a week ago, and I landed and ev­ery­one at the air­port was like, ‘Ooh, yeah, no, we don’t like you.’ … Peo­ple look at me dif­fer­ently now.

“And I’ll prob­a­bly never get another job,” he jok­ingly con­tin­ued, “but that’s OK, we had a good time on it.”

How did you ini­tially see Perry, and how did that evolve as you were mak­ing the episodes?

I thought it was just a fas­ci­nat­ing piece. And that dy­namic, be­tween Ce­leste [Kid­man] and Perry, was very dis­turb­ing, and very rich and in­ter­est­ing. And I felt like there’s a way of play­ing an abu­sive hus­band … to try to avoid the stereo­typ­i­cal abu­sive hus­band, and to kind of find some­one who’s conflicted and tor­mented, and who’s re­ally strug­gling with this. As op­posed to just play­ing a two-di­men­sional bad guy.

How did you ap­proach the role — get­ting to a com­fort­able space with Ni­cole and the chil­dren?

We spent time to­gether, and also with the boys, our kids, just play dates. We would just hang out and get to know each other bet­ter and have fun. It was very im­por­tant that the boys were com­fort­able and re­laxed around us. I wanted Perry to have a great re­la­tion­ship with his kids. I wanted him to be a good dad. Again, just to make it a bit more in­ter­est­ing, and more dif­fi­cult for Ce­leste, in a way — where she’s like, we have this strong con­nec­tion, we love each other, he’s an amaz­ing dad. But then there’s this dark­ness, and you know, it’s al­most like a switch when he goes black.

How was it to do that first scene where we see this dark side?

He’s in con­trol, and when he’s not, it’s kind of … he snaps. And it’s just that one split-sec­ond of grab­bing her too hard, hold­ing on to her. And it was im­por­tant to get that, to feel that shift, and that it was shock­ing to the au­di­ence. It was im­por­tant that it be kind of an ex­plo­sion, even though

he doesn’t hit her there. But it’s def­i­nitely way too phys­i­cal, and too ag­gres­sive.

Would you say shoot­ing these types of scenes is more in­ti­mate than do­ing a sex scene — in terms of vul­ner­a­bil­ity?

It’s an in­ter­est­ing way of work­ing. Be­cause stuff goes wrong. And that’s kind of in­ter­est­ing, be­cause you dis­cover things that you might not have, had it been too planned or too struc­tured. We didn’t re­hearse much. We just kind of got there and we jumped in. And it’s an in­ter­est­ing feel­ing, be­cause af­ter the first take you’re al­ways like, ‘Oh, that was in­ter­est­ing. I didn’t ex­pect that, or the scene to go in that di­rec­tion.’ It didn’t nec­es­sar­ily work every time. Some­times we felt like some­thing hap­pened, and we went some­where, and then we were like, all right, well, maybe we should try it again and go in a dif­fer­ent di­rec­tion.

What was it like to be part of a project where women’s sto­ries were at the fore­front, and you’re the vil­lain in this whole thing?

It was very re­fresh­ing to read it be­cause it’s so well-writ­ten and it’s so fe­male-driven, ob­vi­ously. It’s about these very strong, very in­de­pen­dent, very — some of them are crazy, but, like, it’s a great group — all those roles are so rich and so in­ter­est­ing, and it’s real. There’s def­i­nitely not enough ma­te­rial like that here in Hol­ly­wood.

Can we talk about the fi­nal episode with the school party — isn’t it sup­posed to be a trivia night? Where’s the trivia?

I think that was the plan, but then some­one got mur­dered, so that kind of killed the vibe.

What was it like to film that mo­ment where all the women come to­gether to take you down?

It was bril­liant and it was like an­i­mals, when one preda­tor is be­ing at­tacked by a smaller preda­tor, but they gang up on him from ev­ery­where. You see those na­ture doc­u­men­taries where they’re ev­ery­where, and one on one he can take them, but it’s just over­whelm­ing. We wanted to be so pri­mal and vi­o­lent, and to kind of re-cre­ate that. [Perry’s] at­tack­ing some­one, but then there’s some­one on his back. Reese was lit­er­ally hang­ing on my back, you know, like, pulling my hair, and some­one else was punch­ing my ribs. It was in­tense.

Ri­cardo DeAratanha Los Angeles Times

“PEO­PLE look at me dif­fer­ently now,” says Alexan­der Skars­gard.

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