When Orphan Black debuted in 2013, Tatiana Maslany burst into critical consciousness, like a circus performer leaping through a circle of fire, with her profound creation of a wildly diverse sisterhood of clones. Meanwhile, Tom Cullen, who specializes in bringing to vivid life the emotional vulnerability of brooding men, was continuing to attract increasingly high-profile parts, like a recurring role as one of Lady Mary's suitors on Downton Abbey.
In The Other Half, a moody romance that opens this Friday, the real-life couple—whose relationship started during the filming of 2012's World Without End in Budapest—play opposite one another for the first time. The script, which the actors had been discussing for years with writer-director (and close friend) Joey Klein, is about the deep but precarious connection between Cullen's character, who's grieving over the loss of his brother, and Maslany's, a warmhearted, often joyful woman with bipolar disease.
In a sometimes playful, always mutually supportive and openhearted conversation at a New York City hotel, Maslany and Cullen discussed the pros and cons of playing a love story with your real-life partner, the freedom and challenges of shooting a film on the fly, and what they've learned from each other about acting.
What attracted you to this film?
Tatiana Maslany: The character of Emily was such an incredible challenge for me because of her huge emotional life and what she's dealing with. Joey and I had been talking about this script for, like, five years, so I'd been able to sit with her on various different versions of the script, to do research and all that. Playing opposite Tom was a scary idea, because he knows me so well, and it was a real chance to go deeper and to keep growing as an artist. So all of it was that wonderful feeling of fear, of unknown and uncharted territory.
Joey Klein, your director, is also an actor, and this is his first film as a director. Did you find it helpful to work with a director who's acted before?
Tom Cullen: It's difficult to say, really. Joey's a very empathetic human being, and his script tells me that he understands human beings on an intrinsic level, so whether he's an actor or not, I feel that he would be able to direct us. But there's something about knowing the difficulties and struggles of dropping into something very hard and emotional. There's a lot of respect and patience there, and love, and nurture, and I think that comes from him being an actor. And because we shot it in 16 days, it wasn't like we had a lot of time, so we were all flying by the seat of our pants.
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