From visionary director Ava DuVernay and based on Madeleine L’Engle’s timeless classic, A Wrinkle in Time follows Meg Murry (Storm Reid), as she sets out on a transformative journey to discover that strength comes from embracing one’s flaws and that the light inside us can overcome the darkness. Meg is a typical teenager struggling with issues of self-worth, along with the mysterious disappearance of her father, four years ago. Upon learning that her father might still be alive but trapped on another planet somewhere in the cosmos, Meg sets out on an adventure with her younger brother, Charles Wallace (Deric McCabe), and fellow classmate, Calvin (Levi Miller), to find out if she has the courage it will takes to get him back.
At the film’s Los Angeles press junket, Collider got the opportunity to chat 1-on-1 with actor Zach Galifianakis (who plays the Happy Medium, a seer that Meg, Charles Wallace, Calvin and the Mrs. visit to gain insight as to the location of Mr. Murry) about his fear of heights, having to balance on one leg and act, at the same time, not wanting to flub his lines, and what it was like to work with Oprah Winfrey. He also talked about his desire to play a psycho killer, how proud he is of his FX series Baskets, and working on a fourth season.
Collider: If the acting thing stops working for you, you should open a yoga studio as the Happy Medium, for a side business. I’d take yoga from the Happy Medium!
ZACH GALIFIANAKIS: Maybe I’ll start doing that! It’s not a bad idea.
Did you have to balance on one leg, in the cave, for a long time?
GALIFIANAKIS: I did have to balance.
It didn’t seem very fair that the Mrs. had long dresses and could pretend that they were balancing without anyone actually knowing if they were or not.
GALIFIANAKIS: Thank you for saying that! Yes! The women got to use gown-y type things, and you saw my lack of balance. Acting is hard enough for me, but to try to balance and do it, at the same time, was just too much for my brain to try to figure out. It was very distracting, but it was fun.
What was it like to walk into the Happy Medium’s cave and see the set that they’d built?
GALIFIANAKIS: I expected to walk into a green screen and be on the ground. Ava walked me in and was like, “You’re gonna be way up there.” When he first comes in, I’m 70 feet above. I have a terrible fear of heights, so I was hoping that it would just be some green screen and I would be on an apple box, and then I’d go home at five, but it was wires and big things around my crotch area to hold me up. Acting is not necessarily difficult, but that was distracting. To try to hide my fear, being up 70 feet without a net, it was hard to act and it was hard not to act scared.
Were there any line flubs because you were distracted by fear?
GALIFIANAKIS: Oh, I always screw up lines! The great thing about me is that I can go, “Oh, it was an improvising thing!” I screw up lines, but on a movie like this, where you can tell everybody did their homework, you want to make sure you’re like them. Mindy [Kaling], Reese [Witherspoon] and Oprah [Winfrey] are very responsible. That was intimidating because I knew they were going to be really prepared, and I’m a goofy comic, so I tried to be as diligently prepared as I could be, for me.
What was it like to be in scenes with Oprah Winfrey?
GALIFIANAKIS: With somebody of that magnitude, I just don’t wanna bug them. I just want her to feel comfortable and not bug her. But, she’s like a friendly next door neighbor. She’s an inspiring human being. She’s been inspiring us, since I was a kid. She’s inspiring because of her stuff on television, and then you meet her and you’re like, “Oh, she’s actually like that!” You don’t see that a lot in this business. That, alone, was really neat to see and it made me feel really good. I haven’t been as cynical about this business since I met Oprah. But, she’s a journalist. She doesn’t have to be an actress, she’s just really good at it.
This is a very different type of character than we’re used to seeing you do. Was that the appeal of this?
GALIFIANAKIS: Well, I don’t want to do anything that is too familiar anymore. I don’t want to play the same type of characters. I’ve done that. When you can do it, they want to keep you in that box, and that box becomes real boring. My whole thing is that, when I get a script, I ask, “Is it a comedy?” If the answer is no, than I’ll read it. With comedy, you run out of tricks. This is new enough without it necessarily being comedy. There’s a little comedy there, but I was drawn to it because it was different enough and because Ava [DuVernay] was directing it. I’d love to play a murderer bad guy. I know I’d be really good at that. A psycho killer thing is what I’d like to do. Don’t worry, I’m not gonna kill you. That’s such a creepy thing to say.
I love your FX series Baskets, which is considered a comedy because it’s a half-hour.
GALIFIANAKIS: There are comedic elements to it, but comedy, now, is really weird and tough. With the state of the world, it’s hard to know what people want to laugh at and it’s hard to make fun of things because we’ve become really sensitive, for a reason. So, it’s tricky, especially for somebody like me, who’s known for saying things that are off-putting. It almost forces a new type of comedy for me, which is not necessarily [outright laughs]. The thing with Baskets is that we can get away with doing really weird, dumb scenes, and then pull from the heart. That’s what life is. It’s not always laughter and it’s not always down. It’s a mix of both. That’s the whole intent there. And also, I wanted to do a pretentious comedy show.