Jessica Chastain on George & Tammy and Challenges in Playing Tammy Wynette

Feb 17, 2023

As an entire piece, the six-part Showtime original limited series George & Tammy explores the triumphs, tragedies, and undeniable love of country music power couple Tammy Wynette (Jessica Chastain) and George Jones (Michael Shannon), with powerful and memorable performances from its two lead actors. Known as the “First Lady of Country Music,” Wynette was a loving mother, determined to achieve success and just keep going, no matter what life threw at her, and Chastain, who was also an executive producer on the project, imbued the “Stand By Your Man” singer with such a pure humanity and beautiful soul that it can’t help but pull at your heartstrings.

During this 1-on-1 interview with Collider, Academy Award winner Chastain talked about why her SAG Awards nomination is so special, the biggest challenges in playing Tammy Wynette, why you have to be responsible with the other artists around you and not get too lost in your character, the importance of her partnership with Shannon, and what her perspective added to this telling of the story. She also talked about why she hasn’t directed yet, and her desire to teach at Juilliard.

Collider: First of all, congratulations on the SAG Awards nomination because it’s very well-deserved. It’s a category of great performances in great projects. What’s it like, as an actor, to go through the awards experience, alongside your fellow actors, especially for an award show where the nominees and winners are chosen by actors? Does that make the SAG Awards a special experience?

JESSICA CHASTAIN: Honestly, it means so much to me. Last year, at the SAG Awards, I got incredibly emotional. I came into this industry because I just love actors so much, and I love watching their work and I love collaborating with them. It’s some of my happiest times, separate from being with my family. And so, to be acknowledged by them, it means a lot because no one knows what it takes or what goes into a performance more than another actor. They understand the sacrifices that are made, the technical aspects of something, especially going out of your comfort zone, like with all the singing. Actors are the ones who truly understand because they do it, every single day. Whether it be auditioning or trying to find work, they’re always putting themselves in a place of uncertainty and unknowing. And so, when you’re recognized by your peer group in that way, to me, it means more. I know I’m not supposed to rank anything, but it means so much to me to have that acknowledgment from my peers.

Image via Showtime

What were the biggest demands that playing Tammy Wynette put on you? It feels a bit like you could focus on playing a character, in the moments with George or the moments when she’s a mom, but when you’re singing her songs, you can’t really avoid having to think about the fact that you’re playing Tammy Wynette. Were those the more challenging moments, or were their different kinds of challenges, all along the way?

CHASTAIN: Those were definitely the most challenging moments. There was a decision made, pretty early on, that we were gonna do the singing. I’ve done it before, but I’ve never really done live singing in front of hundreds of people, and that was terrifying to me. Every single day I’d show up and there’d be people in the audience, in the theaters where I was set to be performing, and they’d be so sweet to me and so encouraging. They knew how nervous I was, and they were cheerleading me on, in some sense. I just felt so supported by this community because they knew what I was doing was really scary and hard and difficult. That absolutely was the hardest. No one can sound like Tammy Wynette. It doesn’t matter if you’re the most famous country singer working today, you’re not gonna sound like Tammy Wynette singing, “Stand By Your Man.” She was a singular talent and had a singular voice. The thing I had to wrap my head around was, “Okay, the one thing I do know how to do is tell a story. I’m an actor, my job is to tell a story.” I approached the music like team work. How am I different at the end of the scene, or at the end of the song, than I was at the beginning? What is the emotional journey? What am I expressing? Even though it happens to be with music, that’s what I latched onto. It was about how to tell the story through the music.

Image via Showtime

You seem to really dedicate all of yourself to the roles that you play. Over the years, we’ve heard various actors talk about losing themselves in characters. Most recently, Austin Butler has talked about that with Elvis. Have you ever gotten too lost in any of the roles that you’ve done? Is that something that just happens on certain days or with certain scenes, depending on the intensity of the material, or do you feel like you have a very healthy approach to that and can leave work at work?

CHASTAIN: You have to be responsible with the other artists around you, and that means you can’t get lost in something. If I’m doing a scene with Mike Shannon that’s violent, you can’t get lost in it. You have to take care of your colleagues. There has to be a sense of responsibility. Yes, I give myself 100% to the characters I’m playing. At the end [of George & Tammy], I stopped eating to try to show how frail she was, and I lost a ton of weight for episode six. I give so much to the characters I’m playing, but I never lose sight of my scene partners and I never lose sight of the people around me. I don’t wanna be selfish about my process and put other people in danger. If I’m playing a drug addict, and we have a lot of those scenes in George & Tammy, I’m gonna act it because I’m not gonna put others in danger. For me, it’s very, very dangerous when you get to the point of, “I don’t know who I am anymore.” First of all, I’ve never heard of anyone saying that, and I don’t know if that’s ever really true, because the reality is that there’s a camera right in front of you, so that’s selective vision. But the reality is that our job is to put every cell in our body into what we’re playing, and make huge sacrifices. It costs you something, emotionally and physically. But you are also there to protect the person you’re playing and to protect the people around you.

