With her recent appearances headlining New Line's horror hit The Conjuring as well as the A&E prequel series Bates Motel, one could be forgiven for thinking that the chiller genre is Vera Farmiga's exclusive wheelhouse. However, the Up in the Air Oscar nominee has a long and storied resume (including Higher Ground, her 2011 directorial debut), and her most recent turn in director Glenn German's At Middleston (now playing) bespeaks her range as a performer.
The charming rom-com, about a meet-cute during a college tour, pairs Farmiga with fellow Oscar-nominee Andy Garcia, and also features her sister Taissa in the role of her daughter. I recently had a chance to speak with the actress about what drew her to this particular project, what advice she'd give to young women trying to get ahead in the industry, and whether she prefers to work in television or film. What follows are some highlights of that conversation:
Right off the bat, I know that the film has been kicking around for a little while and I remember you signed on, I believe it was April of 2012.
Yeah I did, right. I got the offer right as we were filming Conjuring and then had probably a month off and then jumped right into it.
What was it about this project that kind of piqued your interest?
Well, for me it was an offer that came, and Andy's name was attached, which already piqued my interest. I have tremendous respect for him as an actor, and then I was, it was so fanciful. I was in my headspace at the time sort of contemplating negative mysticism, like being terrorized.
I read the whimsy of this script and I fell for it. I think after The Conjuring I was just looking for a rib tickler. I was looking for a romantic comedy, and I knew, at first glance I knew, it was a script that I could run with. It was a character that I could just bolt with.
Well to that point, I mean, how much of a role did you play in shaping Edith? Did you work with the director to kind of make her yours? How did that process go?
No, I mean she was so vivid on the written page and she is, the writing is so succinct, it's really beautifully rendered. She is who she is and I literally just had to pretty much just say the words and be present with Andy. There's a certain measure of improvisation, sure, of looseness and you know when you're trying to establish that sort of carefree romantic relationship you have to be in tune.
Every take's gotta be fresh so you've gotta leave some room for play, but for the most part, I wish I could take the credit, but it's Adam Rodgers and Glenn German's script that was just, it was intact. It was so sharply etched and for me the only strength that I can claim is just sort of allowing myself to depend on Andy, or Taissa.
Picking up on that, working with Andy, you mentioned you had some admiration for him before. What was it like building that relationship together?
I immediately had this affinity for him. I just felt I could place my confidence in him so we actually forewent any rehearsals and had the luxury of shooting pretty much in order. So as our friendship deepened then so did the characters, so that was a luxury. But he's so easygoing. He's so full of life and love. He's the kind of guy that just walks besides you and you call him your friend.
He's completely outfitted in elegance and grace. He's just easy to play opposite of and I think that's what chemistry is, really; feeding well off of each other's energy. You know, acknowledging your partners impulses and responding to them. As many of those impulses, and it's just such fanciful writing that it's impossible not to have chemistry with this kind of writing.
I was reading a article yesterday in Time Magazine that was talking about sort of the glass ceiling when it comes to women being able to get ahead in the industry. As somebody who's worked in front of the camera, you've worked behind the camera, and you've been able to build a reputation for a lot of solid work, so what advice would you give to young women who are coming up who are trying to get ahead. What would you tell them?
I think with social media now and technology, if you're not being given opportunity then just create your own. Certainly that's what happened with Higher Ground. [her I mean, that's a character that I really wanted to play and it only came about as a result of me taking control and taking help. And I was scared to do it but I had to sort of squelch that fear and say, "Okay, I'm going to surround myself with the right people as far as crew members go and they will, they'll bolster wherever I fall flat, or what my weaknesses are."
To me the importance of that story was key and I suppose it's just passion. It's like you have to find, I think you gotta be motivated by passion and if opportunity is not coming your way then just stop asking for permission, you know? Create your own, write it yourself. Film it yourself. You can't just wait for inspiration to happen you've got to chase after it with a club, you know?
Now, you've also found success working in television and in film and while I don't want to specifically get into Bates Motel (the second season is coming up), what is the appeal of each medium for you?
You know, they're so interchangeable for me and just especially in the last decade I have changed the way that I watch. Like, Conjuring, and if and when there's a Conjuring 2, is no different than episodic Bates. It's the same sort of sequel, it's like sequel television but there's a greater time span between. I apply myself exactly in the same way.
I find my collaborations, like with crew members and with directors, and with fellow actors. It's always the same process, so I don't care how, whether you watch my projects on a television screen on a laptop screen, on your telephone or in a surround sound theater in a...oh, what are those outdoor theaters called?
The drive-in. A drive-in theatre.
Yeah, a drive-in. I mean that's up to you how you see it, and I think it's shifted, I don't know, that's not...
There isn't the same stigma.
This is the first time though, because I have done television before, this is the first time I've had the luxury of a second season. And that's wonderful to see, a character develop, and hopefully I'll be able to experience that with Conjuring as well if and when New Line puts number 2 into effect, because then you really get to the depth of character exploration.
I think that's what I cherish about second season of the Bates is that you can go deep, and deeper and correct mistakes, or faux pas that you might have, you know, choices that you might have done first season. You can just hone it, you know? It's more of a sculpture, it's just something that you can keep tap tap tapping away at. So that I found really cool.
Many thanks to Vera Farmiga for being so generous with her time and her energy. You can catch Middleton now at select theaters. To hear the complete audio of our chat, including her recollection's of her very first TV work, 2001's UC: Undercover, check out the latest episode of The MovieFilm Podcast below: