In At all times Nice, Awards Insider speaks with Hollywood’s biggest undersung actors in career-spanning conversations. On this installment, Robin Weigert seems again on her iconic performances in Deadwood and Massive Little Lies, and the way they hook up with her present position in We Had been the Fortunate Ones.

When casting for Deadwood started, Robin Weigert didn’t have a lot display work to point out. She’d spent years grinding on the New York stage, with solely a weepy Legislation & Order visitor spot to placed on a reel. However an outdated good friend from graduate faculty, Julie Tucker, was a casting assistant on the buzzy HBO pilot, and carried simply sufficient sway to present her a shot. Creator David Milch and his producers have been looking all over the place to fill the demanding position of Calamity Jane, a lone wolf “who drove groups of oxen with a bull whip throughout the plains,” as Weigert describes her.

They met Weigert in New York. “I attempted to fill out the size of this massively robust particular person, as a result of I didn’t really feel I used to be sufficient of me,” Weigert says. “I did the alternative of what actresses do. I made myself greater in each method I might. Then the suggestions got here that they liked the vulnerability.”

Weigert winces a bit at this reminiscence. She’d adjusted herself, her stroll and her voice and her presence, to the fullest extent she was in a position; she wasn’t going for susceptible. But she received the half anyway, occurring to embody the indelible frontierswoman with each grit and heartbreak—and by no means letting the costume overtake the human.

Right here was a becoming begin to Weigert’s profession in movie and tv, the place she’s taken principally supporting components—legal professionals, therapists, housewives, even demons—and imbued them with palpable poignancy. She instructions a sure consideration, one which displays her present profession philosophy. “I now imagine in appearing in a method I can stand behind,” she says. “I assumed it was for useless folks and narcissists once I was little. However my feeling about appearing, not like then, is that it’s an vital factor.”

In We Had been the Fortunate Ones, at the moment streaming on Hulu, Weigert portrays Nechuma, the matriarch of the Kurcs, a Polish Jewish household brutally separated—whether or not in hiding, in seize, or in escape—over the course of World Conflict II. Through the collection, Nechuma is wracked with guilt over her must lean on her kids for survival; the newest episode, “Warsaw,” finds her bodily separated from her ailing husband, Sol (Lior Ashkenazi), as they start work in a brand new manufacturing unit exterior of the Polish capital. We see Nechuma’s spirit start to interrupt. Whereas this story reaches a comparatively comfortable ending—not precisely a spoiler if you happen to see the present’s title—it stays rooted in historic trauma. You are feeling Weigert’s weighty journey in her efficiency.

“David Milch has a highfalutin phrase for this, which is the ‘transmutation of souls,’” says Weigert, who’s Jewish. “This expertise I’ve simply had with We Had been the Fortunate Ones will be the zenith of getting skilled that in my life. I additionally skilled it once I performed Calamity Jane. I grew from my encounters with these characters. They modified me in elementary methods.”

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Weigert in We Had been the Fortunate Ones.

Vlad Cioplea

In her early teenagers, Weigert noticed Sophie’s Selection and acquired an immediate spark. “I used to be one youngster once I walked into the movie show, and I used to be one other particular person once I got here out of it,” she says. Earlier than reaching highschool, she and a good friend caught a bus to Georgetown, the place Meryl Streep was in manufacturing on Heartburn reverse Jack Nicholson. They meant—and managed—to satisfy her. “There she was, going to her trailer, and [my friend] had the gumption to truly go up and provides her a fan letter that he ready for her,” Weigert remembers. “I simply had the breath knocked out of me when she rotated.”

Fifteen or so years later, Weigert was sharing the stage with Streep in Central Park, in a 2001 manufacturing of The Seagull. Weigert had, so far, understudied on Broadway and was simply beginning to make a reputation for herself in New York; now she was a quick substitute for Marcia Homosexual Harden in an ensemble that additionally included Streep, Kevin Kline, Philip Seymour Hoffman, and Christopher Walken. “The 2 instances that I acquired to go on have been virtually out of physique,” Weigert says. The play was directed by Mike Nichols, who then introduced Weigert into the casting course of for his HBO adaptation of Angels in America—to learn reverse the entire males being thought of to play the a part of Joe, a closeted Mormon, as his spouse, Harper.

Weigert knew it was a protracted shot, however held out hope that he’d solid her after seeing her run by way of it a bunch of instances. When the half went to Mary-Louise Parker, in an Emmy-winning flip, Weigert felt her coronary heart drop. She cried throughout New York. She puzzled if she’d missed her massive likelihood. (Nichols did, at the least, solid her in a small half within the present.)

Deadwood got here in regards to the subsequent yr, a staggering introduction for viewers to Weigert’s expertise. She was, in some ways, about as removed from Calamity Jane as she might think about. “Her method of coping with her excessive shyness is to be balls out,” Weigert says. “She’s very extroverted along with her shyness, which is a wierd factor to say.”

Within the first season, for which Weigert acquired an Emmy nomination, the actor went virtually Daniel Day-Lewis–stage Methodology. “I stayed in character on a regular basis,” she says. She employed the Jerzy Grotowski appearing approach, which “seems, to an out of doors eye, such as you’re taking every joint and limb and touching or thrusting at the place it stops, the place it could not go any additional.” Put one other method, “I might simply throw myself round to handle my very own sense of scale as a result of I didn’t wish to play her small, regardless that I knew that the creature inside that she was defending was a tiny, tiny youngster.” Right here she identifies the vulnerability Milch was speaking about. On the floor, Weigert’s work in Deadwood is all scrumptious bravado, chewing on Milch’s violent dialogue and stomping across the West as if Jane owns it. However you at all times see the terrified, lonely human being beneath.