“I need to be with other actors, then my focus is on what they’re doing and all I need to do is react to it. I’m too in my head if I’m on my own.” – Margot Robbie
Margot Robbie has received rave reviews for playing disgraced figure skater Tonya Harding in I, Tonya, which is yet another performance of Robbie’s that is well-received by critics and audiences. What’s the secret behind Robbie’s success? While participating in this year’s Hollywood Reporter actor’s roundtable, Robbie talks about what makes her nervous about acting, what she enjoys most about preparing for a role, and what she specifically did — and didn’t do — to prepare for her role in I, Tonya.
Robbie says that the type of acting that she finds most difficult is when she is doing a scene on her own. She explains, “I get nervous any time I have to act on my own. I need to be with other actors, then my focus is on what they’re doing and all I need to do is react to it. I’m too in my head if I’m on my own.”
On the other hand, one of the aspects of acting that Robbie most enjoys is learning new skills and preparing her character. She says,”I get excited when there’s a skill set you get to learn, and we’re so lucky and spoiled that they get someone really good to teach you. Like when I did [2015’s] Focus, I had a real-life pickpocket teach me how to pickpocket. I was like, ‘This is exciting’… Beyond that, I am kind of a crazy person when I prep. I do timelines and backstories, I work with a dialect coach, a movement coach and an acting coach. I do a lot before so I can throw it out the window when I get on set. But if I hadn’t done the work before, I’d be too scared.”
In the case of playing Tonya Harding, Robbie did not include meeting Harding in her preparation. She reveals, “I purposely didn’t because there was so much online. I could study her at 15, she’s interviewed all throughout her 20s, pre- and post-incident [when Nancy Kerrigan was attacked]. And documentaries made about her in her 40s as well. I was playing her 15 to 44, and I had all that information at my fingertips. So I prepped without having met her so that I could keep her and the character separate in my mind. And once I decided exactly how I was going to play the character, a week before shooting, I went to meet her. I didn’t want to meet her and be second-guessing what I had decided. She was, all things considered, really understanding.”