Interview: Our No. 2 Best Actress Of 2015 Adriana Mather Talks Tackling Scary With 'Honeyglue'
For those who check out our various movie related year end lists, the name of outstanding actress Adriana Mather should be very familiar. As the inspirational and captivating character stricken with cancer in writer/director James Bird’s phenomenal film "Honeyglue," Mather not only nabbed the #2 spot in our Top Five Best Actresses of 2015 list (right behind Charlize Theron for "Mad Max: Fury Road" – and she damn well earned it!), but her groundbreaking and realistic turn all but solidified her as on rare uncompromising authentic actress to watch for. With "Honeyglue" now playing in New York and hitting theaters in LA and San Francisco on June 10 from Zombot Pictures we were eager to dissect what we consider to be a truly Oscar worthy indie performance. We got the rare opportunity to sit face-to-face and chat one-on-one with our #2 pick Adriana Mather (yes, we were slightly intimidated!) to dig deep and find insight into how she created such a layered performance that everyone should witness. From her dedication to building a real character to her thoughts on the wonderful supporting cast, we got the skinny on all things "Honeyglue" (plus she’s about to be a published author too!) and it’s safe to say we’re even bigger fans than we were before. No blowing smoke here – it’s all about five-star work. Here’s….
Now did James Bird write this part for you?
Adriana Mather: He always pulls from people he knows. Sometimes he does write for me specifically, but the thing that I like is he doesn’t write characters that are me. The character before this was about a one-eighty from this one – there’s not anything that you would be able to pick out and say ‘that’s your personality.’ But in a way yes and in a way he just makes them as creative and interesting as he can. He also knows that there’s sometimes a shortage of really interesting or challenging roles for female actors, so he tries to build them out to be intense and different and having real agency within the script and story.
What were your thoughts when you first finished reading the script?
AM: Interesting. I immediately started breaking it down by story – that’s how my brain works. What is she doing? How is she doing it? I saw immediately that I was gonna have to shave my head because I’m one of those people that if I’m gonna do something I’m actually gonna do it. And I saw there were seizures, which actually wound up being one of the most challenging pieces of the acting experience. What people don’t talk about is how painful seizures are and when you have to recreate them it actually hurts. So in doing multiple takes of the same thing and from different angles those were some of my hardest days.
I love the ambiguity and unusual nature of Jordan and your relationship to him – what was your take on their connection?
AM: (Smiles) That was interesting. I’ve been asked before how do you define love and I think it was the hardest question that I ever had to answer. And you think it would be the most obvious, right? And you could list attributes, but what does that really mean? So after some thinking I would say my personal definition of love is the amount of time you’re willing to give to another individual. Time I think is the most precious thing that we have, which is something that this film deals with, but if you’re actually willing to selflessly give your time to another that to me is love. So with these two it’s really that they want to be together. And that sounds really simple, but they know it immediately. They have this sort of infectious love, which is not without obstacles but no relationship is, but no matter what happens they keep coming back together until they finally go out and do the things they were meant to do. And the cool thing about gender in this film is that it’s not about gender – the same way it’s not about cancer. These are things that people have and deal with and do and whatever, but you never get hit over the head with it. It’s just about people and people come in varieties. So the gender ambiguity was so fun because there was no box. So often with female characters you want them to be pretty and it’s one of the worst things you can have to be as an actor because it puts you in this tiny space. I really enjoyed the territory here because it was huge – I could be girly and could also be masculine and I just had this room.
As far as Morgan’s unbridled passion for life – seen clearly in the amazing dancing bar scene – how much of that was in the script vs. what you brought to it and where did you draw inspiration from?
