Interview with Mira Sorvino of “Shining Vale” on Starz by Suzanne 2/7/22
This is a great show! I fell in love with it when I saw the first episode months ago. Now I’ve seen 6 of the episodes (there are a total of 7). It’s a creepy horror show and a funny comedy as well. The actors in it are perfect. Mira Sorvino is the right combination of weird and sexy as Rosemary, one of the house’s inhabitants. I was very happy to speak to her about it, even if it was only a brief interview. The other questions are from other journalists.
Suzanne: Can you tell us what the most fun thing was about filming the show and also the most challenging aspect of playing the character?
Mira: Well, those two both came to play in you know – So, Jeff being the amazing, wonderful, generous showrunner that he is, when I told him, “Oh, I would love it if she could dance,” because in those old 50s movies that she’s in love with, they always had these dance numbers,” and all of a sudden he wrote me and Courtney and Greg like a little dance bit at the beginning of one of the later episodes. I was overjoyed and terrified, because I had hung up my pointe shoes at fourteen, although I’d taken like eight years of classes and as an adult actually still studied, still studied ballet, still studied some jazz, did like salsa and ballroom stuff for some of the other movies I’ve done, like Summer of Sam. So, I got to do this scene that, it’s very brief, but it’s like an homage to Fred Astaire and the coat rack or Gene Kelly and the mop, the boom. And I couldn’t have had more fun, and I couldn’t have been more nervous. I worked on it for a week with the choreographer, trying to appear, trying to show up like a real dancer. Liz Friedman was the director, and she used to direct videos and dance, and she knows all about dance. So, I was like, “Oh, my God,” but I ended up being really happy with it and proud of it and had the time in my life. So, it was both as much fun as one could have on a day of work and as nervous I could be on a set, because I’m not a professional dancer. Like acting is kind of under my feet now; like I know what I’m doing, even if certain scenes will be more challenging than others emotionally, or I’ll have more work to do on a certain aspect of preparation. I’m not a professional dancer, so getting to dance in a professional scene was a joy, but it was also a terror, but I loved it. I was so grateful. So grateful.
Suzanne: I look forward to seeing it. Thanks. When people recognize you, and they tell you how much they like you, what is the movie or show that you’re most recognized for? Is it Romy and Michele, or something else?
Mira: Absolutely. People say, “I’m the Mary.” You know, they do stuff like that, like when they meet me. Yeah, that’s the one.
Suzanne: That’s definitely the one. All right. Well, thanks a lot.
Mira: Thank you.
Question: Hi, it’s great to talk to you; been a big fan of yours for many years, more than I should admit, but I gotta ask you, what’s it kind of like – and I’m going to be delicate about this – to kind of play a character that’s a little retro?
Mira: You don’t have to be delicate about it. I mean, she’s from the 50s. The historical person of Rosemary, who lived in the house seventy years ago, lived in the 50s with her family, and she was a very miserable person with dreams of grandeur and dreams of a different life that she couldn’t achieve. Then, her, you know, ectoplasmic manifestation in the present, is trying to cozy up to Pat Phelps, Courtney Cox’s character; [it has] still got all the trappings of that era. She talks like a character from a movie or TV series from the time. And the crazy part is, I don’t even know whether real people talk that way, but all the evidence that we have, like when I watched Leave It to Beaver or Ozzie and Harriet, or The Donna Reed Show, everyone’s talking in that patois. Then, you’ve got these fantastic, more crime thrillers, which I watched for inspiration, and I think that’s how she sees herself. She wants to see herself as this sort of silver screen, like, you know, power woman. She’s a little bit silly, so she doesn’t quite – it’s not as powerful as she hopes, but she’s trying to be what she wasn’t in life. So, in her real life, she was disempowered and hopeful and then squashed. Her new manifestation is all like verve and “Let’s do it baby!” you know, “Let’s drink!” And I loved it. I loved having that anachronistic vibe, so that it was a clear contrast with the current day people and that still, though, her message was modern, even though she was doing it in archaic way. It’s like, “Are you happy with your life? Is this all you really expected to get out of life? Are you letting other people’s expectations rule what you can be? Why don’t you take charge of your own life; be everything that you want to be? Experience life the way you want it. It’s time for you,” is sort of what she’s saying, even though she’s saying it, like, “Let’s go to Paris and throw a fantastic party.” So, I just love being her. It’s really fun.
Question: Earlier today, I had the pleasure of speaking with Jeff, and he was talking about how no matter how big the stars were, they wanted to be in the show and were willing to demonstrate, “Hey, I don’t care where I am on the [call sheet], I want to be on the show.” How did you first find out about it?
