'The Knick' News: Juliet Rylance and Eve Hewson interviews + new 1x04 promo

Independent Spirit: Interview with The Knick's Juliet Rylance

At the turn of the 20th century, there were all types of advancements being made around the world, including social, technological and medical. Women’s rights, however, were among those advancements lagging behind. Back then, the so-called “fairer sex” had a ways to go if they hoped to be respected and treated as equals by their male counterparts. Women of wealth and privilege had it a bit easier, but some of them still faced struggles relating to their gender. The Knick’s Cornelia Robertson is one such individual.

Set in 1900, this new Cinemax period drama unfolds in and around New York City’s fictional Knickerbocker Hospital (a.k.a The Knick), a medical facility where the staff is dedicated to finding new and revolutionary methods to treat patients and save lives at a time when mortality rates were high. Cornelia not only serves as head of the hospital’s welfare office, but also chairs the hospital’s board of trustees as proxy for her father, shipping tycoon Captain August Robertson. Every morning, she wakes up in the surroundings of a genteel lady and, after breakfasting with her parents and being dressed by her maids, ventures out into the real world. In that environment, Cornelia is not one to be easily brushed aside or dismissed, as the actress who plays her, Juliet Rylance, explains.

“Cornelia is a very strong-willed, headstrong, determined young woman,” says the actress. “She’s a force to be reckoned with, and for a woman living in 1900 America has considerable sway. However, Cornelia is still very restricted by the so-called glass ceiling of that time for women. So there’s a wonderful duality about her role in the story, and sort of treading this thin line between two worlds, the worlds of the hospital and then that of her family and what’s expected of a young woman of that time. Acting-wise, some of the challenges for me with this character were trying to realistically portray a woman of that period, along with learning as much as possible about women’s etiquette back then, and pinning down her accent. I worked with a wonderful dialect coach, Tim Monich, who really helped me find my way into the story and into Cornelia.

“As the first season goes on, my character is faced with more and more difficult choices to make. We find out just how far she’s willing to step out of the bounds of what’s considered the correct way to behave, and how much she’s willing to fight for her freedom and independence from that. Cornelia is forced to make some pretty tough decisions, and they aren’t always the right ones. So as the episodes unfold, things become increasingly complex for Cornelia, and as an actress, I enjoyed making that journey with her.”

The opening teaser of The Knick’s first episode "Method and Madness" introduces audiences to the show’s lead protagonist, Dr. John Thackery (Clive Owen), and his brick and mortar world of the Knickerbocker Hospital. A brilliant, innovative surgeon, he depends on regular, and carefully measured, injections of cocaine to get him through the day. Rylance was immediately drawn to the story and had no trouble assimilating herself into that world.

“My agent sent me the first script and information on the project, and once I saw Steven Soderbergh’s [Oscar-and Emmy-winning director of and an executive producer on The Knick] and Clive Owen’s names, I was pretty much sold,” recalls the actress. “Then I read the script and was completely riveted and couldn’t put it down. I knew then that I had to do it. So I sent an audition tape in and ended up having a meeting with Steven. We talked about everything other than the piece, and that was it. Before long, I was in New York and starting work.

“What stands out for me the most about the first day of filming is how true the world of The Knick felt when I walked onto the set and saw all the incredible work by production designer Howard Cummings. From there I dressed up in this extraordinary period costume designed by Ellen Mirojnick. It’s amazing how half of the work already felt like it was done for us because the world around us seemed so real. It literally felt like we were stepping back in time. It was so incredible.

“The other thing that struck me right from the start was, again, walking onto set and experiencing how thoughtful Steven Soderbergh’s approach was to how he planned to shoot this without big lighting set-ups. The whole process was just so fluid. My first scene was, I believe, with Clive, and Steven allowed the two of us to rehearse the material and figure out what the feel of the scene would be. Then he just shot it. It felt very simple, in a sense, and it’s quite easy to do your work in that type of environment. I think everyone worked incredibly hard, too, because we believed in the project so much, and Steven seemed to be working harder than anyone, which really made us try and keep up as much as possible.”

Even more professional demands are heaped upon Thackery’s already over-burdened shoulders when he is appointed the Knickerbocker’s new chief surgeon following the suicide of his mentor, Dr. J.M. Christiansen (Matt Frewer). Thackery and Cornelia first butt heads when it comes to appointing someone to replace him as assistant chief. He wants his own protégé, Everett Grainger (Eric Johnson), to take over, but Cornelia, whose father is one of the hospital’s major financial contributors, wants Thackery to hire Algernon Edwards [Andre Holland], a talented black doctor who trained in London and Paris. Ultimately, Thackery is forced to bring Edwards on board, which pleases Captain Robertson and sets the stage for further clashes between the surgeon and Cornelia.

