Celebrity Interview: Finn Wittrock talks on Landline, His Creative Pursuit Bucket List, and Memorable Moments

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Finn Wittrock, who plays Nate the alluring former high school sweetheart and seducer of Dana, in the upcoming film Landline, starring John Turturro, Edie Falco, Jenny Slate and Abby Quinn, who is going through a commitment crisis.

Landline, distributed by Amazon Studios, brings the analog world of New York City circa 1990's to life as the cacophony of New York City life still oppresses, and the missing smart phones, instant messaging, texts, and emails are not really so necessary, couples still cheat and life goes on.

Having the opportunity to speak with Finn during the recent press day below is an excerpt of our interview.

He was comfortable and forthcoming about himself and his career pursuits, about taking the role of Nate in Landline, his bucket list of creative pursuits, and his next projects as he has been cast for five episodes in American Crime Story: Versace as Jeff Trail, a friend and the first victim of Versace killer, Andrew Cunanan which is set to air in early 2018.

Janet Walker: Tell me a little about Nate?

Finn Wittrock: Well his name is Nate. He falls in lust and like with Jenny's character (Jenny Slate) Dana, and sort of acts the part of the home wrecker. She reciprocates a bit and the story is really focused on her having this kind of dilemma, a very kind safe boyfriend, and having this seductive, destructive other guy.

JW: Let me back up a bit. Tell me a little bit about the casting process and how this character came to you?

FW: I actually put myself on tape for this one. I'm sort of at the point where some things get offered, somethings I audition for, somethings I fight for. I think I had auditioned month's before for Ben, who Jay Duplass, they rightly chose Jay Duplass instead, which is what I would have done. But then what about Nate, would you put yourself on tape for it and I did with my very talented friend Scarlet, and sort of found out very quickly after that and then I watched "Obvious Child" their first film, and said, "'I definitely want to work with these people and the rest is history."'


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JW: So how long from the time you got the role to shooting?

FW: I guess I got it a little more than a month after that.

JW: And then you went right into shooting?

FW: Yes, I was in LA and they shot all on location in New York. I kind of landed and started shooting the next day.

JW: Did you all have a week's rehearsal or a table read before shooting began?

FW: They did. The family did. They had to create a dynamic among themselves. I embraced the last minuteness of it. We should be finding the chemistry between them anyway. We didn't really have much time to work on it, Jenny and I, but she's so spontaneous and generous, we almost immediately fell into a repartee and it was easy. It was really easy. We created the backstory as we went and probably benefited from not having rehearsal.

Challenges and Improv

JW: Tell me some of the challenges for your character and this role?

FW: There wasn't so much challenges. I guess what was fun about and new for what I usually do it was very improv heavy and we were kind of figuring scenes out as we went. The script was really tight and good but it was also like "Let's try changing it up" and not being totally married to the word perfectness of it, kind of letting it be a blue print. I really enjoyed that way of working. It made every take a new, spontaneous type of adventure. It's not something I get to do all the time. It was really helpful for me to have someone as expert as Jenny to bounce off.

JW: Had you known her before?

FW: No, never. I mean I had known her work for a while. I had only texted her and of course Day 1, we're like making out in the movie theater. So, we got to know each other pretty quickly.

New York, New York, Broadway, and Scar Tissue

JW: Do you like New York?

FW: I do, I just came home, after doing theater for eight months.

JW: On Broadway?

FW: Yes. I did The Glass Menagerie and before that Othello.

JW: I'm looking at your notes, I had just got them from upstairs, that to talk about the work you did on Broadway.

FW: I've just sort of come off two plays back to back. I flew out in October and started rehearsal for Othello in this really tight theater, near Theater Workshop, this amazing set they built, it was like 200 seats, really intimate, claustrophobic, violent, rough and then went straight into, I had two weeks of overlap, I was performing Othello and I was rehearsing The Glass Menagerie during the day. And then I stepped into the Belasco Theater, which is enormous and there were only four of us on this huge stage it was this beautiful, fragile quiet play.

Two different, very opposite experiences but turned out widely successful. It's an exhausting and intense thing to do theater in that way for such a long time but it also most inspiring.  You kind of walk away thinking, "I not just a better actor but like I'm a deeper person." Something, went through the wringer with that and you walk away with some good scar tissue, tougher.

JW: Sure, Sure. Have you ever played Shakespeare in the Park?

FW: I've never have but scheduling didn't work out. That's always been a dream that I wanted to do. So hopefully one of these days it can work out.


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The Bucket List

JW: Do you have like a bucket list for your creative pursuits?

FW: Oh, sure.

JW: So, what are some of them?

FW: It's a big bucket. There are a couple of Shakespeare parts I want to play before I age out of them. I want to do Henry the V, and I want to do Hamlet, I want to do The Scottish Play. I'd like to be in The Seagull someday. I've been very lucky with the people I've been able to work with so kind of want to work with directors I find fascinating.

JW: So as far as finding someone fascinating that you haven't worked with – can you name three directors that it wouldn't matter what the part was you would say "yes"?

FW: P.T. Anderson, I'd really like to work with Woody before he stops making movies, I'd be a spear carrier, if he did movies with spear carrier. I almost got to work with Kathryn Bigelow and that would be cool too.

JW: Very nice, very nice. When you think of movies you seen that inspire you or where do you go to get inspiration?

FW: I look back a bit. I often look to Humphrey Bogart. I look to Paul Newman, I love the movies, the Tennessee Williams films that were made, Street Car Named Desire, there is an amazing movie called Baby Doll. Also, Fight Club, I feel like I repeat myself with the same movies, and they are the films that inspire me, Magnolia, Pulp Fiction.

Memorable Moments

JW: Sure, very nice, very nice. So, tell me some of your memorable moments from Landline, if you had a particular scene what would it be?

FW: I only had I kind of the outside in the movie. There was this one day that, I guess it was my last scene, we're at the play where John Turturro, the family scene, it was my only chance to be with Edie and John. It had been the Finn and Jenny show, whenever we were doing anything. And it was good to meet them and get to know them for a second. I've always been an admirer of John and to see him mess around was a cool. It was a cool day on set.

JW: Let me just broaden that out a bit – Thinking back over your career, I'm sure all moments are memorable, and thinking back if you had a memorable moment what would it be?

FW: I had, what I considered a break for me, I did Death of a Salesman in 2012 with Phillip Seymour Hoffman, which Mike Nichols directed. So, talk about a bucket list that's was like a big check. That whole experience was amazing. It's funny you mentioned taking a bow. I actually remember we were rehearsing the curtain call and it was like curtain call, who cares, but Mike had me take my own bow, and then the whole family, and I was kind of like "'let Phil take his bow,"" so I did it very quickly.

And this woman, Kathleen McNenny, who was  like playing the secretary, she had two lines, I actually knew her for a while, and she is really an amazing person and she was like, "'you might not get another chance to bow on Broadway you might want take it. Use that moment."' And it was something that stuck with me. It's not a selfish thing to do. It's an acknowledgement that this moment is special. So don't skip over it.

Look for Finn Wittrock in Landline which opens July 21, 2017.

Image courtesy of Finn Wittrock News @finwirrock (twitter) L-to-R, Jay Duplass, Jenny Slate, Abby Quinn and Finn Wittrock.

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