Mira: I think my agents found out about it, and I read the script and had a talk with Jeff, and he sent me later scenes from it, because, obviously, in the first episode, I’m kind of a discovery towards the end. But he sent me some of the tiki bar scenes where you really see her at work, trying to enlist Pat to come over and be her sister and adventure[r]. And I was really intrigued. Then, I got to do a zoom meet with Courtney, who I’d met before, but like, you know, artistically about the project. It seemed like a wonderful fit and was going to be fantastic. So, I was so excited about it, and it has proven to be one of my favorite jobs I’ve ever had, honestly.
Question: It’s such a pleasure to speak with you; I’ve been a longtime fan, and I have to say, Romy and Michele is one of my absolute favorite movies. I’m sure you basically hear that every day at this point of your life.
Mira: I’m very grateful that people love it so much.
Question: With this particular role of Rosemary, did it take stepping into the costume for you to really embody her, or did you just find her based on the wonderful words on the page?
Mira: It was a combo. It was like, once I first started working on her, I actually had an old 50s dress that I ended up wearing into one of the fittings, because it was giving me vibes of her, and I offered to bleach my hair completely platinum so that I could be more ghosty and 50s-ish, and that helped. Then, I just started watching The Donna Reed Show and Ozzie and Harriet and then all these 50s noire movies, because I felt like historical Rosemary was like a normal person who was somewhat repressed, maybe a little high-strung, definitely sort of held down by her husband. He was very abusive and neglectful and controlled her within an inch of her life. The ghost rosemary, the spirit Rosemary, is everything Rosemary hoped to be in life but couldn’t really be. So, now, she’s fabulous. Now, she’s got these tremendous costumes. Now, she’s got these lofty [unintelligible], and she’s hosting. She’s hosting people in her own bar. “Come on in. Let me pour you a drink, darling.” She’s just living that life that she wished that she could live, given the parameters of the narrow vision of what a great life looked like to her at the time. So, yeah, it was sort of working on the two characters, because at certain points in the show, you see her as Rosemary, like the real Rosemary, and most of the time, you’re seeing the spirit Rosemary, but sometimes real Rosemary comes through in spirit Rosemary. Like, there’s a moment – because I think you’ve seen the bathroom scene, right? So, at the mirror, real Rosemary comes through there. So, it’s like spirit Rosemary’s in the bath, and then real Rosemary tries to break through. And real Rosemary is in a lot of pain. So, it’s a very interesting, fun challenge to play this multilayered, not even just person, you know, spirit.
Question: What’s it like to balance all of that, including the horror and the comedy elements in there too?
Mira: Well, I find that if you make a character sort of odd enough or quirky enough, if the writing is funny, just delivering it in character will make it funny. So, you know, because she is somewhat anachronistic and has so much excitement for things that other [people] would not consider exciting, or doesn’t know that smoking is bad for you, or just all these things that just set her apart, like the comedy sort of took care of itself in a way. The horror was also largely delivered by the way scenes start or end or whether there’re jump-scares. It’s only as her sort of progressive and her sort of darker nature starts growing, that’s when I had to really be part of the scare in an active way, because I had to be – you had to believe me capable of harm, which I had to sort of dig into the the darker trauma of the past Rosemary’s life to bring that gravitas to highfalutin modernism…I don’t know, it’s like inside the workings of a weird mind right now.
Question: With a character like Rosemary, there’s a lot of work; there’s a lot of craft to it. Are you able to turn off thirty seconds after they yell “cut”? Or is it the kind of thing where you spend days as that character, and you can’t snap out of it?
Mira: I can snap out of it now. I mean, the kinds of things you don’t snap out of so easily are really, really depressing things like when I played Norma Jean and Marilyn. And then the last thing we shot the day before Christmas Eve was her dying in the ambulance, because in that show, she dies in the ambulance. Then, [I] flew back to New York and had jetlag; it took me two weeks to surface. I was really depressed and sad and dark. When I did The Grey Zone, an incredible movie that no one has seen about a successful rebellion at Auschwitz, perpetrated by the Sonderkommando, and the women who were just like slave labor in the munitions factories. That’s such a dark movie, and the fate of all those people was so devastating. That hung with me for weeks and weeks, and I had nightmares. But when you’re doing something that’s a little bit lighter and more sort of deftly switches from the dark to light back again, psychologically, it’s pretty easy to bounce out of it. Like, I would have fun rehearsing my stuff, but then, I have four children, so don’t really have the luxury of staying in character. I don’t. Like I have a very real life that awaits me the second I even look at my phone and have a million texts from this child and that one and that school and this one, you know, it’s just a lot going on. But I think it’s also experience, the fact that I’ve been doing this for so long makes it easy for me to jump in and jump out of it.
