Melanie Lynskey Must Be Staying
Melanie Lynskey, star of “Hello, I Must Be Going.”
Melanie Lynskey Must Be Staying
by Jay S. Jacobs
It’s kind of shocking talking with Melanie Lynskey, after watching her ascend on TV and film for over a decade now. Over the years, she has been building a sterling reputation for playing the perfect American everywoman, a cute and funny but often surprisingly soulful girl next door. Therefore, it took me a bit off guard when she called us recently, introducing herself with a noticeable vocal accent of her native New Zealand.
Now, I knew that Lynskey had been born in New Plymouth, New Zealand. I remember the raves she received when she was cast at only 16 to star in the acclaimed film Heavenly Creatures by fellow New Zealander, director Peter Jackson – yeah, that guy who went on to make the Lord of the Rings movies.
That was a long time ago, though, and for years I’ve been watching Lynskey become one of the go-to supporting actresses in Hollywood, always with a flawless American accent. Lynskey has gotten a reputation for stealing films from her more famous co-stars, doing stunning turns as Matt Damon’s patient wife in The Informant!, a melancholy house-wife in Away We Go, George Clooney’s engaged sister in Up in the Air and an absentee mother in Win Win. Beyond that, perhaps her greatest notice has come for playing Rose, Charlie Sheen’s stalker neighbor, for several years onthe smash sitcom Two and a Half Men.
Recently, Lynskey got her first starring role in quite some time in the new indie drama Hello I Must Be Going. In the film, Lynskey plays Amy, a manic depressive in her thirties who has to move back home with her parents when her husband leaves her. After taking this big step backward, Amy must find a way to finally move her life forward again.
A couple of weeks before the film was released, Lynskey gave me a call, speaking au naturel, to tell me a bit about her career and her new movie.
You were born and grew up in New Zealand. Did you always want to be an actress and could you have ever imagined early on that you’d be working in TV and film on an international basis?
Oh, my God. I always, always wanted to be an actor. That was my dream growing up. But I’m from not a very big town in New Zealand, so I was always told that it was a crazy dream to have. So, I imagined myself living in Wellington and doing plays. That was my dream life. I was very excited with the thought of doing that. So [film stardom] always seemed to be beyond, to be honest.
Your big break happened when you were just 16 and Peter Jackson cast you in Heavenly Creatures. As such a young actress, what was it like to get such a substantial role?
It was crazy. I think I didn’t even really process it for a long time. I just tried to do the job and be as good as I could possibly be and not get too nervous. It was weird, but while we were filming, I didn’t even really think about the fact that the movie would be released. It was too crazy for me. So everything that ended up happening with that, I was just like: what? People are watching it? It felt so crazy.
When did you decide to move to the US to pursue your career?
It took me a long time to get the courage up. I moved here for good in 2000 – 12 years ago.
You almost always play American roles now. Would you ever like to do a role using your native accent again?
I just did a movie with David Wain – who directed Wanderlust and Role Models – where I did. He said, “I want you to use your own accent.” That was kind of a challenge. I’m so used to doing an American accent that it feels funny. I can talk like myself and feel like I’m not even interesting, kind of. But it was fun, it was quite liberating.
Now the first time I really remember seeing you – although I realized later I’d seen you in Rose Red and Coyote Ugly – was playing Rose on Two and a Half Men. How did you get that role and what was the experience of being part of such a huge show like?
It was funny. I got my green card, finally, so I was able to audition for television. Before that, I’d been dependent on getting a Visa and making a movie. I went out on pilot season and I got this guest star role. It was just supposed to be one episode of the show. I was like, well, that seems like fun. I’ll see what a sitcom is like. When the show got picked up, they asked my if I wanted to be a regular. I was a little bit terrified, because I didn’t want to be typecast. But, it was so fun shooting the pilot that I agreed to do it. It was crazy. (laughs) It was crazy how popular it became.
In recent years you have become really well known for a bunch of great supporting roles – I thought you were terrific in Away We Go. Up in the Airand The Informantand also recently you were good in Seeking a Friend for the End of the World. As a supporting character in a film, do you approach it a little differently than a lead like Hello, I Must Be Going?
