In the last few years, mostly thanks to “Inherent Vice,” Katherine Waterston has made the shift from struggling actor to an “It” girl. In fact when we speak she’s in London shooting the J.K. Rowling-penned “Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them.” “I feel like I’m on the backlot at Paramount in 1950 and Elizabeth Taylor’s going to come around the corner,” she says. Right now, though, she’s promoting another major release: “Steve Jobs,” the Aaron Sorkin-written account of the late Apple icon (played by Michael Fassbender), which relates the frenzied build-up to three of his most significant product launches. Waterston plays Chrisann Brennan, an ex who’s justifiably furious with him, as he doesn’t want to claim paternity of the young girl they had together.
The move to major productions must be jarring. How have you dealt with it?
It’s not really as much of a shift as I probably imagined when I would be fantasizing about having a proper career. [Laughs] You don’t know what you’re doing and it all comes together at the last minute.
I think a lot of us wind up doing things we never expected and learning as we go along.
Exactly. You find yourself doing things you’ve never done before when you’re doing low budget independent films. You have to hold the boom or become the art department. When we did “Queen of Earth,” we didn’t have a continuity person. We had photographs and notes and we’d have to look at the notes to figure out what outfits to put on for every scene. Which is actually completely doable when you realize how little thinking you have to do as an actor, apart from what you have to do in a scene on any given day. It’s not impossible to have a few other thoughts in your head. It’s galvanizing, really, when you have to participate in that way. You feel more a part of it in a way and responsible for it. But it’s also fun to have a two-day weekend.
“Steve Jobs” has this feeling of controlled chaos. What was it like being in the middle of that?
That’s supposing something that wasn’t really my experience. I didn’t feel it was particularly controlled or particularly chaotic while I was working on it. It felt more like we were chipping away at something. When you’re shooting a scene you’re just trying to find everything that’s in it, especially when you have such good writing. When a scene is really well-written it’s like, “Ok, I don’t know what’s in there but I know enough to know there’s a lot in there. And how much am I going to be able to find before they call cut?” I’m glad it felt chaotic. That’s a testament to Danny [Boyle]’s skill [as director]. I haven’t seen the movie yet, but I’m glad you’re describing it that way.
Speaking of the writing, Sorkinese seems like it might be daunting to speak.
The only part that was terrifying was when I was auditioning and I thought, “Am I anywhere near good enough to speak these words?” But actually it’s so much scarier to try and make poor writing sound good than it is to play around with really, really great dialogue. This is just like getting shot out of a cannon. You’re supported by such a great structure. There’s so much humor and intelligence. And a great rhythm. The writing does so much of your performing for you that you can relax, in a way. I would have thought, “Oh my god, I’ll be a ball of nerves, I’ll be so paranoid about getting that comma right or did I pause there? Did I cut him off in time?” But he writes the way people think.
It’s unusually articulate, especially for mainstream dialogue.
It doesn’t dumb anything down for the audience. And guess what? They love it. They can follow it.