As "The Glorias" heads to Amazon Prime on Sept. 30, some familiar faces will be gracing the screen alongside stars Julianne Moore, Bette Midler, Alicia Vikander and Janelle Monae.
Among the local crew popping up in front of the camera is local actor David Harland Rousseau. In the film, he joins the younger Gloria Steinem (portrayed there by Academy Award-winner Alicia Vikander) as a colleague in her magazine office. As Rousseau puts it, his character’s personality runs up against Steinem’s fight for women’s equality at the time.
"It was a scene right after she’d done ’A Bunny’s Tale.’ It's a pivotal moment (in) that particular scene because in a matter of a few short minutes, Julie (Taymor) and Sarah (Ruhl), the other writer on the project, were able to show what women in the workplace had to deal with," he said.
"Ignorant guys who they themselves didn't think they were being mean or cruel, (but rather) they were just being guys. Here's someone who's doing groundbreaking work and is still treated like a plaything."
Rousseau has been acting in Savannah for a number of years now and said this production was an eye-opener for him not only due to the pedigree involved, but how the crew, led by Taymor, treated a lot of the local actors such as himself during the production.
"We get cast and brought in the room (and) Julie Taymor is there. My experience on set prior to work in ’The Glorias’... it was always like, ’okay, you're here get up, do your thing and then leave.’ This is not the case working with Julie Taymor," he said.
"What happened there was we were brought in, everybody was professional and incredibly relaxed, but still on point. That was a treat. And then her assistant brought us into the room (and said) ’Okay. Julie Taymor is here to see you,’ and she sat us down around the table and had a conversation with us. And she said, I saw each of your auditions, I chose you personally, I want to talk to you a little bit about a little bit about who you are. And we'll do a quick table read, and we'll see where we are and how we connect."
To Rousseau, the moment stood out because the director took the time to work with these actors who weren’t playing marquee roles, and that small amount of time made all the difference.
"None of us were named talent except for like Alicia Vikander, and yet we were treated as if we were," he said. "As far as professionalism goes, bringing something to the game, having something to contribute, really being encouraged to relax in the moments. It was a wonderful experience for everybody."
Rousseau added that he also had a few moments with Vikander to talk about the scene, and how she viewed his part being played. He said he was impressed with the actress, who won the Academy Award for her role in "The Danish Girl" in 2016, because she had a humble approach. "Alicia is very focused. She's very dedicated to the craft, she cares about story," he said.
He added that at one point, he asked her about his character in the scene and whether or not the guy is being mean to Gloria by approaching her vindictively or whether or not he just lacked self awareness and didn’t realize how he was coming off. She agreed with the latter and the two worked out the dynamic for the rest of the sequence.
"She would have good conversations about the craft and these sorts of things. But when it was go time, she was hyper focused and ready to roll," he said. While being focused, Rousseau said it didn’t make Vikander impenetrable to a few mistakes, but the actress was able to create a teaching moment with them.
"It was also kind of refreshing to see...here's this Academy Award-winning actress (and) she would flub on the line now and then. I think the impression that we get with Academy Award winners is they're performing at such a high level that they never screw up. And internally, you know, that's not true."
Rousseau said moments like that reminded you that everyone can mess up despite the pedigree inscribed to them.
"You just have to lean into the vulnerability a little bit, you just have to, to say that the mistakes are okay, as long as you're not completely disrupting the set."
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