(L to R) Dianna Agron and Simon Helberg in ‘As They Made Us.’
The film stars Dianna Agron (‘Glee’) as Abigail, a single mother who is forced to care for her dying father, Eugene (Dustin Hoffman). The experience brings out hidden emotions from her troubled childhood, including her resentment towards her abusive father and over bearing mother, Barbara (Candice Bergan).
Now, with her father’s condition worsening, Abigail must locate her estranged brother Nathan (Simon Helberg), who turned his back on them years ago, in order to bring her family back together one last time.
Actress and singer Dianna Agron first gained attention for her role as Quinn Fabray on ‘Glee,’ but has also been featured on other hit TV shows like ‘Veronica Mars,’ and ‘Heroes.’ On the big screen she has appeared in such popular films as ‘Burlesque,’ ‘I Am Number Four,’ ‘The Family’ and ‘Ralph Breaks the Internet.’
Moviefone recently had the pleasure of speaking with Dianna Agron about her work on ‘As They Made Us.’ The popular actress discussed her new movie, her character, playing Dustin Hoffman’s daughter, reuniting with Candice Bergan, creating a brother/sister relationship with Simon Helberg, and being directed by Mayim Bialik.
Dianna Agron promoting ‘As They Made Us.’
Moviefone: To begin with, can you talk about your character Abigail, and her unusual relationship to her family?
Dianna Agron: Yeah, it’s a complex one. So, my character Abigail is kind of really enmeshed herself in all of her family’s pain and trauma and has centered herself in this world in which she takes it upon herself to try to fix so much of what is sometimes unfixable within her family structure.
What this movie really is exploring is the issues with mental health and establishing boundaries, and grief, loss, and how that moves through a family, both singularly, your singular experience, and then the group experience and what that means and what that looks like.
Moviefone: Can you talk about the experience Abigail has taking care of her dying father, and what was it like working on those scenes with the legendary Dustin Hoffman?
DA: My father’s been unwell for more years of my life than he’s been well. So, there was a lot of personal truth I was able to bring to the character. It’s very hard to witness your parent’s cognitive and physical downfall, especially when you have experienced them in whatever way you’ve experienced them and that is not something that you want to be confronted with.
Ultimately it just takes so much strength, and you deal with it as best as you can. So, I think having that experience myself, it definitely helped bring that sense to the character.
Then working with somebody like Dustin is so incredible because he is on from the moment he steps in the room. I remember our first rehearsal, we were reading through something and tears were falling from his eyes, and I just thought, I’m really going to have to bring this. We are not playing around.
I think being surrounded by such incredible actors that just really know how to draw all kinds of emotions out and surprise you in scenes is just the biggest gift. It was so wonderful to be working with Candice again. I had done a film with her about 10 years ago where she had also played my mother, so that was a really fun additional bonus in this film.
(L to R) Dianna Agron and Dustin Hoffman in ‘As They Made Us.’
MF: Since you had experience playing Candice Bergan’s daughter in another movie, was it easy to recreate that dynamic with her on this project?
DA: No, because I think 10 years is a really long time, and when I shot that other film where she played my mother, I was such a small part of that cast. So, I wouldn’t say that we had an enormous amount of time to really get into the weeds of a friendship. We were just making this indie film where everything was fast and furious. So, while I had such a great fondness for that experience and her, this movie was really our chance to get to know each other so much better.
That was the other thing that I enjoyed so much, with both Candace and Dustin, their storytelling is just the most compelling thing. You can ask them about every aspect of their career and working on specific projects. We would ask about some of the discoveries that were made along the way that really left lasting impressions in all of our minds, and all of those characters and films. So, I really relished every day that I got to go to set and ask anything that I wanted to.
MF: What was it like working with Simon Helberg on the unusual brother/sister relationship between your two characters?
DA: I think it’s interesting. I have a brother and we are incredibly close, and yet there are times, just be it work, life, et cetera, where we will go surprisingly a few weeks without talking to each other. Those few weeks sometimes feel like a year depending on what is going on in our worlds. I think kind of pulling from that aspect of having my own sibling that I care so much about, we are so different, and how we move and pass each other in our own life experiences, that was helpful.
Then Simon’s just such an incredible actor and we really, I think, trusted each other. I mean, speaking from my own experience, I really trusted him. So, I was so pleased to always play and see what that felt like. That friction always felt so monumental when it was there. The love felt so palpable when it was there.
There’s one scene in particular that I think is one of the hardest scenes. It was one of the hardest scenes to shoot in the movie and one of the ones I’m most proud of, and it’s the scene with Simon. I have such love for this whole team and that experience. It was really rewarding.
(L to R) Simon Helberg, Candice Bergan, Dustin Hoffman, Mayim Bialik, and Dianna Agron on the set of ‘As They Made Us.’
MF: Finally, can you talk about working with director Mayim Bialik and watching her execute her vision for this film?
DA: We first met on a Zoom meeting, and she was very generous with her own personal stories and why this movie meant so much to her. We both shared in that way very deeply, and very quickly. That is just how she is. She comes to set and while she knew everything that she wanted to achieve in every scene, she’s very open and can really help you understand everything that needs to be achieved in those scenes and what was very meaningful to her.
There were also moments that I really loved where we would set up the camera in a wider shot, and there was not going to be any cutting between the scene. In that sense, those experiences and those moments felt much more like stage work, which is incredible because you think, okay, I’m bringing this bag of tricks. I know what my character wants in the scene. I know what they’re trying to achieve. I know where the emotional core has to hit from.
Then you really have to focus and access all those things and know that that take that you just shot might be the one take that’s used in that moment, and that’s really thrilling. I loved that she added that aspect of filmmaking into our project.
Not Yet Rated1 hr 30 min
Recently divorced Abigail arrives right in the midst of her parents chaotic antics. After a lifetime of dysfunctional hilarity, the family, accompanied by an estranged… Read the Plot