Emma Stone and Molly Shannon chatted during a taping of Variety‘s “Actors on Actors” on a range of topics, including facing rejection in showbiz. For more, tune in when the fifth season premieres on PBS SoCal, presented by The Venetian Las Vegas, on Jan. 3.
Molly Shannon: I saw “La La Land” and was blown away by your stellar performance. I thought you were unbelievable — it’s the best thing I’ve seen you in. Your performance was a tour de force. I really related to your character. How long did it take to shoot?
Emma Stone: It was two months, and about three months of rehearsal before we shot. Have you seen “So You Think You Can Dance?” Our choreographer, Mandy Moore, does dance numbers on those shows, and she was used to working with people who were just learning to dance. So it was comforting, because the first six weeks were spent with Ryan and me learning how to tap and ballroom dance for the first time, and then her rearranging our choreography to make us look as good as we possibly could.
Shannon: You seem like such a natural dancer/singer. By the way, you looked beautiful in the movie, as you do now: You have such great posture.
Stone: Right now I can feel my back starting to ache because I’m slouching so much. So thank you for saying that.
Shannon: I don’t know if other people have this feeling about you, too, but when I first saw you, I felt I already knew you. I met you for the first time at “SNL” — at the 40th anniversary. I think you were about to come off stage or go onstage, and I remember feeling like I already knew you. I had this feeling of just … warmth.
Stone: Maybe that’s just you and me. Because do you know that I had a signed headshot of you in my bedroom as a child?
Shannon: What? Really?
Stone: For my birthday gift I was given a picture of you from “SNL,” with an XO and a heart, and you’d signed it. A couple weeks ago I was like, “Hey, Mom, I’m going to see Molly. Can you tell me if you faked this for me because you knew I wanted it?” And she was like, “No, it’s a real headshot. We sent away and got it.” So I grew up with you in my bedroom and watching you all the time. So maybe we have a little connection to each other.
Shannon: That’s amazing. That’s so sweet.
Stone: So I am going to ask you the traditional actor-interview question: What drew you to your role in “Other People?”
Shannon: I would say the writing is so good. Written by Chris Kelly, the amazing head writer of “SNL,” with Sarah Schneider, who you know from working on “SNL.” The script took my breath away, I thought it was so beautiful. In real life, I’m a mom (my daughter, Stella’s, 13, and our son, Nolan, is 11), and I just related to it as a mother — how a mother will fight to the end of the earth for her family and for her children. It’s the kind of movie I would go see, and I couldn’t believe that I got offered the part. I thought, “This feels like a dream or a joke.” I couldn’t believe it.
Stone: I don’t think anybody else is surprised you were offered the part, because you’re so stunning in it. It was very clearly supposed to be you.
Shannon: I loved the scene in “La La Land” when you have the audition — you’re being so vulnerable and emotional, and you get interrupted. Was there ever a moment when you were just like, “This is so hard?”
Stone: I think actors are some of the most resilient bunch on the planet, because it’s very rare that you’re getting rejected every single day and you keep going. It’s like a bunch of first dates: eventually you’d be like, “I’m going to be single forever.” But I think actually the worst time periods for me were not a bad audition, getting rejected; it’s when you feel really ignored. You know, when you just stop getting called in. Did you go through a period like this, when you [were coming up]? You went to NYU.
Shannon: I went to NYU drama school.
Stone: And then did you move to L.A. right after NYU?
Shannon: I did. I stayed in New York for maybe a year, and I did under-fives and soap operas. But I knew I really wanted to be on television. So my friend and I came out. We decided we were going to do stage shows.
Stone: Did you do pilot season?
Shannon: I never did.
Stone: You did your own stage show?
Shannon: I did.
Stone: That’s so cool! It’s literally the conclusion my character comes to in the movie: “Oh, I’ll do my own show and put myself out there.” But I feel like it’s so rare to take the bull by the horns and put yourself out there in that way.
Shannon: That’s what I did because I felt like, “They’re not really getting it.” When you say pilot season — I wasn’t ready for that at all. I had curly hair and cheap dresses and I wore too much makeup and they were like … my look was not together.
Stone: Would they say that to you?
Shannon: Well, I had an agent who dropped me, and she was like, “I have a bit of advice for you: Don’t wear so much makeup, and get into therapy.” So I did both.