Sharon Stone and De­bra Mess­ing bond over fem­i­nism and keep­ing the wolves at bay.

Variety - - Contents - by DE­BRA BIRN­BAUM Pho­to­graph by PETER YANG

This sea­son marked a re­turn of sorts for both Sharon Stone and De­bra Mess­ing — for Stone, it was her chance to take cen­ter stage again, with her role in Steven Soder­bergh’s enig­matic HBO mys­tery “Mo­saic.” And Mess­ing stepped back into the role that first made her fa­mous, with NBC’S re­boot of hit com­edy “Will & Grace.” The two ac­tresses talked with Va­ri­ety about why com­edy is harder than drama, bat­tling stereo­types and what makes them each laugh.

Sharon Stone: Dy­ing is easy, com­edy is hard. I think about this be­cause I’m start­ing to do more com­edy. It’s been a long time since I did com­edy, but you’re re­ally like the Lu­cille Ball of our gen­er­a­tion. You are just the apex of com­edy. Is com­edy hard for you?

De­bra Mess­ing: I think com­edy is hard be­cause it’s mu­si­cal. I think that if some­thing is bril­liantly writ­ten then the mu­sic just comes off the page. But if it’s not bril­liantly writ­ten then I think it’s much scarier to do than a drama that per­haps may not be bril­liantly writ­ten. Be­cause I think in a drama you can find things in char­ac­ter and you can find things on the fly and I think with com­edy if it’s a broader com­edy there’s an ex­pec­ta­tion. And there’s a goal, it’s to make peo­ple laugh. And you’re ei­ther go­ing to do it or you’re not.

Stone: I’m re­ally ob­sessed with “Will and Grace.” And now with this come­back show, it’s bet­ter. The orig­i­nal show was mag­nif­i­cent, but the show now, be­cause ev­ery­one is more full in what they are. You’re more Jewish, they’re more gay.

Mess­ing: She’s more evil.

Stone: Yes. And yet she’s also more com­pas­sion­ate. Every­body’s more of all the things that they are.

Mess­ing: Well, aren’t we all as we

age? Stone: Yes.

Mess­ing: And it’s funny you say that be­cause I didn’t know what was go­ing to hap­pen. I didn’t know if the char­ac­ters that we all met as 30 year olds, if that kind of en­ergy and the mu­sic that was played back then was go­ing to be ex­pected by the au­di­ence to repli­cate it or if they would be dis­ap­pointed if it wasn’t a pure repli­ca­tion of it. And it was like,“well, we’re 11 years older. We are who we are now and these char­ac­ters have grown 11 years.”

Stone: And the world has grown and opened up.

Mess­ing: And got­ten scarier.

Stone: Yes, be­cause there’s a lot of re­sis­tance to all that growth.

Mess­ing: So it felt al­most free­ing in a way be­cause ev­ery­thing is so dif­fer­ent. It felt like on some level there was noth­ing to lose. And we were com­ing back on our terms. We lit­er­ally sat down and were like,“do we want to do this?” And it was a real con­ver­sa­tion about this is some­thing we built and we pro­tected and it was a legacy, and we can’t just come back just be­cause it’s of­fered to us. There has to be a rea­son and there has to be a col­lec­tive un­der­stand­ing of what we’re try­ing to do. And it was af­ter that con­ver­sa­tion that we re­al­ized, “You know what, we all want the same thing. And we have the sup­port from the network.”

Stone: This thing you wanted to bring for­ward, do you want to dis­cuss what it is?

Mess­ing: I was con­cerned that we would be cen­sored, frankly. You know that we weren’t go­ing to be able to be what we al­ways were. And from its in­cep­tion, the DNA of “Will and Grace,” it was al­ways provoca­tive, it was al­ways push­ing bound­aries, it was al­ways talk­ing about what’s hap­pen­ing right now in pol­i­tics and in pop cul­ture. And ob­vi­ously, back then we were mak­ing jokes about Bush and then Obama and now it’s a very de­ci­sive, chaotic, con­fus­ing time in our coun­try and it’s ripe for “Will and Grace” ob­vi­ously be­cause ev­ery day there is some­thing that is be­ing pushed or pulled.

Stone: It’s won­der­ful with Me­gan Mul­lally’s char­ac­ter con­stantly bring­ing in that stuff. I liked the episode where she wanted to buy the cake for the party for Don­ald Trump. And your char­ac­ter had to come to terms with,“if I can get the cake made for the gay cou­ple, and if that’s the thing, if we’re stand­ing up for those rights, we do have to stand up for every­body’s rights, whether I like it or not.”

