In Win Win, Amy Ryan plays the wife of a high school wrestling coach (Paul Giamatti) who sees her home life thrown out of whack when her husband takes in a teenage boy who’s run away from home. As luck would have it, the kid’s actually a pretty good wrestler when he wants to be, which brings everyone’s motivations into question. The film, which debuted at Sundance and it playing SXSW, is written and directed by Tom McCarthy, whose other films (The Station Agent, The Visitor) also follow people who are thrust together and have to find a way to make it all work.
Ryan, an Oscar nominee for Gone Baby Gone and a two-time Tony nominee, talks about why she’s such a fan of McCarthy and what it’s like to bounce back and forth between TV and film in a Q&A. Plus, she drops a little hint about how her turn as Holly on The Office will wrap up once Steve Carell exits the show.
Art&Seek: Between your part on The Wire and parts in movies like Gone Baby Gone, you’ve played a lot of women who are a part of nontraditional families. Do you see your part in Win Win as a continuation of that?
Amy Ryan: That was definitely part of it. I like the idea of playing a strong mother. A very good mother. From the outset, the idea kind of sounds boring, but it’s actually a beautiful thing to play. That was part of the appeal. The other part being Tom McCarthy.
A&S: You two knew each other pretty well before this, right?
A.R.: We were old friends and neighbors in New York. … I’d always hoped one day that something would come up, and when he called me one day and said, “I’m writing something with you in mind,” I was like, “Aw, yes!”
A&S: And with his other movies like The Visitor, he seems like he’s interested in different types of families, too.
A.R.: I think what’s so appealing about this story in Win Win is you have this family that is really loving, happily married. They have their problems, like many families do – especially in these economic times. But he never makes fun of them. It’s set in New Jersey, and that’s such a punch line for so many shows or movies, as is suburbia. And that’s never made fun of, and that’s just something I love about this film.
A&S: You’ve been able to bounce back and forth a lot between TV and movies. Is there any difference between movie acting and television acting?
A.R.: It’s what you’re up against. In television, you don’t have the time, so you might shoot eight pages in a day. In Treatment is an unusual situation where you actually shoot 12. That’s kind of unheard of. But film, you just have a longer schedule if you’re lucky. I’m sure there are many independent films out there that are like, “What? We shot 20 pages in a day in two weeks!” But my experience has been that you just really have more time on film to work out the scenes.
A&S: You’ve really played a wide-range of parts in your career – is there a type of role you haven’t played yet that you’d like to.
A.R.: Yeah – I’ve done it on stage, but I’d like to get in a corset. [laughs] I don’t really know what that means.
A&A: Like a period piece?
A.R.: Yeah, I’d like to shift to a whole other time frame.
A&S: How’s your British accent?
A.R.: I can throw one of those on.
A&S: I don’t expect you to tell me, but obviously you know what happens at the end of this season on The Office. What I am curious about is: When you know about a big plot twist in a show, how do you handle it when people badger you for information?
A.R.: It’s kind of obnoxious, because I do know, of course – I shot the episode. But I like the people at The Office very much, and they asked me kindly not to say, so it’s easy to keep that. But the episode that we shot – which is public knowledge now if you go on the Internet – is called “The Proposal.” So that’s a hint. But there is no Very Special NBC Wedding, which I’m very proud of. But something like The Wire – I was such a huge fan of that show – I offended David Simon one day not realizing that I was doing so, because I said, “David, I actually don’t know how this ends, because I don’t read your scripts.” And he looked at me and said, “What? What do you mean you don’t read what I wrote?” I said, “Oh, what I mean is I just read my scenes.” I’ll flip through the scripts quickly to see the scenes. But I, too, wouldn’t want to know … I purposely stayed away from reading The Wire until it was on air.
Win Win is scheduled to open in Dallas on March 25.