Jessica Chastain wasn’t going to play anyone’s pawn onscreen.
The Oscar winner transformed into “Stand By Your Man” crooner Tammy Wynette for Showtime series “George & Tammy” opposite Michael Shannon as George Jones. Chastain, who also produces the series through her Freckle Films banner, revealed that she objected to dialogue in the first episode of the series.
During the scene in question, Shannon as George tells Tammy’s soon-to-be-ex-husband Don (Pat Healy) that he is going to sleep with Tammy and hire the husband an escort.
“I read it and I was deeply disturbed,” Chastain told Marie Claire. “[Tammy] was just kind of sitting there. People were creating stuff so she could be caught rather than her making decisions.”
The prostitute subplot was removed, and co-star Shannon agreed that the dialogue needed to be changed.
“[Michael] changed the line from, ‘Yes, I’m going to fuck her’ — excuse the language — to, ‘I sure would like to,” Chastain recalled. “The second he said, ‘I sure would like to,’ it was like, ‘Oh, yes, this is happening. Because he sees her as someone who gets to make the decision.’ And that’s working with an actor who’s very aware he doesn’t own me.”
Chastain continued, “To be a producer, and to have a production company, means you get to police that in the writing. You get to say, ‘Whoa, whoa, whoa. We need to honor women as human beings. And they make their own choices —just like men do.'”
Shannon agreed, saying, “The notion of sitting in front of another man and looking at a woman and proclaiming that you’re going to fuck her, seems a little neanderthal to me. I mean, if I was the woman in question, I wouldn’t enjoy that so much.”
IndieWire’s Ben Travers wrote in the review of the series that the aforementioned scene, coupled with Shannon’s line delivery, adds to the palpable passion between George and Tammy’s lust for one another.
Writing of Shannon’s performance as George, Travers penned, “He looks at Tammy, who matches his gaze without cracking an approving smile or critical glare. She just sits there, hovering in her chair — not fidgeting so much as floating, like she’s about to drift off this earth and toward a nirvana only George can provide. And when Don delivers one more insult, George flips the table, looks at Tammy, and offers exactly that: ‘You love me, right?’ he says. ‘Yes, I do,’ she replies, finally confirming their mutual fixation. ‘Then let’s go.'”
Travers concluded, “And away they went. Per the events in Showtime’s six-part limited series, ‘George & Tammy,’ the two singer-songwriters were bonded forever from that moment forward, and while their romance proved ill-fated, the duo’s irrefutable love never really went away.”