Maggie Gyllenhaal stars as Candy, a prostitute and budding porn star in upcoming TV show The Deuce, set in the 1970s opposite James Franco. She chats to MiNDFOOD about the overall experience.
Well, this is a very interesting role, this ‘Lady of the Night.’ What interested you about this woman?
I thought that it’d be really interesting to think about sex and power and femininity and art and to explore all of those ideas, which are important ideas to me, playing it through the eyes of a prostitute. I thought that it would be a great challenge and I found it really interesting.
This story is set in the 70s. What does it mean to be a woman in the world now?
In this world, right now, to be a woman and to be an artist is a very complicated thing. We watch women, and I feel this in myself, twist ourselves into whatever it is that we need to be in order to get the work done that we need to get done and to express what we need to express. And porn for Candy becomes art, it becomes self-expression. It’s very complicated in the way that, that happens.
What was the research process like?
I watched lots of pornography (laughs).
But in this world, from Candy’s perspective, it’s pretty dark. Was that a difficult mindset for you to shake off?
I didn’t mind being her at all. And there are really dark, hard things that happen. Let me put it this way, it’s the same thing for me as when I did “Sherrybaby,” and that was a movie I made a long time ago where awful things kept happening to this woman. And I think maybe the way to approach that as an actor is to be an optimist. Candy, from the first time she sees porn, is like, ‘This is what I am going to do. I am going to make movies. I don’t care if they are porn movies. I am turned on by this and I am excited by this!’ And she leaps from being in the basement somewhere at a guy’s house where she got paid 80 dollars for the day for sleeping with a bunch of men, to, ‘I am going to make movies.’ And that kind of optimism kept her engine running, which you have to have if you live in those kind of circumstances.
Did you enjoy that era? The music, the clothes?
I love the wardrobe and I have always loved the wardrobe. That was not a surprise and I really dig that. And I liked the freedom of wearing very little. That is not who I am in my life. I liked imagining, ‘Okay. What would it be to come off the 60s, and to come from Queens, a very conservative place and live through the 60s and then come up in the beginning of the 70s?’ That was a nice thing to fantasise about. And to listen to music from then.
Favourite song from that era?
1971? I was actually listening to “It’s A Man’s World” by James Brown. I got really into music on the show but I was mostly listening to contemporary hip hop actually which I don’t usually listen to, which is very kind of women empowering, I thought. So, I listened to James Brown and I listened to Dionne Warwick.
You have a big birthday coming up this year. The big 4-0. What do you look forward to about the next decade?
Well, every woman I talk to who is in their 40s tells me that it’s pretty great. I certainly preferred my 30s to my 20s, just the ease and the objectivity I am really grateful for. And also, artistically I feel that it’s been an exciting time for me. But I don’t know what it will be like to turn 40. I am not sure yet and I am not sure yet what I will do.
My birthday is in November so a lot of my friends who were also born in 1977 have already turned 40 and I have been to their parties. And to be honest, I look at women who are older than me, and of course, some people go to sleep and they sort of stop living, but then some people really get wiser, and I would like to be like that. (laughs)
How do you get your news?
Can I be totally honest? This is terrible, but I read most of my news on Twitter. But it’s not like I read only 40 characters. I follow people on Twitter who I respect, and then I read articles that they link to, which I think is a pretty interesting way to get my news. I like The New York Times and I like The Washington Post. I will check out the front page, and think, ‘What is going on? OK got it.’ And then I scroll through Twitter, and I see what the people I really respect are reading and read them. Is that bad? It’s not too bad, is it? (laughs).