Julianne Nicholson’s Life Hasn’t Changed After ‘Mare of Easttown’ and She’s Totally Okay With That

In spite of Kate Winslet And Evan Peters reached a certain level of fame when they won an Emmy for their HBO crime drama Mare of EasttownThe story was different for Julianne Nicholson is an American actress. One of our finest screen actors in decades, the Western Massachusetts native has led underrated independent films like Who we are now, appeared as a guest star in the series from Boardwalk Empire ARRIVE Master of sex, and played great Meryl Streepdaughter of August: Osage County. But when Nicholson’s tortured mother Lori Ross moved into the center MareHer mystery, the actress finally got the chance to showcase her talents in an award-winning hit—and made the moment count.

And then? She didn’t work for a year.

On one hand, this development surprised Nicholson, even as she has learned not to put too much stock in any compelling roles or sense of momentum. But as she said this week, Little Yellow Men (read or listen below), Nicholson also kept her priorities straight. At the time, she was ready to join the production Janet Planet, a film set in where she grew up and written and directed by the Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Annie Baker in her screen debut. Nicholson turned down several other offers to ensure she could do the project.

The film debuted at the Telluride Film Festival last year and was recently released in theaters by A24, thanks to positive reviews. As a complicated single mother of an 11-year-old (played by Zoe Ziegler) who both gets closer and increasingly distant from her, Nicholson is in her element. The film is quiet, specific, and personal—another hallmark of the actor’s career. And if a few more people notice now? Lucky them.

Vanity Fair: When Annie Baker approached you about this part, you realized you both grew up in Western Massachusetts. What were some of the sounds and images you spoke about? This is a film that’s very much about bringing the landscape to life.

Julianne Nicholson: We would share a lot of pictures of books our moms read, or books she made us read. We both bought our first bras at JC Penney in the mall, and rollerblading at Interskate 91. That’s still there. Then I remembered the birdsong. There was a whippoorwill bird that had this weird sound, and it was a nightmare. They used to come at dusk, when you were a kid of seven, eight, that’s when you went to bed. I sent her the whippoorwill call. It was basically an invitation to go back to childhood and really live that experience.

What struck you about the movie that you didn’t realize until you saw it?

Just to see the little details around the house. We used to have a cream called Skin Trip. This was in the late 70s hippie movement, but they still made it. I still see it at Whole Foods or Erewhon, but I would get it every year in my stocking, and I always wore it. I told Annie that, and so it was on Janet’s desk or in the bathroom or something. And we both remember our moms—and this might be TMI—would leave their diaphragms by the sink to dry. We both had that. Her incredible production designer had to work really hard to find a diaphragm. You had to have a prescription for it, blah, blah. We never looked at it, but it was there. There are so many little details like that, that you pick up on a subconscious level.

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You are playing a character through the eyes of a child. What are the parameters there when you see them?

Personally, I struggle with wanting to find warmth, while Annie tends more – and I think she’s right – to seek the distance between them. It’s actually more enjoyable than a comfortable, warm, physical, cuddly relationship. Sometimes that’s hard for me.

Annie Baker is a well-respected playwright, but this is her first film. You have some experience working with more experimental directors. Do you ever feel nervous about stepping into a role with someone who has never done this before?


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