Constance Wu Portrays The Pain Of Miscarriage In 'Solos' Episode
LULU GARCIA-NAVARRO, HOST:
In each episode of the new TV series "Solos," a lone character struggles in isolation. In one, a woman dressed as an angel, with smeared mascara, plastic wings, sits in a sleek waiting room full of magazines, pamphlets - some that say welcome to hell - and a lone, unmoving fish in a tank. Her name is Jenny, and she's been waiting a long time.
(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "SOLOS")
CONSTANCE WU: (As Jenny) I actually think I might still be drunk. I'm Jenny, by the way. I am great fun at parties, reliable. I'm usually the first person to arrive and the last person to leave.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: Jenny is played by Constance Wu, who has starred in films like "Hustlers" and "Crazy Rich Asians." And she joins us now from Los Angeles. Hello.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: Tell me about the idea behind this series 'cause it's sci fi. It's one person per episode. They all have a twist.
WU: Yeah. Well, the title, "Solos," is very much kind of what it is. It's about these characters, by themselves, working out sort of very human issues. And I think it was very relevant to right now.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: Yeah. I mean, the series creator, I read, David Weil, said that the idea was born sort of out of the enforced isolation, but that the storytelling was also inspired by the storytelling that one does around a fire - right? - sort of the oldest kind, with just one narrator telling a story in a very intimate and direct way. And you play Jenny. Tell us about her and what she's dealing with.
WU: Well, she starts off very drunk. And she's sort of trying to piece together in the micro sense of, like, where literally is she. Like, what is this waiting room, and how did she get here? Did she get here by car, by bus? Did she walk? But then I think she's also trying to figure out where she is in terms of her life and how she feels about her accomplishments and what has become of her life. And she's in a waiting room. And it's kind of a perfect metaphor because I think there is an element in a lot of our lives where we sort of feel like we're waiting for our life to begin without realizing that your life is happening right now, as opposed to, like, no, this is what it is now. And look at it now, and examine it now, and live in it now.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: I do want to ask you what it's like to play someone who's drunk. And I've heard actors say before that you don't want to play someone drunk. You want to play someone who's trying to act sober. And I was just wondering, like, sort of how you approach that.
WU: I guess experience.
WU: I promise you, I was not drunk while I was filming it, but I have been many different kinds of drunk in my life before. The interesting thing about Jenny is because her whole piece is - pretty much, she's talking to camera. And the way I reconcile that is kind of like, you know, when you're in a dream and you're talking to your mother. And somehow, that morphs into your mailman, and then that morphs into your dog or whatever. But it's seamless in the dream, right? And I think for me, I handled the drunkenness with that type of dream-like seamlessness, where my state of drunkenness had more to do with the person to whom I'm speaking and how I want them to perceive me.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: I mean, what were the challenges of being on screen alone in that kind of conversation with the audience but also sort of imaginary people?
WU: I think when you're the only person that the camera's on, you can get real, I guess, actory, right? You could get real indulgent. And that's a big trap, especially when you're the only one that has text. How I get out of that is making sure that I'm really giving myself over to the character and making it about her rather than making it about me or my performance. So I really just had to trust that I would give my heart over to her and she would take me wherever she wanted to take me because I don't have anything to personally draw off from it, and she did. And she really took me places there.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: One of the things that Jenny is struggling with is her struggle to get pregnant. And she talks about sort of the pain of that. How did you connect with the character for that issue? Because, you know, we often don't see women so rawly talking about those kinds of things.
WU: Yeah, I mean, I - I'm a new mother. I had a baby over the summer, but I didn't...
WU: Thank you. Thank you. It's the best. But I didn't have any struggle in getting pregnant. But I think it wasn't so much about the struggle of getting pregnant that I connected to, but it's about the feeling of a loss of possibility, which I think happens when you age, not just with fertility but just - things whittle away, and you're like, oh, right, maybe I'll never be, you know, a prima ballerina 'cause I have bad feet or something like that. It helps you clarify your purpose by whittling away certain things that, you know, are no longer a possibility. And that clarity of purpose can be really life-affirming.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: I want to shift gears a little bit and ask you about a study out this month about Asian American presence in American movies. And it said that over the past decade, in the 13,000 top-grossing films, only 44 featured lead characters of Asian or Pacific Island descent, and one-third of those roles were played by The Rock Johnson.
WU: Dwayne Johnson (laughter).
GARCIA-NAVARRO: What does that make you think?
WU: I mean - and I'll also mention that of those lead characters, zero were women over 40, which is like, cool. I'm close to 40, so I'm like, (laughter) that's a thing to pay attention to. Those numbers certainly didn't seem great. And so I think the first step to getting better at anything is awareness. And so a study like that really spreads awareness.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: And I think it is doubly important, not just on merits for all the reasons that we know why representation is important but also because we have seen such a surge in hate crimes against Asian Americans recently.
WU: Hate crimes spring from racism. And racism really comes from not seeing a person as a fully formed human being but just as, like, a stereotype. And I think that's where narrative storytelling, where media in general is so important in that when you see these stories of complex Asian or Asian American characters and you see them as fully formed human beings, I think that can help.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: I was looking at Jenny, and what I found really interesting is there is nothing overtly about Jenny's ethnicity or race. And on the one hand, I think that's freeing because you just see the person for the person. And was that a deliberate choice?
WU: You know, there's often this conversation where it's like, oh, I want to play a character where the character has nothing to do with them being Asian, and that will be progress. I actually disagree with that. I think that's the same thing is when somebody says, oh, I'm colorblind. I don't see race, because when you say that, it means you don't see me. And it means you don't value the fact that being Asian has informed a part of my experience, and it's a part of my experience that I am grateful for and that I'm proud of. But to say that it doesn't inform our identity is to promote a type of erasure that I don't actually think is all that healthy.
So I do think Jenny is Asian because I'm Asian. So there's no way that she wasn't Asian. If you say that I don't see your race, it means you don't see me. And actually, this is a part of myself that I am proud of that is not all of me but is a part of me that I value and that I think you should value, too.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: Constance Wu - now appearing in the TV series "Solos" on Amazon - thank you very much.
WU: Thank you.
(SOUNDBITE OF THE SURE CO.'S "SORT OF THINGS") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.