From co-writer/director Jack Plotnick, the quirky indie film Space Station 76 tells the story of Omega 76’s new assistant captain Jessica Marlowe (Liv Tyler), whose arrival inadvertently creates tension among everyone at the space station. Jessica’s intelligence and unwavering focus on her work confuses the Captain (Patrick Wilson) and upsets Misty (Marisa Coughlan), especially as it becomes clear that her husband Ted (Matt Bomer) and daughter Sunshine (Kylie Rogers) are finding themselves drawn to Jessica.
During this exclusive phone interview with Collider, actress Liv Tyler talked about how she came to be a part of Space Station 76, why she wanted to work with Jack Plotnick, the visual style of the film, how her character ends up at this space station and in the position that she’s in, how much she adores Matt Bomer, shooting at a former porn studio, and being able to add to her character’s wardrobe from her own closet. She also talked about what drew her to the HBO series The Leftovers, getting the next script just a couple of days before they’d shoot the episode, and learning to act on impulse. Check out what she had to say after the jump.
LIV TYLER: If I remember correctly, Jack Plotnick sent it to me and wrote me a note. And his note was so sweet, it was crazy. I read the script and was like, “This is really beautiful and strange and unique and interesting,” so I Skyped with him. I remember the Skype so well because it was half Skype session with a director and half therapy session for me. He’s an actor himself, and he’s also an acting teacher. He does all of these really interesting workshops and he has a website. I had looked at a lot of that stuff before I had talked to him, and I was so intrigued by his whole philosophy. I’ve never actually really classically studied acting, at all. It’s something I was always a little bit reluctant to do. When I say that he’s an acting teacher, he’s not particularly teaching skill and technique, or at least that wasn’t my experience. He has a whole little wacky philosophy of his own, of freeing yourself of the negative voices in your mind and liberating yourself, and he has all of these positive affirmations. I just thought it was so interesting and so brilliant. I was like, “I really want to work with this guy, and I just want to go and make this movie.” I wasn’t so concerned with the actual outcome, but more just wanted to have the experience with him. I knew that there was something important for me, just as a person, in my life, to have that experience. And I got to work with Matt Bomer, who’s so amazing and such a babe. He’s just so lovely.
Because so much of this film is about the visual style and specificity of it, did that come across on paper, when you read it?
TYLER: Yeah, absolutely. And Jack had a whole weird little website with photos. That completely was there, from the start, which was great. Being a child of the ‘70s myself, it was like all of the TV shows that I watched in the ‘80s, growing up with my mom. I totally understood the pacing and the way the world looked and how things were shot. I understood what he meant. He had already created a whole visual packet for us, if I remember correctly. And then, it was so exciting because, when the music was happening, I helped him get some of my stepfather Todd Rundgren’s music, which was perfect for the film, and Todd agreed to let them use it. I was so excited about that. It’s so rare when that happens. There’s a song called “Utopia” that’s really cool and long and weird and instrumental, and it worked perfectly.
These are people who really would never be friends with each other, except for the fact that they’re all stuck on this space station together. Beyond just filling in for someone who’s left the ship under mysterious circumstances, what is it that brings your character on board with these people?
TYLER: That’s a good question. I don’t remember why I left to go to that ship. I think it’s because I got a promotion. Because the other guy left, they needed someone to be in that position. In my mind, I was moving up and getting promoted in a very male world. I was focused on working my way up in that profession. Because I can’t have babies, I’m focusing on my career.
Your character, Jessica, is an intelligent, sweet woman, but she also seems comfortable with the idea of being a woman in power. If she had her choice, what do you think she’d rather be doing, rather than being on this space station with these people?
TYLER: I always felt like, just as a woman and as a character, she’s really sad that she can’t have a family. That’s something that she longs for. That’s why her relationship with Sunshine, the little girl, is so important to her. It’s quite painful for her that the mother manipulates and mutilates their friendship.
TYLER: Matt’s amazing. I have such a crush on Matt. I said to him, “I can’t believe you’re gay because I totally have a crush on you, and I think we have better chemistry than I might have ever had with another male actor before, in my whole life.” He’s so sweet. I love him. There’s something so magical about him. He’s really a joy to work with. He’s so warm and giving, and he really loved this character. He was really passionate about the whole thing, which was great. I really loved getting to work with him. These characters are unlikely friends who wouldn’t normally get to meet each other, but that’s the same for actors. Sometimes you’re put together with people where you think, “I wonder if I would have ever met you, had we not worked together.” He’s one of my favorite friends and people that I’ve met in the past few years, that just so happened to come into my life through my work. I really care about him a lot.