Mess­ing: The thing that was driv­ing me was I was feel­ing scared and I was feel­ing like I didn’t know what I could do to make peo­ple feel like things were go­ing to be OK. And to make my­self feel like things were go­ing to be OK. And it re­ally is a self­ish thing, by go­ing to work I get to laugh ev­ery sin­gle day.

Stone: I don’t think that’s a self­ish thing to do the thing you love and that you’re good at. I think that’s what we’re sup­posed to do in life. But we get pro­grammed to toe the line and we for­get that dis­ci­pline is free­dom. And if you re­ally are dis­ci­plined to the thing that you are meant to be, it should be joy­ful.

Mess­ing: But you also know that it’s not al­ways joy­ful.

Stone: No, it’s a lot of hard work, it’s a lot of dis­ci­pline, it’s a lot of in­cred­i­bly long hours. It’s a lot of

eat­ing off pa­per plates from a trailer in the dirt. Peo­ple think that what we do is so glam­orous. But the hours are in­cred­i­bly long. We don’t work eight hours — we’re just get­ting started when eight hours hap­pens. Mess­ing: 16 hours! And with “Mo­saic,” you were in Utah.

Stone: And we worked. Steven Soder­bergh is, I think without any ex­ag­ger­a­tion, a ge­nius. From “Sex, Lies and Video­tape” on up. But we didn’t get all the script, we got the pieces we were in. Which is lit­tle bit in­tense. But then it was,“you’re go­ing to shoot 20 to 30 pages a day.” And he doesn’t light and he shoots him­self. Now there’s a lot of great things in that. I thought,“well, if we’re not light­ing I’m not go­ing to wear a bunch of makeup.” Be­cause I’m go­ing to look like I’ve fallen in my makeup. So let’s keep it down to just a lit­tle bit of light base and some Chap­stick and call it a day. And I have a great abil­ity to find my own light. Just get in it, as all women learn to do. I would just get to the set quickly so when we are block­ing the scene I could find a chair where there was some light. And it was ac­tu­ally quite won­der­ful be­cause in the first five days you think,“i am go­ing to die.” It’s so ex­haust­ing and it’s so chal­leng­ing. But once you get your rhythm you get it. And of course we’re not new to this.

Mess­ing: We know how to take care of our­selves in those sit­u­a­tions.

Stone: And do the work be­fore we

get there so that we can han­dle it.

Mess­ing: I need you to talk about the scene in the at­tic when you find out the truth from your fi­ance. That scene was breath­tak­ing and painful to watch. How long did you work on that scene?

Stone: I think when you have faced be­trayal, you have to work through a process that is for­giv­ing the un­for­giv­able. Which teaches you, “I be­lieve.” To stand and not keep get­ting re-hooked into it. And that takes a lot of prac­tice be­cause you have this in­nate hook that you have to just feel and re­sist. And that takes a lot of fem­i­nine wis­dom and a lot of know­ing that be­ing a mother, be­ing a woman is big­ger than this hook. I think play­ing this scene is al­low­ing your­self to feel that feel­ing again of that unimag­in­able thing that the love that you be­lieved isn’t there. And it’s so shock­ing when it just isn’t there that it de­stroys you. It doesn’t just de­stroy the love, it just de­stroys you. And I don’t think that peo­ple don’t want to ad­mit that. But it de­stroys, it wipes you out in a sec­ond. It breaks your trust in your­self.

Mess­ing: I sat back and I felt like, I don’t think I’ve seen on cam­era some­one go ride that wave and be al­lowed to ride ev­ery part of it through the end.

Stone: This is the thing about Steven Soder­bergh, and I do think it comes down to the not light­ing and that he’s shoot­ing it. Be­cause so many peo­ple are so con­cerned about how you look. We need to do it again be­cause you didn’t have your chin up and you look like you have two chins or …

Mess­ing: There’s a shadow from

your hair.

Stone: … and you don’t look pretty when you did that. And be­cause he is in­ter­ested in cap­tur­ing the break­ing, the unattrac­tive­ness. It’s all OK to see the real truth of what hap­pens and he goes with you when it’s

“IF YOU RE­ALLY ARE DIS­CI­PLINED TO THE THING THAT YOU ARE MEANT TO BE, IT SHOULD BE JOY­FUL.”— Sharon Stone

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