Depending on your attitude, Rosemarie DeWitt either has great luck or terrible luck with on-screen sisters. She recently starred as Rachel opposite Anne Hathaway's Kym in Rachel Getting Married, and now she's the foil to Toni Collette's Tara in United States of Tara, which just premiered to strong ratings. At TCA, I chatted with DeWitt about her film families, how she got the Tara gig, and how much Rachel was like a real wedding. Here are highlights:
How did you get the role of Charmaine?
It was just like a straightforward, old-school audition that I had. I read the script, I thought it was fantastic, and when I auditioned for it I think the part of the sister was a guest star. So it wasn't a super high-pressure situation . . . I auditioned where Spielberg and Dreamworks is all set up, and I remember thinking, "I just want to work here."
When did you find out that you were getting the upgrade to a regular character? Did that give you a chance to get more into playing Charmaine?
It was over the Summer where they invited me back, and we spoke and they said, "We're going to change Charmaine a little bit." TV I feel like you have to play — in most ways I'm nothing like Charmaine, but you have to play it a little closer to yourself, because they do change things at the 11th hour, and if you were doing some crazy character with a hunchback and now you're running a marathon — I don't know, you just have to be able to do it, basically. So they made her a little bit more quote-unquote normal. I was happy that there was a lot more love between Tara and Charmaine. She's an outsider but it would have really been hard to be like Anne Hathaway and I are in Rachel.
It was interesting to hear Diablo Cody say that Charmaine is looking for attention.
She's got a lot of issues. It's funny, because she's really awesome, and she just, I think, doesn't like herself that much. The vitamin sales, I think, are a little bit of a self-help program in and of themselves, and she's got some body issues, and issues with men, so there's just so many places to go with her and so many women in my own life to observe and draw from.
To hear more about Charmaine and Tara's relationship and how it differs from Rachel and Kym's,
I'm assuming we'll be seeing more of those issues coming out throughout the season.
Yeah, and again, a lot of love. Annie and I would talk about Rachel and say, "They're sisters, they're not friends." But as Toni and I went through the season, we're discovering [Charmaine and Tara] are friends. I mean, they get on each other's nerves, and in ways they're nothing alike, but they can really be — they're kind of all that they had sometimes.
The show strikes a really delicate tone — it's not hilarious, for a comedy, but it's not heartbreaking all the time either. What about it appeals to you?
I am very impressed with the tone of it, because it could go a lot of different ways and I think they found a happy balance. The thing that kind of gets me about the show — besides Toni's performance as an actress, that gets me every day when I go to work — is seeing what we see through the children's eyes. Some people won't relate to this disorder, many people will, many people have someone with depression in their family. But it's just seeing that thing that kids have to go through where maybe they have to parent themselves or grow up before it's time. I think that's sort of the heartbeat of the show. With Juno as well, [Cody] can really find the truth of what kids are up against and then, in this case, also really write about marital problems and a woman in her 30s who can't find love, and write those with sophistication and grace.
Now, I have to ask about Rachel Getting Married, because I don't think I've ever seen a movie that just felt so much like a real wedding.
Oh, I felt like it might be legal in the state of Connecticut. You know, after he said our vows, I was like, "Does that mean . . . " I looked at Tunde [Adebimpe] and said, does that mean it's you and me? That's all [director] Jonathan Demme. He always says that we got to hang out and plan it, but we didn't — he just had all these crazy ideas. At one point he was like, "I think Rachel comes in on a white pony," but then he axes it, but then he comes in with some other fabulous element. We really just did it, that was the thing — we really just had a reception. Like, the rehearsal dinner scene, it was a 45-minute take, and we just did it three or four times.
That was something I was wondering — what the timing was like.
We went and lived in this house in Connecticut, and like, in the rehearsal dinner, Anne's speech was scripted, as were the best man and the maid of honor, but beyond that Jonathan just had anybody speak as they saw fit, and I'm sure there'll be some great toasts on the special features on the DVD, because everybody in that room spoke. And then he cut it down, and it was still really long and felt like you were really at a rehearsal dinner, in a good way.
Anne's character is such a strong personality. What was it like to play off of that?
It was sort of a wake-up call on the first day. We shot their first encounter in the movie and I felt like her character was taking all the oxygen out of the room. And I thought, "Wow, this is going to be a harder mountain to climb than I thought," just coming up against that sort of narcissistic personality. I think it's pretty classic addict behavior. In terms of the doing of it, Anne and I just had a really great experience on that. We didn't do a lot of sisterly bonding beforehand, I think because it was going to defuse the necessary tension. But then when we were working, there was never a nice-off. Nobody ever said, "Oh my gosh, I'm so sorry, did I just spit in your eye?" We just were horrible to each other when it called for it and loving to each other when it called for it and then gave each other a hug at the end and said, "See you tomorrow."