Thursday, July 25, 2024

Toni Collette and John Leguizamo on ‘The Power’, feminist gaze in sci-fi genre, and more

John Leguizamo and Toni Collette as Rob Lopez and Margot Cleary in The Power

John Leguizamo and Toni Collette as Rob Lopez and Margot Cleary in The Power
| Photo Credit: Prime Video

After essaying the roles of eclectic women across genres like Annie Graham in Hereditary, Lynn Sear in The Sixth Sense, Joni Thrombey in Knives Out and Muriel Heslop in Muriel’s Wedding, Toni Collette  believes that she is at a point in her career where the roles she is being offered feel like the handiwork of a bigger power, “it is like they are meant for me… like I am the one being chosen”. 

In her latest outing as mayor Margot Cleary-Lopez in the science-fiction show The Power, the Academy Award-nominated actor stars alongside John Leguizamo to tell the tale of teenage girls who develop the power to electrocute people at will. Based on British author Naomi Alderman’s award-winning novel of the same name, the show features a host of characters from across the globe.

Ahead of the premiere, Toni and John sat down for an interview with The Hindu over a Zoom call to talk about the show, its feminist gaze and their characters’ contribution to it.

Toni Collette as Margot Cleary in a still from ‘The Power’

Toni Collette as Margot Cleary in a still from ‘The Power’
| Photo Credit:
Prime Video

Toni confesses that she did not read the book. “When I was offered the part, I just had to focus on preparing for the role. I play a politician and politicians talk a lot so there was a lot of dialogue,” the actor comments and this cracks John up, “I just needed to focus on retaining the language,” she smiles. “I had been told that my character was very different in the novel and it was not going to benefit me if I did read it. The scripts we had were so well informed and beautifully written that I did not feel the need to go beyond” she adds. 

John who plays Rob in the show, while having read the book, is quick to agree, “I read the book but Rob does not really feature in the book. And as Toni said, the scripts were so well written… they kind of acted for us in a way. When the language is really good, you just have to be there, you just have to be present,” he notes. 

The duo believes that The Power has the potential to advance the feminist gaze in the science-fiction genre and Toni took the opportunity to highlight the timely nature of its themes. “Look, patriarchy is the structure we were all born into and the structure is going through some change and transition. It is incredible how this show aligns itself with the changes occurring in the real world today; changes that need to happen… that are essential,” she says, adding that she feels incredible to be part of a show that entertains the idea of potential “real” gender equality while underlining the characters’ socio-economic and geographic diversity. 

John chimes in, “I think it is a really important way of showcasing feminism without it being you know harangue and…”, “dogmatic,” Toni prompts. “The themes of female empowerment in the show are hidden in the girls’ power to generate electric shock and how my son in the show deals with his sister having a power he does not have; he gets jealous and it is similar to what happens in the real world — men having to give up power.”

According to Toni, the Coronavirus pandemic helped people imagine and believe in a world they otherwise would not have and that helped the cast and crew of The Power tell the story better, “if there is one good thing that came out of COVID-19 it is that it unified us. We realised that we are all connected and that we are going through [the pandemic] together.” “That is why this story that spans continents does not feel far-fetched in terms of its scale and how many people it affects and how quickly it could happen. It’s like fire.”

Risteárd Cooper and John Leguizamo in a still from ‘The Power’

Risteárd Cooper and John Leguizamo in a still from ‘The Power’
| Photo Credit:
Prime Video

John who lent his voice to Bruno Madrigal in the Oscar-winning animated movie Encanto is a proud Latino.

To further his efforts in putting the Latino community under the spotlight, the Colombia-born actor is venturing out into US cities with his road trip documentary Leguizamo Does America through which he intends to take viewers inside America’s thriving Latino communities and this is the first of its kind, according to John. “We are the largest ethnic minority in the United States and we have never had a show about our culture which is… crazy,” and he looks in awe at the grit of the Latinos he met along the way. 

Toni remarks that she is proud of her co-star and exclaims that she cannot wait to see the docu-series. The Australian actor is a rule-breaker in her own right by breaking the barriers of what constitutes “feminine” and working on characters who are usually relegated to the sidelines.

The reason behind opting for off-beat characters is a very self-indulgent exercise according to her, “it was to keep myself interested”. The actor continues, “I try to play different parts because there are so many different people to learn from,” she quips as she reveals that she learns from every character she essays. “Every character teaches me a timely lesson I could use in my life and that makes me invest more time in what I am doing,” she says.

#Toni #Collette #John #Leguizamo #Power #feminist #gaze #scifi #genre

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