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Michelle Williams totally transforms for musical drama ‘Fosse/Verdon’

Photo Credit: REUTERS/Mario Anzuoni

Michelle Williams totally transforms for musical drama ‘Fosse/Verdon’

Michelle Williams totally transforms for musical drama ‘Fosse/Verdon’

Michelle Williams sits down with MiNDFOOD to discuss her acting process, musical theatre, and how to live your most authentic life.

From teenage soap opera star in Dawson’s Creek to silver screen royalty, Michelle Williams, 38, delivers another stellar performance as Gwen Verdon in the upcoming FX biographical drama Fosse/Verdon. The Academy Award-nominated and Golden Globe-winning actress stars opposite Sam Rockwell (playing Bob Fosse) highlighting the complicated relationship between musical theatre’s most influential duo.

Considering your involvement in the Time’s Up movement, this role must have been eye-opening about what women endured in the late 60s?

Yes. This is a period piece so it doesn’t just mean hairstyles and heel height, it means the gender dynamic, the politics of the time, the learned limitation women had upon themselves. When my mom was growing up she could be a housewife or she could be a school teacher.

How did you immerse yourself in the world of Gwen Verdon? Did you know much about her?

No. I was unfamiliar with her legacy. There was a lot of material for me to access so I did a lot of research.

Looking back, how was the transition from a hit teen TV show to adult serious dramas?

I have tried to live without being attached to any specific outcome to youth or age or success or failure. I just live my own life without really thinking about it from the outside so much. I make decisions very much in the moment based on who I am at that present time.

Have you always made decisions with a priority of staying true to yourself?

I think in terms of maturing in this business, starting when I was 12 to now being 38-years-old, I have always made choices that feel inherent to who I am, not who somebody wants me to be.

What do you think of the musical as a genre for theatre and cinema?

I love musical theatre. I love taking my daughter to see musical theatre, I started in musical theatre when I was a child and I think that there’s such effervescence there. There’s so much joy inside of that medium that when something becomes so pressing that it can no longer be spoken, it has to be sung or it has to be danced. It feels good to watch and it feels good to make.

What helped you to become the woman you are now?

I believe in a mistake based learning process. I believe that those mistakes contain the most valuable information about how to proceed and as painful as the mistakes are, I treasure them. I’m able to sort of put them on a string and look at them and see what they can teach me about myself. I really try and examine them very thoroughly. They’re like little artifacts, like little historical objects.

How are you able to look back at your mistakes so fondly?

I believed that I was my own person and that if I developed that sense of myself and if I stayed really true to it, I would be able to live a life that I could look back on and say, “Oh, yeah, that was mine!”

What helped you develop that sense of self?

When I was really young, like 12 or 13, I read a lot of Walt Whitman poems. They are so rich with this enjoyment of your own identity and they implanted themselves in me and I thought even if the world doesn’t reflect me or have any interest in me or reward me in any way I’ll do it for my own self. So, I’ve had this little kernel of a belief about who I am and how I wanted to live and that’s stayed with me.

Has it been a long process for you to get to this point?

I work really hard so in terms of my career and what I think of as something that’s really come a long way is that I learn from the mistakes. I just never ever ever give up and that has informed my relationships, my parenting and my career. I don’t stop until I make something the way I want it to be.

Watch the Fosse/Verdon trailer:

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