Such is the case with next month's August: Osage County. Roberts teamed up with Meryl Streep, Ewan McGregor, and Dermot Mulroney for the screen adaptation of the Tony-winning play. She gets to go head-to-head with Streep, who plays her pill-popping mother. The movie itself may be filled with drama, but on set it was all love — or so she says.
What was it like coming together with such a sprawling A-list cast?
"We spent a lot of time together and getting to know each other. We didn’t know each other at all when it started, and by the time that we began filming, I felt very familiar and entangled with these girls in way that seemed correct for sisters, and had made just enough happy experiences with them and had a couple of appropriate sisterly like, 'really, that’s what you’re wearing?' kind of moments where I felt like it was all going to fall into place."
How did you prepare for your part?
"I guess some people write diaries or backstories — I liken it to channeling. Just kidding — but kind of not kidding. But, no, I feel like when I first read this script my heart just swelled and I completely understood everything about the character. What one is not proud of is all relative. What she is not proud of could be nothing to someone else. People’s pain is so individual.
But, I feel like as an actor, to be in touch with all those emotions of shame, anger, your lust, your joy, those are sort of like your watercolors. I have to validate [playwright] Tracy [Letts] and [director] John [Wells] while we’re here. First of all, John gave us this beautiful environment to put out what we needed to create these roles. He was very consistent as a temperament, like really lovely and easy to work with and perform with. He gave us a rehearsal period, which is really a luxury on film these days.
And, Tracy Letts, his writing, I was so floored. You’ve seen the state of cinema today. This was something that comes once in a while. His characters are so strong. They just leap off the page. I understood Karen and her delusion and denial and all those things."
Is she a realist?
"I’m always struggling between being a realist or an idealist. Somebody said you can be both, but it depends."
She spends maybe a little too much time flirting with a man who may be her future brother-in-law.
"I would like to speak about Dermot. Dermot and I have been friends since My Best Friend’s Wedding. We became great pals then, and when he called me that he had gotten a part in this, we squealed like little girls, both of us, and were so excited for each other and to be back together.
And, with everybody, but in particularly Dermot, even when he had a day off, would come run lines with me before I went to work at six o’clock in the morning, which he traded for a cup of coffee. And, just the whole time feeling so supported by my old friend. He would come to work and watch scenes that I was in and just kind of support me in that way. It was beautiful to have each other in that way, especially when we were all away from our families and forging new relationships. It was just nice to have my rock steady there. It was great."
Was it hard to put aside all the vitriol between you and Ms. Streep when the cameras stopped rolling?
"We hugged a lot. I always had to look her right in the eye before we parted ways. We’re all good? Just kidding, right?"
Where will your character wind up after the credits roll?
"I don’t want to say where I’m going because I think that more than any person in the piece, Barbara, in the end, everyone that I’ve responded to says, 'Oh, I know exactly what she’s thinking, exactly where she’s going and what she’s going to do.' And, I haven’t heard the same answer twice. I don’t want to spoil it for anybody.
Karen, to me, represents so many people in life and women and people I met. She could go one of two ways. They’re going to fight on the trip, no doubt. He might hit on the waitress, and then he might buy her a present, and then they might fall back into it. I don’t know; she might yo-yo up, and then she might have an epiphany. She’s not going to have an epiphany. Maybe she could. She should."