Michelle Williams On Singing, Dancing, and Her Unexpected Secret Skill | Screen Tests

Michelle Williams has been acting most of her life, but it was her role as Gwen Verdon in 2019’s Fosse/Verdon that made her realize why she loved it. In her newest Screen Test, the prolific actress talks about adding singing and dancing to her on-screen oeuvre and shares the secret talent that she’s passed down to her daughter.

Released on 7/18/2019

Credits

Starring: Michelle Williams

Transcript

00:00
What I love to do which is act and apparently,
00:02
sing and dance became commodified so early
00:05
because I started working professionally
00:06
at such an early age.
00:08
And so it became competitive and it became disheartening
00:11
and it became humiliating [laughs].
00:14
Because you audition for so many things and you don't
00:16
get anywhere and you're told this about yourself,
00:18
and that about yourself.
00:19
When I did a tap dance on Fosse/Verdon,
00:21
I realized it returned me to this very primal love
00:25
that I had before anything negative was associated
00:28
with acting or work or identity.
00:32
It was just like this really pure thing
00:34
that this little girl loved to do.
00:37
And when I tap danced again for Fosse/Verdon
00:39
like I felt like I was a little girl before anything
00:42
bad had ever happened.
00:44
It was kind of, it was a moment.
00:53
Gwen Verdon and Bob Fosse who were romantic partners
00:57
and creative partners,
00:58
and even though they separated they never divorced,
01:00
but they remained creatively entangled until
01:02
the end of his life.
01:04
I mean really for me, sometimes we would be on set working
01:07
and I would say to myself,
01:08
I've been training for this role
01:10
since I was 12 years old..
01:12
So when this came along,
01:14
I thought gosh, this is everything I've been dreaming of.
01:16
It's like doing a Broadway show but without
01:18
working six days a week, eight shows a week.
01:21
[Lynn] Was that always the working title?
01:24
Fosse/Verdon?
01:25
No, no it was not.
01:26
And then they got, they got smart.
01:28
[Lynn] [laughs].
01:30
And they realized what was happening culturally
01:32
and politically and decided that it was the right time
01:37
to make it about the two of them.
01:39
And to make it an equal partnership.
01:41
Both as the characters and for myself and Sam.
01:44
It was the first time that I've was had pay parity
01:47
with a male costar and my voice and my thoughts.
01:52
I'd never experienced anything like it.
01:55
I didn't believe in a space like this,
01:57
I didn't believe it was possible to create such a safe
02:01
and nurturing creative environment.
02:04
It felt like having wind at my back.
02:06
I don't know exactly what the right word is
02:07
but being small has had an effect on how I've been treated.
02:12
When men hug you, they pick you up off the floor.
02:15
[Interviewer] Mm mm.
02:16
And that doesn't happen anymore [laughs].
02:18
[Lynn] [laughs loudly].
02:20
What is your favorite Fosse musical?
02:22
Ah, Cabaret.
02:23
[Lynn] Cabaret. I gotta go Cabaret.
02:24
Yeah, I gotta go Cabaret.
02:27
Maybe this time.
02:28
That song never didn't get to me.
02:31
That song, that song.
02:32
I get sad that I'll never sing it again.
02:34
That I'll never get to perform that again.
02:36
That I'll never get to play that part again.
02:37
It's such a good part.
02:38
That music, that candor of music, you just can't beat it.
02:40
It's so emotionally driven.
02:42
It's just, it's just, it's just perfect.
02:44
I wish I could go back and do it again
02:46
at the age I am now anyway, we'll see.
02:48
They come from a long line of domestic artists.
02:52
Great grandmothers, grandmothers, mother,
02:53
everybody's a quilter.
02:54
Everybody's a sewer.
02:55
Everybody's a knitter, embroidery, tapestries.
02:59
I can embroider anyone's initials and I can do it
03:03
on a shirt sleeve or a pillow,
03:05
it gets a little bit harder to do it when you're
03:06
on the inside of something.
03:08
[Lynn] How did you learn to do that?
03:10
Sheer will.
03:11
[Lynn] Like one day you just woke up and said.
03:12
I just stuck with it.
03:14
So my daughter went to this Montessori School
03:16
up on 100 Acres Upstate New York.
03:18
And the people who ran the school,
03:20
when I said listen, I'm gonna go make this movie
03:22
and I have to do these old timey things.
03:24
They said, oh, we'll teach you.
03:25
We know how to do those things.
03:26
So they took me out shooting.
03:28
I baked bread in a hole.
03:29
They taught me how to make a fire using like
03:33
little whispies that you find out in the forest.
03:35
My daughter really likes to knit and watch
03:37
a television program.
03:38
[Lynn] Yes.
03:39
Sometimes she knits and the cat is sitting in her lap
03:41
and she's wearing something flannel.
03:43
There's like an old timey movie on and I think like,
03:46
[gasps] what a life.
03:48
[laughs].