#ELLEexclusive: Michelle Williams and Sam Rockwell on the toughest part about starring in Fosse/Verdon - Elle India

#ELLEexclusive: Michelle Williams and Sam Rockwell on the toughest part about starring in Fosse/Verdon

The show has received six Emmy nominations

BY ELLE Team | September 9th, 2019

Michelle Williams and Sam Rockwell’s portrayal of Broadway’s most acclaimed personalities, Gwen Verdon and Bob Fosse, in Fosse/Verdon, has earned them an Emmy nomination each this year. The mini-series, currently streaming on Hotstar Premium, revolves around the personal and professional lives of the dancer and director-choreographer. The show transports you to the fascinating and glamorous world of Broadway as it delves deeper into Gwen and Bob’s troubled relationship and their immense contribution to the American entertainment industry.

In an ELLE exclusive, Michelle (known for starring in Blackbird, My Week with Marilyn and Brokeback Mountain) and Sam (known for his work in Vice and Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri) open up about preparing and filming for Fosse/Verdon:

Michelle Williams:

ELLE: What’s it like to play a person like Gwen Verdon?

MW: From the people that I’ve spoken to, the thing I kept hearing over and over again was that she was like the sunshine in the room, and the way that I’ve come to think of her is someone who is always trying their hardest and will occasionally be backed up against a wall where she’s cornered and things aren’t in her control anymore. But as much as she possibly could, she was always constantly trying to rise above and be her best self.

ELLE: Talk a little bit about perfecting the whole Fosse – the angles – because it’s so different from anyone else’s choreography.

MW: I wanted to get up on the stage when I was watching them right there in that number. I was so jealous. And as far as the angles go, we’ve been really well supported in terms of the people who have been teaching us… the choreographers that we’ve worked with, who have spent so much time with both Sam and I, and who we love not just as professionals, but also as people. So, it’s a very harmonious work environment, in which you feel like you can, sort of, get your best work done. We’ve been well looked after by people who are part of the Legacy. They are Legacy dancers.

ELLE: You didn’t have formal training as kids in dance, but that has really come to the floor in your careers. How has your confidence and training evolved over the years as that’s become a bigger part of your screen persona?

MW: I danced a little bit as a kid but not anything to write home about. And then all of a sudden, in the last decade, it just keeps coming up for me. It is a place that I have found an unexpected amount of joy, and so I keep wanting to return to it. And it feels like something that is being built on. So, to have had a little bit of that training going into this and a little bit of vocabulary that I already knew, it has been really helpful. But this is just the next level of degree of difficulty.

 

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ELLE: There’s a real sadness to Gwen and her career being curtailed; despite nothing to do with her great ability. How much has the world changed or in entertainment in terms of women’s careers?

MW: There’s this big gap in her career that was intentional because she wanted to stay home, and she wanted to be a mother, and she wanted to be present for Nicole. It was something that we all struggle with as working mothers. It’s a very complicated dilemma. But the other thing that she faced in her career, which is different from what I’ll face in my career, hopefully, is that as a dancer, there comes a point when you can’t do what you used to be able to do. And, you know, as an actress, my path, hopefully, will be different than that. So, that was the thing that slowed her down, but then she metamorphosed her career and starting just doing more acting, which you saw later in her life — just playing roles. So, it was just a pure matter of physicality and some of it was a matter of wanting to devote herself to being a mother.

ELLE: Can you talk a little bit more about the dynamic of the love, the hate, the in-between about Bob and Gwen?

MW: I think of them as, sort of, like yin and yang. Light and dark that’s always chasing each other and shaping each other.

Sam Rockwell:

ELLE: There are two spectacular props to work with in the show. Talk about using those two things to build a character around and not just making it an externalised character based on those things.

SR: It’s good – he always had a cigarette in his mouth, and he had the Friar Tuck comb over. He did very well with that look. It’s (the cigarette) just, kind of, a part of his thing. It’s always there, you know. It’s a part of his nervous system.

 

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ELLE: How instructive was Nicole Fosse (Bob and Gwen’s daughter) about the jazz between Bob and Gwen?

SR: Nicole was very helpful filling us in on a lot of stuff. It’s a dense, complex story. There’s so much going on — there’s career stuff and love. And it’s such a big subject, what happened between them. They’re lovers and there’s a love story there and they are kind of Siamese twins, in a way—emotionally.

ELLE: You didn’t have formal training as kids in dance, but that has really come to the floor in your careers. How has your confidence and training evolved over the years as that’s become a bigger part of your screen persona?

SR: As we were learning this physical vocabulary, we were taken to task a little bit. Michelle and I can hoof. We are movers, I think we are pretty good movers, but this is a whole other realm. They are just superheroes, these people. They are amazing, and it’s daunting. It’s incredible.

ELLE: What’s the toughest part of being part of the show?

SR: We spend a lot of time in the chair—in the make-up chair, and that’s challenging. It definitely taxes every element of our beings, I think. We’re doing voices and dancing–which is also tough.