Kate Winslet talks new challenges and portraying a fragile character in Jason Reitman's 'Labor Day'
It was clear this morning that there was an opportunity in the Golden Globes category of Best Actress in a Drama for some lucky actress to step up to the plate. With the usual suspects in the lead actress field being split off and Meryl Streep finding herself in the comedy/musical field, who was going to land the recognition? Would it be critical darling Adèle Exarchopoulos? Indie hopeful Brie Larson? Or someone else entirely?
In the end, it was Kate Winslet who showed up, receiving her first awards recognition of the season for her performance in Jason Reitman's "Labor Day." In the process, the Oscar-winning actress picked up her tenth Globe nomination to date and finds herself in the thick of a talented group of women. Some time ago I talked with Winslet about tackling the role of the fragile, emotionally cut-off Adele in the love story, which was adapted from Joyce Maynard's novel. Read through our back and forth below.
HitFix: You've done so much at this point in your career, I'm curious what kind of opportunity "Labor Day" represented for you that was new or exciting.
Kate Winslet: Well, that's such an interesting thing to say and an interesting question because I always feel like I haven't done that much. (Laughs.) I always feel like but I've got so much to do! So for me it didn't sort of strike me as hard. The script came my way and was just, I thought, so different to everything I've done before. And I'm an enormous admirer of Jason's work. And the same with Josh, who was already attached by the time the script came to me. And it just represented an opportunity to play an incredibly interesting character with two very, very interesting men whom I have so much respect for. I just felt very lucky. You know, it's always such a blessing. It doesn't matter how long I've been doing this, and it's 20 years now, but it's always just such a blessing and such a thrill when a really great piece of writing comes along and represents a new opportunity to try something else and try and play a different character. I mean, that's what acting is. It's about playing, playing a role, playing a part. And to me Adele was very much a woman whose skin I really hadn't been in before, and I knew that would bring up some stuff for me that would be challenging. And I also knew that there would be sides of it that I would find uncomfortable as well. And so yeah, I guess it was a combination of all of the above really.
There's such a specificity to the role, too, due to the character's sort of shut-in neurosis. Is that specificity, for lack of a better word, "fun" to you as an actor?
Well, it was. Yes, it absolutely was because I'm used to playing characters who are more obviously one thing or another. And certainly I'm used to playing characters who are always quite passionate and quite full-blooded. And to me I felt as though Adele was the opposite of that. I felt that she was very, very thinly veined. You know, she almost reminded me of an empty vein, you know, when you press the vein of somebody who's really pumping, that beautiful purple vein just sort of pops right back up and I sort of felt that Adele's veins were all just sad and tired and a bit empty. And so yes, for me, it really was a challenge to play somebody who on the one hand is very obviously fragmented and emotionally fractured, you know? But at the same time, she did have a passionate side to herself. She did have a big heart and was capable of great active love I think. And there were many sides of her that she had simply let go and forgotten about in her past with all her sadness. She had left behind the glorious sides of who she once was. And I really appreciated the journey that she does go on in the sense that when you meet her at the beginning of the story, and certainly this is the case in the novel, you know, I wanted for her to feel uncomfortable to be around because of how nervy and uneasy she is with herself and with the world. And as a story goes on, of course, and as this love develops between herself and Frank, I really loved the fact that you do actually see her literally come to life again and shift and change. I thought it was quite special how Joyce managed to write that into her book and make that happen in the space of a few days and actually make it believable. I really always believed the love story very much. It was interesting. Someone actually said to me not so long ago, "Do you think this really could have happened?" Well, the answer is I don't know. But I was absolutely taken by the story. And I think is an actor, you absolutely have to believe in what's happening to your character and the characters themselves to be able to put your full self behind it. And that was never a challenge for me. I really do believe that you can actually meet somebody and really fall in love with them very quickly. I do believe that. And I also think that because the ending of the film is such, we really do know that this was true love. This wasn't some random crazy, you know, sweaty four days. It really was very, very real for both of them.