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Robin Wright: ‘There’s always another pinnacle to strive for’

Robin Wright hasn’t hit all of her goals quite yet.

The actress and director came to Ohio State on Monday to speak at the Ohio Union in a forum akin to “Inside the Actor’s Studio.”

The Texas native is famous for her roles as Princess Buttercup in “The Princess Bride” and Jenny Curran in “Forrest Gump.” Since 2013, she’s starred as Claire Underwood in the Netflix political thriller “House of Cards” — a role that’s made her the first actress to win a Golden Globe for a television series distributed online only.

But now, at 48, she told The Lantern she’s hoping to move away from acting into directing. She directed an episode for the second season of “House of Cards” and has more work in the director’s chair for season three.

“This is what I want to do,” she said. “I don’t want to act much anymore. I would rather do this. It’s becoming a new priority.”

In the OUAB-sponsored forum, she shared her new motto with students that she said she recently discovered, which she thinks is relevant to any career path. “Don’t look back. You’re not going that way,” she said.

It was a motto she saw on a T-shirt in a New York City store, she said while laughing.

“You have to not look back if you’re going for something,” she said. “In this day and age, the competition and the social media that can squash you with a word and a blog … You better have the diligence and the fortitude and the perseverance to travel through that exploration all the way because somebody’s going to topple you.”

Wright also shared her experience auditioning  for and subsequently getting the part for the Academy Award-winning film “Forrest Gump,” in which she co-starred opposite of actor Tom Hanks.

“I don’t think I could stand — my knees buckled when I got the call,” she said.

Wright said it was a gift to get a role in a film alongside Hanks.

“I just felt like I was deposited into this vortex of seasoned actors and I was the baby,” she said. “And I was cobbled and nurtured and guided. I really learned how to ask for something.

“I really had a family there, a support system.”

Before the forum, she sat down with The Lantern for a brief interview about “House of Cards” and her career to date.

The Lantern: When ‘House of Cards’ was pitched to you, was it strange knowing that it was just going to be distributed on Netflix?

Robin Wright: I knew it wasn’t going to conventional television with (producer and director) David Fincher involved, and I had worked with him twice before. I knew it was going to be innovative in some format, and regardless of it being TV or it being a series, we shoot it like a film. It’s exactly the same. It’s just a film that you shoot for seven months versus two months. It’s a 13-hour film.

TL: How is it working with a character for that length?

RW: Well, it’s forever feeding off of itself, because it’s ever-evolving. If we know what the arc template is from episode one to 13, we can say that we know Francis and Claire Underwood are going to start here and end there. We can manipulate anything and everything in between, and everything will influence all of the other episodes between one and 13. It’s always manifesting something new, generating some new plotline, new character. So we’re always working on plotlines and character-driven conflicts, because conflict makes drama. With a script for a film — once the script is written, the directors and the actors break down the scenes. That conversation’s over, and you shoot that movie. With this, you shoot an hour show, and you get to evolve from that part of the story-line into the next and into the next. That’s what I mean by a 13-hour movie — it’s so much more enriching.

TL: What has it been like been to see the popularity of the show from when it began to now?

RW: It’s mind-boggling. I don’t think any of us had any clue about the severity of it. It’s sort of in excess.

TL: Working with an actor like Kevin Spacey on ‘House of Cards,’ what sort of skills do you pick up about the craft? Or do you try to pick anything up?

RW: When you’ve been in the business as long as we have, you’re very adaptable to one’s rhythm, and that is so much of acting in a scene. You’re feeding off of the rhythm they are delivering you. You have to receive it, you have to process it and then you have to deliver back to them. There’s a science to it. We’re like old farts in this business at this stage, you know. We can read each other well, and we speak in code. We know exactly how to be Francis and Claire, because in between the takes, we are children. We are giggling, goofing off and telling jokes. And the minute the director says action, we snap into those characters.

TL: What do you make of the Underwoods as people?

RW: They are an incredible busy team. They are a union — they have a profound love and respect for one another as operators. I’m not quite sure that they love like we traditionally as a society know love. They’re a machine and they are almost the leaders of their own army.

TL: When you started acting, did you have a trajectory you wanted to follow? And have you followed it?

RW: Boy, I tried (laughs) — with great will. Personally, I had a goal to do quality roles, where you’re like ‘Give me sustenance and substance.’ Do you always follow that? No, because you don’t always get offered those roles. It was seasonal for me. What did I feel like in that moment when I received a script or an offer? Where was I in my life at that time? There were certain roles I turned down because I didn’t think I was prepared as an actress as far as talent, thinking ‘I’m not capable of portraying that character; so-and-so will be better equipped.’

TL: Now that you are seasoned, when someone sends you a script, how do you go about making a decision? Do you read the whole script and then ponder on the character for a while?

RW: No. At this age there’s no more marinating. Either I want that chicken or it’s out. It’s pretty basic.

TL: What’s on your bucket list right now?

RW: God, am I dying that fast? It’s actually so long. There’s so many places in the world I haven’t been: China — I want to go to the Amazon, I want to go to Russia.

TL: What role does passion play in your life? As you’ve gotten deeper into acting, have you found that each new passion contains something that needs to be revealed?

RW: Yeah, because doesn’t passion fuel you? What follows an impassioned state is a will and an eagerness to learn and explore, and then follows the conviction to put it into. Yeah, there’s always something enlightening where you think ‘I’ve done it all. I did all the parts,’ and there’s always something to find. There’s always another pinnacle to strive for. With a role like this, I can create whatever I want with (writer/creator Beau Willimon). We can go so far out of the box, and he can write the minutia, but I can choose where this character develops to, and that’s an impassioned architecture that I love. That’s what keeps you waking up every day. Because once you reach your goal (and I don’t think anybody does reach perfection), what’s the point of breath if you don’t have something you can do more? I can serve more. What’s my purpose? And if my purpose is to share, which is why I got into this industry, you want to share a story — share the meaning of the story — to portray the sentiment, because it touches people, and we’re in the story-telling business. So you better be impassioned about that person you’re portraying, because you guys are watching and feeling, and your heart vessels are listening. It’s provocative. We’re not a book. We’re not a novel, we are this living source and so are you. And that’s why you’d better be invested in the passion that leads to the goal-reaching and conviction, or it’s kind of fruitless. S— or get off the pot.


One comment

  1. my goodness is she majestic

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