Nicole Kidman is well-known for taking on roles in a variety of big and small screen dramas. One thing many of those roles have in common is a penchant for Kidman taking on deeply emotional and sometimes disturbing characters. While she makes gigs like The Undoing and Big Little Lies look easy, she recently revealed the “disturbing” side effects she deals with often with those heavy roles.
During a recent appearance on the WTF Podcast, Nicole Kidman touched on a variety of the popular roles in her career. One particularly fascinating thing she talked about was her process with inhabiting characters. Nicole Kidman is not an actress who is easily able to separate herself from the character she is playing, though she said this is not something all actors struggle with.
I have not learnt the technique to tell my brain and my body, ‘Oh this is just acting.’ I haven’t learned to clean that out… it doesn’t really work for me. I go home, and I don’t really sleep well and I’m not well if it’s that disturbing to me.
Things have gotten so bad with her immune system on set that she’s actually gotten physically ill. This apparently happened on HBO’s Big Little Lies and again when Nicole Kidman played Masha in The Undoing. (Surprisingly, though, it hasn't stopped Kidman from being excited about potentially doing more Lies if the opportunity arises.)
Big Little Lies I did and even on [The] Undoing it kind of happened where I was suddenly in this place where there was a disquietness to my personality. I was uneasy; there was duress on who I was. I actually got really sick and I think this is a thing that happens to actors. Yeah, yeah, I did [get sick]. I actually went down for a week because your immune system doesn’t know the difference between acting and truth.
It’s not just TV roles that have forced Nicole Kidman into this stressful space. She also mentioned to Marc Maron her role in Destroyer also made her feel “unpleasant” to be around and it’s all because she finds ways to deeply inhabit the role. She says she always looks to the director and the dialogue for where to start with a character, but it’s fascinating to hear her talk about how she gets from point a to point b to point c emotionally.
I just started moving in a particular way which was to do with pain in the abdomen and not being well and protecting the heart. Sort of beaten down by life but also it was particular pain, which is slowly dying, so where does that pain exist? That’s how I went into her. And then just shame, which is a huge emotion to carry… that then creates a person. That was awful, being in that place. I stayed in that character. I actually would come home in the jeans and the jacket and not get changed. I didn’t want it to feel like acting. I didn’t want to walk on set and be like, ‘Now I’m going to perform.’... I was not pleasant, I was a very unpleasant person during that time.
Seemingly, the solution to not feeling like crap on set would probably be to take some more lighthearted fare every now and again, and occasionally we do see Nicole Kidman in lighter projects such as Aquaman or Paddington. However, we really do get to see her chewing the scenery (in a good way) a lot more than many other actors. Her recent incursion into television has also been a gift, as well. Next up, Nicole Kidman has a TV gig in Nine Perfect Strangers, based on the book by Liane Moriarty. In addition, the flicks The Northman and Being the Ricardos are in the works.