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‘Past Lives’ and ‘The Morning Show’ actor Greta Lee wanted to be Val Kilmer : NPR


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Greta Lee stars as a playwright caught between her American husband and her Korean childhood sweetheart in Previous Lives.


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Greta Lee stars as a playwright caught between her American husband and her Korean childhood sweetheart in Previous Lives.


Rising up in Los Angeles because the baby of Korean immigrants, actor Greta Lee says she was anticipated to be ladylike, do nicely in class and “not be too loud.” However these expectations did not fairly gel with Lee’s aspirations.

“I actually acknowledged part of myself — my true self as a toddler — in performances like Val Kilmer and Nicolas Cage,” she says. “I imply, actually massive, muscular performances. I wished to do this. I wished to take that on. And I believed that I might.”

It wasn’t till Lee joined the theater program as an undergraduate at Northwestern College that she discovered about sketch comedy, which opened her up as an actor.

“By means of comedy I might play somebody with … a unique physicality or somebody a lot older, or all of these items that I used to be so hungry to attempt to take a stab at,” she says.

Lee is testing her comedic chops on The Morning Present, the place she performs the primary feminine president of UBA Information. Within the movie Previous Lives, she takes a extra severe flip as Nora, a playwright dwelling in New York, caught between her American husband and her childhood sweetheart from rising up in Korea. Lee says enjoying Nora allowed her to discover the immigrant expertise in a means that felt susceptible — and private.

“I keep in mind joking with [Past Lives director] Celine [Song] that it might be simpler if I might truly simply be nude as a result of I felt so uncomfortably uncovered,” she says. “I beforehand had by no means anticipated to have the ability to present all of the nuances of what it’s to be a lady like Nora, or a lady like me — a toddler of immigrants, an individual who’s bi-cultural, who straddles a number of worlds whereas navigating being only a common human dwelling in America.”

Interview highlights

On director Celine Music’s determination to separate Lee’s Previous Lives co-stars throughout filming

[The two men] needed to be their very own kind of non-public worlds, non-public from one another. So a part of that concerned separating the 2 of them. So I developed my very own relationship respectively with every of those actors. And it wasn’t till the precise scene within the film when Arthur and Hae Sung meet, that’s the precise footage of them assembly for the primary time.

Actors John Magaro and Teo Yoo (proven right here with Greta Lee) met for the primary time within the scene they shared in Previous Lives.


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Actors John Magaro and Teo Yoo (proven right here with Greta Lee) met for the primary time within the scene they shared in Previous Lives.


And that was additionally the case once we had been attempting to indicate the physicality of affection. And I suppose what I imply by that’s the precise physiological response you could have if you find yourself reunited with somebody that you simply love. What’s chemistry? What’s that, tangibly? And with the intention to accomplish these concepts, we wished to be actually exact about what precisely we had been displaying. … By making [physical touch] forbidden, it heightened and pressurized contact.

On talking Korean for her position in Previous Lives

That is not one thing that was on my imaginative and prescient board. I had by no means anticipated to do this. To be sincere, I do not suppose that I used to be totally assured that I had the capability to do this. Performing is already laborious and to do it in a unique language – I used to be actually challenged by the concept of whether or not or not I might be capable to pull it off, and do it in service of every thing we wished to perform with this film. It required such an amazing quantity of restraint and stillness and silence and supreme specificity that I wished to guarantee that I might be capable to ship on all of these issues. …

I didn’t suppose my Korean was ok for this movie. I feel I grew up after years and years of being criticized for my Korean being unhealthy and like disappointing my ancestors and never being a ok Korean — that’s baked into my expertise as an American. However with this film and with Nora and with Celine and her imaginative and prescient for the film, it turned this unimaginable alternative to maneuver in the direction of what was beforehand thought-about a flaw.

On her “state of grief” after filming ended on Previous Lives

I keep in mind for months after wrapping the movie, I used to be in a state of grief, truthfully, as a result of I knew that the truth of my life, it doesn’t warrant me talking that a lot Korean. It simply does not. You recognize, I am a mom of two younger youngsters. They know some Korean, however I do not exist in an area in time that permits for me to only converse Korean. Nobody would perceive me. It would not be functionally acceptable. However I feel that is what’s so unimaginable concerning the film – that that is additionally a part of this. How do I reconcile, how does Nora reconcile, how tragic that’s? That this can be a big a part of her precise DNA as a human being, and but there are particular concerns and sure compromises and exchanges which are made simply to dwell.

On her mom’s response to the film

She was sobbing and I used to be deeply uncomfortable, if I am sincere, and never ready to obtain that form of a response from her. A number of days later she referred to as me and she or he was driving and she or he stated, “I am nonetheless crying about your film.” And I stated, “I am so sorry, mother. What is going on on for you?” And he or she stated, “I’m Nora. This film is about me.” And I used to be completely shocked by that sentiment. It by no means even occurred to me that she might really feel that means. … My mom was expressing the embarrassment of riches she’s acquired in her life immigrating right here. However the heartache of every thing that was misplaced with the intention to do this.

On her late grandfather’s connection to Hollywood

My grandfather was an actual character. As a substitute of serving within the Military through the Korean Warfare – he had polio, so he could not — he labored as a painter on the U.S. Military base in Busan. And it was his job to color these film posters, these big Hollywood film posters for the U.S. Military. They might have these films introduced in for the troopers. And he, via portray them, fell in love with American cinema. Rising up in Los Angeles, he’s the rationale why I do know who Greta Garbo is and Katharine Hepburn. He was an actual film buff.

Heidi Saman and Thea Chaloner produced and edited this interview for broadcast. Bridget Bentz, Seth Kelley and Beth Novey tailored it for the online.


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