We can all agree that one of the greatest British actresses of the moment is Emma Thompson, a dame that can jump from being a nanny, to a writer, to a President Wife or being the best tv host of a late show. That is what she plays in her new movie Late Night, written by Mindy Kaling and directed by Nisha Ganatra.
In the story, Emma Thompson plays a veteran late-night talk-show host that hasn’t kept up with the changing television landscape. When the new head of the network threatens to take her show away due to declining ratings, Thompson decides to make some changes and brings in her first female staff writer. While Thompson’s character is hesitant to change her ways, she eventually warms to Kaling’s character and realizes she’s going to have to fight to stay relevant and on the air. When I sat down with Emma Thompson at the press day for the film, she talked about how the film explain things that are relevant in today’s world, but also, I had time to ask her about her favorite Spanish artist and how is her Spanish these days.
Q: Do you watch Late Shows?
A: I think there is something a little bit macho about the late-night slot, a little bit 1970s, Saturday Night Live, everybody's up all night taking coke, John Belushi is announcing that women are not funny and it's a tough old world for a woman. My character, Katherine, is the person who managed to survive but she's also bright enough to recognize that she's got to change and she's got to listen. What's so wonderful about this story is that so often when you've got a female boss in a movie, she doesn't change. She's just the evil stepmother, the evil boss, the cold, arrogant, archetype person.
Q: Mindy has created a very tridimensional character for you in this movie
R: Yes. I do believe so. What Mindy is done is create an actual person, a living, breathing person who, at the beginning, does find it difficult to accept, actually, the fact that she is no longer as successful as she thought she was. She suddenly realizes that she is been complacent and because she is genuinely committed to being excellent, she decides she's got to change. And it takes a while, but finally Mindy's character does break through to her. They create a working relationship that's so fun to watch developing and doesn't turn all soft and fluffy at the end. It just becomes something very real, very believable and very uplifting.
Q: How did you feel playing this character
A: If you are like me, pathologically nice because I do want to be kind to everybody, playing Katherine was a kind of a five-week holiday from having to look after everybody. It was so blissful just turning around to someone who was boring me and say, “I'm not interested, shut up” And then not apologizing for the rest of the week about it.
Q: In your personal life have you been ever obsessed with a book
A: I’ve been living obsessed with Sherlock Holmes since I was a kid. I’m in love with his personality, his style, his way of handling his job, his intelligence. I always wanted to be Sherlock Holmes, but it is a problem being a woman, in fact, all my heroes are men. I would love to find a heroine as smart and capable as Sherlock Holmes.
Q: Have you read Spanish authors
A: Yes I have read many Spanish authors but is a pickle to remember all. I do like Garcia Lorca and I’ve read Don Quixote, but what I do like most about the Spanish art is Pedro Almodovar. I’m a fan of his work. I’ve been begging for quite some time now that he take me on a journey with his cinema. If you know him, please tell him. For me he is one of the best directors alive and I’m always wanted to work with him. I will get better at my Spanish just to be able to work with him
Q: And how is your Spanish?
A: Not as good as to make a movie with Almodovar, but I can learn
Q: Maybe Pedro can make a character thinking on you, as Mindy did?
A: I would love too. It doesn’t happen very often. The only other times it’s happened I’ve always been an elderly archaeologist or geography teacher or someone developing dementia or Alzheimer’s or someone whose spouse has died horribly and I’ve got to deal with it. So interestingly, yeah, this is the first time someone has said I’ve wrote you something, and not only is it funny but also incredibly smart and irresistible.
Q: As an actress what moments you enjoy most?
A: The Scenes without words are a blessing, they are scenes in which you must react and that's wonderful. I think all the actors feel the same towards those moments. It is not that we are afraid to speak, or say our lines, but as an actor you are not so active at the moment. It is not about being passive, for example in the last scene, which I imagine is what we are talking about, the director told me that it was a very important reaction of the character. Try to be very elementary, something she would never have done before and that is what I did. I really liked that sequence
Q: You are irresistible adorable in most of your movies. How difficult is to be always charming?
A: It's the first time I've heard someone calling me irresistibly adorable, so I keep that compliment. In America, we are so used to behaving in such a politically correct way that when someone says what they think it is considered rude. I think we can relate that to my character, she is a blessing because she has no problem calling things by the name and saying what she feels every moment without a filter