“My character has known John Thackery for a while through her family and his relationship with her father,” says Rylance. “Cornelia obviously recognizes that he’s a brilliant, extraordinary doctor and really a genius in his field, but she cannot stand his arrogance and the dismissive nature with which he deals with people around him. I think that really drives her crazy. Cornelia goes head-to-head with Thackery on a number of occasions, particularly in the first episode, and there’s definitely a journey that the two of them take together.

“When it comes to Cornelia’s relationship with her father, it’s quite a complex one. She is, in one sense, the apple of her father’s eye and definitely daddy’s little girl. He’s given her a great deal of freedom growing up, and she grew up side by side with Algernon, which was very unusual during that period. On the other hand, Cornelia’s father has expectations of his daughter to marry, to do charity work, to not be difficult, to fit in and to toe the line. Not surprisingly, that all becomes more difficult for her as the season goes on.

“There are two other relationships between Cornelia and two other characters that really develop and that I loved working on, the first one being with her and Algernon. They have a very long and deep bond with each other, having grown up in the same household. Cornelia witnessed him going off to school at Harvard and sees the incredible talent he has. I think she feels really protective of Algernon and that further develops as the season continues.

“The other relationship I especially enjoyed was with Sister Harriet [Cara Seymour], the only other woman who Cornelia really interacts with, other than her mother, on a more equal basis. Sister Harriet and Cornelia are both involved in the social welfare aspect of the hospital and work on placing orphan children. The two of them have a close bond and share a similar sense of humor, too. They’re also both carrying secrets, so I found that relationship really fascinating to delve into,” enthuses the actress.

Getting Algernon onto the Knickerbocker staff is just the first of many hurdles facing Cornelia in season one of The Knick. In the aforementioned "Method and Madness," she shows her softer side when comforting a little girl whose mother is dying from an advanced and incurable case of tuberculosis. In the next episode, "Mr. Paris Shoes," Cornelia confronts the hospital’s corrupt superintendent Herman Barrow (Jeremy Bobb), who hired a slipshod electrician to install the hospital’s new electrical system paid for by her father. She also has to deal with a potential typhoid fever outbreak. Can Rylance hint at what else might be ahead for her character in the show’s first season?

“My favorite episode overall would be episode seven, because it’s one where the entire cast got to work with one another in almost every scene,” she reveals. “Something happens at the start of the episode and the whole hospital has to come together. It was thrilling to film, and it actually drove us a little crazy at the same time. We shot The Knick as if we were shooting a ten-hour film, so we would shoot every scene that happened in one location over a period sometimes of a couple of days. So we would be jumping from episode to episode with each of the scenes that happened in that location, but every day there would be a scene from episode seven on our shooting schedule.

Complete interview at first source link.

Eve Hewson: I want Step Up role!
OP: Such an awful title.

Q: I don’t hear much of an Irish accent.
I know. It comes and it goes away. I was just in New York with all of my Irish friends, and I was totally Irish again but I moved to LA and now I talk like a California person. I don’t know what’s going on, (laughter) but I promise you I am Irish, I will show you my passport. (laughter)

Q: When did you decide to become and actress and did your parents support your dream?
Yeah, they did. I had a tutor and she was trying to get me when I was thirteen, excited and involved about school. It wasn’t working and so she did these things where my sister and I, who is two years older than me, we would go to a restaurant to learn how to make sushi. Then we would go and do some other little project and one of the weekends we went and made a short film. I just really loved it and I was really excited. From that point she put me in one of her feature films (she was a director) and so from a young age I really wanted to do it. My parents were worried, obviously, it’s not the most stable career, and for women it’s really hard. You are being judged on the way you look all the time, you are being judged on how you are and constantly people are saying no to you. I understand that if you have a kid, you wouldn’t be like, ‘Go be an actor!’ You would be like, ‘Go be a lawyer!’ (laughs) so I get it, but they were really protective. But then when they realised I wasn’t going to stop acting, they became beyond supportive.

Q: Your dad is in show business too, so I am guessing you have seen the good side and the bad side.
Like, not a lot of bad actually. He is really great, he has a great community of people that he works with that are just his friends and so he hasn’t had to deal with a lot of it. A lot of stuff he has had to deal with is people just sort of abusing him.

Q: How?
Like abusing him in the press or something like that where people can be mean for no reason. And I think that he didn’t really want that for me. But they are so supportive and now they are always like, ‘Oh my daughter is an actress and you are a director; you should put her in [your] movie,’ (laughter) and I am like, ‘Oh my God, stop! (laughs) Please don’t do that.’ But yeah, they text me every day about what audition I am doing, and they’re like, ‘Good luck!’ and like, ‘Did you get it, did you get it?’ And they are just always overly protective.