The difference is in the energy that you need. When you are playing a supporting part, you have a lot of time between scenes to regroup. You’re not carrying the movie on your shoulders. So, it’s a lot easier. You just sort of show up and have fun with it. It’s a different pressure, especially when you are doing a tiny budget movie.
Like I said, you also just did Seeking a Friend at the End of the World. I recently interviewed Steve Carell and Keira Knightley and asked them this: what do you think you would do if you found out the world only thirty days left?
Oh, man. Gosh, I think I would eat a lot of delicious foods. I would try to hang out with my family and my friends as much as possible. I don’t know, gosh. I’d just try to be around people I love and eat a lot and drink a lot of wine.
Also, like Keira with her records, what would you want to keep with you at all times?
I loved that in the movie. (laughs) Umm, my dog. My dog would be it. I think they have a dog in the movie, too.
After doing so many supporting roles lately, what is it like to get such a strong lead role with Hello, I Must Be Going?
It was very exciting, especially because it is in a movie that I really love and believe in. I’ve never wanted to do a lead role just for the sake of doing a lead role. So, I’m glad that it felt right and it’s a movie that I can really get behind. It was good, it was a real challenge. It was nice to be so busy every day. I loved it.
What was it about the script for Hello, I Must Be Going that appealed to you?
I felt like the character was so fully formed, was so interesting. She was such a disaster in the beginning. It felt to me like I had the opportunity to create a character as the movie was running. She was that down and she was sort of a shapeless entity. She doesn’t have a lot going for her. She becomes a human being. That was interesting.
Obviously, particularly in the early phases of the film, Amy was quite deeply depressed. Did you do any research on depression and how it affects people for the role?
I’ve gone through times in my life where I’ve been depressed and I’ve known a lot of people who suffered with real depression. It’s something that is familiar to me. I have music that I can listen to that will put me back in a place remembering what that feels like. So, it wasn’t too hard to access, unfortunately. (laughs)
I was thinking watching, how depressed do you have to be to cry during a Marx Brothers movie?
Yeah! (laughs harder) That’s true.
As someone who has been out on your own for many years, how hard was it to imagine being at a state in your 30s where you had to move back home and have to return to all the things you thought you had left behind?
That is something that is very difficult for me to imagine. I don’t know. So, for me, I put myself in that situation and tried to understand crazy she felt. Nobody wants to have to do that. Everybody wants to be independent and have their life together and be proud of themselves. So, that’s a horrible feeling to be back at square one.
There was a really touching scene you had with your father in which he talks about how as a parent the most important thing was just being sure your kids are safe and happy. As an adult – I’m sorry, I don’t know if you have children – but how did that scene affect you?
I don’t have children, no. But I thought that scene was heartbreaking. It’s a really good way to put that. Parents just want to know… I know from my dad, certainly, that is always a big fear. He is always like (laughs) “Are you okay?” “Can you pay the mortgage?” That was his great fear when I became an actor, that I wouldn’t be okay.
Blythe Danner is such a great actress. Your character and hers had sort of a brittle mother-daughter relationship. What was she like to work with?
She was totally different [in real life]. She’s such a sweet lady. She had a very difficult time being mean. She’s such an amazing actress and so good in the movie, but it was really hard for her. I kept saying to her: Amy is really annoying. (laughs) She’s driving you crazy. It’s fine. You’re allowed to… [be mad]. But she is such a sweet lady. She doesn’t want to hurt anybody’s feelings. She is such a warm [person]. You can tell she is a great mother and a great grandmother. It was very tough for her.
Todd Louiso is an actor as well, what was he like to work with as a director?
He was great. Because he’s an actor, he has a great understanding of the stuff you have to put yourself through. He was wonderful. He’s very open, but very confident as a director. It was a good situation.
At one point Amy screams up to the skies, asking if she will ever hit rock bottom. Do you think people ever really do? How do you think people know it’s time they have to pull themselves up?
God, that’s a very deep question.
It’s a deep movie.
I don’t know. I guess you just get to a point where you are like: if it gets any worse than this, I am not going to be okay. So, I guess your rock bottom is wherever you are like, okay, it needs to go up from here, because this is about as much as I can handle. I think that is the point that she is at there.
Copyright ©2012 PopEntertainment.com. All rights reserved.Posted: September 6, 2012.
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