Interview With Richard Jenkins
What about the role of Henry appealed to you?
I liked the idea of living a life on screen, a whole 25 years. I thought the idea of that was really rare and fascinating.
Had you read the book prior to taking the role?
I had just started the book when [executive producer and star] Frances [McDormand] called and asked me to do it. I waited until we had finished shooting to go back and read it. Every chapter in the book is amazing. Every character is so rich and full.
Do you feel that there are challenges to working on a project based on a book?
There?s always challenges because the book is first, and a book like this is brilliant. When you?ve read the book and you watch the miniseries, you expect the book and it can?t be -- it?s two different animals. I think [screenwriter] Jane [Anderson] did a brilliant job in turning it into a film. I know it?s a miniseries, but that?s the way I see it: A four-hour movie. The spirit of the book is there, right down to the dishes we eat off of, to the cars we drive, to the flowers that Olive plants.
Are there any other book-based characters that you?d like to play someday?
I don?t think that way. I don?t have any projects that I?d like to do, or characters I?d like to play. I never have. I like not knowing what?s around the corner. It?s always been that way, and maybe that?s one of the reasons why I?m an actor. I?d like to play the whale in Moby Dick. If I keep eating, I may end up getting there.
Do you have any favorite scenes?
I love the phone calls with our son. I thought those were family phone calls, the way they really are. I worked with John Gallagher, Jr. [who plays adult son Christopher Kitteridge] during the rehearsal dinner and wedding scenes in part two, but the rest of my stuff with John was over the phone. It was a long distance relationship.
What is it about Denise Thibodeau that appeals to Henry?
It?s the positivity. She?s so sweet and innocent and everything that Olive is not. Henry has a crush on Denise because she needs him -- he hasn?t been ?needed? a lot in his life with Olive. He appreciates [Denise?s] vulnerability.
What do you make of Olive and Henry?s complicated relationship? Why do you think he stays with her?
He loves her. It?s also part of his upbringing: You make a commitment and you live up to it. You find a way. They?re in a very complicated, deep, emotional relationship. Olive says of Henry, after he?s dead, ?I think he was the perfect man. When he was alive, I couldn?t stand him sometimes.? And that?s part of life. In many ways, they?re both total opposites, but they give each other something the other one doesn?t have. Haven?t you known couples that were total opposites?
Well, they remind me a lot of my parents.
You?re not the first person to say that to me. When I was doing this part, I thought of my mom all the time, because my mother was the kindest person I knew growing up. She never got mad, if she did it was like, ?What are you doing Ma? It?s so wrong what you?re doing.? [Laughs.] My father was exactly like Olive, but he was kind of a pessimist, so they balanced each other very well.
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