Robin Weigert is best known for her incredible role on the late, great HBO series “Deadwood” as drunken, foul-mouthed Calamity Jane. But fans of that series — and anyone else, for that matter — are about to see a very different side. Her bold, complex turn in Stacie Passon’s “Concussion” has definitely been one of the highlights of Sundance, and with The Weinstein Company is now on board to release the film.
In “Concussion,” Weigert plays Abby, a fortysomething lesbian who’s married with two kids and lives in the New Jersey suburbia. But after being hit in the head by her son’s baseball, Abby begins to unravel and through a series of events finds herself with a new double life: Lesbian housewife by night, high-end lesbian prositute by day. It’s a sexy, uncomprising and unique take on the cinematic mid-life crisis that works in large part because of Weigert’s peformance.
Weigert’s involvement in the project came via “one the rare moments” in her life where she had an offer, the actress told Indiewire at Sundance earlier this week.
“I didn’t know anybody involved,” she said. “I really liked the script, and an agent of mine was a big fan as well. Which is helpful when an agent gets on board with a project. I met with Stacie and I really liked her mind and the ideas behind the film. I couldn’t even look at a former film of her’s because there just wasn’t one. But I could feel and tell there was a significant vision here. It was really clear in talking to her.”
Shortly thereafter Weigert was totally committed to the role, which she admits was a pretty vulnerable one.
“I had never had a sex scene before,” she said. “I had a tiny part in a Steven Soderbergh film where I played Philip Seymour Hoffman’s adult daughter whose a stripper. So there was some nudity in that. And there was some very unflattering nudity where I had underarm merkins on in ‘Deadwood,’ but I hadn’t had any sex scenes like this before in my career. And there were a lot of them in this film so that was new ground for me.”
Weigert prepared for the role mainly by working on her body and trying to get to place where she could get out of her head and into the part.
“I’ve been asked in a couple interviews if I did research on sex work,” she said. “And I was like, ‘God, no.’ Why not? Well, the character doesn’t. It’s not like she’s in a line of work. She’s someone leading a fairly conventional life who takes one step out of the box and then another step out of the box. You know? I thought, ‘Let it be experiential.’ Let me have her experiences.”
Those experiences included sex scenes with women she’d literally never met until moments before the cameras rolled.
“A couple cases I didn’t know the women at all before,” Weigert said. “I hadn’t hung out with these actresses whatsoever. They would come in and change into their underwear or something and we’d shake hands and do the scene. It was a very strange experience. All I can say is that with each person there was an intuitive understanding of what might bring it to a place where the head was out of the game. Where you weren’t thinking. Which is I think that obstructs that from being genuine or intimate or passionate or whatever. When your head gets involved.”
But Weigert said that it wasn’t those scenes that made her the most anxious on set, but instead the ones where she was playing the bored housewife side of her character’s double life.
“As an actor, I worried that that would just recede and not play,” she said. “I didn’t know how boredom plays. Not just boredom, but all of those states of mind that come from being in a state of unease with your life. In my mind I was like how do you follow a protoganist whose in that state for a long period of the film. Do you get on board with her? But Stacie knew exactly what she was doing.”
She did indeed. Reviews have been strong for both the film and Weigert’s performance, and the film was as noted one of the first acquisitions of this year’s festival.
“I can’t imagine a better company to be handling this,” Weigert said of the Weinsteins. “I feel like we had an absolute win in that sense. Of course, Saturday was full of nerves and Sunday was this kind of relief. And once I learned about the deal I was somewhat euphoric. You go through all these incarnations of yourself in environments like this. Because there’s a lot to be gained.”
One thing Weigert very specifically hopes comes of the experience is having the film find it’s way to sex and relationship advice icon Dan Savage.
“It would be so interesting to me to hear what Dan Savage might have to say about a film like this,” she said. “Because he’s constantly teasing open the subject of monogamy and how realistic it is in a way that’s very controversial in this culture that everybody sort of in a box. His call-ins are all over the place, from the gayest of gay to the straightest of the straight. And they have a million questions. The idea that there could be permission to solve these problems differently is so mind-blowing to people in a fairly conventional culture.”
Dan Savage, are you listening? Book Weigert and Passon as guests on your show ASAP.