Gina Gershon Interview
Gina Gershon Interview
Gina Gershon is an American actress who has featured in many roles on TV and cinema screen over the past 30 years. Having made her debut as a dancer in Beatlemania and then landed the role of a high school friend of Molly Ringwold in Pretty in Pink, she then went on to star in the likes of Cocktail, The Untouchables, Face/Off, Showgirls and Ugly Betty.

Here she talks to View’s Matthew Turner about her role in the William Friedkin film Killer Joe, working alongside Matthew McConaughey as the killer cop, that infamous fried chicken scene and why she turned down the same part in the stage show several years ago.
What attracted you to the part and how did you get involved?

Gina Gershon

Tracy Letts had wanted me to do this part ten years ago when it was a stage show. I remember reading it and thinking 'Wow, these are great characters, really compelling, I love her, I love her.’ Then as it got more and more intense, as much as I loved it, I thought I was scared to do it, eight shows a week. It was too much for me, and it really bothered me because it’s the first thing I’ve ever wimped out of, because I was nervous about it. I don’t get nervous easily. I have a tendency to do kind of out-there productions and things.

So when it came up again, I heard that William Friedkin had called up saying ‘Tracy Letts says you’re the only person for this,’ and I thought ‘Oh my God, it’s that show! It’s come back to haunt me!’ And of course William Friedkin, I was dying to work with him and when I heard about the cast, I think Matthew was cast, and I knew Emile, already I was sold.
I hadn't realised you had a history before, I was going to ask if you’d read the play. Had you seen Bug before?

Gina Gershon

Not only had I not seen Bug before, I still haven’t seen it, because I can’t get a copy of it! I’m such a fan of Billy as a director, I want to see everything he’s done. And that’s the one I haven’t seen.
Michael’s in it too, obviously. He’s fantastic in it.

Gina Gershon

Michael Shannon? He’s incredible. I mean he’s the original Chris in Killer Joe, on the stage.
What preparation did you do for the part?

Gina Gershon

You know, there’s this great documentary that I fell in love with. The Wild and Woolly Ways: The Whites of West Virginia? Do you know that documentary?
I haven’t seen it, no.

Gina Gershon

I fell in love with it. They’re from West Virginia and their family makes our family look calm. I was raised by a woman from West Texas and I had gone Texas. So I had gone to so many crazy places that had left impressions on me. So I felt I had done certain research about these sort of people. I hate to say ‘trailer trash’ because I don’t want to judge them but they’re kind of a motley crew. And then I just, psychologically, prepare like any other part. You figure what makes this woman tick, where’s her Achilles heel, what does she want? I mean, they’re very animalistic people to me, they’re very feral. Just, survivalists. And they’re surviving in the way they know how. I’d go about it a little differently, but who am I to judge?
Did William give you any kind of pointers beforehand, maybe watching other films or reading anything?

Gina Gershon

No. Billy was kind of like; ‘Listen, just know your lines, know what you’re gonna do, we’ll get one or two takes. By the time I get to the set, I wanna take a nap. There’s a basketball game at six!’ You need to be super prepared. Literally, a lot of these takes had one take and that was it. You come to the set, ready to play.
So there’s no like, rehearsal period or anything like that?

Gina Gershon

We rehearsed a couple scenes, just because they’re very long, lengthy dialogue. We rehearsed it almost like a play, certain scenes, just to get the rhythm, which was great! So then we got to the set, we could just shoot it. Part of his directing is casting it, he goes ‘That’s my job, because I cast it and then my direction’s over.’ I think he cast it perfectly, and when you talk to a couple of other directors, they always say, ‘Directing is 90% casting.’

I think there’s some truth to that. We sat down, I was telling him about some crazy snake story because I’d just gotten back from a diving trip. I was telling him about the killer snake, and after the story, he’s like; ‘Well I don’t know how you know this character, but somehow I think you’re perfect for it!’
Had you seen any of Juno’s films before?

Gina Gershon

Nothing. I had no idea who she was.
Were you impressed by her, how did you find her?

Gina Gershon

Super impressed by her. Not only was I impressed with her, I just fell in love with her. And it really helped inform my character, the way she was dealing with Dottie. That was the biggest surprise in the movie, for me. I became so maternal with her. I thought I brought out another side of Sharla that really balanced her out, that made her not just this, “bad” person, trying to get what she wanted. I kind of felt like I wanted to get Dottie out of there.

So I actually liked the idea of Joe. I feel like my character wants to get out, and she’s not my real daughter but I felt very tender towards her and I wanted what was best. I thought Juno just did a spectacular job.
Did they cut anything out that you hated to lose?

Gina Gershon

I don’t think anything of mine was cut out. I think they had to trim certain things down. I think part of the whole NC-17 versus R, I’m sure some of my stuff would have been cut out. But that’s what I love about Billy. He’s like, ‘Forget that, this is my movie, this is what I’m showing.’
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Content updated: 17/10/2018 17:14

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