Mosaic’s “Children of a Con Artist” Offer a Fresh Perspective
HBO: What intrigued you most about Mosaic?
Jennifer Ferrin: The way Steven filmed it and the way it was written from different perspectives. Fred and I would have a scene, and it would first be from Eric’s perspective, and then we’d turn around and do Petra’s perspective.
Fred Weller: Same place, same event, different dynamic. To show how two people have completely different impressions of the same moment. [Feigning academic accent] So are we saying reality is, in fact, a mystery that will never be solved and is entirely subjective? The real “whodunnit” is liiife.
HBO: I’m trying to figure out how I’ll capture the accent in writing.
Jennifer Ferrin: Italics. Italics and a little mustache emoji.
HBO: Were you conscious of Mosaic’s complicated web of perspective while in production?
Jennifer Ferrin: As we were filming, I didn’t quite know what was happening. We have hundreds of pages of dialogue. You’d go to shoot it, and it would be Scene 72-E (for Eric), then Scene 72-P (for Petra). You just had to trust.
Fred Weller: And sometimes the dialogue for those two versions would be slightly different, which is actually harder than learning a whole new scene. Because you’re saying the same words, but you have to change it just a little bit here and there.
HBO: Both of your characters are highly perceptive when it comes to reading people—
Fred Weller: Children of a con artist.
HBO: How did that fact inform your performance and the dynamic between your two characters?
Jennifer Ferrin: Not just a con artist father, but a mother who is so hypercritical. There’s a scene where Petra and her mother are watching Petra’s interview in "The Heart of Homicide" [the television series within Mosaic that covers Olivia Lake’s murder] and her mother goes, “You wore that sweater?” To be under such scrutiny creates children who are also very hypercritical of the outside world.
Fred Weller: If you’ve got two parents, and the cool one — who’s nicer to you — is a con artist, it’s interesting what that does to your head. The dynamics of the story, the dynamics between the characters, and the richness of the characters all create this fantastic drama, with or without a murder mystery.
HBO: When Eric is first arrested, Petra is convinced of his guilt. What do you think drives her four years later to dig into the events around Olivia’s death?
Jennifer Ferrin: I think having a mother who was so hypercritical is a reason Petra is so set on getting to the bottom of the murder. She thinks, “I got this wrong before. I have to get it right.” Not necessarily for Eric. There’s so much pain there. I think she needs to get it right for herself.
HBO: Is there a scene in Mosaic that you think best encapsulates the fraught relationship between Petra and Eric?
Jennifer Ferrin: I remember the moment we meet in prison, and Fred says something like, “Don’t give me the stone face.” He goes from being so rightfully angry to “Don’t leave me, don’t abandon me.” Ugh, it gets me.
Fred Weller: That scene was actually shot in a prison with a real glass divider, and we couldn’t hear each other except through the phone. There was no way to fake it. You actually couldn’t hear through the divider. It felt very real.
HBO: To your mind, what makes Mosaic unique as a story?
Jennifer Ferrin: I feel like it goes back to what we were talking about regarding perspective. Steven uses the camera to give the audience perspective. There is a shot where Joel [played by Garrett Hedlund] and I are in the bar, and Steven’s trained the camera on the back of Joel’s head and I’m blurry—
Fred Weller: The whole time it’s on you, and you think, “This is my coverage.” And it’s just the back of his head!
Jennifer Ferrin: But that tells you something completely different. As Petra’s talking, you’re forced to go into Joel’s head. It gives me chills as I talk about it because that’s the magic of taking something that’s a murder mystery, from different perspectives, being shot by Steven Soderbergh. That’s the way he tells stories.
Fred Weller: On both the app and the linear version, you have to decide what you’re paying attention to. You’re making decisions. There are so many different dramatic tunnels you could go down as a viewer.