Hitting an emotional wall is never fun but when it’s Melanie Lynskey playing a lost soul who goes from hiding out at her parents’ home to suddenly discovering life again (with the help of an illicit affair), it’s fascinating to watch. In the new feature release Hello I Must Be Going, Lynskey wows us again with her subtle yet beautiful performance of Amy but that should come as no surprise since we know what she’s capable of from seeing her in such projects as Heavenly Creatures, But I’m A Cheerleader, The L Word and the upcoming Perks Of Being A Wallflower.
AfterEllen eagerly jumped on the phone with the New Zealand actress recently to talk about the new film, which opened the 2012 Sundance Film Festival earlier this year and also stars Blythe Danner and Julie White. Lynskey also told us when she first was aware of her strong lesbian following and (yes, we went there) if she could possibly choose between making out with former co-stars Kate Winslet or Clea Duvall.
AfterEllen: How did Hello I Must Be Going come to you?
Melanie Lynskey: I got asked to do a staged reading of it and we were trying to get some financing for the movie. I thought initially that I would just do the reading and another actress would go on to be in it but then they asked me if I’d be in the movie after that.
AE: I was worried that the movie was saying that watching One Day At A Time reruns (which her depressed character does in the movie) is a bad thing.
ML: [Laughs] No! I don’t think we’re saying that.
AE: In the beginning of the movie, Amy’s emotions and mannerisms are so muted. How challenging was that for you to play?
ML: It’s easy enough to get into that emotional space because I understand depression and I understand what it feels like to feel that way. But as an actor, I thought it was important to really show what that really feels like and really sitting there and having nothing going on and not having an interior life. At the same time, I thought ‘who wants to watch that?’ and I had to keep reminding myself that as soon as Amy comes to life, she finds herself but it’s important for people to see that she’s a blank slate.
AE: With the affair that develops in the movie, I wondered if it could have really been anybody that came into her life whether it was the young man (played by Christopher Abbott) or maybe a woman or even an older person. Do you see it that way?
ML: I think the connection happened. It could have been a woman or an older person but I felt like the connection happened with someone who really saw her and knew her and it was someone who was at a very similar time in their life where they also were saying to themselves “I don’t know who I am. I don’t know what’s going on. I don’t know what my life is meant to be.” She found a kind of a kindred spirit and she explored being herself. I don’t know if it had to be that boy necessarily but it helped that they were at a similar place.
AE: You started your career so young so how is it to work with someone so young? Was there a mentor relationship that developed at all?
ML: No, Chris is such an accomplished actor already so it didn’t really feel like that. I felt a little like that with Win Win where I worked with Alex Schaffer, who played my son in the movie. That was a time when I was like “Oh my God, I remember when I was young and had never done a movie set before.” I was 15 and I was working with all these professionals but Chris, he’s such an accomplished actor that it felt just like acting with another actor.
AE: So you are aware that you have a strong lesbian fan base, right?
ML: [Laughs] I am, yes.
AE: When were you aware of that? Even back when you did Heavenly Creatures, the internet and interaction with fans wasn’t what it is today.
ML: I was aware of it at that time because people stopped me in the street after that movie came out and they would tell me their own personal stories and how the movie reminded them of relationships they had before they came out and how important that movie was to them. So I had an idea what that movie meant to people and then I did But I’m a Cheerleader…
AE: …and The L Word.
AE: Have you seen a change in actors playing gay characters? It’s not as much of a shock today as it was maybe 10-15 years ago. Do you see it from that perspective?
ML: It seems like we’re at an exciting time right now. It feels like things are really, really changing. I feel like there are just gay characters in movies but it doesn’t have to be a responsibility to tell a certain kind of story. It’s just a part of who they are. I was super excited about that movie Weekend. Did you see that movie?
ML: That felt like a major turning point for me. Here’s a movie about a gay love story but it’s just about these two people and this weekend that they have. It didn’t have to be a big dramatic story. It was just a slice of life and it’s such an amazing movie. Plus, the fact that more and more actors are coming out and they’re playing straight characters and playing gay characters. It’s so different now and it feels so exciting.
AE: Of all the different roles that you’ve played, what does a role have to have for you to be interested in it?
ML: I know when I read something. I feel that kind of twitch inside of me and I don’t often know what it is. It’s like when you meet someone and you fall in love with them and you don’t really understand what part of yourself is unlocked but you know that something is happening. And as the relationship progresses you think “Oh, it’s this part of myself” or “this is what I need to work out.” That’s what a role is for me.
AE: I think our readers would like to know if you’d rather make out with Kate Winslet or Clea Duvall? If you had to pick.
ML: Oh my God, that is so funny. Clea is my best friend in the entire world so it would be very strange to make out with her but [Laughs] I think I would choose Clea from what I know about her. I think it would be fun.
Hello, I Must Be Going opens today in Los Angeles and New York. To find out when the film arrives in your city, visit the film’s website.