Toni Collette on Her Varied Roles: “I want to try to create new characters. I would get bored otherwise”


Actress Toni Collette has returned to Broadway for the first time in fourteen years in The Realistic Joneses, but it isn’t like she hasn’t been busy in the meantime. During that decade-plus Collette has starred in acclaimed films like The Hours, indie darlings like Little Miss Sunshine and TV series like United States of Tara and Hostages. You might not have realized it though because Collette has a habit of disappearing into her roles. She spoke about why she seeks out parts that she can delve into with The Wall Street Journal.

Collette has become known for playing varied character roles — in fact, that was the whole gimmick behind her Showtime series United States of Tara. Collette admits that seeking completely different roles fuels her as an actress, pointing out, “I want to try to create new characters. I would get bored otherwise. And I think it’s the great luxury of being in this position. When I first came to America, I had a manager in L.A., and I was being offered a few things and they were all very much in the same vein of Muriel’s Wedding. And there was something in me that knew not to go there. It’s very easy for people in this industry to be categorized or boxed in.”

Though many actors are noted for their willingness to undergo physical transformations for their roles (such as Christian Bale or Jared Leto), it’s a much rarer attribute for actresses. Colletee is one of the few “name” actresses who is not only willing, but sees it as a requirement. She explains, “Not every character I play will look like me, and I don’t always look like this, either. I want to create a character that feels real and has a certain element of truth. And not everyone looks like an actor. People are very varied in their appearance, and their appearance is usually an extension of how they feel internally. So depending on the story, I’ve done several things to help create the physical side of the character, as well as bring about some emotional truth and presence.”

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