In the five-part HBO mini-series event Mildred Pierce, debuting on March 27th, Kate Winslet stars in the title role, playing a proud single mother struggling to earn her daughter’s love during the Great Depression in middle-class Los Angeles. Based on James M. Cain’s 1941 novel of the same name, the drama offers an intimate portrait of a uniquely independent woman who finds herself newly divorced and struggling to carve out a new life for herself and her family. The story explores Mildred’s unreasonable devotion to her insatiable daughter, Veda (Evan Rachel Wood), as well as the complex relationships she shares with the less than desirable men in her life.
While at the HBO portion of the Television Critics Association Winter Press Tour, actress Evan Rachel Wood talked about working with Kate Winslet and director Todd Haynes, the intense music training she had to go through for the role, and doing her first nude scene. She also talked about her return to HBO’s hit television series True Blood for Season 4 and her upcoming film project The Ides of March. Check out what she had to say after the jump:
Question: What is the core problem between mother and daughter in Mildred Pierce? What is the issue from which everything spins out?
EVAN RACHEL WOOD: I think it all boils done to mothers and daughters always being so alike, no matter what. You always have that moment where you grow up and you’re like, “Oh, my god, I’m being exactly like my mother.” I think that’s everyone’s greatest hope and worst fear. You both are so close and know each other so well and are such a reflection of each other that it just becomes too much, so you have to pull away. Otherwise, you’re almost the same person, or a different version of that person. I think that’s why they have to separate.
What was it like to work with Kate Winslet?
WOOD: Kate is my absolute favorite actress, hands down. It was just brilliant, watching her work, every single day. She was so in charge of that set and so professional, especially with everything she had on her plate. I never saw her break or collapse. She is one of the strongest women I’ve ever met or been around at all.
Was it weird with only a 12 year difference between you two?
WOOD: It was fun. We joked around a lot. It was funny to have her play so much older than me when she couldn’t really be my mom, in real life. I’m sure she hated that. But, we got along more like sisters.
How was Todd Haynes to work with? What kind of a director is he?
WOOD: Todd Haynes is incredible. I don’t know how he undertook a project like this. He was amazing. He works with actors so well and just gets so into it. He gave everything to us, all the time. I adore him. Velvet Goldmine is one of my favorite movies ever, so he was very high on my list of people that I wanted to work with. It was a dream.
Is there anyone else on your wish list that you’d still like to work with?
WOOD: Michel Gondry.
Can you talk about the music and opera training that you went through?
WOOD: It was incredibly intense. It was very difficult. I was actually singing underneath the music, an octave lower. Sumi Jo actually did the voice for it, and it was two months of rehearsal beforehand, getting every breath and every syllable right, and in different languages, so that was incredibly difficult. I also had to mimic classical piano, and I’ve never even touched a piano before. The training was just very intense, every day, all the time.
It seems like there’s a movement in Hollywood lately where the roles for women are becoming a lot more sexual and seductive. How do you feel about that?
WOOD: Sexuality is such a taboo thing. I think it should be more out in the open, especially with young women. I think it’s okay for them to explore their sexuality, as long as they own it and it’s portrayed in the right way. I did my first nude scene in Mildred Pierce, and that was absolutely terrifying, but it was for an important part of the film and for a reason, and it’s incredibly powerful. It’s not gratuitous. I think the stuff they show on MTV is so much worse.
Did you do anything to prepare for your first nude scene? Did you have a drink first?
WOOD: No, unfortunately not. That would have been a good idea, but I was dead sober.
Does it worry you that that footage might end up on the Internet?
WOOD: No. I’m actually just glad that I’m getting it on film now. One day, I’ll be 80 years old and I can look back and be like, “Yeah! I was there and I did that.”
WOOD: Of course, I can’t tell you anything that happens.
What will this season be like, in general?
WOOD: Honestly, I don’t know. I’ve only done one episode, so I have no idea. But, they always outdo themselves, every year.
What’s it like to be back on the set?
WOOD: It’s been great. It’s one of the funnest sets I’ve ever worked on, actually. There’s just always something crazy happening, and lots of blood.
How tortured will Queen Sophie-Anne be this season?
WOOD: Oh, I think she’ll get what she deserves.
How many episodes will you be doing?
WOOD: I can’t say.
Who have your scenes been with so far?
WOOD: So far, Stephen Moyer. We have to finish our big fight.
Viewers will see a resolution to that then?
Have you had any scenes with any of the new female cast members?
WOOD: Not yet, no.
How do you define Sophie-Anne’s sexuality?
WOOD: Vampires, in general, are both. I don’t think there is a preference for them. But, I think she’s made her choice. I’d say she’s a lesbian.
Do you think she’ll ever pursue a relationship with Sookie?
WOOD: I hope so. Come on, it’s gotta happen!
Do you have any well wishes for Anna Paquin and Stephen Moyer, with this being their first season back as a married couple?
WOOD: I wish them nothing but the best. They make me sick, how in love they are with each other. They’re such an amazing couple, honestly. I’m just envious of them both. They’re great people.
What do you think it is about the allure of vampires that makes them so popular?
WOOD: It’s always been around. There is something seductive about it. It’s living forever. There is this sexiness and this romance to that, I guess. And, there’s the goriness of it. It’s beautiful gore. It’s not a bloody zombie. It’s a very attractive, forever young, seductive person that might eat you.
Is it fun to play evil?
WOOD: It’s so much fun! The villains are always more fun to play, absolutely.
What is your attraction to playing bad girls?
WOOD: I don’t necessarily consider them bad. I think they’re just human. They just explore things and do things that most people think about, but don’t really talk about and don’t really do. They’re just honest, really. Nobody is good or bad. You only live once.
How does your True Blood role compare to your role in Mildred Pierce, in degree of difficulty?
WOOD: True Blood is just a blast. It’s fun, it’s scary, it’s sexy, it’s hilarious. Mildred Pierce was slightly more dramatic and demanding, I have to say.
How has your life changed since True Blood?
WOOD: Good lord, the fans of True Blood are so dedicated and intense. It’s crazy. I get stopped on the street constantly now. People call me The Queen, which I don’t mind at all. That’s how people address me. It’s nice. Not a bad gig.
What is the most exciting thing that’s happening in your life right now, away from work?
WOOD: Just having a vacation. I’ve been away from home and working so much that it’s just been great to be at home and enjoy the holidays.
What are your thoughts on the Spiderman Broadway musical and your decision to no longer be a part of it?
WOOD: I only wish the best for them. I love Julie [Taymor]. I’ve seen and heard the music, and all the ideas. Once it comes together, I’m sure it will be incredible. I just hope everyone is safe.
What is The Ides of March about?
WOOD: I start that in February. George Clooney is directing it. It’s Ryan Gosling, Phillip Seymour Hoffman and Paul Giamatti. It’s mainly about politics and the Democratic Primaries. It’s the politics of politics and behind the scenes with the press secretaries and what goes on in that world and the scandals.
Who do you play?
WOOD: I play an intern. I wouldn’t say she’s Monica Lewinsky, but she does get in a bit of trouble.