Ahead of the release of Mudbound, actress Lucy Faust spoke to Prestridge² about her role in the film, working with director Dee Rees and her passion for theatre.
Q: Mudbound is available on UK Netflix from November 27. What character do you play and what can British audiences expect from the film?
A: I PLAY a character named Vera Atwood. She and her husband are white sharecroppers on the property that the McAllan family owns. They live there with their small children.
Audiences can expect a powerful story that highlights the uglier history of its period, and in doing so will hopefully sow the seeds for discussion and betterment of our society today.
This film focuses on life in the Deep South during and after World War II, during a time when Jim Crow [and Jim Crow laws] was very much alive. It particularly addresses race relations, focusing on two soldiers (one white, one African American), who, after being lauded for their service to their country overseas, return home to their small Mississippi town to find a different environment.
The film also addresses the issues of gender, class, and family, and the overall universal human struggle to survive and belong.
Q: Did you enjoy working with director Dee Rees? What did you like about her style?
A: WORKING with Dee Rees was wonderful. She trusts her actors which in turn let me trust her and really give the best performance I could. She was always encouraging, calm, and focused which created a thoroughly productive working environment that I appreciated.
For my scenes, Dee would give me just the right amount of direction so that the scene would create itself organically and naturally based on what we brought to it.
She let me explore subtly different ways of delivering lines or moving in order to find just the right way which was really fun for me as an actor.
Q: Fellow Mudbound actress Carey Mulligan has spoken about her desire to seek out female directors. Was it important for you to work with a female director? Are we finally seeing the sprouts of diversity behind the camera in American cinema?
A: WORKING with a female director on this project was a great experience. I think that women have a unique point of view of the world and I am proud that this film was helmed primarily by women. I do think that we are beginning to move in a direction of more diversity behind the camera. I believe we have quite a long way to go, but projects like this are a wonderful vehicle by which to do so and a strong example to set for the future.
Q: You have been involved in many theatre productions. Can you tell us about your love for theatre?
A: OH gosh. How long do you have? – I am just kidding.
I fell in love with theatre at a young age. My mother says I sat enthralled through an entire production of Oliver when I was three years old, so perhaps it started then.
But the show that affected me on an incredibly deep level as a young girl was a local production of Man of La Mancha. It remains one of my favourite shows to this day.
I did plays all through elementary and high school and also branched out into community theatre. I segued from musicals to straight plays which I really enjoyed the most – Shakespeare, Ibsen and Tennessee Williams.
I studied theatre at Middlebury College and from there had the chance to do some shows in New York before moving back home to New Orleans where the theatre scene is quite vibrant. I had the opportunity to play some really wonderful roles including Juliet, Laura Wingfield and Annie Sullivan.
I owe my love of theatre – and acting in general – in great part to my older brother. He was a lighting designer and he worked on several shows that I saw as a child, including the production of ‘Man of La Mancha’ that was so life-changing for me.
He is no longer with us, but every show or film that I work on, he is a part of it for me – and so I hold these art forms especially dear.
Q: You played Cecily in Oscar Wilde’s The Importance of Being Earnest. We are excited about a run of the play at the Vaudeville Theatre this November. What are your memories of this production?
A: THE production was such a blast. A New Orleans theatre company called Skinhorse Theatre put it on and I do not think we made it through a single rehearsal without multiple laughing fits. I probably got a spectacular workout from all the laughing. I love Oscar Wilde, and speaking his wonderful words was such a delight. They just sparkle with wit.
We also had a ton of fun exploring the physical comedy that this play can present. Using blocking and movement to really illuminate the comedy in the dialogue was a blast.
I have to say, the woman who played our Lady Bracknell – a stunningly talented comedienne named Lynae Leblanc – had me in such stitches that I actually had quite a difficult time keeping a straight face during certain moments.
A couple of times I had to cover with giggles or flighty sneezing fits, which luckily worked with Cecily’s bubbly and dreamy manner. That production was full of wonderful energy and enjoyment and will always be a favorite of mine.
Q: You love to travel. Are there any dream locations for you to shoot a film? Also, how is your crystal animal collection coming along?
A: I WOULD be pretty happy filming anywhere that would require me to travel. But as far as dream locations go, I would love to film in the British countryside at some point. I have never been and the scenery is so lovely from what I have seen in photos.
I also think being in such a rich historical and literary setting would really jump-start creativity. Other dream locations that jump out at me to film in are French or Italian wine country, Prague, and Budapest.
I actually have not added to my crystal animal collection in quite some time. I think it is probably time to add to it. It is special to me and I need to find the next piece soon – I would love to find a hummingbird.
Q: You are also a fan of classic films. Are there any that you can recommend to our audience? Perhaps a few hidden gems you can suggest?
A: OH gosh, there are so many. But I will try to keep it short.
I would say that Harvey is one of my absolute favourites. It is based on a stage play and the film boasts several veterans of both stage and screen. Jimmy Stewart – whom I adore – has one particular monologue that is my favourite minute and a half of film ever.
Harvey focuses on the importance of kindness, of seeing the best in people and not judging each other. I think those are some of the most important principles in life.
I would also recommend Notorious, a Hitchcock movie starring Claude Rains, Ingrid Bergman, and Cary Grant- it is a grippingly dangerous story of love and espionage.
Double Indemnity is a great one with Fred MacMurray, Barbara Stanwyck and Edward G. Robinson.
Ann Blyth’s performance in Mildred Pierce is exquisitely poisonous, definitely worth the film.
I could go on for days about this, so I will leave it at these!
Q: What are your ambitions for the future? Is there anyone you aspire to or would love to work with?
A: I JUST hope to keep working steadily in the field that I love – and to keep learning and growing in knowledge, ability, and experience. I am lucky to be working with really wonderful agents who encourage me every step of the way.
I have great admiration for Kate Winslet. I like the projects she chooses, the broad scope in which she has worked. I also remember – I believe I read this a couple of years ago – that she does not allow her photos to be re-touched or altered. That was such a wonderful example for such an established actress to set – and it had a strong effect on me, a young actress far away in New Orleans. I will always appreciate that.
An absolute dream come true would be to work someday with Tony Shaloub. He has always been one of my favourite actors and I have such respect for his work.
Q: Lastly, do you have any upcoming projects that you can tell us about?
A: YES, there are a couple of things on the horizon. A film called The True Don Quixote which was shot in Louisiana and is a modern re-telling of Cervantes’ tale of Don Quixote.
It stars the talented and kind Tim Blake Nelson. I believe it is in post-production now.
Another film, Assassination Nation, is slated for a 2018 release. Written and directed by Sam Levinson, it is a thriller about a breach of internet privacy.
I also just did a small role on a film called Out of Blue, written and directed by Carol Morley and starring Patricia Clarkson.
Photo by Jackson Beals