Question: Thank you. And as you’ve heard earlier, Romy and Michele in this household, also a staple. So, thank you for that.
Mira: Thank you.
Question: This is such a beautiful role for you, and you are a part of social media. Are you a looking forward to that instant fan feedback finally to something people are going to get to see you in lately? And also, what do you think it is about the series that’s really going to make it a fast fan favorite?
Mira: Well, I can just say that everybody that we’ve spoken today [unintelligible] has said how much they love it, and that’s really rare. It’s really rare for every journalist you talk to to have unbridled, genuine enthusiasm when they’re talking about something. It didn’t feel like a work day. “Okay, today, we’re talking this actor about this project.” It’s like, “Wow, I really enjoyed this; this was so much fun. I can’t wait to see the rest of it.” Like everybody’s talking like that. So, I do have high hopes that actually the general public will feel the same way. And, you know, when we act, we don’t do it to act in our bathroom; we do it to connect with people. So, I’m really looking forward to having the fans like it. I’m looking forward to them enjoying it, that it means something, since you’re not in front of a live audience. If you were a theater actor, you would know right away from just the breath in the room, whether people were attached to it or not, and certainly by the end by the amount of applause or standing ovations or whatever. Our only way is if people really like the film, and then we get to hear from [unintelligible] the show, and we get to hear from them over over the ether. And that will be fun; I’m looking forward to it.
Here is the audio version of it.
Interview Transcribed by Jamie of http://www.scifivision.com
“Shining Vale” is a horror comedy about a dysfunctional family that moves from the city to a small town into a house in which terrible atrocities have taken place. But no one seems to notice except for Pat, who’s convinced she’s either depressed or possessed – turns out, the symptoms are exactly the same. Patricia “Pat” Phelps (Courteney Cox) is a former “wild child” who rose to fame by writing a raunchy, drug-and-alcohol-soaked women’s empowerment novel (a.k.a. lady porn). Fast forward 17 years later, Pat is clean and sober but totally unfulfilled. She still hasn’t written her second novel, she can’t remember the last time she had sex with her husband (Greg Kinnear), and her teenage kids are at that stage where they want you dead. She was a faithful wife until her one slip-up: she had a torrid affair with the hot, young handyman who came over to fix the sink while Terry was at work. In a last-ditch effort to save their marriage, she and Terry cash in all their savings and move the family from the “crazy” of the city to a large, old house in the suburbs that has a storied past of its own. Everyone has their demons, but for Pat Phelps, they may be real. Cox plays the lead role of Patricia “Pat” Phelps, with Kinnear playing her ever-optimistic husband, Terry Phelps, whose patience and self-control will be tested like never before. Mira Sorvino plays Rosemary, who is either Pat’s alter ego, a split personality, her id, her muse, or a demon trying to possess her. Dungey plays Kam, Pat’s oldest friend and book editor. Gus Birney and Dylan Gage also star as Pat and Terry’s teenage kids, Gaynor and Jake.
Mira Sorvino (Rosemary) was most recently seen in Ryan Murphy’s Emmy nominated limited series “Hollywood”, (Netflix) as the Lana Turner-inspired star Jeanne Crandall. Other recent credits include the 20 th Century feature Stuber and director Mary Harron’s thriller The Expecting.
Sorvino won an Academy Award, a Golden Globe, Critics’ Choice Award, National Board of Review and New York Film Critics Circle for her performance in Mighty Aphrodite. She received additional Golden Globe nominations for her performances in the miniseries “Human Trafficking” and for her portrayal of Marilyn Monroe in HBO’s Norma Jean And Marilyn (also earning her an Emmy Award nomination). In 2016, she was awarded Best Supporting Actress by the Milano International Film Festival for her work in Mothers And Daughters opposite Sharon Stone and Susan Sarandon.
Other notable film performances include Spike Lee’s Summer Of Sam, Guillermo del Toro’s Mimic, Nancy Savoca’s Union Square, Antoine Fuqua’s Replacement Killers, Robert Redford’s Quiz Show, the comedy cult classic Romy And Michelle’s High School Reunion, Ted Demme’s Beautiful Girls, Triumph Of Love and Terry George’s Reservation Road.
Other television credits include “Badland”, a memorable 4-episode turn on Modern Family, “Startup”, and the limited series Intruders opposite Millie Bobby Brown for BBC America. She produced Griffin Dunne’s comedy Famous which was an official selection of the Cannes Film Festival, and associate produced Rob Weiss’ Amongst Friends and the documentary Freedom To Broadcast Hate.
Proofread and Edited by Brenda