Alison Wright Explains How Actors Get Emotional on Cue

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S1: This ad free podcast is part of your Slate plus membership.

S2: Welcome back to Working. I’m your host, Ramona, alone, and I’m your other host. June Thomas, June. One of the things I’ve learned in this period of working from home is that I actually love checking in with friends and co-workers and hearing about what they’re up to and what they’re enthusiastic about. I love culture and art and film, but I have a lot of blindspots and sometimes I blame this on having two young kids.

S3: Like there’s a lot from the last decade I’ve missed out on and I count on my co-workers to kind of fill that in. And I definitely sense that if I had worked with you between 2013 and 2019, one of those things I would have been urged to catch up on is the Americans, a show that I have to confess I have never seen.

S1: You would definitely have heard about the show for me. I wrote a bunch about it from the beginning, and then I hosted the Americans Insider podcast for three seasons, which meant that I spent a lot of time down and go on us telling to the show runners and the writers and crew members and actors, one of whom was Allison Wright, who played Martha in that show, a heartbreak of a character. And Allison was kind of a late bloomer. She was in her mid 30s when she landed the Americans, and that was her first TV role. And she was faulty when she made her Broadway debut in 2017. The next year, she did Shakespeare in the Park playing Amelia in Othello. And she’s just really charming. She’s a great interview in my experience.

S3: The Americans is what helped make you and Alison right fan. And right now you have Snowpiercer. Yeah, Snowpiercer. The television show began life as Snowpiercer. The movie it did.

S1: So this TV show, which premieres on May 17th, is based on Bong Joon Ho’s 2013 movie of the same name, which itself is based on a French graphic novel from the early 1980s. The TV show takes this same premise, but gives it an entirely different spin. It’s not the same story. It’s the same setting. It’s the same idea. But if you’ve seen the movie, you will not be watching something you already saw.

S3: And the story is that there is a train circling the globe. It has a thousand and one cars. And all of humanity is surviving inside of this train.

S1: That’s exactly right. This is that is also the premise of the TV show. But from that starting point, they take it in a different direction from the movie.

S3: While I’m personally very proud of myself for actually having seen that movie, because, like I mentioned, I have a lot of blind spots. And now after hearing you talk about Alison, I’m very excited to watch the show. This is the kind of insight that I’m missing. And all of our social distance is running into somebody like you and hearing like, oh, you’ve got to watch this. So I’m very excited to listen to this conversation.

S1: So my excuse for talking to you today is your role in the new TNT series Snowpiercer, which premieres on May 17th and is based on Bong Joon Ho’s 2013 movie. We’ll talk about the show in a minute. But I know from Instagram that you’ve been in British Columbia for a long time. Is that because of Snowpiercer?

S4: Well, we shoot here in Vancouver. And yes, I’ve been here for a while now and I’m hanging out here for a little bit longer to avoid coming home to New York for a little while. Yeah. Yeah, I’ll be coming home soon. But just this is literally one of the most beautiful places that I’ve ever spent time. So I’m quite happy to just hang out here for a little while till I feel like, you know, it’s a bit less crazy at home.

S1: I’m very curious about the way that you shoot the series, because, you know, it’s it’s about life on a train that just keeps circling and never stops. Those nowon cars long. How how do you actually shoot it?

S5: They have four stages up there.

S4: It’s incredible. And they have different bits of the train and all of those stages. Some of the sets are just a little corridor or some are a couple of cars linked together and some are even. A huge section of the length of the train. That’s like four or five cars long. So you can peg it down. You can really run and you’re running like, you know, for a good while. And you can see all the way down the cars to where where in the far in the distance, which is, you know, the best to work with. So you really feel like, you know, and I’m sure, you know, it looks amazing. So there’s different bits of the train all over these four massive stages. And they do this rather cruel thing as well for some reason and move them around sometimes. So it is impossible to know where you’re going and to find the right bit of the train that you’re looking for to shoot on because they’re always building different cars, you know, and repurposing certain cars. So it’s a constantly moving, changing thing. The sets are, yeah, phenomenal.

