The way I look at my life and the ca­reer and the choices I’ve made, I feel as if I’ve been pretty blessed.” An­gela Bas­sett

Variety - - Contents -

LAURA DERN You’re such a ge­nius and so pro­lific at do­ing so many kinds of roles. What was it about play­ing this char­ac­ter on “9-1-1” that made you want to com­mit to some­thing that could be long-term?

AN­GELA BAS­SETT For so long, I think I re­sisted the idea of do­ing a show that may go seven years or more. Be­cause just the na­ture of this busi­ness, I love how you get to change and grow and put on dif­fer­ent char­ac­ters and ideas and suits and in­ter­act with dif­fer­ent peo­ple and di­rec­tors and ac­tors and sit­u­a­tions and lo­ca­tions. The idea of stay­ing put isn’t one that I’ve em­braced, but as you ma­ture, you try to find roles and sit­u­a­tions that are in­ter­est­ing. This was one. The idea of be­ing a cop and the com­pli­cated re­la­tion­ship she has with her hus­band — he was com­ing out of the closet and how that was go­ing to af­fect their fam­ily dy­namic — all of that was re­ally com­pelling. It was like, “OK, with­out a script, I’m ready to jump off the ledge with faith. There’s a net and it will be all right.”

DERN It’s amazing that once you’re in it, you re­al­ize this nar­ra­tive we’ve been telling our­selves as ac­tors, that on a film we’re go­ing to have so much more free­dom to be in the gray and the com­pli­ca­tion of char­ac­ter. But then once you do it, you re­al­ize that with the time you get to dis­cover on any given day, how in­cred­i­bly dif­fer­ent or how com­pli­cated we are as hu­man be­ings.

BAS­SETT Ex­actly. There are a lot of times in films that once you’ve com­pleted the three months, you see it and think, “Aw. Had I known ...” I just have to re­lease it and say, “All that I know now, up to this point, I give it. I give it all.”

DERN It’s heart­break­ing when the last day of the shoot is when you have this great dis­cov­ery about who this per­son is, and that is what’s amazing about tele­vi­sion — hav­ing that kind of time and work­ing with some­one like Ryan Mur­phy.

BAS­SETT Yes, yes. How do you choose your roles? When I think of you, I think of just a fear­less­ness and an authen­tic­ity. What’s your process?

DERN I’m sure it’s the same as you, that some­times it’s that film­maker or that showrun­ner that makes us feel like they’ll al­ways catch our fall, that they’re there for us, so we want to hurl our­selves into their vi­sion. If we’re lucky, that is also con­nected to a char­ac­ter that makes us go to a place we’ve never gone. I al­ways think about the amazing good for­tune of be­ing a woman now in the world and watch­ing how de­ter­mined we are in our growth ev­ery­where around us, how de­mand­ing we are of the level of authen­tic­ity and re­spect and trans­parency we ex­pect in the world. So play­ing char­ac­ters that don’t know their own value has al­ways in­ter­ested me; that is a theme I keep in­side my head a lot be­cause it can be a very pow­er­ful cor­po­rate ex­ec­u­tive or a broken home­less girl, but both of them don’t nec­es­sar­ily trust their worth. That’s just a re­ally in­ter­est­ing thing to think about for women and as women.

BAS­SETT Can you re­call any moment in your own ca­reer that has been par­tic­u­larly chal­leng­ing?

DERN On this movie, “The Tale,” I was play­ing my di­rec­tor [Jen­nifer Fox], and that was a rad­i­cal and amazing, very unique chal­lenge. She wrote and di­rected a piece that is more about how we retell our­selves the story of our lives in or­der to sur­vive. She had been sex­u­ally as­saulted as a 13-year- old. I think she re­ally pro­tected her­self in or­der to sur­vive it by telling her­self that it was in its own way this story of a first love. It was only years later that she was able to see what it re­ally was, which ob­vi­ously was abuse and deep trauma. But she needed to be the owner and the nar­ra­tor of her own story, and I un­der­stand that. To be sitting with her at the cam­era as we’re retelling this story …

BAS­SETT What was that like, day-to- day?

DERN It was amazing. It was so bizarre and dif­fi­cult. To have to be fierce with your di­rec­tor when you have strong opinions about your char­ac­ter or what’s work­ing for you emo­tion­ally while it’s their life; it was com­pli­cated. Com­mon plays my lover, her now-part­ner. Luck­ily she gave us lots of room to im­pro­vise what a love story looks like when a writer who’s a sur­vivor of sex­ual abuse [is writ­ing about] how their adult in­ti­mate re­la­tion­ship is de­fined.

BAS­SETT That was a very nice re­la­tion­ship be­tween the two of you, I think. He’s won­der­ful. But I think you know when you just con­nect with some­one on­stage. I think you brought out the best in each other. I think that must be some­thing very spe­cial about you on a set.

DERN Well, I don’t know. One day, that’s what I want, to find that with each other.

BAS­SETT I’d love that.

THE IDEA OF STAY­ING PUT ISN’T ONE THAT I’VE EM­BRACED, BUT AS YOU MA­TURE, YOU TRY TO FIND ROLES AND SIT­U­A­TIONS THAT ARE IN­TER­EST­ING. THIS WAS ONE. — AN­GELA BAS­SETT

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