How was it to be on this set, in these costumes, during this particular period?
TYLER: I always love doing any kind of period anything ‘cause it’s so fun to see the attention to detail and to look around every day and go, “Wow, look at that thing.” When the whole thing is of one period, it’s so interesting. We shot on this crazy stage in the Valley where they used to make porn films, which was hilarious. On one of the sets, I had a dressing room with a door, and then there was the set. So, when I was in my dressing room, I could hear everything that was going on in the other room. The sets were great. There was not a lot of budget, and they did such a good job of the visual aesthetic. The costumes were hilarious. Patrick [Wilson] and I had these uniforms that were made out of upholstery fabric. They were so stinky and they were so fucking hot that we thought we were going to die, all the time. I had these white boots that I had gotten in Milan, Italy at Prada when I was 19, and I had never worn them. They’ve been sitting in a box. Just before I got the movie, I had been going through storage and I found all of these amazing shoes that I had gotten on this trip. They were trying vintage shoes on me, but because I’m so tall and I wear a size 10 shoe, women didn’t have feet that big, back then. So, I would either need drag queen shoes, or they’d have to make me something, and we couldn’t find anything. I was like, “I think I have the perfect shoes.” It was so funny ‘cause I’d never worn them before. I’ve been holding onto them for 20 years, and then I ended up wearing them in the movie. I thought it was really cool, how things come around.
TYLER: I read the script, and I started reading the book. I think I had read the book completely by the time I got the part and it was actually happening. So, I knew what the world was about, but I didn’t know what was going to happen. And we don’t know what’s going to happen next. Damon [Lindelof] is writing as he goes. That’s the thing about TV. We get the scripts just before we start filming the episode, so we have a couple of days with it. You have to be very comfortable with being uncomfortable. You have to wait and trust your instincts, and you have to be able to act quickly when something comes. At first, I was very uncomfortable with that because it wasn’t what I was used to from making movies. But then, I got to be addicted to the feeling of it. There’s a certain thrill and adrenaline to the last minute-ness of it, and the challenge of knowing that you’re not going to have much time to think about anything. You just have to act on impulse and see what happens. That became something I really enjoyed.
Would you say that it’s more of a leap of faith that you’re taking then, if you don’t know where you’re character is going, from season to season?
TYLER: I didn’t really see it as that because you know what you’re getting into, as far as the talent trust goes. You know that it’s going to be brilliant, no matter what it is. As far as not knowing what’s going to happen to your character, I wouldn’t say that it’s a leap of faith. It’s a leap of confidence where you’re like, “Okay, I know that these people are going to come up with something great.” That’s how I felt. I was just like, “I want to do this and trust in this experience and see what comes.”
Do you know when Season 2 will start shooting?
TYLER: I have no idea. I wish I did. I’m desperate to know.
Because the first season explored the story in the book, is it equally exciting and terrifying to know that there is no book to use as a guide, moving forward?
You’ve done big film and small films, and you’re juggling film and TV now. At this point in your career, what attracts you to a project?
TYLER: I’m definitely always attracted to the talent first, as far as the director and writer. The material is important, for me. Generally, the director is the thing that I’m most obsessed with, but for television that’s different because it’s more of an idea or theme since the director changes every week. With this, it was the director and the people and the whole world. Generally, it’s the director first, and then, it’s about my character and the other actors involved. I picked The Strangers, for example, because I had a stack of scripts and I picked it up because I thought it sounded interesting. I didn’t know what it was going to be about, and I literally couldn’t put the script down. That director, Bryan Bertino, had never directed anything. The moment I finished reading the script, I was like, “I need to meet this person. I want this to be my next film. I need to be in this.” Sometimes it comes like that. And then, sometimes I think, “I really want to work with this team of people, or this actor, and I don’t really care what the part is because I want to be a part of it and work with that person.” It’s a mystery, to be honest.
Is there a type of role or a genre that you’d love to work in, but haven’t had the opportunity yet?
TYLER: Right now, I’m just so enjoying getting used to working in television because it’s a whole other planet for me. And I love the excitement and the mystery and the challenge. Anything that comes, the weirder it is and the more different it is, the more fun it is. Different periods are so fun. It’s what makes acting so incredible, really.
Space Station 76 is available in theaters and on VOD, and will be out on DVD on September 30th.