S1: You know, keeps you focused, I guess. Keeps you guessing. Makes it. I just lost and frustrated. One or the other. So as I mentioned earlier, the new TV version is based on the movie. But there are quite a few differences. Your character isn’t quite the same as any of the people in the movies, is it? Tell me about Ruth. Who is she?

S4: Ruth is fantastic. I love it. Yes. There are no characters that are. Directly lifted from the film or the graphic novels. It’s all an amalgamation in a sort of reimagining very much within the same world, of course. But there’s no direct transplants from either version of the story into Oz. My character, Ruth, has a lot for those. The fans of the film has quite a few similarities with Minister Mason, which is the character that Tilda Swinton played in the movie, but is very much her own person, too.

S5: She works in the hospitality department. She is primarily responsible for taking care of passengers and making sure everything runs smoothly, whatever that entails. Jennifer Connolly’s character is called Melanie Cavel and she is the head of hospitality. And Ruth, you know, of course, Jennifer is as Melanie is this cool, calm and collected, perfect face of beauty and grace of hospitality. And Ruth is the shadow side of that, sanctimonious by nature and believes in following the rules and believes in the need for order. Of course, when we start the show where we pick up where seven years in and I think things have been going pretty well for Ruth before that things have been smooth, especially in the in the first half of the train. Anyway, I think the first s and the second glass cars. Yeah, well really it’s everywhere except the tail. It’s everywhere except the part of the train where they weren’t supposed to be any people. You know that. So that the having the tail on the train has disrupted that status quo. And when we start the story there, there’s a big event that happens that really disrupts that status quo in a way that they haven’t known in all of these seven years. And so she’s thrown into a real tizz right from the beginning when Graham Manson, our show runner, first pitched the character to me. He described her as being. Insecure, easily flustered. Sanctimonious, but funny. So those were all fantastic descriptors for me to run with. And and she’s a lot of fun to play.

S1: No, I know from having spoken with you before about when you did the Americans when you were on Broadway. And when you did feud on ethics, that you really you really enjoy the preparation for a role like finding the specific personality of this character. What did you do for Ruth?

S5: Well, this was a real gift, the way that Graham presented this character to me, because originally in the we’ve had two sort of versions of the show. And in the prior version, I was a different character completely. Oh. So when Graham came to pitch me this new character that he would like me to play. He really gave him in a way that’s never happened before. He gave me the tenants of our personality. Like I said earlier, that she’s, you know, very easily flustered, highly strung, insecure, darkly funny. And so because I had all of those descriptors, it was a different sort of experience to flesh her out. I felt like I had a really great idea from the get go. In a way that I never had before. You know, sometimes most of the time, rather, as an actor, you have the information about what you say and then what you do, but not about. What your character deeply believes inside and what their opinions are. You often have to garner that from the information that you have and try and put it together. But because he gave me on a platter who she was, in essence, it was it’s been an entirely different experience.

S1: You mentioned that Ruth is not the character that Tilda Swinton played in the movie. And I’m really glad of that because I hated that character so profoundly. I didn’t understand why she had to have a northern English accent, except, of course, that she was unattractive and she was wearing some really bad fake teeth like it was. I was insulted on so many levels and I just didn’t see the point of it. I didn’t understand why she was doing that, because there was no background. It is a movie, OK? And she was just one character. And also, you know, just baggage. You know that British television and movies often mistreat Northern characters. But Ruth didn’t seem that way. And I loved that she had a backstory. Of course, it’s television. There are more episodes. But like she was a BMB owner from Kendall, like, did you contribute to that? I mean, how did a showrunner know about BMB owner and Kendel when he first pitched it to me?

