Director Patrick Wang on How to Make a Melodrama Masterpiece

11/14/2012 9:00 AM |


Joey’s flashback to when he and Cody first kiss adds a whole new color to the history of their relationship as he’s going into the deposition.
Yeah, and I think people are always wondering as they watch, “how did that even end up happening?”

Especially as you give a flashback establishing Cody’s character as a straight man about to have a baby.
They meet and it takes them a while before they see each other in a particular light. I was curious, too; I didn’t know at first how they had gotten together! I thought there was something very natural to their relationship. One of the things that I like about those scenes is that they tend to be long takes. There are all these things going through Cody’s head that he’s not saying, and Joey’s digesting what has just happened; it says a lot about them. In the scene where Cody’s a little out of control, you see how Joey deals with it, and it says a lot about him. Wordless, he’s comfortable with the situation and lets Cody be Cody. The scene’s not going in a single direction; lives are not a straight line.

It’s certainly not clear what is going to happen. It even seems like they may end up fighting.
That’s the part that feels like life. All those things are possible, and sometimes when I watch it, I’m wondering what’s going to happen! I think a lot of that has to do with the actors.

Could you talk about casting and working with Sebastian Banes and Brian Murray, who were fantastic as Chip and Paul Hawks?
Brian Murray I’ve always been a big fan of. There is an intelligence and sympathy in him that I think is very rare. It’s in him as an actor and as a person. I was very excited when I had this role that fit him very well, and he loved the script when he read it. That was one of the easier casts. Except for Brian and Park Overall, who played Cody’s mother, everyone else was through open auditions.

We saw about 15 kids for Chip. That was fun; you’d go into the audition rooms and at about four o’clock it would be full of kids, because they’d just gotten out of school. It was hard because all Chip’s lines were scripted and for a kid to memorize and execute them all was really challenging. But Sebastian still managed to inject his own crazy kid-ness without interfering with the script. I remember there was this opening kitchen scene where he had so many lines and actions, he was bouncing all over the kitchen, talking, and I think I had one line. In the third take, it was me who messed up the line! In some ways, the kid outdid us all.

He came in and, not only was he really good with his lines, but he was just such a warm spirit. Even with adult actors, there’s a lot you can fake, but with fake compassion, people can feel the difference. He had a good heart. The other thing that was important to me was how he would move in the scene. When I was reading with them, I was interested in seeing how the kids would react when I changed something or went a little faster or slower, if I was more bored or excited, would they move with me. He was so sensitive to it, and he loved it—it was like a game to him. He would just move with me wherever we were going, it was no big deal to him, and that’s how I knew he was going to be Chip.