Maggie Gyllenhaal Wants 'Honorable Woman' to Spark Gaza Talk: 'I Am Hungry for That' (Q&A)

 

A version of this story first appeared in the Aug. 8 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine.

Sundance TV's Middle East-focused spy thriller The Honorable Woman premieres amid hostilities in Gaza.

Here, star Maggie Gyllenhaal tells THR why she thinks the series will get people talking about the crisis in a positive way.

Did you approach this role differently from how you would a film role?

I'm always trying to get away from the movie rhythm whenever I'm working. I'm looking for what's underneath that, which is how humans actually behave versus how they behave in the movies. We're used to, three-quarters of the way through a movie, your antagonist and protagonist meet, or your heroine is going to show you her heart a little and cry. [But] when it's eight hours [like this miniseries], you can't hold onto that rhythm even if you want to.

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How did you enjoy picking up a British accent again?

My dialect coach, who had worked with me on [Nanny McPhee Returns and Hysteria], recommended this woman Sandra Butterworth. [Butterworth] said: "OK, you know how to do an English accent. Now just relax." I credit her with helping me take it to a place where it felt like breathing, instead of, "I'm doing an accent."

What was the biggest challenge on this shoot?

The hardest thing was working on this and having two little kids. You come home from work, and even if I had a husband and a nanny and my mom was there sometimes, still they want you. You have to make dinner and give them a bath and put them to sleep.

Has your work on this show changed your view of current events?

In many ways this feels like an impossible situation, and I do not mean by that that reconciliation isn't a possibility. I just mean it can be so difficult to have a conversation about what is happening in Israel and Palestine right now. [The show] very consciously does not take a side; it doesn't say, "We believe this, and we don't believe that." We lay out aspects of the conflict, and we ask the audience to think and feel for themselves. I'm really hungry for that, and I bet a lot of other people are too.

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The show is thought-provoking, but also has plenty of action.
 
It's almost like a wolf in sheep's clothing in that it looks like and on some level is a thriller with lingerie and motorcycles and guns and kidnappings and murders and the FBI and CIA and MI6. But underneath that, it is actually asking you to think and to feel. At this moment, I happen to be compulsively reading the news about what's happening there right now, but I also completely relate to and understand people who just can't look at it. I think maybe this piece of fiction can begin a kind of opening for thinking and feeling about something I think we really need to be thinking about.

The Honorable Woman premieres Thursday at 10 p.m. on Sundance TV.

Email: Aaron.Couch@THR.com
Twitter: @AaronCouch

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