S5: He said that she’s he was interested in me playing a character that was sort of more like the character that of Minister Mason in the movie. And I was very excited by that because because it takes it’s an exciting opportunity, you know, to springboard from. And then he started talking about what he would like her to sound like, you know, and then we thought about that for a little bit. And I you know, of course, I grew up in the Lake District. My mom is born and bred there and all of that side of my family. And I think that there’s a great because he wanted her to be funny. I think there’s a great warmth and. Sort of not naivete, but. Something that’s naturally funny in there because of the music of the language. At first I thought about should she be Australian was my first idea. Because I think there’s a lot of natural humor in that language, too. Just the rhythm of it. Yeah, you can say some things. Sort of. That’s. You mean to be innocuous, but it just sounds funny because of the rhythm of the speech, you know? So actually, that’s right. My first idea was that she was Australian. And then Graham told me that he’d actually written a character that was called The Last Australian. So I thought, oh, well, that’s that idea out the window. Thanks very much. And I was really quite Murree to you know, I was excited about being Australian. So that was out the window. So then I thought we went back closer to the idea of because it’s in the world of one Tilda did in the film. Yeah. But it’s also very specific to me and something that I know very well in the terms of not just in terms of like executing it, but yet what I could add to the character by her sounding like that, you know. So then we we did that.

S1: You know, I’m not I think of myself, we’ve been really good with accents, but I can’t tell if. Ruth’s accent is your natural accent. You’re your real voice, as it were. Or is that an accent that you kind of created from other influences?

S5: Well, it’s sort of like I think it’s them. I was trying to, you know, why do I put it? And I was taping some of my anti’s and Kendel and listening to them. And it’s just it’s too much. It wouldn’t work for television like it. So, like, they hit all the notes that there are on a stage when they’re talking, you know? And I just think it would be too too much on the air to do it like that. So I wanted to soften it a little bit and make it a bit more accessible.

S6: Mr. Wolf, we just got four scripts before.

S5: The energy always provides. And so it’s definitely like I was thinking Westmorland, Cumberland, Lancashire, you know? So definitely around there, around that area, close to Kendall, closer to Kendall. But yes, she does say that at some point she had to be in being Kendall. But I didn’t want to stickered just specifically that. And also, she depending on who she’s talking to, she tries to speak a bit, you know, with a bit less of an accent or if she’s more upset, it comes out a bit more.

S1: I do have a thing about, you know, the way that northern English people are kind of often either a figure of fun or evil or whatever in British shows. And I do think that when you go to England, you see British actors, they’re basically at least the white ones anyway, are put into two categories, is either posh actors or common actors like they always get those roles. There are very few people who do both kinds of roles. But is that something that you were aware of as that?

S5: Yeah, I mean, it’s such a bore, isn’t it? It’s such a boring thing that as somebody who doesn’t have a standard I mean, see, even I don’t like seeing that expression. Yeah, I like St Standard. But anyone who has any sort of regional accent or flavour is shoved into this via the class system shoved into this box of like like as you said, you wouldn’t see somebody with a really strong regional accent who is playing someone in a position of power. Right. On a TV show. Right. Or film would they would have to be. They couldn’t just speak like that with and have it not be addressed. Mm hmm. You know, that couldn’t just be a part of the character. It’s a really boring limitation of England. And one of the reasons why I love America. Yeah. But I don’t feel I don’t feel flattened or deflated in that way. And I think Game of Thrones and shows like that about having more regional sounding voices. Yeah. But it’s it’s a limitation that we have in England. Definitely. And the I the ridiculous idea that it’s tied to intelligence or integrity is just so basic.

S1: One thing I’m really curious about, too, Ruth, is someone who wears a uniform. In one episode, we see her on her day off and she’s in her own clothes then. Very nice, very stylish clothes without too. How much do clothes affect the way you play a role? Did you approach Ruth differently when she was in uniform or from when she was in her own clothes?

