Joshua Jackson & Lizzy Caplan on ‘Fatal Attraction’s Intense Fight Scene

May 18, 2023

[Editor’s note: The following contains major spoilers for Episode 5 of Fatal Attraction.]Inspired by the 1980s movie, the Paramount+ original series Fatal Attraction is a deep dive into marriage and the effect that infidelity can have, as it ripples through a family. In the present day, Daniel Gallagher (Joshua Jackson) is reentering the world after serving 15 years in prison for the murder of Alexandra Forrest (Lizzy Caplan), figuring out where he fits in with work and family, and is focused on proving his innocence. At the same time, we see when Dan and Alex first met in 2008 and how their brief affair threatened to destroy everything around them, as it all spiraled out of control.

During this interview with Collider, co-stars Jackson and Caplan talked about the necessary addition of shades of gray for their characters, examining the consequences of Dan’s actions, the extent of Alex’s manipulation, whether Jackson selected his character’s choice of karaoke song, and just how difficult it was to shoot the intense fight in episode five.

Collider: I love a good deep dive character study. You often wonder why somebody decides to remake something that’s already been so successful, but this is digging so much deeper into everything. Alex is not a straight villain, and Dan is also responsible in contributing to everything that happens. How do you hope that these characters are viewed? Do you hope that audiences just take the ride with these people, instead of putting them into a box? Do you feel like audiences are less likely to do that, these days?

LIZZY CAPLAN: Yes, I think they are, for all the reasons that you just said. Great pains were taken to add shades of gray to both characters, whereas in the film, it was very clear who was the villain and who was the hero. You said that you like a deep dive character study, and audiences are all well-versed now in what that looks like. It’s becoming something that we expect and demand from our content. We want to know these people, inside and out. I think if you were to plop our show into the landscape in 1987, it would seem very odd, in the same way that, if you took the 1987 movie and released it now, audiences are different.

Image via Paramount+

Josh, was it important to you that your character not just be the victim?

JOSHUA JACKSON: Yeah. I won’t even speak for the rest of humanity, but it’s hard for me to conceptualize a man who has an affair as the victim in this situation.

CAPLAN: But he didn’t get his promotion.

JACKSON: I know. He was very upset, but he could have gone and had a beer, or whatever. So yeah, it was important, but the other thing that’s interesting to me here, and to go back to what you were initially asked, I don’t just hope that the audience goes with us. I hope that they switch polarities. I always love when I’m watching something and I’m like, “Oh, I don’t like this character.” And then, something happens and you’re like, “Oh, now I understand it,” and you’re waffling. When you go back and forth, I find that much more interesting. And where we are in the culture, but also just as a character for me, it’s much more interesting on the Dan side. This guy does a thing. He does something very seriously out of step with being a married man, and then he protects that mistake, over and above his own family and marriage, in order to try to preserve his image of self.

I think that’s really interesting because that’s a recognizable human trait. We don’t like to have our concept of self challenged. Obviously, Dan takes it out to an extreme level and he’s found exactly the wrong dance partner in this. If it was anybody else, or there were any two other personalities, this might have gone a different way, but he’s found exactly the wrong person to mess with, in this way. I think it’s interesting to examine. We are in a time now where, as an audience member, you wouldn’t just accept that black and white portrayal. We want to know these characters, but I also think the examination of consequence and how we go through things is where stories are now. We’re much more interested in the granular detail than we are in the broad strokes, and the black and white.

Sometimes it’s hard to dig deeper, if you don’t get both points of view, which is why I like that we do get that in this series. Lizzy, the scene in episode two, when the sprinklers go off in the restaurant, the first time we see that scene, we don’t know that Alex was responsible for that happening, even though we might suspect her. It’s not until we actually see it from her point of view that we truly know what happened. Did you know those things ahead of time? Going into this, did you know how she was manipulating each situation?

CAPLAN: So, what you’re saying is that she’s a romantic?