Q: How did you start?
I went and studied acting at college. I went to NYU which is a university in New York and they have a really great art school there. So I did drama and then I graduated in 2013. This was my first job out of college which was really great. (laughter) It was a nice report back to my acting teacher, like, ‘I did it guys!’ (laughs)

Q: So was it hard to get a job?
Yeah, it was. And I moved out here because I [had] been auditioning so much when I was in college, and I knew that I had to be here in LA to do it; you just have to. And so I was doing auditions all the time and wasn’t getting anything. It takes a while to sort of build relationships with casting directors and your agents getting to know you. So after six months I got this and I was like, ‘Hey, this is pretty good!’ (laughter)

Q: I imagine your last name must have presented you with some advantages?
Not that I know of. I honestly couldn’t tell you. I mean, the directors I have worked with have not seemed to care because they are already of such high calibre, they don’t need to cast a rock star’s kid in their movie to get press or anything like that. And, they have never really seemed to care about that, which is lucky. And I have said no to a lot of things where I felt there was that sort of interest. So, it’s been about choosing the right people to work with and saying no to a few things that might be a little dodgy, and I’ve just been trying to make it on my own.

Q: And how was it to work with Clive Owen? You worked with him previously in Blood Ties.
I had worked with him on Blood Ties, but I had just done a one liner, (laughter) so I was basically a day player. And I had done a few scenes with him and it wasn’t like a significant on screen thing, but yeah, I had met him and he was lovely. Really, really sweet and I met him and he was like, ‘We worked together.’ He remembered. (laughter) I would hope so, we were doing scenes and I sat right next to him. (laughter)

Q: Any ambitions do a musical?
I am a terrible singer. (laughter) They would have to dub me. They would have to have the singer behind the stage. (laughter) I can dance, I can do the moves, like in Step Up, I would be in Step Up. I could be with Channing Tatum, why not? Oh my God, I would love to do Step Up. We should send out a rumour, ‘She’s going to be in Step Up 6.’ (laughter)

Q: The Irish edition.
Yeah, the Irish edition. (laughter) Set in Dublin, in a pub.

Q: You had some powerful scenes in the first episode of The Knick with the child and the cocaine. How was it for you?
(laughs) You know it’s so crazy because I thought when we were going to shoot that scene that they were going to give me a fake baby, a fake little doll or whatever, but they made like a robot baby. (laughter) It was honestly so bizarre, Justin, who was our makeup guy, he has his shop in LA, and he makes the pregnant prosthetics and all of the stuff you are going to see on the show. And he’s so talented, but he made this robot baby that he could control with a remote from the next room. So he would push a button and it would start flailing around, or it would be slower, or it would be alive or dead, whatever, and he put little baby eyelashes on the eyes and it had genitals and it was honestly real. And it felt real, and the flash felt real and we were shooting that first scene and it took quite a while. There was so much going on, and it was our first surgery and by the end of shooting, or by the end of shooting that scene, I was obsessed with this baby and I didn’t want to give it back, (laughter). They were like, ‘It’s not real Eve!’ (laughter) I was like, ‘But it’s so cute and dead!’ (laughter). I was covered in blood, and I have a picture of me holding it, caressing it.

Q: Have you ever gone to the hospital watched real procedures and touched real blood?
I never did that. I wish I did. It’s funny because we had a medical advisor, whose name is Dr. Stanley Burns, and he has one of the oldest archives in New York of these pictures of real surgeries and real people.

Q: So you are too chicken to go to the hospital.
Okay, I am a chicken. (laughter) Yeah, I am a chicken. I can take that. I am not very good with needles at all, so I worried about that. The first time they showed me the retractor needle, the fake one, they were like, ‘Okay, so you just press it into the skin, and it will just naturally retract.’ And I was like, ‘I can’t do it, I can’t do it!’ They said, ‘No, you need to learn.’ So I did and it was like a tight elastic band, so it’s really not hard.

Q: So what sparked your interest in the show? HBO or the story? What convinced you?
All of it. (laughter) I have an agent, and they send you all this stuff you could go out and audition for and you go and you read it and they had sent me that and I always get emails where it’s like a killer role and a killer part and you have all these names in the email and you are like, ‘Oh I am not going to get this because it’s too cool and it would be great.’ But then I made a tape for it. I was away, and they sent it in and they were like, ‘Yeah, we are sending your tape to the director,’ and I was like, ‘What?’ And then I got to go meet Steven Soderbergh and they gave me the part. And I honestly don’t know how that happened; it was just a stroke of luck.

Sources: 1 2 3
If you want to catch up/get into the show (legally): HBO is airing the first three eps on Labor Day starting at 8 PM, and there are three days left to watch the pilot for free on Youtube.