S5: Yes, because, you know, I think Ruth is a person who she in this within this whole story, you don’t really see or pondering the existential crisis. She’s at work and she’s got a job to do, you know, and she is proud of her job and loves her job. And I think life is better for her on the train than it was before. And her uniform is quite stiff and proper, and she always carries herself the way that she thinks she should and how she should appear in it. You know, you don’t see her sitting down. You don’t see her slouching. She’s very proud to wear that uniform, very proud to represent Mr. Wolfert, who she considers to be the saviour of humanity, which he kind of is. I mean, our story it’s funny that we got you get to see her that one time on her day off. Yeah. You get to see her very relaxed, much more relaxed, you know, with Commander Grey. And I love that they have they have a really relaxed, familiar relationship with each other because they think they’re from similar backgrounds. She’s very different around him. On her day off than she is around anybody else on the train. She doesn’t have to perform for him because I think she sees who he is or who he could have been before the train, before he was this sort of SS guard that he is now. I think they connect in a way that takes them both back to who they were before the train. Mm hmm. That’s really nice.

S1: You were an actor before you came to America, but you came to America to become a better actor, right? That’s pretty unusual given like the perceived quality of British acting training places like Rawda. Is that true? And how did it come about?

S5: Well, you know, I went to did musical theatre in Newcastle. A Newcastle College of Performing Arts. And there wasn’t really any sort of opportunity up there to do anything.

S7: I had done started off singing and dancing when I was little, just, you know, started off with a tap class on top of the cricket club. It was very much a Billy Elliot all the way. And then so it was all dancing, which led to me doing pantomimes. But as you know, want mimes in England are in Broadway houses, you know, and there it shows a week of massive, huge production value. And then so when I was doing musical theatre at 18 in Newcastle, when we. Start had they like real acting? Acting segment of the program. I learned about Stanislavski and through him, Lee Strasberg and that there were two schools to learn the method. And the method really appealed to me in the sense of the psychological aspect. And using your own life to create this, you know, method of using and I thought it was it was very exciting. I, I think I felt very shut out from the south of England and very different and separate in a way that we were just talking about in terms of the accent and the limitations. You know, I felt held back and less than and not good enough, you know. And then so it was but it was in finding out about the method that I thought, oh, my God, that sounds really exciting. And then I found out that there were two schools. And then I happened to be going to on holiday to New York with a friend for a few days. And so I went into Lee Strasberg in New York and had an audition, got a place, and then just went straight there while bypassing England, the method.

S1: So I’m very curious about this. Mm hmm. What does the method mean to you?

S5: To me, it’s you know, you hear a lot of different, conflicting, far fetched theories about what the method is and how it’s used to excuse just ridiculous behavior and whatnot. To me, the best way that I can explain it is the method is something to use when you can’t. Figure it out on your own. Mm hmm. It’s perhaps the writing is not good.

S7: And you need to, let’s say, hit certain emotional states. And if the writing is good, it’s in the writing and it does it for you. But if it’s not, you need to come up with a little trick to use to get you there. So it’s all really about imagination. And it’s whatever those tips and tricks and those sense memories are that you can lean into your own particular memories and your attachments to whatever those things are. Could be a shoe box. Shoe box could do it for you. But you imbue that shoe box and you work on all the memories that you have that are associated with it, whatever that may be that it makes you think. And then that’s one of your tools in your pocket to go, oh, OK. I need to have a breakdown right here. This writing is terrible. I’m not going to do it. OK. Let’s go to the shoe box and then you’ll be on to do it.

S1: It’s curious that you kind of link it to imagination, that the more imaginative you are, the more, you know, better work you can do.

S5: That’s that’s really, really interesting because it it only happens inside our heads. Right. Now, the actor doesn’t really have anything else. They might have a prop or something to use in the moment. But everything that you’re doing only comes from. Inside your head, the decisions that you make in men, the associations that you make. It’s all in your imagination.

S1: You’re somebody who just is very clear. You have a lot going on in your mind. You’ve prepared your you know, making your associations. You have a vision of a character. But, you know, and this reminds me of something that one of my co-host said a few weeks ago, that actors are both the painter and the paint. You’re the instrument and the music. But you’ve done all that prep. You get your instrument ready. But then, you know, there are other people who kind of decide what you are gonna do. You know, the director might come in and say, why did you write like that at the beginning of this conversation when you had to get to that place at the end? You know what I mean? Like, just to. There would be like a question or maybe a contradiction of something that you set up for yourself. And in TV, there might be multiple would be multiple directors doing that. Does that ever cause conflict between what you’ve created and what they tell you to do?

