The breakthrough: Meet ‘August: Osage County”s Julianne Nicholson

Julianne Nicholson plays on of three sisters in the dysfunctional family dramedy "August: Osage County." Credit: Getty Images
Julianne Nicholson plays on of three sisters in the dysfunctional family dramedy “August: Osage County.”
Credit: Getty Images

Who: Julianne Nicholson
Where you’ve seen her: The films “Kinsey,” “Flannel Pajamas” and “Brief Interviews With Hideous Men”; the shows “Law and Order: Criminal Intent,” “Boardwalk Empire” and “Masters of Sex”
Her big break: Playing Ivy, the center of the storm of grotesques in the new film adaptation of “August: Osage County,” Tracy Letts’ Pulitzer-winning play, which also stars Meryl Streep, Julia Roberts, Chris Cooper and many, many more

Was she intimidated doing a film on this scale?: “Yes. The first hurdle was getting the job. I just didn’t think about [the cast]. Then I got the job and I felt great. I felt like I intrinsically knew who Ivy was. I was also doing a play at the time, a new Sam Sheppard play, so I felt like I was in that world, in a way. [Ed. Sheppard has a small role in the film.] But a week before I started panicking. As soon as I arrived, though, everyone was really welcoming.”

On doing a play on film: “I didn’t look at it as a play. I had seen the play and I had loved it. But enough time had passed that I didn’t remember any specifics. It wasn’t like I had to recreate anything. And it’s an amazing piece that’s perfectly written.”

Doing a play on film by a TV director: “John [Wells]’ strength is with ensembles. He has a history of doing that with ‘ER’ and ‘Shameless’ and ‘The Company Men.’ He has a real knack for bringing the right people together to get the best out of them.”

Shooting the big set piece — a 19-page dinner scene — over four days: “[Wells] broke it up into three sections, 6 or 7 pages for each part. We rehearsed the whole thing through at Meryl’s house. We all sat around the table and ate dinner while we rehearsed the lines and got the rhythm of it, discovered beats. When shooting it, it didn’t feel choppy. It felt like everyone knew their lines. We probably could have done it straight through every time.”

On it feeling like a play: “Early on it felt like the beginning days of a play, when you’re sitting around talking, before you put it on its feet. You’re sharing stories and exploring ideas and asking questions. It was also just being together, getting to know eachother, picking up eachother’s mannerisms, creating a feel of history so that when you start filming you already know eachother, rather than showing up on the first day and acting like someone’s your sister.”

How she watched the 2012 presidential race during filming: “We watched Obama get re-elected at Meryl’s house. It was pretty thrilling, actually. I’ll never forget where I was when Obama got reelected!”

TV vs. film vs. theater: “They’re each so different. I love being able to do them all. In theater I love the rehearsal process and really getting the role in your body. Film is exciting because you get the whole piece: You know the whole arc of your character. You know the beginning, middle and end. In television I like that you don’t know — that you don’t know what’s coming next. You can just play what’s happening now and be excited when you discover what’s coming next. TV also pays more, so you can feed your family. A lot of films I’ve done, they don’t pay a lot more. Unless you’re a movie star.”

On playing characters in the past, as on “Boardwalk Empire” and “Masters of Sex”: “I like being able to explore a woman’s experience in other times. It makes me very grateful for being here today. I got options.”


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