SXSW Interview: Matt Bomer & Marisa Coughlin Talk ‘Space Station 76’, Auditions and Acting Advice!
Matt Bomer and Marisa Coughlin were at SXSW for the premiere of their new film, Space Station 76. The story is a comedic drama about a group of people (and robots!) who live on a space station in a 1970’s-version of the future. When a new Assistant Captain arrives, she immediately stirs up tension among the crew as an asteroid heads directly for them.
The film, which was directed by Jack Plotnick, also stars Patrick Wilson, Liv Tyler and Jerry O’Connell, was one of my top films to see at the festival and I talked to Matt and Marisa the morning of the premiere. We talked about the film, watching themselves on screen, horrible auditions and their advice to actors! And check out the full audio interview, it’s great!
For the full interview, click the audio link above or download it from iTunes.
Do you guys like to watch yourself on screen? Do you cringe when you see yourself?
Marisa Coughlan: It’d be hilarious if some said, “I love it. There’s nothing better than a great Marisa Coughlan movie.” No. I…
Matt Bomer: You’re studying you’re every nuance. Yeah, that’s how acting works. Yeah!
I think it gets… you always hope that you’re involved enough in the story that you can sort of remove your ego from the equation and try to see the story objectively. But it’s difficult. Certain jobs maybe it’s easier than others.
Marisa Coughlan: This one it’s a little easier because it is such its own world. It’s not just like a random episode of a TV show or something. It’s like we’re on a spaceship, we’re in… it is like a world. So you do get to kind of escape into a it a little bit, but I typically find it difficult to watch myself.
Matt Bomer: Yeah, it’s pretty hard.
What’s one of the worst auditions you guys have been on?
Matt Bomer: Pick just one? I had an experience where I was testing for a high profile job and the casting director’s cell phone went off in the middle and it was a very, you know, you always wanna stay in the pocket of what you’re doing, but I didn’t really know what to do at the time because I was like do I address the situation?
Marisa Coughlan: Do I address it as the character as I’m weeping?
Matt Bomer: Do I ask to start over? Do I stop? Does she take that?
Marisa Coughlan: Is it the guy who’s gonna get this job calling?
Matt Bomer: Yeah. So that was pretty horrific.
Marisa Coughlan: I had one where I was testing, I was up for the first Anchorman. And they, my agent called me and she said, “This is amazing. They loved you. So just go in, it’s between you and one other person. You were really, really close. They’re looking for the Christina Applegate type,” and I was like, first of all, how do you channel Christina Applegate? I don’t know what that means. But I was like, “Ok, great. I’ll be there. So do you know who the other girl is?” She’s like, “Yeah, it’s Christina Applegate.” I was like, “It’s not looking good for me, I’ve gotta be honest. Don’t feel this is very promising.”
Matt Bomer: They should not have given you that information.
She’s probably the best type for the Christina Applegate type.
Marisa Coughlan: Right, I feel like… I feel like Christina Applegate is gonna nail it. She’s got a little bit of a leg up on me for that one. But there’s a long list of them, I feel like. I could sit here for 8 hours. When I used to go for commercials, did you ever go for commercials? Those are bad because they’re like, “Pretend the Skittles are falling from the sky and you’re dancing and a rainbow God lands on your head,” you’re like, “What? What am I doing?” I mean…
Matt Bomer: That’s an exercise in pure imagination. That’s kind of fun.
Commercials auditions are the worst.
Marisa Coughlan: They are. Yes. Demoralizing.
Yeah, totally. I had a casting director yell at me once. Do you guys have any advice to actors?
Marisa Coughlan: It depends where they are, but from my experience, it’s tenacity is at least half the battle because you… there’s so many points that I was like, “I just can’t do this. This is so exhausting and it’s just a lot,” and then all of a sudden something happens and your whole career change and it’s so much fun and wonderful. And I look back on those moments and I’m so glad I didn’t give up, but I see a lot of people who have walked away and I’m like it’s just… it’s an exercise in hanging on through a lot of ups and downs.
Matt Bomer: Getting back on the horse.
Marisa Coughlan: Yeah. You really have to be pretty damn thick skinned. You know? But that’s… it’s also… a friend of mine said your worst day in show business is better than most people in terms of their job’s best days. Because we get to do a lot of amazing things, but you pay the price with all the ups and downs, but it is… what she said is true. I don’t think I was cut out to… I like the ups and downs in a lot of ways. You’ve gotta be pretty prepared for that. What’s your advice?
Matt Bomer: I echo all those things. And also at the same time, really try to remember why you wanted to do it in the first place. What kind of artist you wanted to be, what are the stories you wanted to tell so that when the opportunities do present themselves, should you ever be fortunate enough to have a choice or be able to get in an audition for a specific project is to remember who you are as an artist and what made you wanna tell stories in the first place.
Marisa Coughlan: Along those lines, I have better advice than my other advice.
I started writing, I’ve become a writer, I’ve been doing it for the past maybe 5 years. Create your own opportunities because I’m so mad. I had the inclination to do it 10 years… no. More than that ago and I just didn’t… I, you know, honestly, I told myself, “Oh, you’re probably not a writer. You’re probably not this enough. You’re probably not that enough.” And then I finally started 5 years ago and now I’ve had more success doing than and creating things than I have now. It’s really been amazing for me and it’s empowered me in so many ways.
And like he was saying about the things that drew you to this business, it’s not just necessarily being a cog in a wheel and telling someone else’s story, it’s telling the stories that are native to you. And so every actor I meet I’m like, “Oh my God, you’re 20? Start writing right now. You could make your…” with the way things have changed…
Matt Bomer: Or producing or getting the rights to scripts you wanted.
Marisa Coughlan: Exactly. You can do anything. You can put yourself on YouTube. You can create your own medium, which you couldn’t do not so long ago. So I would empower people to do that.
Would that have been your backup plan?
Marisa Coughlan: I don’t know if it’s my backup plan or my main plan, to be honest, because I think it gets…
Matt Bomer: It’s your co-plan.
Marisa Coughlan: It’s my co plan. They’re right here.
So did you have a backup plan?
Matt Bomer: Did I have a backup plan? No I didn’t have a backup plan. I got my degree in college is a Bachelor in Fine Arts.
Marisa Coughlan: I think if you have a backup plan you probably should do that because this… you have to be in it. You have to be like this is my plan.
Matt Bomer: I’ve sold pilots that I’ve written and things like that, so I guess I wrote as well and always tried to stay creative in some right. I think there was one time in my career where I was certainly having kind of a dark night of the soul because I wanted to tell stories that affected people and I wasn’t necessarily given that opportunity. And then when I started to create my own opportunities it started to turn around for me.
You guys seem so busy, how do you find time to actually write?
Matt Bomer: She can carry a toddler, breastfeed, and write a script at the same time.
Marisa Coughlan: Actually, not that far from the truth. Ask my husband and my best friend. You cannot be a heady writer who sits around and obsesses over a sentence. You crank out 10 pages in an hour while they’re napping and you hope it’s good. I definitely have never had the lux… because I started writing basically when I started having kids.
Matt Bomer: Ernest Hemingway would’ve had a hard time in your shoes.
Marisa Coughlan: Yes, yes. I’m not a super neurotic writer because I just… I mean, I am to a degree, but I can’t be the slow, neurotic type. Gotta crank it out.