S7: Oh, sure. Sure, yeah. But then it’s a sign that you’re not on the same page about what the what the story is or you know, you often might have a different idea of how it’s gonna go. Like you said. And then there’s right to comes in and thinks it’s something else. And then you if you trust them, you know, you can give it do it that way. Some people are not capable of doing that. And, you know, they’ve they’re willing to do what they have decided that it is. But ideally, in an ideal situation, it’s back and forth and it’s give and take. And, you know, it’s it’s alive and moving. And I’ve had quite a few times on this show where I’ve been pleasantly surprised and gone, oh, well, I, I kind of thought we all thought it was this. You think it’s that. Okay. All right. Let’s try that. And then what. Oh wow. That’s amazing. It’s that you know, that’s that’s the best, the best situation where there is some where there is trust.

S1: Again, because I know I spent a lot of time with the Americans and was particularly fond of it. I still think of Martha. I still think of, you know, people in that show. So I’m I’m curious how actors who, you know, we’re even closer to them spent much more time than I did. Like when you’ve been in a role for a while. I guess it was for the four and a bit years on the Americans, two seasons so far on Snowpiercer. Like, do they become part of your life? I mean, do you still think of Martha?

S5: Is she still with you or is that it’s just a job and you move on to the next thing? At first, when you first up for me, it’s weird to let them go, you know, and not be them again. I picture Martha a lot in my mind. I picture I got work and but I think I you know, and it’s amazing how many people say to me what you just said, June, that they sort of still think about her in the sense that they still worry about her and worry that she’s all right. And they’re imagining they’re projecting forward to imagine what her life is now, you know. That, to me, feels pretty incredible and very rewarding to think that we’ve created somebody that is still affecting people now and they still have a need to think about our desire to think about taking care of our own, looking after. In a way, you know, that’s pretty incredible. But you do take Pott’s them with you. But from the Americans, to be honest, I took mostly some Elizabeth Jennings with me. Oh, my. I feel like yeah. I feel like I got some extra steel from watching that character. I thought she was just the bee’s knees. I loved your strength and I think I took some of her strength with me after that job. Yeah, well, it’s interesting. Certainly that resilience is there to.

S1: Is your career where you would like it to be right now?

S5: I’ll always take more. But I consider myself very lucky. I know I didn’t even think that you could be an actor for real. Yeah, I didn’t have any real life example of that around me at all growing up. Even once I’d come to New York, then it was like your, you know, 20 years old. You’re taking acting classes and stuff. But come on, what are the chances? And this is not something that just everybody gets to do. I kind of can’t believe that I’m getting to do it. And the opportunities that I’ve had for my first television show, the Americans, to do what it did, you know. And then I did Broadway and then I did Shakespeare in the park. And then now I’ve done other TV shows and now I’m getting to create this amazing British character on this TV show. It’s I feel incredibly lucky and I wouldn’t be surprised if it all goes away tomorrow. I’m very happy, but I would definitely take more.

S1: Yes, please. Let’s make that happen. Who’s your favorite actor? Is there somebody that you like?

S5: It’s easy. Daniel Day Lewis and Meryl Streep. What about them? You know, he is just next level. The amount of time he can be on screen without dialogue. Just living and behaving. Mm hmm. The editors must have be like on a part time schedule at work on his films. They’re not having to you know, they’re not having to magic anything. They’re not having to look through 10 takes to try and find something decent they can use or be on the back of his head instead. And, you know, be on another character because I think he’s probably just delivering. It’s like I imagine that it’s like he’s doing a play. There’s no fixing it, impost. He’s giving you the whole thing perfectly each time alive. Completely threw out each take all the time, is what it looks like. And what about Ms. Streep? Again, completely alive and always in a person that, you know, there’s that can be a lot of like, you know, you don’t want to be in a situation where you’re with actors that are only acting on their lines. She’s never just waiting to talk, you know, just like him. They’re never just waiting to talk. It takes a lot of it takes a lot of guts, actually, I think, to be fully alive all the time. I mean, every take. It’s not that common. You’re not surrounded by that very often. And I imagine it would be quite isolating to be like that all the time. But then again, people are probably at the top of their game that are working with them and are really, really making an effort. Yeah, you should think anyway, right? I would hope, yes. Yeah.

