From first-time feature director Stacie Passon, the indie drama Concussion is a poignant sexual examination of Abby (Robin Weigert in a truly stand-out performance), a 40-something lesbian housewife who begins to wonder if her suburban life and marriage is truly what she wants anymore. Her newfound desire to explore her sexuality results in a double life as a high-end escort, which clearly complicates things.
During this recent exclusive interview with Collider, actress Robin Weigert (Sons of Anarchy, Deadwood) talked about how she got offered this role, how she saw the quality of the role over the quantity of the scenes, even though she’s in almost every moment of the film, the biggest challenges in making this character believable and relatable, finding the emotional levels for the character, and how the film evolved during shooting and editing. She also talked about what she remembers most fondly about her time on the HBO series Deadwood, and what it’s like to work on the FX series Sons of Anarchy. Check out what she had to say after the jump.
ROBIN WEIGERT: This was a very atypical experience, top to bottom. The script was an offer, which has been rare in my life, and it was offered by a total stranger. There was really no connection. Sometimes it’s a friend of a friend of a friend, but this was somebody that I had never met before, and it was a first-timer. An agent of mine, who really bothers to read everything very thoroughly, even when there’s no money attached, which is quite wonderful, really championed this and loved the script. I certainly read it with a very open mind because of him, and I really liked it. I wasn’t at all sure, with it being a first-time filmmaker, if it would be safe to do what the film would demand. But then, I realized I was already at work on it, before I said yes. It possessed my imagination. It became one of those things where I didn’t feel like I really had the choice to say no. I was clearly already very engaged by it. I met with (writer/director) Stacie [Passon], and it was very helpful that I really liked her. I was looking for her to reassure me, and she did a very soft sell. She actually didn’t reassure me, at all. She said that this might be very challenging and difficult. So, I really had to decide on my own that I must do this, which is what I eventually decided. And then, once I made that decision, I got involved as much as they would allow and as much as I could, in trying to help with things like casting to bring certain friends on board who I thought would keep the level of the whole thing high, like Maggie [Siff] and Ben Shenkman, in his tiny role.
When you do something like this, that is so different from the types of characters you’ve played, does it make you wonder what they saw in you for this role?
WEIGERT: Yeah, exactly! I did think, “Where in my particular idiosyncratic body of work, with all these different character parts in it, did she see this potential?” It’s to Stacie’s credit that she imagined this in me somehow, from all of that. Nothing like this was out there yet. Not that there won’t be a million things like this, ever. I have done so many character parts and this, although it certainly is a character, was not as far field as some of those have been. It was not delineated by different body language or a different accent. It was more down-the-middle than I had done. I’m just so glad that she saw it in me.
WEIGERT: I should have been more cognizant of that than I was. I didn’t think of it in terms of the quantity, I thought of it in terms of the quality. It wasn’t really until I saw the film for the first time, in a theater with other people. There had not yet been critical response, and I suddenly had this shockwave that I was really responsible for all of this. If it didn’t go well, it was pretty much all on me. I didn’t have those thoughts when I accepted it or while we were making it, thankfully, because it probably would have made me very self-conscious. I thought, “What a wonderful role,” but I wasn’t thinking, “You’re carrying the weight of everything, so if this tanks, it’s your fault.” I didn’t have those thoughts. I just thought, “What a rich character. What an interesting character.”
Were there things that you found yourself relating to, in this story and character, and were there things that most scared you about taking the role on?
WEIGERT: Oddly, it’s maybe the reverse of what one might imagine. I wasn’t as scared of the sex scenes as the bored, disaffected, difficult place that she was at, in the beginning, when she was at odds with her kids and at odds with her life. I had some fear around that part, and around building a character’s journey that begins there. I wondered, “How do you ask people to join you in a story when you’re introduced to them in such a state?” But, I think it actually became very relatable to people, especially people in lives different from the life that I’ve chosen to lead, and that was very much to Stacie’s credit because she was the one that encouraged me to go there. It’s not a story that’s that far from home, for much viewers, which I think is to their surprise.
There are times when your character seems very emotionally engaged and times when she seems very emotionally closed off. Were those personal choices in your performance, or was that all in the script?
WEIGERT: Well, there’s an evolution, so you are witnessing her migrating from a pretty disaffected and dissociated place. Stacie would ask me to literally think about somebody with Asperger’s. She was trying to turn off my affect, almost completely, at the beginning. I’m someone who has inadvertent affects without even trying, and a certain inadvertent warmth that we were also working to shut down. So, it was most certainly a choice, and it was a choice that I struggled with and reconciled myself to, especially knowing that she would have to be in a place like that to take the drastic steps that she does and just shut down.
Is the finished product of the film pretty close to what you first read?
WEIGERT: It grew and changed throughout the shooting and throughout the editing. It was a constantly morphing thing, in some ways. Some aspects of it were very fixed, but it grew and changed. The few efforts in writing that I’ve made in my life, I realized, after this experience, how misplaced my own exacting nature is when it comes to writing. It is only what it is when it’s complete. It is a thing that is made first by a writer, and then it’s made by actors, and then it’s made by editors. It just goes through so many stages before it becomes itself. This rather remarkable, open-ended ending didn’t know what it wanted to be for a good portion of the process. Stacie was still discovering and learning and finding out how she wanted this film to end. I think she ended up with a very interesting, very right ending that leaves it in the lap of the audience, as far as where this story will go.
You’ve been a part of two TV shows with devoted fan bases, with both Deadwood and Sons of Anarchy. What do you remember most fondly about your experience on Deadwood, and what’s it like to be one of the few women who has been on Sons of Anarchy?
WEIGERT: Deadwood was such a remarkable experience. I was so newly out of just being in the theater that I don’t even think I fully recognized how rare it was. I had done stage almost exclusively before that. I had really done nothing at all on screen. So, I jumped into that and thought, “God, television is amazing!” Little did I know that it’s never like that, with the luxury of spending time on things. What a richly realized role that was. All of us wish it could have gone on longer because it was only growing and deepening with every passing season. I just thought it was a wonderful series, and a wonderful group of actors to work with. I’ve never been on a show since where people would stay around after their own scenes were done to watch the work of their fellow actors, and we would do that sometimes, for just the sheer pleasure of watching each other work. It was a joy. And it was intense and difficult too, at times, just like anything that’s worth anything is.
With Sons of Anarchy, my character serves a function, but hasn’t been as developed. She has more to do this season because a lawyer for a family divided is a more interesting character to play than a lawyer for a family united. It’s a given that, in working with somebody, you’re working against others. That puts her more solidly in the plot this season than before. She’s a creature, like they all are. All women in this show have to be made of unusual stuff to be up against all of that intense testosterone-driven, violent landscape. It’s so jagged and so full of unexpected surprises. You’ve gotta go into it knowing what you’re in for. This is clearly a lawyer who has an appetite for that. Somewhere in there, she’s gotta be a real creature.
Concussion opens in theaters on October 4th.