TV Stars Reveal Secrets to Small Screen Success

Issue 56A - Golden Globes Preview: Kenneth Branagh in Wallander
Courtesy of BBC for Masterpiece

Kennth Branagh, Michael Pitt and Eric Stonestreet on the challenges of working with child actors, for Martin Scorsese and eating Swedish herring.

Kenneth Branagh
Kurt Wallander on Wallander

Branagh finds his character’s food preferences a little distasteful.

“It’s really hard to eat Swedish herring on set. I love all things Swedish -- except herring. My Swedish friends tell me that to be authentic, I have to eat it, and the Swedes pickle their herring in two distinct fashions -- both of which require a stomach lining of plutonium. Now that the crew knows I hate this herring, they’ve found ways to slip it into each of the six films we’ve done so far. Look, the Swedes have given many beautiful things to the world -- including great tennis players and ABBA -- but not herring.”

Michael Pitt
James Darmody on Boardwalk Empire

Making Boardwalk Empire was a snap compared with auditioning for Martin Scorsese.

“Working with Marty raised the bar for me. It was good, hard work -- and it was fun. I auditioned for him at the Waldorf-Astoria in New York, where he was staying. He said, ‘I think you should try it angrier.’ So I did it more angry, and then he was like, ‘Yeah, even a bit angrier.’ So I did it again and asked how it was, and he was like, ‘I still think it should be a little more angry.’ So then I went into a corner and was punching in the air and screaming ‘Motherf---!’ and then I came over and did the scene with drool coming out of my mouth. He said, ‘That’s a good place -- to start.’ ”

Eric Stonestreet
Cameron Tucker on Modern Family

Stonestreet plays half of a gay couple that has adopted a daughter.

“We had a scene where Lily [Ella and Jaden Hiller] hits Mitchell [Jesse Tyler Ferguson] in the face. How do you get a 2-year-old to hit somebody in the head? We had a fake baby arm doing it that was sewn in her costume. She was really confused about where this third arm was coming from. It ends up with the assistant director on the ground, slapping Jesse while she’s looking the other way. I jokingly said to the writers, ‘Are we going to teach her how to do the three-card monte?’ Then they wrote an episode with her playing the harmonica.”