S1: Alison, you are the best. You are. You’re my Meryl Streep. You’re you’re one of my first addresses. You’re.

S3: Before we get into anything else, I just want to note how lovely it was to hear these two elegant voices in conversation. England’s accents always sound that way to the American ear. I think there’s some complicated thing about us being a colony. We’re like a younger sibling or something. And I was struck by what you and Alison discussed, how the accents, not necessarily her accent, but the accent as depicted in film or television, can be a way of redefining the existing and complicated class hierarchies in England, which is fitting because Snowpiercer is, among other things, about class.

S1: It really is. And as Alison said, this is the first time that she’s playing an English character and using an English accent. And I loved hearing how she picked that particular accent and how she kind of calibrated it, you know, not to singsongy but singsong Gai a little bit Brits are really good at identifying accents. And from that spotting exactly where people are from, what their class background is. And if you spent your evenings on my couch watching British TV, you would be subject to my rants, because any time a Northern character shows up in a show that isn’t set in the north could pretty much guarantee that they’re either a murderer or dumb as dirt or both, maybe. And Britain’s North-South divide, which is in large part, of course, a proxy for class, is a huge, seemingly intractable problem. And as Alison put it so well, it’s just boring. And the showrunner, Sally Wainwright, really is a notable exception to this. She deserves a lot of praise for that. She’s made a habit of casting northern actors, specifically Northern women who’ve spent most of their careers in downmarket northern soap operas, in her shows. And almost without fail, they reveal themselves to be outstanding actors. I’m talking about shows like Scott and Bailey, Gentleman, Jack, Happy Valley, Last Tango in Halifax. I recommend all those shows, none of which star Allison. Right. But they’re all really great northern shows that don’t have people being idiots or murderers.

S3: I was very excited to hear you and Allison discuss the method, and I think you’re excited to ask her about that. It reminded me that acting is just such a strange art. And I think when it’s mitigated by the screen, whether it’s television or film, you lose some of that sense of weirdness of these are just people pretending to be other people. She talks about a cardboard box. Yeah, it sort of sounded metaphorical, but I think it’s also kind of literal, like she’s talking about like a physical objects that connects her as a performer to the psyche of the person she’s pretending to inhabit.

S1: My understanding that correctly, I guess a cardboard box, of course, is just an example. But, yeah, what a fascinating connection between acting as an act of imagination that you imbue an object with certain feelings, with certain experiences that you can then call on. What a bizarre but also apparently incredibly effective method. You know, I do genuinely think that Alison is one of our great, if not our most heralded but really wonderful actors. And if that’s what she’s doing, you know, we should all be buying a cardboard box.

S3: And if it works for her, it works for her. It is hard to imagine someone who is not a performer. You know, how you you know, it’s one thing to mouth a few lines, but how you summon a whole emotional response of confusion or dismay or joy or whatever and make it seem convincing. And the idea that somewhere in her mind she has that stored in some tangible object and that she reaches into it mentally and comes out with this sort of magic act. That’s really quite amazing. And it’s really interesting to hear her talk through that a little bit. Absolutely. And yeah, I think magic really is the right word. I was struck and listening to this conversation by your very clear affection for Alison as a performer when you’re working as a journalist in this capacity. I don’t think objectivity is an issue. And in fact, I think your enthusiasm for Alison’s work informs the conversation that you had. It helps you. June Thomas. Get something in, Alison. The subject. Do you think you’ve learned more about her as a person and as an artist?

