Amy Hargreaves may be best known for her role as Maggie Mathison “Homeland,” but she’s a veteran who’s appeared in prestige films like “Shame,” and last year’s indie thriller “Blue Ruin.” This year, Hargreaves was given another chance to take center stage in Marc Meyers’ “How He Fell in Love,” a restrained drama about infidelity told without the melodrama and Scarlet Letter-type punishments we see in similar films.
The film starts with Travis (Matt McGorry), a young struggling musician who crosses paths with Ellen (Hargreaves), an older married yoga teacher who is trying to adopt a child with her husband. Travis and Ellen begin an affair that slowly turns into an intimate and profound love. As their encounters continue, Ellen must come to terms with what she wants out of her marriage while Travis must face the consequences of his actions.
We caught up with Hargreaves before the L.A. Film Festival premiere of the film to discuss her character and how she was feeling about the premiere.
The premiere is tonight- How are you feeling?
Excited. I’m excited. I was nervous last week and now I’ve gotten past that. I feel really pleased and really excited to share this with everyone. We did our work, and it’s out there for everyone to see it.
How did you get involved in the film in the first place?
…Casting wanted to meet with me for the role, and Marc the director, and Jody his wife, which is the producer, liked my work and were interested to meet with me for the role- in me for the role. So I went over and met with them, and it was kind of love at first sight for all of us. We really connected about the material, about the character, about the story, about the tone. They offered it to me. They had held out actually. I knew that they were really feeling me early on, like right after I auditioned. But I think they were gun shy to just offer it to somebody right away, because it was kind of early in the process. But then after like sleeping on it for a few days, apparently Marc was just like “You know what, Amy’s the one.” and just kind of called and said “That’s it, let’s make the offer.” So, I was happy.
What was it that drew you to the film initially when you read the script?
I love where this character Ellen is in her life. I feel I can really relate to this story, and I know a lot of women my age can relate to that moment in your life where you wake up and you look around and say “My gosh, I’m already kind of in the middle of my life. Is this everything? Is this- the love that I have for my husband, is this what it’s supposed to be? Is it enough? What does love mean? What does marriage mean? What does it mean to be a mother?” It looks into, it asks all these fascinating questions that I know a lot women my age have and that don’t always get addressed in film or on TV. So that initially, but it was also the fact that this is a character who embarks on an extramarital affair and I think that that’s something that in American cinema, you don’t really get to see addressed with that kind of organic and natural nature. A lot of time in movies like “Unfaithful” with Diane Lane the character that’s cheating has to be punished in some way, like beat up or killed, or some awful thing that’s happened. Whereas, we know, you know, and I know that people cheat and it just kind of happens, as a course of people’s lives, a lot of times. And this [film] addressed it in a really natural and organic way. It doesn’t approve of it, it doesn’t disprove of it, it just shows the story of these two people living their life this way. And I loved that about that, I loved that.
I agree. The way the film was made, you can really picture this happening to regular, everyday people.
Yeah, and it does happen to regular everyday people. So you know, it’s nice to present that in a natural way.
You mentioned that you really connected with what the character was going through in her life. Tell me a little more about that. Did you bring yourself into the character, how did you connect with the things she was going through?
Well, that’s a good question. You know, I’ve- for me, I always go back to what’s written on the page. So, um, I’m obviously, you know, the same age range as she is, and I’m a mother, and I know how much that means to me. And I’ve been through marriage and divorce and all kinds of big life changes. And I have a lot of good girlfriends who are in my age range too, that- you know, we go through a lot when we’re you’re in your early 40s. It’s either, you know, you’re coming out of motherhood or you’re just finally having a baby, but also at the same time your parents are starting to get older and starting to get sick. So everywhere I look, every one of my girlfriends has an emotional life thing happening and you can call it a midlife crisis but it’s not really that. It’s just kind of a natural progression of life. So, for me, it just kind of jumped off the page at me that it’s just so- such a real kind of story. That’s not specifically relatable to my life, but just relatable to the women I have around me and the things that I hear and the things that I have experienced in my friends’ lives and my life.
Were there any scenes when you were filming that were really memorable or particularly difficult for you?
Sure, there were a lot of difficult scenes. There’s a lot of emotional stuff and for me, that’s always difficult because it’s- it’s just, you’re going there. And you’re going to deep dark places so. Off the top of my head, when I come over to the Travis’ apartment in the middle of the night- I mean it’s funny cause when you see a still of it or you see a clip of it it looks kind of like this erotic, kind of sexy scene, but it’s actually kind of like a fight scene, when I come over and we start kissing against the wall. That was, really, that was difficult because it was very emotional, emotional point in the movie, and um. And Marc had decided to shoot that, very loose, very handheld, which we all loved. We’re like, “Let’s do it!” So, we kind of just broadly choreographed the idea of what was going to happen. And then we just kinda went for it. By him allowing us to shoot it that way, it really allowed Matt and I to really carry emotions through the beginning and end of the scene. There weren’t cuts, there weren’t pick-ups. It was just like, “Let’s just do this.” So that was very emotional. Another difficult scene was when I come back at the end of the movie, and visit Matt, like a few months later, and we talk in his kitchen..(?????) That was difficult for both Matt and I, we really had- it was just emotional. It was just really emotional to play. Those were the most difficult parts that I can remember at the top of my head.
