When Melissa Leo is on stage or you see her in a TV show or film, the project is immediately elevated to a different level. She has an incredible gift of grounding every scene she’s in, making everyone around her better.
If you saw her Oscar nominated performance in last year’s Frozen River, you’ll know what I’m talking about. Need more proof? Check out the first 5 seasons of Homicide, 21 Grams and the upcoming Welcome To The Rileys.
She’s currently starring in HBO’s Treme as attorney Toni Bernette. If you haven’t been watching the show, you are missing some great performances. Not only from Melissa, but John Goodman, Khandi Alexander, Wendell Pierce… the list goes on.
I talked to her while she was on set, filming another HBO project, Mildred Pierce.
When I first became aware of you in Homicide, and everything I’ve seen you in since, is that you bring a deep reality to everything you’re in. You keep everyone and everything around you grounded. That’s a big reason that Homicide stunk after you left the show.
Oh my God! I don’t know if I want all that responsibility but that’s quite a compliment. An actor at a festival once handed me a card, and she had written on it “Acting, the art of pretending the truth.” And I use her quote an awful lot, because it is. To me, that’s what it’s about, even when things go into the fantastical realm that they can on stage or in film. That’s an extraordinary compliment. Thank you.
After Frozen River, do you still have to audition now?
The auditioning has waned, some of it by choice. For many years, I recognized that I was used for casting directors to impress directors with their choices, to find out how a difficult part, in fact, can work. So I, as I’ve begun to have work offered to me, have backed away from auditions from time to time.
You seem to take these roles that might be difficult to cast, but you fit them perfectly.
Well, I think that anybody who does any kind of work gets the thing that if you’re going to be working, you might as well be working hard. So, that’s what I do, and I guess my passion and love for it is that acting really is my life. The only other thing really is my son.