AM: One of the things about that scene is technically when we got to the bar that day we had an idea of how the choreography might go, but once everyone was in place that changed because just depending on space, where the camera could be, where we could be and so on. And we shot that scene in one take, so as you know when you shoot in one take you have to nail it. Not only did we shoot it as a one take, but we shot it double speed and then slowed it down to normal pace and that’s what gives it an ethereal feel – it’s slow-mo but it’s not slow-mo. That’s part of working with James Bird. On the day of he will come up with these unbelievable things that wind up being my favorite things in the entire film, but they’re unbelievably challenging. But being faced with a difficult obstacle like that actually paralleled what my character was going through and it was scary, which was so cool. I may be a little strange, but if it’s scary and undoable that’s exactly what I want to do.
The cancer bits are incredibly authentic and harrowingly real. How much research did you do to prepare?
AM: I did a lot of research to figure out how someone who actually had a brain tumor how the disease might progress over time. And there were a lot of differences because when you’re dealing with the brain there’s just so many ways it can manifest. But if it was pushing on the language center of the brain your speech would degenerate. So I had to figure out how to keep track of myself that way too – how to make my speech impediment worse as time went on and still make it believable. One of the things that was most important to us was keeping the cancer real, even though the story was hopeful. To make it hopeful, but to not sugarcoat what was going on. But I would say the one biggest thing I did was shave my head. The thing that was most surprising was I was exhausted – there’s something completely draining about losing your hair. And then I went out into the world and I was no longer Adriana that I’m used to and being a young female with a shaved head people immediately assumed that I was ill. So when I would go places people looked at me when they thought I wasn’t looking at them, they would speak slower to me and they would touch me. They were trying to be kind – and I got that – but what I also got was other people would continuously remind me of the way that I looked. So I got something that I’d never gotten with any other role which was that if you are different in any way people will not let you forget it – I was overwhelmed with the realization of that.
I love the scenes with doctor Clayton Rohner and especially the tough scene with Amanda Plummer – can you talk about working with both?
AM: Clayton Rohner was my acting teacher, so I’m very familiar with Clayton. He is a character in the highest degree in a fabulous way. The best part of working with Clayton is you get one hundred percent commitment which comes across in his voice – his only volume is yelling. He’s so there with you, so when you act with Clayton you never feel like he’s distracted or doing anything else. And working with Amanda Plummer was a fascinating acting experience. She really cares about the work. The amount of time that she spends working on something and how deeply she thinks about the craft of acting was astounding to me. But when you work with her you never know what is going to happen and the scene we filmed with her everything we did they just followed us with the camera. It was a fascinating way to act because we didn’t have a map.
I know you’re a novelist now – can you talk a bit about the new book and where fans can get it?
AM: My ancestors hanged witches in Salem and I wrote a book called "How To Hang A Witch" and it takes place in modern day Salem and it deals with that history through ghosts – think "Mean Girls" meets "The Craft!" It’s a romance and a mystery and it’s got a lot of fun elements. It’s being published by Knopf/Random House and it comes out on July 26 which is my birthday – just a coincidence! I’m pleased with it.
Your work as an actress is incredible – will you still continuing acting and if so will it be in more of James work, other projects or both?
AM: Yes, absolutely. It’s really important to me to spend my time in a way that I’m getting the most out of it – I want to live the biggest life I can possibly live. So I will absolutely do more acting – "Honeyglue" comes out in June and "How To Hang A Witch" comes out in July – but once I get past those two releases I will be back in the mix again. It’s important to me to pick projects that I can spend a lot of time on and that I really want to spend time on. So it’s unlikely that you will see me in anything that I am not giving my heart to one hundred percent – because I love acting so much I can’t do it any other way.
"HONEYGLUE" IS CURRENTLY PLAYING IN SELECT THEATERS IN NEW YORK AND OPENS IN LA AND SAN FRANCISCO ON JUNE 10 AND SEATTLE AND PORTLAND ON JUNE 17 FROM ZOMBOT PICTURES.
AND BE SURE TO CHECK OUT ADRIANA’S NEW BOOK "HOW TO HANG A WITCH" AVAILABLE FOR PRE-ORDER FROM AMAZON – VIVA THE TALENTS OF ADRIANA MATHER!
Brittany S Frederick