Will Forte as Dr. Ted Fielding in Run & Jump
Run & Jump, out this Friday, 2nd May 2014, follows follows Vanetia Casey (Maxine Peake), the impossibly-optimistic centre of the Casey family, struggling to get her family’s life back to normal after her husband, Conor (Edward McLiam), suffers a stroke which changes his personality. Will Forte plays Dr. Ted Fielding, a neuropsychologist who arrives at their home in Co. Kerry to study Conor’s recovery. Stacy Grouden caught up with Forte to discuss his role in the film.
Congratulations on Run & Jump. It’s a wonderful film, though quite a bit darker than the kind of projects you’d be previously known for. How did you get involved with this film?
Well it was all Steph [Green], the director; she somehow thought of me for this role. It wasn’t even a situation where she made me audition, and I’m not even at the level of acting where I don’t have to go audition, so the fact that she just said, ‘you’re the guy I want to play this part’ caught me off-guard. I read the script, and it was awesome, but I had never done anything but comedies, so I was thinking, ‘is this something I could pull off?’ Steph won me over with her confidence, so I thought, why not, what am I so afraid of? Once we got going and I got comfortable, she was able to get me out of my head.
So how did you and Steph work to prepare for this role, to get you out of your head?
She was in California and we got together to rehearse. And it was really kinda’ terrifying because, I was asking what she wanted me to do, and being told very specifically what she was going for, but she wasn’t telling me directly – she would answer a question with another question… I think she was just trying to find it with me too; she wanted the part to be open to my interpretation, and at that time, I was so nervous about trying this new thing. Iam basically more comfortable being told what to do than being asked to just trust my own instincts.
We eventually got to a place where we understood each other, and developed this shorthand, but it took a while to get used to this new type of process. It ultimately turned into the most rewarding thing, I got to come to Ireland for two months, which was fantastic, and what came out of it was this great movie, Run and Jump, and I’m proud of everything about it. I’m excited to have gotten to do it and proud of my performance in it, but overall just really proud of the movie.
What has been the most rewarding thing about making this film?
We got to have a screening for stroke survivors and their families (for National Stroke Awareness Week) and it was a really special experience. The subject matter is something that I’m not really familiar with, with what Conor and the Caseys go through in the movie, so it taught me a lot about how people’s lives are affected by this; it was rewarding and eye-opening on so many levels.
Did you get a good response from that audience?
I think they liked the movie and appreciated it. I think it was painful on some levels but therapeutic, too. We’ve done a bunch of Q&As for this movie, but this was by far the most special. At times you could tell people were opening up who you could tell maybe aren’t used to opening up so much, and it was amazing to have that level of dialogue, for them to trust us with some of their private thoughts and experiences. I truly feel like it wasn’t until this Q&A that I knew what this movie was really about – obviously, I had my own interpretation of it, but this really drove home a different element of the movie to me. It was a really powerful experience to get to watch the movie with people who had gone through a similar thing. So the fact that there are people who have been affected that saw this and felt it was a legitimate representation of that kind of experience was great to see.
It’s a real credit to Steph and Ailbhe [Keogan, screenwriter] that the film resonates in so many ways with different audiences, that the world of the film is so well-realised.
Absolutely. Like, I play a doctor in this. I have no medical training, obviously, and not a lot of knowledge about medical stuff – and you can tell, as I’m saying medical stuff – so it’s a real credit to Steph that she made it all gel. There was a wonderful doctor who was an advisor on the film who helped us to really make sure that everything lined up, that we were describing everything correctly, and I know that it was really important to Steph and Ailbhe to have this be accurate.
A lot of characters in this film come across as outsiders, or as people who see the world differently to those around them, with your character, Ted, being one of the more obvious examples. Did it ever feel like Ted’s arc of coming to Ireland from the US and getting to know this little family and their lives, reflected your own experience of working on the film?
Sure, it was only my second time ever in Ireland, and the first time was for three days, and this time I stayed for over a month, so it was different! I did feel like an outsider in many ways. Everyone was wonderful to me but it was still new, everyone else had this shared cultural background, so I was definitely the new guy on so many different levels. Throw in the fact that I’m doing a drama for the first time and I really felt like a fish out of water. I do think it really helped with the early parts of the movie and feeling like my character.
Are there any particular scenes you remember filming, any that were especially challenging or enjoyable to shoot?
The scenes that were the most difficult were … well, there are a couple of funny scenes in the movie, and that was hard for me to figure out because I’m so used to doing silly comedy stuff, so I was like, how do I do comedy in a drama? Now I look back and realise you just have to act like a person would act! There’s a scene where I’m in the bathtub, and the daughter, Noni, comes in to brush her teeth, and I had to try not to overthink it. The humour comes from the situation. A big part of it was learning how to act without talking, I had to figure out how to act when you don’t have the benefit of dialogue. I would start overthinking things; after a while you get used to just being in the moment and being in the scene, just being present and listening to somebody, but it took me a while to understand what to do.
Run & Jump is released in cinemas 2nd May 2014