Magazine article Variety

Supporting Actors on Auditions, Research & Good TV

Magazine article Variety

Supporting Actors on Auditions, Research & Good TV

Article excerpt

The amount of talent gathered around the table was impressive indeed. Each of the actors at the Variety Studio - Miranda Otto ("Homeland"), Anthony Mackie ("All the Way"), Christian Slater ("Mr. Robot"), Regina King (a double threat for "American Crime" and "The Leftovers"), Jonathan Banks ("Better Call Saul"), and Maggie Siff ("Billions") - all delivered killer performances this season (yes, Miranda, we're looking at you). But once the joking stopped (Mr. Banks, for the record, never really did), the thespians got down to serious talk about their experiences in the business.

What drew you to your current roles?

Miranda Otto: I went into an audition. I met with [showrunner] Alex Gansa, and he told me a bit about the character and it sounded really juicy. He told me I was going to be having an affair with Saul Berenson and that I was actually a double agent, and I just trusted it and went with it.

Christian Slater (to Jonathan Banks): You want to go?

Jonathan Banks: Poverty.

Slater: Poverty! That's always a good thing.

Banks: How was I gonna get the next kid through college? Please god almighty let me have this job! Way too many kids.

Slater: That is a motivator. (To Maggie Siff) How did you get involved in your show?

Maggie Siff: I was at home with my baby. She was 9 months old and I didn't want to work, but I read the script and the pilot of our show was so brilliant, and the role was really exciting and multi-dimensional, and I was like, I want to try to get this job, so I put myself on tape, at home. My husband was my reader. You know, when you put yourself on tape for something it's particularly strange. You're sending it out into the ether.

Banks: I have a bad attitude anytime - I have a bad attitude, period - but anytime anybody asks me to put something on tape, I'm thinking, "You don't f-ing think enough of me to have me come in there."

Regina King: I just recently had this happen. I'm not going to mention the project, but the role wasn't something that was really different from anything I've played, but they really wanted me to be on tape, and I wanted to be part of this franchise, so I put myself on tape. I was directing in Atlanta so I had to take away from what I was doing and they ultimately offered it to someone else. Who didn't put themselves on tape.

Slater: Really? After you'd done the tape? That's crazy.

Banks: Happens all the time. I will call them out. I will say exactly what the projects were, because I had to go through dialogue and dialogue and dialogue.

Slater: I guess one of the things I like about it is I can set up the camera and I can tape the lines up.

Anthony Mackie: That's smart. I've never done that before.

Slater: I'm there all alone so nobody has any idea that I'm actually just reading the wall. Now on the other hand it's never worked for me, and every time I've done that I've never gotten the job, so maybe they're onto me, but that's what I've tried.

Mackie: And what made you choose "Mr. Robot"?

Slater: I read the script, and I thought it was extraordinarily fascinating. Certainly a subject matter that hadn't really been explored before. And I did really like the character. But you know every time you do get involved with something it's a risk, you don't know what the outcome is going to be. Every time you get involved with something it's that leap of faith. You hope for the best, and this particular circumstance, which is rare, things seem to go somewhat well.

Miranda Otto: Did you know what your are would be? Did you have a strong idea of where you were going?

Slater: I did. because I had an instinct about the character when I first read the pilot, is this guy really there? I was very suspicious about that. So when I sat down with [creator] Sam [Esmail], he said. "Do you really want to know?." and he gave me the storyline of the whole first season. I'm fortunate enough right now to be in a situation where I'm working with somebody who is just so remarkably prepared and has really just thought the whole thing through. …

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