Jessie Buckley has only had a handful of starring roles, many of them in smaller films—so it’s possible you haven’t seen her in anything yet. But if you have, it’s impossible to forget her. From her star-making turn in 2018’s Wild Rose to a heartbreaking supporting role in HBO’s Chernobyl to I’m Thinking of Ending Things (now on Netflix) and Fargo (now on FX), the Irish actor has both dazzling charisma and a remarkable authenticity—you feel like you know her and that she’s a superstar.
On this week’s Little Gold Men podcast, Joanna Robinson talks to the actor who is seemingly everywhere right now—and should only be doing bigger things from here. The episode also includes discussion of a wide range of topics, including the films that have exited this year’s awards season altogether, the trailer for the Sundance hit Minari (which will be part of this year’s awards race, rejoice!), and new releases Enola Holmes and The Boys in the Band.
Listen to this week’s episode above, and find a partial, lightly edited transcript of the Jessie Buckley interview below. You can subscribe to Little Gold Men on Apple Podcasts or anywhere else you get your podcasts.
Vanity Fair: Jessie, the last time I saw your face with my face was at South by Southwest, the film festival, for Wild Rose. And you performed a set on the stage and I was just, like, dazzled and mesmerized by your singing and I’ve been such an avid fan ever since. So I’m so happy to talk to you today. I’m just curious, what’s the wildest thing that’s happened to you, since the last I saw your face with my face?
Jessie Buckley: God, I don’t know. I think I had a cigarette with Brad Pitt once. I don’t really smoke and it was all very too much, and he was lovely. So that’s, anyway, that’s probably the most embarrassing of the wild things that happened to me.
So you have this really enviable sort of double slate this fall—triple slate if you count Misbehaviour—of this Charlie Kaufman project, I’m Thinking of Ending Things, and your scene-stealing work in Fargo season four. And I’m wondering, when you play these two characters who are very different, but both very heightened in their mannerisms and in their existence—how do you approach that as opposed to some of the other more, would you say, naturalistic roles that you’ve done?
I guess they’re both heightened worlds. You’re not doing like a Ken Loach film or something. It requires you to expand, and in a different way. And, for some reason, they kind of came out at the same time and actually I ended up doing Fargo—Fargo came my way when I was shooting I’m Thinking of Ending Things. And I think they’d seen my tape for I’m Thinking of Ending Things. So that’s how that happened. And then I was on set with Jesse [Plemons] and David [Thewlis] and I was like, should I do it? And they’re like, definitely you’re going to have so much fun.
I love all kinds of cinema, but I think humans and characters are heightened, they’re bold. And, when you get to be part of a world which tells you to go to the extremities of where that might live, it’s so fun, it’s really fun. Like, the Coen brothers have a really heightened tone and world where all their characters live in that. And yet there are also people that you also recognize in a way. And Charlie’s films are surrealist art pieces, but you also recognize the emotions of that, even though they are taking place in a heightened circumstance.
One aspect of your Fargo performance that’s completely fascinating is this sort of physicality, the walk for this character, the way your whole body changes from what I’ve seen you do in other productions. And I’m wondering if you talk about how you put that physical performance together?
Yeah. That kind of just came out of a note. My first instinct of her was like, she was a female Grim Reaper. And then I just thought, she was kind of birdie in my head. There’s just something birdie, and she was on the run. I guess just where my mind was being drawn to her, something quite birdie and Édith Piaf-y. And I just liked that she was a bit of a creature, she didn’t belong on human soil. She was half in the afterlife and half in real life. And I think that just kind of came out, I don’t know what happened.
One thing that I loved learning about you when I was sort of doing some research for this, is that your career was already on something like an upward trajectory. And you went to the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art after you had already achieved some great heights. And so I’m wondering, what was that decision like for you? Why did you decide to go back to school at that point in your career?
I guess just a chance to quietly nurture what I thought I might be able to offer into an industry and a family that I really cared about, which was unique to me. And to take that time to discover and ask questions and push boundaries of even the stuff that I was being presented with in the school. And to speak uniquely from my voice. And also be a bit naughty and get drunk in the pub on Friday night is always very important, that’s probably the mode, that’s the most important.
In I’m Thinking of Ending Things, you get to do so much in this film in terms of slipping in and out of various personas. My favorite thing that you do in this movie, which is currently streaming on Netflix—if folks haven’t watched it, an incredible multifaceted performance from Jessie Buckley—but my favorite part is when you slip into this Pauline Kael section, sort of adopt this persona as you’re dissecting a film in the car. So I’m just wondering what your approach is for something like that. When you’re going to not just discover or explore something different for your character, but to slip into an imitation of sorts, of another person.
I think it just kind of came up with the script, really. I didn’t know who Pauline Kael was before I read the script. And then I was working on dialect and I’m like, even just the dialect for that woman, it was never something rooted in a place because she—there is no place that she comes from, so it was more about textures. And something that me and Charlie, from our very first interaction, was that this is somebody who shape-shifts and is molecular and explodes and then embodies other things.
But she’s not controlling it. It’s just something which is also coming from [Plemons’s character] Jake and what his memories are. And so, I don’t know. I just started watching Pauline Kael and then probably someday on my bike, I just started speaking like, listening to her in my headphones, trying to copy her voice, and that kind of thing came up, but it was fun. And then when we got into the car, it just took on its own thing. I think Jessie was slightly a bit terrified. He was like, Oh, God, here comes a weird British lady. I think it was like a kind of fear of some haunting aunt or something like that.
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