How Mahershala Ali & Viggo Mortensen Bonded Long Before ‘Green Book’ | Close Up


(funky music) – Mahershala, Viggo, how do you actually form that rapport as actors? – We met over, about a year ago and about nine months
before we started shooting and we had that moment, funny enough, not knowing each other,
where we were just sort of both having this introverted moment at this big luncheon with a
bunch of amazing actors around and we were sort of, found
ourselves tucked in a corner and we spoke for a while
but I think that was the initial conversation that, I think, sort of peppered the
moment for us to meet later and to begin working and
having, at that moment not knowing we were going to
work together on something, and to connect and then
step into a project we’re about to start shooting, we got to sit down and sort
of share and communicate some of our concerns and fears and go through the script in a way that– – Can you tell me one of your fears? – Don Shirley is just so
different from me, physically, and so when you’re dealing
with someone who isn’t famous, who does not have a
presence in the culture in the way that, Don Shirley
was an accomplished man, accomplished pianist, but no
one really knew who he was. No one knew what he looked like. And so I got to see some tape on him, that he appeared in this
documentary call Little Bohemia and he’s in there just in moments and his voice, the pitch,
was quite a bit higher, it was like up here, you know? I couldn’t go there but I
could like dorp it enough where it wasn’t a distraction. – And refine it.
– And the physicality, you find, you’re kind of like tuning in, get your tuning fork right so
that it’s not a distraction to the audience so that they
can actually enjoy the story and not be distracted by a choice that they don’t have
anything to root it in. – Anything you learned
along the way surprised you? – I wasn’t aware of the
Green Book going into it but once I did my homework on that and that aspect of it, Don
Shirley resonated for me and the fact also that I
didn’t feel like that he, as an archetype, especially
within the black canon of characters, I didn’t
feel like he existed. If you take a gentleman
going back to the 1960s and who was educated and
had this degree of affluence and has this regal presence
and his interior struggle, like what he’s going through, what he’s not necessarily
trying to come to terms with but what the things that he
has to hide for his own good, the whole combination of things. I didn’t feel like I
had ever seen him before and not that present in a story. And so I wanted to step in to his shoes and offer that character
to the conversation. But within that car, within that Cadillac driving through the south, he’s in charge and he doesn’t need to go on this journey he chooses to go on this journey. Specifically to sort of make his offering and to make an impact on the perception and perspective of black
people, which was very limited not only in the south
but in the north as well, and but for him to go down
where the laws are different, was a different thing so
there’s a degree of empowerment, in this character that
I had never seen before. (funky music) With the way we talk about acting, the way we talk about the business, we really don’t talk about
the workman-like qualities within it and how you
really only actually act between action and cut, the rest of it is looking for material
or to prepping for it, to the wardrobe, the
costume elements of it, the building the psychology,
the getting ready for the piece itself. – And working on yourself
and trying to be ready. – Actually getting to act is so, it’s such a minuscule
part of the experience that you have to love it that much. And to have a real accurate portrait of what the work is really like. That’s not to say it isn’t great, cause it’s holistically,
it’s an amazing experience but there’s a real tax within it that you have to be
conscious of going within it and say, “Alright, I
love this so much that all these little aspects
that add up to make this the fuller experience, I’m okay with.” The time, the sacrifice
your family has, you know? – You don’t see em.
– You don’t see them and it asks a lot of the
people around you as well so we could do a better job of really helping folks understand what it is and sort of demystify it a bit so that it’s a little bit clearer as to like the work that goes
into building these characters and telling these stories
and how hard it is to actually do that well
or to have something that people actually want to go see and walk out the theater and say , “Wow that was a great experience.” But for me what’s most important, my relationship to this work
is honestly not about money, it is 100% about
connecting to these stories and these projects and these characters and these lives and as
soon as I don’t feel that I will not be doing it any longer. (funky music)