Set in Los Angeles, The End of Love is an intimate, honest and raw portrait of a young father (played by writer/director Mark Webber) in transition between the life he’s been working for and the one that’s already waiting for him. When the mother of his two-year-old son Isaac (played by Webber’s real-life son) suddenly passes away, the struggling actor is forced to face his inability to grow up and begins to realize that he can no longer remain in denial about the real-life consequences that his choices have.
During this recent exclusive phone interview with Collider, actress Shannyn Sossamon – who plays Lydia, a young single mother that Mark finds himself drawn to – talked about why she wanted to get involved with this unique project, how exciting it is to work without a set script and be able to improvise the dialogue, how they determined just what kind of character Lydia would be, how being a mother herself made her really comfortable about working with the young children in the film, and how inspiring Mark Webber was to work with. She also talked about her role on the new ABC drama series Mistresses, premiering on May 27th, what she enjoys about working on television, her short film for Jaguar with Damian Lewis (Homeland), and her upcoming feature film The Jesuit, with Tim Roth. Check out what she had to say after the jump.
SHANNYN SOSSAMON: Well, Mark [Webber] and I had mutual friends, and there were some friends that mentioned to me that he was doing an improv film and that I would be really great for one of the parts. So, I reached out to him, just because I’d heard that and I really trusted the person who had relayed the information, and he was very excited at the prospect. We met and it was an instant lovefest, and that was it. I showed up and just dove in. It was an incredible experience. I adore him.
What’s it like to do something where you don’t really have a definite script and you’re not really sure what you’re doing? As an actor, is that exciting or is it intimidating to work like that?
SOSSAMON: It’s very exciting just because you have no idea what’s going to come out of your mouth, but it’s a little scary and intimidating because so much can happen in every take, and so many different things can happen in every take, that you’re not sure of what they’re going to cut and paste together and what the arc or the purpose or the intention of your character’s journey will be in the story. You don’t have control. Sometimes that’s wonderful, and sometimes that can be scary. It all boils down to trust, and I completely trusted Mark, so I wasn’t really scared. I was just a little uncertain.
Did you breathe a sigh of relief when you finally got to see the movie?
SOSSAMON: Yes, absolutely! Not that I doubted him, ever, but for sure. You see it and you’re like, “Good job! Okay.”
SOSSAMON: We did. At first, I think Mark wanted me to play myself and use my son, who was 7, at the time. He suggested that. But, in his synopsis and outline, it was a character named Lydia and I think he was planning on casting a complete unknown, so that there was no baggage with her. If you were even slightly known in the industry and your work was known, Mark wanted you to play yourself because he was portraying his struggle in this business. But, I convinced him that I’m not that known, in this way. I said, “I’m right in the middle and I think it will work. I’m not as known as Michael Cera. Maybe in some circles, but not really. I would rather play a character, and I think it will be great for your movie because it very subtley blurs the line without being too in your face.” And then, I said, “I don’t feel comfortable having my son in the movie, but his best friend looks a lot like me, and she’s the same age. I would love to play the mother of a girl, and I would love to make this character a type-A mother who puts her whole life into her little girl.” The fact that Lydia owned a daycare was very telling to me. That’s something I couldn’t relate to. I’m a little bit more of a relaxed, lazy mother. I’ve got two boys. I was excited to really throw myself into Lydia and her daughter and have them dress alike. Maybe it’s not even so healthy, and I liked that about it. And he was down. He let me go there. She’s kind of kooky, but he let me go there.
Do you feel like being a mother really gives you the patience to work with young children that you wouldn’t have otherwise?
SOSSAMON: Yeah, it definitely helps. You’re just comfortable. I don’t want to speak for all people who don’t have children, but maybe there’s a discomfort with kids and the amount of attention they demand, by just being the age that they are. I see it in my friends that don’t have kids, when they come over, and the amount of times our conversation gets interrupted by my children. It’s almost jarring. With Mark, (his son) Isaac came first. He was a father first and a director second. Even though I’m a mother, it was actually pretty incredible to witness what a great father he is.
What was it like to work with Mark Webber while he was wearing so many hats? Was there any extra pressure, knowing that this was such a personal project for him, or was he just really open to everything?
SOSSAMON: He was so graceful and calm, running that set. Hands down, the word I would use is inspiring. He was magical, running that set while also being a father to Isaac. It was so beautiful to watch.
SOSSAMON: It comes easy. I think the emotional toolbox I have is healthy for an actor, as far as the intensity of emotions go. It’s other things I have to hone. I can swim in that comfortably.
You’ve always seemed like the type of person who isn’t solely focused on acting, so what is it that gets you interested in a role or a project?
SOSSAMON: Supporting a family and financial necessity aside, what I want is to read it and just have that feeling in your chest that you know you need to do it and you understand how you could get there, even if it scares you. Like anything in life, you want to feel it. That would be the thing I’d like to happen. I really can’t wait to work with incredible, seasoned directors. I think it’s long overdue. I’m really enjoying being an actor right now, at this point in my life. It’s a great job, it’s a huge responsibility, and I just want to do it more. I was more wishy-washy in the first 12 years of my career, just because that was my personality.
What was it about Mistresses that made you want to sign on to do that show?
SOSSAMON: My manager really pushed me to do that because I had just had my second child and was feeling really not ready. I was very soft. I gained a lot of weight with my second child and was very on the couch. And he said, “You know, this is a softer role. She is a softer character. She’s a lesbian that’s always the passive half of the relationship.” It wasn’t a long commitment. When I sign on to a television show, I have to love that show and character so much, but this was in and out, for seven episodes. And it was nice to be able to make some money again because I hadn’t work in a year and a half. There were a lot of pluses. If money is the only plus, I will always say no. But, if there’s more, than I’m down. Also, the girl that played my other half, that I was in a relationship with, is so wonderful. We just had incredible chemistry. Her name is Jes Macallan, and she was wonderful to play with. The whole thing was a positive experience.
As an actor, to you enjoy getting to explore a character for a longer period of time on a television show, and working with various different directors?
SOSSAMON: I like it, and I’m actually looking forward to doing more. It’s like a factory line. You need discipline and focus. You have to hit your mark and know your lines. It’s not that I don’t know my lines when I do a film, but the pace of discovery is always a little bit more relaxed and nurturing and almost babying, in a way. Television toughens you up, and I like that, but I don’t want it to toughen me up too much. I think there’s a happy medium. But, it challenges a lot of my weaknesses, so that’s cool.
SOSSAMON: Yeah, I have a couple things I’d like to talk about. I did this short film with Damian Lewis from Homeland, that was a really incredible experience. He’s one of the best actors I’ve ever worked with. Even though that’s a short film for Jaguar that’s really, in essence, a commercial, it didn’t feel like it, at all. It felt like a real short film with a great narrative. The narrative came first. It was just a role I’d never played before. I’d never shot a gun. It was an action piece, and that was a blast. I’m excited for that to come out, and that will come out online soon. And then, I did a film called The Jesuit, which was an independent film. I did that shortly after Mistresses. I was still feeling soft and I was nursing, but it was a character I’d never played before. That was a Paul Schrader script, with an up-and-coming Mexican director, named Alfonso Ulloa. That has Tim Roth and Paz Vega in it, and I enjoyed that, as well. And right now, I’m reading and trying to find a television show that I really like, so I can start really working again and gain some momentum.
The End of Love is now playing in limited release.