I read an interview where you said you cried when you watched the movie. What made you…
Oh really? I said that?
Oh, I thought that was my secret. Yeah, I did. It’s funny cause I was in South Africa last year for “Homeland” in Capetown, and Marc had sent me and Matt a link to the finished film on like a Vimeo link, like a protective link and I literally had an iPhone. I was sitting in my bed in Capetown, watched the whole thing on an iPhone, and I was like crying! I finished and I texted Matt, “I saw it, you were so great. I’m really happy, and I cried, I feel like such a dork.” And he writes back to me, “I cried too!” So, it really shook us, and I’m happy about that. Because obviously we know what’s going to happen at the end, and if we’re crying, it’s meaningful.
If I talk to him I’m going to tell him you spilled the beans about him crying.
Oh no.. He’s a sensitive dude. He’s sweet and he’s got a good heart.
How was it working with Matt?
It was a pleasure. I have to say, going into a movie like this, if you don’t trust- you have to have an insane amount of trust in most importantly the director, but then secondly the actor that you’re standing across from for a month or six weeks or however long it was, and doing these kind of- not just the emotional stuff, but the physical stuff too. If you’re working with someone that you don’t trust, or that you don’t feel comfortable with, it’s a game changer. So, I was lucky enough to read with Matt when I- I had been been cast in the role and there were two different guys that they were considering- and I read with Matt, and I knew during his audition that he was somebody I could feel comfortable with. He was very- I’m going to say something that he did that was very respectful and was really interesting to me. We had, in the call back, so I’m reading with a handful of different guys, there was some physical stuff that was happening in the scene. And you can play that a lot of different ways in an audition. You can half ass it, you can go for it, but Matt was the only one out of the guys who spoke up before we started and was like, “Hey, where are we going with the physical stuff? What do you want to see.” And then looking at me and looking at Marc and saying, “Where are we going to go?” So then none of us would be surprised or uncomfortable with anything. And I thought, This is a guy- I can go into the trenches with this guy on a tiny low budget independent film where we’re half naked in this hotel room, sitting in Staten Island, shooting at three in the morning– I can trust this guy to be respectful and be a gentleman and be professional. But can also be a really charming, interesting actor, giving me great moments to play on. I felt really good, I was really thrilled when Marc and Jody chose Matt because I felt like he was really great, he’s going to be a great partner for me to play in this film.
I was looking at your Twitter earlier…
OH GOD! I’m so bad at Twitter. I don’t know what I’m doing.
Oh no, it was funny! But I saw that Matt tweeted at you that he’s a Yoga master. So I was wondering- who’s actually better at yoga, you or Matt?
I’m better at yoga! I play a yoga teacher in this movie, you saw it. Matt is a fitness freak. He’s really good at all that stuff. We’re total opposites. So, he’s like- lifts weights and knows the food to eat and is thinking about it, talking about, he’s very… I admire that… He’s very… He knows what he’s doing. I am like, kind of lazy, and I walk my dog, and I’m a New Yorker, so I walk all the time. But I don’t technically work out. The one thing I do do, is yoga. He’s not that flexible, not as flexible as I am, so I’m definitely better at yoga. He might argue with that. He was kind of annoyed with me cause I don’t really work out that much and he was pretty annoyed that I was in pretty good shape for not working out. Ask him about his ice cream obsession.
The next season of “Homeland” is coming out soon, is there anything you can share about the upcoming season?
Well, they just started filming so it’ll- they’re coming back full on around September, beginning of October. So right now- you know, the writers write the season as they go along. So, and they keep their parts very close to the vest, so what I can tell you is, I’m alive, my character. They’re flashing forward three years. Claire, that’s Carrie, is living in Berlin, not working for the CIA anymore. So I’m kind of like waiting to see what they’re- what the cards hold for my character this year. Maggie is always around to pick up the chips when Carrie Mathison screws up basically. So I’m sure that I’ll have to come in and save the day at some point.
Other than Homeland, do you have anything else planned. What’s next for you in the next few months?
Honestly, right now, my next big exciting thing is I’m taking a road trip with my family, including my 82 year old dad to Niagra Falls, for like ten days. We’re driving from New York to Niagra Falls. So I’m super excited about that and then, I have a couple other independent films that are in can, and I’m going to be starting to promote those. So there’s one called The Preppie Connection with Thomas Mann. Thomas is coming out in “Me, Earl and the Dying Girl” like this week, and he’s amazing. I play his mother in this, it’s a great great great indie. So between “How He Fell in Love” and “The Preppie Connection” I’m kind of excited to see where these movies all pick up…
Have you been to Niagra Falls before?
I was in Niagra Falls when I was 10 years old. I’m a little nervous, because– I don’t know if you’ve been paying attention, but there are two prisoners– like two murderers, who escaped from maximum security jail in New York, and we’re going to be driving through that area. So I’m hoping that they catch these guys before we drive through, these insane murderers– I actually tweeted that at Matt…