Amy Ryan is a serious and brilliant actress, but the Oscar nominee slips right into lighter fare too. She was Michael Scott’s endearingly dorky object of affection over a good stretch of “The Office,” and the same week that her new Steven Spielberg drama “Bridge of Spies” comes out she pops up as the lead’s mom in “Goosebumps.” This makes sense if you meet her. Ryan is quick with a jokey response, ready to play ball before switching right into more serious talk. Though she has lots to say about “Bridge of Spies” — in which she plays Mary, the worried wife of Tom Hanks’ Cold War-era lawyer James B. Donovan, who is seen defending a caught Soviet spy (Mark Rylance) most of American wants to see executed — she’s also up for talking about the last time she worked with Spielberg, in a tiny, tiny role in 2005’s “War of the Worlds,” before she was a staple of the TV and movies.
We’re talking as the New York Film Festival, in which “Bridge of Spies” is premiering, is underway. Have you seen anything else here?
There’s so much I want to see. I want to see “Brooklyn.” But no, is the short answer. You?
I’ve seen a million things. I’m sort of delirious right now, so these questions might be psychedelic.
You want to ask me about my tightrope walking?
How is your tightrope walking?
I don’t have to train. I’m that good.
I can’t imagine you had to do anything crazy like in “The Walk” for “Bridge of Spies.”
I had to walk and talk and serve food at the same time. That’s difficult. [Laughs] I had no stunts, other than wearing a corset and ladies 1950s undergarments. It’s probably easier to walk on a tightrope.
That does sound dangerous.
The clothes, they set the tone. Your body language has to change. I couldn’t sit like I’m sitting now. It makes you sit like a lady, pinned and tucked.
Apart from the restrictive clothing, were there things that drew you to doing a film set in the 1950s?
I’ve always been a fan. I’d daydream a lot about old New York when I was a kid. When I walked onto the set I thought, “This was what it was.” It just felt familiar, even though I wasn’t born yet.
Were you privy to them recreating 1950s Brooklyn, which I suppose isn’t too terribly hard?
Yeah, if you can block out all the new glass towers. But there are some areas. Ditmas Park, which is where their house is, is still quite a throwback.
Ditmas Park hasn’t been totally gentrified yet.
I think when people see the film they’ll be like, “Oh my god, I can have a porch in New York City? I’m moving.” [Laughs]
I actually didn’t realize, until I was prepping for this, that you had a very small part in Spielberg’s “War of the Worlds,” as “Neighbor with Toddler.”
[Laughs] “Yeah, Steven, why didn’t you name me?” “You’re going to die before the credits start.” It was so long ago. I remember holding a crying baby in my hands. Right before I was about to shoot a scene I was with the costume designer, and I was looking down the street. She whispered to me, “Are you looking for the camera? It’s down the block.” Steven has all the best toys, so there was this huge camera truly a block away that was zooming in. It could film us but there was no camera to be found. It was like, “Is this a joke?” [Laughs] [On “Bridge of Spies”], it was nice to sit with him in an intimate family setting, talking about human behavior and try to create an active, living household with 12 things going on at once.
You don’t get a lot of character motivation if you’re “Neighbor with Toddler.”
“Just get the hell out of there. There’s your motivation. A truck is about to crash into your house.”