SXSW 2019 VIDEO EXCLUSIVE: Tatiana Maslany & Jay Duplass On ‘Pink Wall,’ Working With Tom Cullen
Tatiana Maslany and Jay Duplass star in the new independent film Pink Wall, and the pair had much to say about the romantic drama before its premiere at South by Southwest (SXSW) in Austin, Texas.
The film is a “non-linear exploration” of a couple’s relationship as told through six scenes — each of which represents a “pivotal” moment in their life — Maslany explained how different each of the scenes is and how distinct the emotions they create are.
“Whether they’re innocuous or sort of meaningful moments, they somehow change the course of this relationship between Leon and Jenna, who are the characters that we play,” explained the Emmy-winning star of Orphan Black.
Pink Wall was directed and written by Welsh actor Tom Cullen, Maslany’s real-life partner and former star of Downton Abbey. The film marks Cullen’s directorial debut.
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“I think the film explores gender roles and gender expectations in an interesting way,” Duplass added. “I think Leon is a bit put upon by the expectations that society has of him as a man, and I think Jenna has the same feeling but from a very different angle.”
With regards to the challenges he faced in making the film, Duplass was very frank and admitted he prefers drama over comedy, at least when it comes to romantic films.
“In general, I prefer conflict over [comedy],” Duplass revealed. “I wouldn’t know how to do a romantic comedy, you know what I mean?” he added, turning to Maslany, who simply laughed at his remark in apparent agreement.
He continued: “I think what drew me to the project — beyond Tatiana and Tom just being creative titans with tons of personal integrity and very inspiring people — is their commitment to each other. I’ve been with my wife for 17 years and we all inherently understand the rigor of relationships, the reality it takes to maintain a relationship and what you have to struggle through to be connected. That’s the best part of a relationship, is that it forces you to evolve at full speed.”
Maslany revealed that the scene in which her and Duplass’s characters discuss the prospect of having children was one of the most difficult to shoot, partly because it was one of the first scenes they filmed together.
“I think it was also [difficult] because it was two people talking about something while holding very strong beliefs internally but still trying to navigate each other’s expectations,” she said. “It was like floating on top of the truth.”
Both actors raved about working with Cullen.
“Tom is a dream director,” said Duplass. “He’s going to have a very healthy career. He created the safest space possible and also managed to inject some really profound cinematic style into a shoot that was only nine days long. I’m actually quite angry and jealous of him now that I say it out loud.”
“How dare you walk in and just crush it on every level?” he added of Cullen, laughing at his own joke.
“Tom has this ability to create elastic time,” Maslany added. “He does it in life when he’s late for everything but somehow turns up on time, it’s very frustrating,” she said, smiling.
“He was so insightful, so challenging and so loving in his work and it really was a total dream.”
Full interview transcript below:
Q: What’s the plot of ‘Pink Wall’?
A: [Tatiana Maslany]: “Uh Pink Wall is a nonlinear exploration of six kinds of pivotal moments in a relationship, in a six-year relationship um so whether they be innocuous or sort of meaningful moments they somehow change the course of this relationship between um Leon and Jenna who are the characters that we play.”
[Jay Duplass]: “Yeah, I think the film explores gender roles and gender expectations in an interesting way um, I think Leon is um a bit put upon by the expectations that society has of him as a, as a man and I think um Jenna is um has the same feeling but from a very different angle.”
Q: What was the toughest scene for you to shoot? A: [Jay Duplass]: “For me they weren’t particularly difficult to act out um. I mean in general like I prefer conflict over, I wouldn’t know how to do a romantic comedy you know what I mean like I really don’t know. I mean I think what’s um, what’s- what drew me to the project beyond Tatiana and Tom just being you know creative titans with tons of personal integrity and very inspired people is there um commitment to each other. I’ve been with my wife for 17 years and you know, we all I guess sort of inherently understand the rigor of relationship, the reality and the rigor it takes to maintain a relationship and th- what you have to struggle through to be connected um and you know I think that’s the best part of a relationship is it forces you to evolve at uh full speed and that’s a big part of what we were exploring.”
[Tatiana Maslany]: “I feel like the first thing that we shot was quite complicated in the sense that it was the scene where Jenna and Leon are sorts of discussing but not discussing having children and that was our first day we were kind of you know, the process was all very knew it was all you know the first day is always nerve-wracking but I think because it was also two people talking about something while having, holding very strong beliefs internally but kind of talking up here about what, and trying to sort of navigating each others’ expectations, uh it’s hard to describe but like you know just floating on top of the truth. Which is fun to navigate and complicated because you have to hold that real thing below but not let the other person know that you’re feeling it so, yeah it’s fun.”
Q: What does the film say about relationships?
A: [Tatiana Maslany]: “I mean, I- I always love a film to just spark questions and spark um reflection and um uh- er what’s been so beautiful about the screenings that we’ve had is that people are like recognizing themselves or their partners in the film and going like I was in that relationship or my god I fight like that with my partner or whatever it is that it, that it’s pretty human and um relatable in that regard and so maybe sheds light on you know, expectations that we have of each other and dynamics that we’re locked into that are unhealthy and limiting and I hope that, that it just opens up all those questions.”
[Jay Duplass]: “Yeah I think the movie is a bit of an empathy engine in a lot of ways in terms of uh what it takes to be in a relationship I- I mean we’ve already had a lot of people say um I feel less alone when I watch the movie and you know it’s also a study not just of like the rigor and the trials of a relationship but the fun of it too where there’s a lot of joy and love in the movie. I mean there’s a great scene where basically were fighting and then we crack each other up in the middle of a fight and that’s how we get out of it but then it’s also explored as to whether that’s a healthy coping mechanism or whether that’s like a band-aid on a giant gash um so I think it’s like constant questioning as tat was saying.
Q: What was Tom Cullen like as a new director?
A: [Jay Duplass]: “Uh Tom is a dream director uh he’s going to have a really healthy career um he created the safest space possible and also managed to inject some really profound cinematic style into a shoot that was only nine days long um I’m actually quite angry and jealous of him hah now that I say it, how dare you walk in and just crush it on every level, it was just a perfect experience for me.”
[Tatiana Maslany]: “I would say that Tom also likes given the fact that we shot it in nine days never made, I- I never felt like we only had nine days. Tom has this like ability to create a, the elastic time he does it in life when he’s late for everything but somehow turns up on time it’s very frustrating but he also like builds, ([Jay Duplass]: “haha”) there’s a space that he builds on the set that, that feels like the creativity is king and that exploration is king and that there’s no rush even though there was a massive rush and, and so we really- I really did feel like we got to dig into stuff in a way that was like deeper than you even get sometimes on a 50-day shoot or whatever. It just really- he, he’s so insightful, so challenging, so uh loving in his work and it was uh yeah a total dream.”
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