Melissa Rauch doesn’t want to wait around. Rather than twiddle her thumbs before a great gig came up, she decided to create something herself. Hence “The Bronze,” an indie comedy co-written by her (and her husband Winston), in which she also stars as Hope, a star gymnast hobbled by an injury in her teens. When we catch up with her she’s washed up, living in a Nowhere, Ohio town and aggressive towards everyone, including an aspiring young gymnast (Haley Lu Richardson) who hires her as a trainer.
For the actress, now 35, it was also a chance to strain her vocal chords in different way than she does as Dr. Bernadette Rostenkowski-Wolowitz, who she’s played on “The Big Bang Theory” since season three. We talked about her film and its show-stopping, completely bonkers comedic motel room sex scene.
Was Hope a character that originated in some form in your early comedy and improv days?
You know, it wasn’t. It was really birthed out of the script. We decided on the story first and this world of celebrity. Once we started going into her psyche, she developed from there. Even in the outline phase she wasn’t as, I guess, toxic and tough and vulgar. That all came once we started talking about how depressed and bitter she was. That was also a rebellion against all she was told over the years about how to behave. Now she’s cut off from what she wants to do by her injury. That vulgarity is her rebelling against everything she was told to do.
It’s useful to follow characters who are dealing with the fall-out of failure and disappointment. We usually make movies about winners.
What fame does to the psyche is really interesting. It’s worse when you’re passionate about what made you famous. If you become a reality star, when that fame fades there’s not that same desire to keep doing it. But when your fame is from your sport or from acting, and you’re suddenly cut off, especially from an injury, then it just highlights your detachment. That’s obviously the case for Hope. She’s trying to hold onto any bit of fame she can, because it reminds her of that happiness.
You actually played baseball when you were a kid. Were you anything approaching a real, passionate athlete?
I brag about my baseball days, but I played tee-ball, and once they took the tee away I could not hit the ball. [Laughs] I was a very un-athletic child. I was the kid in school who when they did the Presidential Health Test was on the side of the gym with an inhaler, trying to get out of it.
You’ve spoken about how with Bernadette on “The Big Bang Theory” the accent was inspired by your mother. Was there an inspiration for Hope’s thick Midwestern accent?
My college roommate was from a small town in Ohio, near where this was shot. She had that exact accent. When we were set to shoot in Ohio, I said she had to talk like this. With her vocal register, I wanted to make it a little higher than my own. Certain gymnasts have voices that don’t lower so much. And because she has so much tension in her body I wanted tension to be in her voice. That’s why she holds the placement in the middle of her vocal chords, whereas Bernadette is in the higher region.
You wrote this with your husband, Winston. What is it like writing with a spouse?
We started as writing partners before we got together as a couple. We met in college and wrote all though college together. If we started writing after we were a couple I don’t know how that would have gone. But because it’s the basis of our relationship we have a really good best idea mentality. When you’re not comfortable with the person you’re writing with, you can be too nice, whereas as husband and wife we can just say, “Oh, we can do better than that.” I do take advantage of that mentality in our married life, like, “The best idea is for you to take out the garbage. Go do that.”
I usually hate asking about sex scenes, but there’s one here, between your and Sebastian Stan’s characters, that’s so completely insane I have to ask: What on earth was that like to shoot?
[Laughs] We wrote that scene in the script with the words, “The most crazy, epic gymnastic sex scene ever.” We bullet-pointed the moves we wanted to do, and our gymnastic coordinator, Kristina Baskett, who’s a gymnast herself, choreographed it. We had twoCirquedu Soleil dancers as stunt doubles — although Sebastian does a lot of the scenes. He learned the whole routine and his body double stepped in for the more technical moves.
We shot that in a room in a motel which actually had those rings on the window. [Ed. Some of their maneuvers involve a pair of gymnastic-looking rings, as you probably surmised.] It’s a handicap-accessible room. So people can go there and rent out the room if they want. Disinfect it first, but it’s there and available to recreate the scene. I take no liability if anyone gets hurt.