It seems like there really was a very beautiful partnership that formed between you and Michael Shannon on this. I would imagine that it helped that you guys had a friendship already, from before, when you do something like this. Were there moments, during the shoot, that it just felt really important and really imperative to have him there with you, by your side?

CHASTAIN: The singing stuff. He was everything to me when it came to that. I’d never really harmonized with anyone before. When you watch those videos of George and Tammy singing together, whether or not they were married, whether or not they were divorced, what happens between them on stage is so beautiful and so powerful and so moving, and to have like a collaborator like Mike, who I trust implicitly, and then learn how to blend our voices, so it becomes a singular voice and a singular sound, but because there’s a harmony in it and more than one person creating this singular sound, it becomes almost spiritual. I don’t know how to describe that, it just felt really special and not of the norm of what I get to do.

Image via Showtime

You do such great work as an actress, and it’s been so interesting to watch the projects you’re choosing now, as a producer. Have you thought about adding director to your list of talents? Does that feel like an inevitable next step, at some point?

CHASTAIN: At one point, I was thinking, “I might wanna direct something,” and I backed away from a project that I was gonna direct. This was years ago, but the reason why I backed away from it was because they wouldn’t allow me to bring a producer on that was a female producer. I realized, “Okay, I don’t wanna work in that kind of environment,” so I decided not to do it. Since then, I don’t know. I wonder if I’m more interested in someday teaching. I’d love to teach at Juilliard. I love, so much, the collaboration with other actors, and this idea that, when you’re with someone and you see them open up in a way that they’ve never done before, and that’s almost surprising to them, to show what’s so fragile and vulnerable and beautiful, and you help get them to feel safe enough to share that, that to me feels like a great gift. That’s more what I’m passionate about right now.

It’s so interesting to see the projects that you’re choosing. Even with George & Tammy, I feel like I don’t know if the series would have had the perspective it did, if you had you not been involved with it.

CHASTAIN: Well, thank you for saying that. There were many iterations of it. There was also one iteration separate from Abe Sylvia’s, the creator of the series. I think he’s done a magnificent job. But there was one iteration where I read something and I was immediately like, “I can’t be a part of this,” and I was very clear to everyone involved what I thought was wrong, in terms of playing a female character, looked at through that lens. It has felt important to me to be involved, at some point in the development, because for many, many years up until now, women haven’t been allowed in those rooms where the stories are being created, and sometimes those stories have been created without women completely. It’s this echo chamber where there’s no real perspective because they don’t understand, so it’s been valuable to me. It was very important for me, in George & Tammy, to show Tammy as a mom. With everything that I’ve read about her, and from talking to her children, her being a mom was such a huge part of who she was. That’s not something you really think about when saying, “Oh, I wanna tell this story about music and drugs, and it’s this epic love.” You don’t think about how she’s gonna deal with the kids during the first breakfast date, or whatever, and I really wanted to delve into that. That was very important to my producing partner, Kelly [Carmichael], as well. There are so many women who are doing multiple things, and for years, people have deemed carting around the kids as not a sexy thing. But I’m sorry, I find a full human being, who has so many aspects to their life, to be incredibly sexy and incredibly intriguing.

Image via Showtime

And you want to remind people of the humanity. Yes, Tammy Wynette was this superstar and icon, but watching her being a mom reminds you that there was also a human being there.

CHASTAIN: Absolutely. And it reminds you that, in the 1960s, when she showed up in Nashville, she was a divorced woman with three kids on her hip, and she was determined to make a name for herself. I’ve been in Nashville a lot, since I’ve been working on this project, and I’ve talked to successful women working in the music industry and country music, and they said it’s still really difficult for them, so I can’t even imagine what it must have been like in the 1960s.

All episodes of George & Tammy are available to stream at Showtime Anytime.

Disclaimer: This story is auto-aggregated by a computer program and has not been created or edited by filmibee.
Publisher: Source link

Inside Jeff Bezos’ Mysterious Private World

Over the years, they acquired a real estate portfolio that included a gated 5.3-acre compound in the Seattle suburb of Medina reachable via the longest floating bridge in the world; the South Texas ranch where Bezos used to spend summers with his grandparents,…

May 28, 2023

Natalie Portman Called Out The Double Standards Women Face At Cannes A Day Before Jennifer Lawrence Was Critiqued For Wearing Flip Flops On The Red Carpet Instead Of Heels

“The expectations are different on you all the time, and it affects how you behave — whether you're buying into it, whether you're rejecting it, or whether you're doing something in between.”View Entire Post › Disclaimer: This story is auto-aggregated…

May 28, 2023

Bella Thorne Is Engaged to Producer Mark Emms

Bella Thorne is ready to shake it up. Roughly a year after ending her engagement to Benjamin Mascolo, the Disney Channel alum is set to wed Mark Emms, producer of the Netflix docuseries Bad Vegan: Fame. Fraud. Fugitives. Vogue reported the news May 26, sharing a snap…

May 27, 2023

Melissa McCarthy Once Had A Volatile Experience On Set

Melissa McCarthy Once Had A Volatile Experience On Set Melissa McCarthy is getting candid about her worst experience ever on a set — and it honestly sounds really bad. While Melissa didn't name any names, she says there was one…

May 27, 2023