Craig Zisk’s new comedy, The English Teacher stars Julianne Moore as Linda Sinclair, a teacher in smalltown Pennsylvania whose quiet life is interrupted by the return of former student, Jason Sherwood. Sherwood, played by Michael Angarano (Haywire, Red State), is a failed playwright who Linda decides to redeem by mounting a production of his college thesis play at her school. Linda is helped along by the school’s drama teacher played by Nathan Lane. Moore and Angarano spoke to MediaMikes as the film made it’s debut at the Tribeca Film Fest this week.
Lauren Damon: How was it to work with this ensemble cast? You have all these Broadway veterans as well as small cameos from John Hodgman and Jim Bruer.
Julianne Moore: “That’s right! It was a pretty extraordinary cast actually. There were great, really really great people with yeah, Norbert Leo Butz and Jessica Hecht and Nathan Lane, Greg Kinnear and then yea, John Hodgeman and Jim Bruer. Jim Bruer I’d done SNL with a long time ago so I knew him from that. I mean that was my son was two months old, so that was fifteen years ago, which is crazy. But yea, we had a great cast. We were pretty lucky.”
Michael Angarano: “It was amazing, especially for me. Like I grew up watching them…Nine Months, The Birdcage, all these movies are like my family favorite movies. Like the kind of movies that you watch with your family. So for me it felt really cool and there was one scene, like other than the scenes I got to do with Julianne and Nathan and by myself which were so much fun, the scenes we would do with the whole ensemble really felt kind of like a play. Which was kind of fun to think about. I did a play when I was seven years old. I was Tiny Tim in Radio City and so I don’t have play experience. It was really fun.”
LD: Your last play experience was in 2006’s The Vertical Hour, is there anything that would lure her back to Broadway?
Julianne Moore: “Nothing!”
Michael Angarano: “I eavesdropped on a lot of conversations with her and Nathan where he was like ‘You know you’d be really great…’”
Moore: “But then Nathan was like ‘I have this play’ and he’d send it to me and it’d be something that he’d like to direct and I was like ‘If you’re not gonna be in it, I’m not gonna do it!’ because directors do it and then, you know, they leave and stuff. Plays are really hard when you have children and when I did The Vertical Hour years ago, I just, I didn’t think about that. About how they wipe out your entire weekend and one day in the middle of the week where you’re not home and it’s just not worth it for my family. It’s actually easier to do a film. Because you come home at the end of the night, you’re there for dinner, you put them to bed, you get up, you go to work. You know, it’s like you’re on their school schedule and you have weekends free. But the theater is tough with kids.”
In that production Moore played opposite onstage boyfriend Andrew Scott who’s since went on to a MediaMikes favorite, BBC’s Sherlock.
Moore: “I haven’t seen him in ages! He’s a great guy. He’s a wonderful guy.”
Crucial to the story of The English Teacher is the role Moore’s Linda played in inspiring Angarano’s Jason, Moore was lucky enough to have a similarly life changing teacher she spoke about:
Moore: “I had a teacher, I mean my high school drama teacher, Robie Taylor was the one who said to me you know, ‘you could be an actor’ and I was in plays after schools but I’d never met an actor, I’d never seen a real play, I didn’t think you could make a real living doing it. I didn’t know anything about the theatre. And she said ‘here’s a copy of dramatics magazine and here are different schools that you can go to’ and she kind of…I was like oh, okay! If I hadn’t met her, I don’t think I would have done that. I mean, so she really changed my life. And she knows that. I told her. I met her years later when I was in LA for a while and she was living in Arizona. And yea, she altered the course of my life.”
LD: Were there any special school productions that you did with her that you thought was like a turning point?
Moore: “Well she was…super ambitious in terms of what she put on. I mean the first production I put on with her was Tartuffe, Moliere’s Tartuffe. So nobody does that. They usually do Barefoot in the Park, you know? Or something. So she, I also did The Music Man with her which is a little more traditional. But I also played Madea for her. She just was very, she was like a real director, she seemed like a real theater director.”
LD: What drew you to the character of Linda?
Moore: “I loved Linda. I mean I was like Linda, I was the kind of kid that read all the time and went to the library and won the summer reading contest and ended up in the drama club after school because it was just another–I wasn’t athletic, I couldn’t do anything else–it was just another extension of reading. I feel like it would have been very easy for me to have been Linda if I didn’t have a high school English teacher who told me I could be an actress. So I found her incredibly relatable and I loved her. And I loved her kind of…she’s sort of an innocent, you know? And yea, I thought she was really endearing actually.”
LD: A lot of these characters offer no apologies for their actions where it might be expected, can you talk about that?
Angarano: “It was kind of interesting because when we did a table read for it and when I first read Jason out loud with everybody there, it came across much angrier than I think he should have come across and I realized that there’s like this real like, kind of childishness about him that’s very annoying. You know what I mean? Like even his relationship with LInda in movie is kind of, I don’t know, he thinks that he’s this mature guy and he’s kind of projected himself to be that but he’s really just a boy. And so in the end I think it’s kind of like, you know I don’t think he really intentionally wants to hurt anybody. But he’s kind of like you know, kind of manipulative in an annoying childish, annoying kind of guy-getting-what-he-wants kind of way.”
Moore: “I think one of the nice things though about the movie too is people don’t apologize. A lot of them do some things, it’s kind one of those cause and effect things. Where at the end of the day, a lot of people are very shamed by their behavior [laughs] but there’s a kind of forgiveness that they all offer one another and a kind of looking the other way. Maybe they all weren’t their best selves at that moment but they had the best intentions. There’s a humanity I think to their recovery that’s very nice. In a sense where you know, your mother always told you ‘just let time go by and it’ll be better’ it’s true, they all kind of let a little time go by and it all sort of settles down again.”
The English Teacher is available now OnDemand and will hit theaters on May 17th.