Gillian Anderson had been dreading this. A tripod had arrived at her home in the U.K., along with a mess of lights and, really, just the thought of having to sit through an hour-plus on Zoom had her practically reeling. But then the woman who stuns as Margaret Thatcher in the most recent season of Netflix’s The Crown got talking — about pigeonholing and pay equity, about grieving and giving oneself over — and soon she didn’t want to stop talking. And neither did anyone else — The Queen’s Gambit‘s Anya Taylor-Joy, Pose‘s Mj Rodriguez, Genius: Aretha‘s Cynthia Erivo, WandaVision’s Elizabeth Olsen and Ratched‘s Sarah Paulson — at THR’s annual (virtual) Drama Actress Roundtable.
Let’s start easy. Complete this sentence: On set, I’m the one who is most likely to be …
GILLIAN ANDERSON Hiding in a corner. (Laughter.)
ANYA TAYLOR-JOY Pacing whilst moving my hands like this (waving above) trying to figure out what it is that I’m doing.
SARAH PAULSON Bossing everyone around.
ELIZABETH OLSEN Probably trying to make the crew laugh.
At the same time, you’re also inhabiting characters for long stretches and often they require you to go to dark or heavy places. What happens when a director yells, “Cut”? Do they come home with you?
MJ RODRIGUEZ I try to separate myself from Blanca as much as possible, especially [because we’re] dealing with immense trauma. So, when I go home, it’s Michaela Jaé going home, and I bring Blanca to the set. It’s easier that way because it can weigh on you otherwise and wash off on your family.
TAYLOR-JOY I wish I had as much control over it. For me, there are some characters that you can very easily snap in and out of and then there are other ones like Beth in The Queen’s Gambit. I’d worked back-to-back on two projects with one day off in between, so by the time I got to filming the show, I was exhausted and there was no energy to create a barrier. And that was potentially the toughest thing about the show, because it was a wonderful experience as an actor to be able to not have to reach for any emotion, but then you also have to go through the psychological warfare of figuring out, “Why do I feel so awful in the morning?” Like, “What is happening?” And then you go, “Oh, it’s not my feelings,” but I have to sit in them all day and I have to be aware enough to go, “You are not depressed, the character is depressed, and at some point that will leave you.” But I do think a bath every single night — being able to have the visual representation of washing yourself clean of something — helps.
OLSEN Regardless of what exactly the day requires of you, emotionally, you’re just tired. And so you try to be patient and professional and kind, and then when you go home, that’s when your fuse is just … smaller. (Laughter.)
TAYLOR-JOY You should date us, we’re fabulous.