Our very own Chasity Saunders got to sit down with “Loving” stars Joel Edgerton and Ruth Negga.
In 1967, Richard (Edgerton) and Mildred (Negga) Loving took their case to the Supreme Court after violating a Virginia law that prohibits interracial marriage. The powerful film is getting major Oscar buzz. It hits theaters on November 4.
One of the most distinct aspects of your performance is the physicality that you have as Richard. Can you just talk a little bit about what it was like developing that physicality and how it might have influenced your work?
Joel Edgerton: Well, you know, we had the documentary, Nancy Buirski’s documentary The Loving Story, which was great because you see the family interacting, and the couple as a couple, and you see Richard and Mildred and the way they move, and talk, and sort of sound and so that was a great guide. Then there’s those extra things like what’s that, how do we create that relationship? The physicality for Richard is really interesting because Jeff and I talked a lot about the fact that, you know, Richard was a brick mason. He had this posture which seemed to be sort of the bearing down of years of sort of carrying heavy things and so I went and investigated that and learned how to lay brick. His posture sort of said a lot about I think to me on another sort of level about just the kind of weight that was sort of bearing down on that couple. Yet she had the spine, right? She was dignified, always kept herself straight and I think was really the backbone of the relationship.
Absolutely, and you guys’ chemistry was incredible.
Joel Edgerton: Oh, thank you.
Can you just talk a little bit about what it was like collaborating with Ruth?
Joel Edgerton: You’ve seen the movie, she’s extraordinary as an actor which made me admire her beyond what I already knew of her as a very smart, intelligent, funny [women] … I’m glad she’s not listening to me talk about this because she’d, I don’t want it to go to her head. I just really liked Ruth, still do. You know, we’ve been sort of together through a year even before the movie.Going through shooting the movie, now talking about it. It’s always, it’s a delight to watch her and it’s a real, you know, delight to sort of always hang out with her.
Last question for you, you got a chance to collaborate with Jeff again what was that like? Tell me about that collaboration because it’s very different films that you guys worked on together?
Joel Edgerton: Yeah, yeah you’re right and like I feel very lucky to have come across Jeff, or that Jeff came across me because he, you know, as an actor you want to get down and do your thing and know that you are being looked after and not have to keep wondering is this thing going to be okay? I mean, I’ve been able to see Jeff’s movies and then with Midnight Special, kind of knew leading into this. This is such a great screenplay of a true story, told truthfully by a guy who’s a master at what he does behind the camera and if we didn’t mess it up, well I knew Ruth wouldn’t mess it up but if I didn’t mess it up, the thing could be a very special piece of cinema that said a lot, as well, about the times we are living in today, as well as talking about a situation that’s absurd 50 years ago and I was right because, you know, Jeff is a great leader and a great filmmaker.
Can you just talk a little bit about the preparation and research that you did in order to play Mildred and were you ever intimidated by taking on this role?
Ruth Negga: Playing real people can be intimidating also playing people that I was in awe of and have huge admiration for was quite intimidating. I think for all of us what we didn’t want to do was let that intimidation paralyze us so we couldn’t do our jobs properly because the most important thing was to honor and celebrate this couple by playing them as authentically as possible. With the integrity that they had in buckets. So you kind of have to put that to the side, you know, as much as possible. We were very lucky and we acknowledge Nancy Buirski who’s a documentarian who made the documentary The Loving Story for HBO which I don’t know if you’ve seen.
It’s extraordinary, isn’t it?
Yes, it’s amazing and I’m from Virginia…
You’re not? Oh wow. Amazing.
I am, I am.
It’s quite, it’s very moving isn’t it?
They are proud Virginians even though The state wanted to expel them for getting married.
They’re, you know, proud Americans and proud Virginians and I just studied that documentary like it was our bible in many ways, you know?
Yeah and a lot of Americans are getting to know you now through another role you played, Tulip, on the show Preacher. How was it to switch from that character to play Mildred?
A joy, you know, that’s what you aspire to, you know? When I studied to be an actor and I was in college training that’s the goal, to play, to have a varied career, you know? Challenging but in a great way and it’s really a privilege to experience those things. You know, to be an actor is like it’s such a joy to experience all different facets of yourself and humanity and it’s just so lovely to play other people and, but also different aspects of yourself. It can be quite rare, you know? You don’t always get that opportunity and you don’t always get that opportunity to play such, sort of, multi-layered characters especially as a woman, especially as a woman of color, you know? Hopefully that’s changing and that’s shifting because I feel that having the opportunity to play Mildred and Tulip it feels very fulfilling and, you know, it’s a reflection of our society as well and who we are. We are, not one of us are just one thing, one identity. Like the Loving’s, you know, they are not just Black and White, they are many other things. They are and I think weirdly enough, we need to be reminded of that.