Watch: Jessica Chastain talks to Yahoo about The Good Nurse
Oscar-winner Jessica Chastain has revealed she felt insecure about playing the real person at the centre of her latest film, The Good Nurse (on Netflix from 26 October) because the nurse herself, Amy Loughren, watched her acting on set.
No stranger to playing real people — she won her Oscar for playing Tammy Faye Bakker in The Eyes Of Tammy Faye and is due to be seen alongside Michael Shannon later this year as Tammy Wynette in George And Tammy — this was the first time she’d come face to face with the person she was portraying.
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And having them watch her act in a scene was a new experience as well. “That’s the first time that’s ever happened for me,” she told Yahoo.
“I’ve done a lot of films where I’ve played a real person, but I’ve never been observed by them as I was playing a scene. I felt very insecure about that.”
Chastain had spoken to Loughren over the phone as part of her research into the role. “She was very helpful in helping to establish the character and learn things that might not be in the script, but when I saw her on set, my heart just went ‘Oh, gosh!’ and I went and gave her a hug.
“I think she was aware that I was very intimidated that she was there, so she hid from me a little bit. Every time I saw her, I felt I was such a fraud. I wasn’t the real Amy! She hid so I could pretend I was her for a while.”
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In The Good Nurse, Chastain a dedicated nurse stretched to her limits by the night shifts at the ICU. Help arrives when Charlie Cullen (Eddie Redmayne), a thoughtful nurse arrives at the hospital and the two develop a strong friendship. But when a number of patients die under mysterious circumstances, an investigation points to Charlie as the prime suspect and Amy is forced to risk her life to uncover the truth.
Cullen told police he’d killed at least 40 patients in New Jersey and Pennsylvania and was eventually convicted for the murder of 29, although it’s believed the number of victims could run in to hundreds, making him one of America’s most prolific serial killers. He is currently serving multiple life sentences and will never be released.
Amy Loughren has distinct memories of her own reaction to watching Chastain play her in front of the camera. “There was this moment when I’m sitting in a chair, I’m looking at a monitor, there’s a girl sitting next to me who was a body double with my name taped to her and I’m watching Jessica and Nnamdi [Asomugha] play out a scene,” she recalls.
“I had that moment of ‘what is happening?’ It was a weird paradigm shift – there’s no way unless you’re taking hallucinogens that this could happen in real life. It was very, very strange and I did a lot of emotional stuff behind the scenes – happy, sad, crying.”
She also helped Eddie Redmayne with his portrayal of Charlie Cullen and her response when she first saw him in the role was even stronger. “That scene where he switches, where he changes in the diner - I talked him through who he was and what happened during that meeting between me and Charles Cullen,” she explained.
“I saw it first in the trailer and I couldn’t breathe. It was so exceptional, I just couldn’t breathe. He became Charlie. He channelled him. I’m speechless.”
Redmayne has also played real people, winning an Oscar for his portrayal of scientist Stephen Hawking in The Theory Of Everything.
The Good Nurse is based on the book of the same name by Charles Graeber and is directed by Tobias Lindholm (A War, Mindhunter). The cast also includes Noah Emmerich, Nnamdi Asomugha and Kim Dickens.
The Good Nurse is released on Netflix on Wednesday, 26 October. Watch a trailer below.