S1: I do. And I have to say, this is an area where I’m very glad to work at Slate, where I don’t have to pretend like total neutrality. Alison and I are not buddies. We don’t hang out. But I also do feel a connection with her. I like her. I like the way she thinks. I like how she thinks about her work and how she talks about her work. And I also I admit and I think maybe this is perhaps at the center of it. I love having a chance to talk with someone from the north of England, northern people. Tend to be very down to earth, very dry and to be very direct. And I just enjoy getting to do that with someone for my job. I don’t get to talk to many other northern people. And so both getting to do it and getting to do it for work. I mean, that’s the ideal scenario. Right.

S3: And kind of a refreshing change of pace for somebody in the entertainment business, generally, a business where so often performers can’t shake out of their performative mode and can’t stop kind of giving pat answers or sort of just performing the role of actor being interviewed as opposed to just letting themselves actually be interviewed.

S1: You know, I don’t know. It’s funny. It’s weird to talk about an interview subject giving authenticity because. Well, isn’t that what an interview is? But everything is a performance. And I think Allison is a very authentic interview subject.

S3: I mentioned before that I’ve never seen the Americans for sure. And I was wondering if you had any similar embarrassing cultural blind spots that you have to confess to or whether there’s anything on your true watch list or you’re to read pile at the moment. That is just something that you’ve missed in the years past.

S1: Oh, my goodness. This reminds me of the game humiliation from David Lodge’s novel Changing Places, which is set in the academic world. One of the characters describes humiliation as follows. The essence of the matter is that each person names a book which he hasn’t read, but assumes that others have read and scores a point for every person who has read it. I hate to recommend this game.

S3: It is great fun party game if we ever go to parties again. Exactly.

S1: For your next Zouma party. Yeah, but Hamlet or To Kill a Mockingbird would be the ultimate humiliation admissions. I think there’s so much that I haven’t read or watched or heard. I’ve become really lazy about movies and music in the last few years. But it’s always good to keep something in reserve too, for a rainy quarantine day. I haven’t watched Deadwood on HBO, despite the fact that I think I’d like it a lot. So maybe next week. Who knows? You’ve mentioned the Americans, but is there something that you already have started tackling in quarantine times?

S3: There is not something specific that I’ve started tackling, although there’s plenty that I have not seen. But what I think I’m going to do is I’m finally going to cave to peer pressure and subscribe to the Criterion channel and catch up on some of the kind of seminal. Works of cinema. You know, from the history of the medium. There’s just so much that I haven’t seen. I had a weird itch the other day to watch the movie Short Cuts. Robert Altman’s movie was written by Ravis. And that’s only available on Criterion. And I thought, you know what? I should just subscribe and I should watch your cuts and I should watch Nashville and I should watch MASH and I should watch three women and I should just sort of bone up on Aultman and, you know, all of the other great filmmakers, because, I mean, there is a lot I haven’t seen if I were going to play a round of David Lodge’s humiliation. I think that where I would begin is by admitting that I have never seen the movie Pulp Fiction. There’s really a lot I have to catch up on. When this is finally over, we’ll have no excuses. Exactly. We’ll all have read Moby Dick.

S1: Oh, that’s a painful one for me as a former American studies major who never got past like maybe page 50. That’s one that’s really hanging over my head. So one of the things we’d love to do with this show is to help solve your creative problems, listeners. So if you have any questions at all about the creative process, whether you’re trying to write a novel or a postcard to a friend, or maybe you want to write more elegant code, please send them to working at Slate dot com. And if and when we can, we’ll put those questions to our guests.

S2: And if you enjoy the show, please consider signing up for Slate plus Slate. Plus, members get benefits like zero ads on any Slate podcast. Bonus episodes of shows like Slow Burn and Share Prudence and you’ll be supporting the work we do here on working. It’s only thirty dollars for the first year and you can get a free two week trial now at Slate dot com slash working plus.

S1: Thank you to Allison Wright for being our guest this week. An enormous thanks to our producer, Cameron Drewes.

S2: We’ll be back next week for a conversation I had with Sheena Wagstaff, a curator at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Thanks for listening. Now get back to work.