CAPLAN: I think we read episodes two and three before. You read it on the page and it’s one thing, and then when we’re actually shooting it, to see how much she orchestrated every single moment, it makes me feel bad for her, honestly. It’s sad. I also learned how to set off a smoke alarm with a tampon and a lighter.

JACKSON: You’re the MacGyver of mistresses.

CAPLAN: The MacGyver of romantics.

Image via Paramount+

That should be the character description. Josh, before all of this starts to spiral, there’s a moment that we see you doing karaoke. Even for a brief moment like that, do you get to pick the song? Do they tell you what you’ll be singing? Had you ever sung “Torn” at karaoke?

CAPLAN: He asks to have that moment where he sings that song, in every show.

JACKSON: You’d be surprised how often people want to make me dance or sing, neither of which I do well. And I always say, “I don’t do that.” And they’re like, “No, it’s okay.” And I’m like, “No, this is not false humility. I’m bad at this.”

CAPLAN: The assumption is always that you can.

JACKSON: Yeah, but I am not a multi-hyphenate. I am a single hyphen. I am hyphen-less, in fact. I have no other skill. Give them to somebody else. There are other people who can do that well.

CAPLAN: You are a single threat.

JACKSON: I am a single threat, yes. That’s the next season. Fatal Attraction Season 2: Single Threat.

Episode five is a real escalation with things. We see what Alex does to Dan’s mother-in-law, we see her start the fire at the house, we learn about her taking his daughter, and then there’s that very physical fight between you both. How challenging is it to shoot a fight scene like that, with the strangulation? That’s such an intense moment because we see him actively make the decision to stop, after almost killing her. What was all of that like to figure out, being such a physical and psychological moment?

CAPLAN: It was horrible to shoot that scene. The other stuff that you mentioned, with the house and all of that, wasn’t nearly as difficult. It was horrible. We had really great stunt coordinators, so we were able to see what it was supposed to look like before. I have these videos of them, and that was just so violent. No matter how careful you are with each other, you’re gonna get a little banged up and bruised, no matter what.

JACKSON: Or maybe have blood under your big toenail.

CAPLAN: But you didn’t do that in the fight scene. You did that just on a regular day.

JACKSON: Because I’m clumsy.

CAPLAN: Yeah, he just ripped my toenail. That was fun. But we both were really shaken up by that. And then, leaving that day, it was horrible.

JACKSON: When we shot that sequence, it was the one scene where multiple different people on the crew came up and talked to me afterwards because of their feelings after witnessing it.

CAPLAN: Really?


CAPLAN: Nobody talked to me.

JACKSON: Which is interesting, actually.

CAPLAN: Uh huh. Who talked to you?

JACKSON: I had representatives from several different departments, and obviously different feelings were divided by gender, around what that was and potentially us not thinking it through in the shooting process and having a conversation with the crew beforehand, about how intense that depiction was going to be, so if you’ve had that in your life, you might need to not be on stage that day. But yeah, that was a very, very hard sequence. Your body doesn’t know the difference. Burning down the house and these other actions, you’re not actually burning down a house or sitting inside of a burning house. There’s a layer of separation. But to do particularly that scene, there’s no way for me to throw a woman across a room without throwing a woman across a room. Partially because of the size difference, I was really freaked out. By the end of that day, that was a very long, quiet drive home.

CAPLAN: Yeah, it wasn’t fun. And then, I do remember going into the makeup trailer afterwards, and being all bruised and just feeling terrible. And my stunt double was like, “That was great! That was amazing!” She was amped. She was so thrilled. That’s a nice reminder that this is all make-believe, but those were definitely the roughest days we had.

Image via Paramount+

Well, apologies for making you relive it, but excellent work, both of you, and thank you for talking to me about it.

CAPLAN: Thank you.

JACKSON: Thank you.

Fatal Attraction is available to stream at Paramount+.

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