Interview: Jacki Weaver talks ‘Gracepoint’ and her post-‘Animal Kingdom’ momentum

VICTORIA, BC. The description for Thursday (November 20) night's episode of “Gracepoint” mentions the unearthing of certain secrets about Jacki Weaver's Susan Wright, which is a good thing, because the dog-loving trailer park denizen remains one of the odder parts of FOX's 10-part mystery, and I'm saying that as a fan of “Broadchurch.”

I mean, the Susan Wright in “Broadchurch” was so odd she was almost literally played by an actress named “quirky” — Pauline Quirke, if we're being truthful — and two-time Oscar nominee Weaver has only upped the ante on quirky line-readings and unexplained menace.

When I talked with Weaver on the “Gracepoint” set back in May, she was shy about discussing Susan, but she was very frank about this move into network television, Susan's difficult-to-place accent and pleasures of an unlikely career explosion following the Sundance premiere of “Animal Kingdom.”

I posted an exclusive clip from Thursday's episode here, as well as some thoughts on last week's pivotal episode.

Check out the Jacki Weaver Q&A below…

HitFix: Let's start sort of at the beginning. When did you first watch “Broadchurch,” was it before or after you heard about this, signed on for this, auditioned?

Jacki Weaver: I was offered it and they told me it was fantastic and it sounded really interesting and then they sent it to me to watch. And then they flew me to New York to talk me into doing it.

HitFix: And how did that conversation go?

Jacki Weaver: No, wait, they didn't fly me there, I was on my way back from San Juan. I was doing a film there and I stopped over and I met Anya [Epstein] and Dan [Futterman], the two writers and executive producers and I thought they were fantastic. And I had already almost decided to say yes anyway, but I thought “Broadchurch” was so good. I really enjoyed it and thought I'd love to be part of it. Another adventure too going to Canada, I've never been to Canada. I've been to the Toronto festival twice but you only see the inside of a hotel room talking to journalists and then the cinema.

HitFix: And the whole sort of idea of the 10-episode American TV grind, how have you been feeling about that?

Jacki Weaver: Well, 10 episodes to me, four or five months, I thought that's fine. If you get into a procedural thing it could be seven years and I think I'm too old. I think I'd die in the saddle if I took on something like that. So this was ideal for me that I only was committed to the 10 episodes. So perfect.

HitFix: Well, how aggressively has American TV pursued you since “Animal Kingdom”?

Jacki Weaver: Well, I've had quite a few offers and I did make a pilot that wasn't picked up. I wouldn't say aggressively but I have had quite a few offers. Yeah. But my manager and my agent seemed keen for me to exhaust all the movie opportunities first.

HitFix: Well, how fun is that for you to sort of suddenly had these things coming at you?

Jacki Weaver: It's not just fun, it's overwhelmingly gobsmackingly astonishing.

HitFix: Because I remember seeing “Animal Kingdom” at its Sundance premiere. No one knew anything. There was, it was in the competition or whatever but no one knew, and then suddenly whoosh. What has the whoosh been like from your point of view?

Jacki Weaver: Well, we paid our own way to Sundance because we didn't have any money; the producer didn't have any money and we were so thrilled that it had been accepted in the competition and no one expected it to win, that's why most of us had already left by the time it got announced as the winner. And it was the first inkling I had, because I was down on the scale. I think in the Australian poster I'm underneath all the boys and they're in bigger type. But somebody stopped me in the street in ParK City and said, “I think you're going to get nominated for an Oscar for this.” And I just laughed. I laughed and laughed. And he said, “No, I'm serious.” And he was American. And he said “It's nice to meet you” and he walked on. And the producer, who was on the other side of the street, came rushing over and said “I bet you don't realize that's the leading film critic of the Los Angeles Times.” So that was sort of the first inkling I got that people were taking it really well and things snowballed.

HitFix: With this, your character in “Broadchurch” she's very mysterious and it takes a long time before we sort of have any sense of what her mysteries are and what the truths are. How similar is the character here to that character?

Jacki Weaver: She's pretty similar. She is. Of course I'm no good at impersonations so Pauline Quirke was brilliant but I'm nothing like her. But the burden, this huge traumatic burden that she's carrying, is so enormous that it's pretty clear there's something serious going on. But as with most people who are in that kind of state you don't know whether they're sinister, there's something dangerous about them or if they're just so deeply damaged by their past that they're behaving in that mysterious way.

HitFix: Well, I talked to a couple of the other actors and they talked about doing sort of the different takes of dialogue where things are maybe a little bit more pointed in one direction or another, and you talked about sort of the difference there between is it sinister, is it just damaged, is it dangerous?

Jacki Weaver: I think all shows like this, all whodunits should be ambiguous and that's a perfectly legitimate way to play anything really to make your choices very ambiguous and you let the viewer make their own decision to watch and sort of fill in the lines, and anything could be valid.

HitFix: Have you been getting the editors lots of choices though in how to play that character?

Jacki Weaver: Sometimes. Yeah. And we've had some great directors. So certainly in my case sometimes we'll do a take that's quite different from the others, the same dialogue. It's not like working with, what are those directors where you do improv all the time? We haven't time for one thing.

HitFix: So when I start watching should I suspect that your character is the killer?

Jacki Weaver: Yeah you should. You should suspect that everyone is because we don't know. We honestly don't know. There's been rumors it's going to be a completely different villain this time. So whether that's true or not it keeps you on your toes.

HitFix: If you get the 10th episode and it turns out that it's you, will that makes sense to you given what you've played so far? Will you be able to look back and at the choices you made and know how that works?

Jacki Weaver: Yes it will. Yes it will. I've always borne that in mind. But if I'm not, it's still perfectly valid what I've done.

HitFix: Would you like her to be? With that be fun?

Jacki Weaver: I think everybody wants to be the villain. I think we all want it to be us. Yeah, it would still be… and I bet they make us sign something.

HitFix: I suspect they'll be keeping secrets very closely. Who have you had good scenes with? Which cast members have you had meaty scenes with?

Jacki Weaver: The scenes with Stephen Louis Grush. He's fantastic. He's really good. He's a Chicago stage actor and he's got a really interesting and unusual sinister quality. I've had some good scenes with Kevin Zegers and Alisen Down, the Canadian actress.

HitFix: Now what is your characters accent here? How did you choose it? How did you refine it?

Jacki Weaver: It's American. It's the sort of West Coast-ish getting a bit inland-ish.

HitFix: But do you know where?

Jacki Weaver: No. Nothing really specific. Nothing that you can put your finger on and that's deliberate too. I mean I could have made her from the South or from New York. David and I share a dialect coach. She's fantastic. Because David's very Scottish and I'm very Australian. So mind you the last 10 jobs I've had I haven't been Australian. I'm finally going back after this to make an Australian film and it will be the first Australian character I've played in six years. So I keep lapsing into American.

“Gracepoint” airs Thursday nights at 9 p.m. on FOX.