Playing complicated characters is something of a second nature for Edie Falco. After years of memorable performances on the small screen, she returns to feature films with Outside In. Here, she takes on the role of Carol, a high school teacher whose former student, Chris (Jay Duplass, who co-wrote the script with director Lynn Shelton), becomes part of her life once again after he’s released on parole after 20 years in prison. When the film screened as part of SXSW this year, we got the chance to sit down with the acclaimed actor to talk about why that seems like a rare opportunity, her preference for using first takes, and why she has a hard time watching The Sopranos.
What was it that sparked your interest in Outside In?
You know, I get calls, “There’s this movie, they want you for this part, it’s with these people,” whatever. Oftentimes, that’s enough for me to know whether or not, at least, to read it. But they said Jay Duplass, and he and I had worked together on Landline. We didn’t have a lot of interaction, but there was one scene in particular in that movie in a car, and I just thought, what a delight. What a lovely guy. He’s funny as hell.
So I read it, and it’s smart and interesting. I don’t know what they think happens to women after they turn 50. But they still fall in love, and they still are confused, and they still have very wide emotional lives. You don’t see a lot of that. It’s as if at some point, all that is done and then you’re like a mom, or like a CEO. The fact that this woman was enthralled with her emotional life, and it was sort of somewhat verboten. She was confused by it, and delighted, all that stuff was just thrilling.
When you’re on set, with Jay as a co-writer and the director as another co-writer, how protective are they of the material?
When I walked into this, I didn’t know. You don’t know which way it’s going to go. I’ve been doing it long enough that I can kind of finagle any situation happily. The things I remember from when I started out in independent film with Hal Hartley and Nick Gomez, it was this feeling of like, “Okay. This is the story we want to tell. In this scene, maybe there would be, because he doesn’t know yet about this, maybe you should mention something.” It was like that. It was completely collaborative. I had not anticipated that kind of openness and generosity.
I’m not a writer, so I can imagine you work, and you work, and you work, and then an actor comes in and says, “I’d rather say this.” So I understand that they may be a little protective of it. But these guys just weren’t. They just weren’t. They really wanted to tell the story and it was lovely.
Did you feel like you knew this character enough to put your own spin on it?
It was never hard. It was all very simply written, and one of the first times me and Jay, I forget what our first scene was, it occurred to me, “Oh. There is some room.” If he wants to add a moment here, which felt organic, that’s cool. I’m sort of using my spider-sense, like “How does this director work?” They know each other. So the first scene we shot, Jay came in and he said the lines, and then he said something a little different and I answered back. You’ve got to sort of feel your way around a set, especially if you don’t know the people.