For years, Amanda Seyfried made it to pretty much every list of Hollywood’s most gorgeous women, and essays were written about her green eyes and stunning smile.
Then in 2020, something happened which would then change the trajectory of her career forever. David Fincher decided that the Pennsylvania native — until then, best known for a series of flowerpot roles in romances and comedies — could act.
Amanda was cast as actress Marion Davies in Mank, Fincher’s biopic on Citizen Kane screenwriter Herman J. Mankiewicz; the film earned ten nominations at the 93rd Academy Awards, including a Best Supporting Actress nod for Amanda.
Last year, it got even better; she knocked it out of the park as playing Elizabeth Holmes, the founder of disgraced biotechnology company Theranos, in the Hulu mini-series The Dropout. The show opened to global acclaim and awards season came calling again. This time Amanda did not miss; she won Best Actress at both the Emmys and the Golden Globes, and was named one of TIME’s 100 most influential people of 2022.
It only took her 20 years since Amanda first debuted in her still-iconic role of Karen Smith in Mean Girls, but now the 37-year-old has truly arrived as one of the finest actors of her generation. There were occasional glimpses of her talent even earlier in the silliest of scripts (Letters to Juliet, Mamma Mia!, Dear John, and the cult classic horror-comedy Jennifer’s Body) but Hollywood is finally taking her seriously, as is evident with her latest show for Apple, The Crowded Room.
Created by Academy Award-winning writer Akiva Goldsman (A Beautiful Mind), the series sees Amanda star as Rya Goodwin, an empathetic professor of psychology who is brought in to interrogate Dany Sullivan (Tom Holland), a man who has been arrested after a shooting in New York City in 1979. From the onset, Rya begins to suspect that there is more to Danny’s case than meets the eye, and goes down a rabbit hole to tap into his past memories, with far-reaching ramifications.
Next up, she will reunite with Chloe filmmaker Atom Egoyan for Seven Veils, in which she plays a theater director who’s been given the daunting task of remounting her former mentor’s most famous work, the opera Salome.
Amanda, who lives on a farm in Catskills (upstate NY) with her husband, actor Thomas Sadoski and the couple’s two children, joins us over a Zoom call to discuss her latest project, working with Tom Holland and getting into the skin of what is her most complex character till date.
Excerpts from an interview:
What was the biggest challenge for you playing such an intriguing character like Rya Goodwin?
I was trying not to give too much away. The story is pretty epic with lots of twists and turns, and it was hard for me sometimes because we shot out of sequence in the narrative. So I had to constantly remember where my character was and where she is with Tom’s character too.
I was toeing the line most of the time. It’s tough because you know the actual story, but the audience isn’t supposed to know the story; I had to keep reminding myself that it’s a puzzle that you guys are meant to be figuring out along with me.
You have mentioned in previous interviews that you read a lot of books by psychotherapists, and how therapy helped you deal with challenges pertaining to your mental health and OCD. So when this role came to you, did you already feel prepared to essay the character of an interrogator analysing an alleged criminal?
I definitely was ready! I didn’t realise how badly I wanted to play somebody who was investigating something. My favourite show ever is Dateline; I just love puzzles and hunting for answers and for truths. So it was perfectly intuitive for me to be playing somebody who’s asking the questions. I’ve seen it done so many times on television but never had the chance to earlier. It was also such a different character from my last job.
How was it to be transported to New York of the ‘70s while filming the show?
In some ways, it just seems like Paradise Lost. But it also feels like the technology that we have, the devices that we have, and the things that make us feel safe today… so, my own anxiety feels more apt to living here in this day and age.
But the show is shot so beautifully; it’s like a desert every time you’re watching it. There’s something so romantic and exotic about 1970s New York for sure. But it also makes me think about serial killers of that period, like Son of Sam! (laughs) But having been born in the 80s and not having experienced New York until 2000, it was fantastic as an actor to dip in and out of different eras.
Tom (Holland) and you seem to have developed a fantastic working camaraderie and relationship from what you said at the premiere; is that what drew you to the project?
I really wanted to play somebody who was a parent and a professor. I was also inclined to say yes to this because of Tom; it was a really good choice for him to make as an actor to do something so incredibly complicated. Danny Sullivan is a dream role for any actor, and I was just excited to get to see Tom pull it off. There was quite an arc for both our characters, and they go through it together in such fascinating fashion.
You have a lot of really intense one-on-one scenes with him, especially during the initial episodes. Was hitting it off with Spider-Man easy?
We had a few rehearsals, and time to drink coffee and hang out with Akiva Goldsman, who wrote the show. That helped us process the things that we were about to shoot; it’s a luxury these days as most projects don’t really have the budget or time to get actors together before we go on set.
Tom and I were doing so many scenes in one space, so we had to kind of draw out the relationship. So when the trust came in, there was a real flow and real chemistry too. In the show, I am a support system for him from my perspective, and pretty much the only character who is in his corner throughout. So that was an easy foundation to build upon. And then, in between takes, we were getting to know each other one on one, and it was lots of fun.
Where do you think your character’s compassion comes from? How do you personally perceive the trait?
I think that her compassion comes from just a deeply curious mind and heart. She studies behaviour and human nature, so compassion is an essential trait for her. I’m teaching my kids now that it’s important to have compassion; it really dilutes your instinct to judge, because judgment comes from brokenness and fear.
When we have compassion for other people, we can understand someone from a different angle and allow them their mistakes, and their humaneness. I feel like the world would be a safer place because people would feel okay with being vulnerable then. You know what I mean? Like, if we could all just be a little bit more honest with ourselves and with each other. I think the world would just be safer, don’t you think? Peace on Earth!
The Crowded Room premieres on Apple TV+ with the first three episodes on Friday, June 9, followed by new episodes weekly
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