Patricia Clarkson & Andre Braugher on Early Career Influences – Nifey

Director Maria Schraderit is She says stars Carey Mulligan and Zoe KazanMore as Megan Twohey and Jodi Kantor, the real-life New York Times reporters who worked tirelessly to expose the many acts of sexual abuse committed by the former film producer Harvey Weinstein. She says highlights the women who presented courageous testimonies in order to put Weinstein behind bars and then launch the #MeToo movement, which enabled those who had experienced abuse or harassment to find support, share their stories and to bring about real change in the process.

Patricia Clarkson plays the editor of The New York Times Rebecca Corbett who oversaw the investigation, and André Braugher enters as editor-in-chief Dean Baquet, a key force in the publication of the article that helped cement Weinstein’s sentence. During their interview with CNET’s Perri Nemiroff, Clarkson and Braugher identified people who provided invaluable support to them early in their careers and discussed how they approached portraying their real-life characters in film. Clarkson also highlights the small details that were important in bringing Rebecca to the screen, and they both talk about the positive changes that have happened in the industry since their debut.

You can watch the interview in the video above or read the full transcript below.

PERRI NEMIROFF: The line, “It was like he took my voice that day, just when I was about to start finding it,” crushes me every time I watch this film. In an effort to highlight some of the positives that we need more of, can each of you tell me about someone you met early in your career who made you feel supported and respected, and helped you take a positive first step forward? when did you start?

ANDRE BRAUGHER: I had never made a film before and I knew nothing about shooting. I didn’t know what a mark was. I didn’t know how to match my actions. I didn’t know what a close-up was. It was the Glory, Denzel Washington and Morgan FREEMAN really put their arms around my shoulders and walked me through the process of working with a camera, how to figure out how to make my performance stand out, how to mod it for the camera, and I’ll be forever grateful for that. Our careers have taken a million different directions and I haven’t worked with any of them since 1989, but they have been part of the foundation of my career in film and television. And so, I’m very grateful to them today for what they did in 1989.

PATRICIA CLARKSON: The very first film I did was The Incorruptibleswith [Brian] Palm direction, [Robert] From Niro, [and] Kevin Costner. But De Palma was remarkable for me. I had never been to the cinema. He taught me everything about cinema. He was so affectionate with me and wonderful. I was broke and he convinced Paramount that Ms. Ness had to be all over the courtroom even though there was a quick close-up of me and that was it. But I got paid for an extra month, and that saved me! [Laughs] He saved me. And so he was such a mentor. It was my first big encounter with a movie, and I know Brian De Palma, you know, kind of a bad boy and crazy in Hollywood, but he was amazing to me, and I’m forever grateful for how he really defended Mrs .Ness.

Image via Universal Images

To go into detail here, Patricia, I was reading that you chose not to meet the real Rebecca before filming so that you could come up with the character more organically. I was wondering, how did you come to the conclusion that this was the best path for you and ultimately the best thing for the film?

CLARKSON: I came to that conclusion because once I met Rebecca, I realized, “Oh, I’m so glad,” because she’s amazing. She is this towering figure for me, and one of the highlights of my career and my life to play this valiant and fiercely intelligent woman. I really had to call on my best angels. I didn’t want to imitate her or try to become her or play her. I just wanted to bring the best of myself to this woman. For a month, I just had to be the best Patty could be.

I read that in the production notes. There’s a quote of you that says, “I really had to use my best to capture her.” Is there something specific our viewers can look for where it’s not just Rebecca, but it’s you too?

CLARKSON: Well, I mean, it’s me once in a while. It’s still Rebecca. [Laughs] Just his intuition, his calmness, his fierceness, his unwillingness to compromise. But she is stable. She stayed the course, and I’m a much more emotional and frantic person. And his fierce intelligence and his gift for words, his beautiful gift for words, and knowing when the words are right and when they’re not. It is a remarkable gift.

André, I’m going to ask you the same question. Have you had the opportunity to meet the real Dean? And if so, why did you choose to do this rather than wait until after the shoot?

BRAUGHER: I waited after shooting because I started to realize very [early] on in reviewing the script it wasn’t the complete full dean. Dean has so many more complicated and interesting aspects to his character. The dean that this movie demands is the dean who is the leader, protector, mentor, and guide. And so every scene is about protecting his reporters from Harvey, protecting the investigation, protecting their integrity, their wits, how necessary that is. So the one aspect that I emphasized throughout the film was the encouragement, wisdom, love, and protection that Dean offers his reporters and the people around him. Now, that’s not all Dean, so he might consider it a really sweet kind of performance, but I think that’s what the script called for.

Picture via Universal Pictures

You have done this very well. Every time you appear in a doorway, I was just made to feel comfortable for everyone in this movie.

It’s a really big set and like you just said it’s not the full Dean maybe we’re not getting every ounce of Rebecca so are there little details that maybe not central to a frame, maybe not conveyed through dialogue, but they were important to you, and we could at least feel them informing your performances?

CLARKSON: I think it comes down to that calm and that stillness and the kind of total knowingness that, if you can sometimes, in the middle of a scene, there’s a lot of other people, if you cut to Rebecca, believe me, she is far ahead of everyone in this room. She’s the woman who sometimes has the most experience in this room. She is the woman who has really seen a lot and who knows a lot. That’s what I hope for in my eyes, even for a brief moment in these scenes. She knows what’s going on.

Can confirm!

BRAUGHER: I’m not going to bother you, Patty. [Laughs]

CLARKSON: [Laughs] No kidding. Especially when I’m Rebecca.

Zoe Kazan in She Said
Image via Universal Images

Obviously, there is still a lot in this industry that needs to change, but a lot of good has happened over the years. So in an effort to highlight that a bit, what is now an industry standard, if you could go back and say to your younger self, “One day it will be a no-brainer” , and it would make you really happy, what would you choose?

CLARKSON: I would choose the fact that what we tolerated in the 80s, 90s, 2000s is no longer tolerable. This silence is not golden; you are an accomplice. That this company, really, we have security in numbers now. There are now more women in front of the camera, behind the camera, in very high positions of power, and we have moved up. We will rise. If I had known many years ago that I would sometimes be the powerful person in a room — it’s so exciting to sometimes be the person with the biggest voice in a room, and that’s remarkable.

BRAUGHER: I have to say, for me, respect at work. Because I haven’t had to put up with the kind of sexual harassment that women go through for decades, I think the biggest change for me in those 40 years, and that’s part of the respect at work, the empowerment at work is respect in storytelling. It’s a long story, but throughout my career stories about black men have been monstrously negative, and it’s been hard to find roles that were personally empowering and humane. What I find today, 40 years later, is that the stories are mundane in their understanding of all of our common humanity when that wasn’t true in the 80s and 90s. One of the reasons for that I haven’t worked on as often as I would have liked throughout these four decades of my career is that the storytelling has been so anti-human when it comes to black men’s stories. And that is changing radically today.

My son, who is an actor, has a different perspective, different opportunities as a black man in this business, and for me, that’s a wonderful achievement. It’s a marvelous achievement, period. It is important. So I’m happy to do my part to move this story forward, to add my little talents to this great film to make sure people understand this message about respect in the workplace, about confronting abusers and about empowerment .

She says is in theaters now.

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Patricia Clarkson & Andre Braugher on Early Career Influences – Nifey

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