Rebecca Hall's new sci-fi drama "Tales From the Loop" debuts on Amazon Friday. File Photo by Rune Hellestad/ UPI | License Photo
NEW YORK, April 3 (UPI) -- Frost/Nixon and Iron Man 3 actress Rebecca Hall said she wanted to star in Amazon Prime's Tales from the Loop because the sci-fi drama is "subtle, while also being big, philosophically challenging and emotionally weighted."
"That is very much to my taste, I think," Hall told UPI in a recent phone interview.
"Yes, it's science-fiction and it's fantastical and, yes, on some level it manages to be mainstream family entertainment, but I found it to be so bold, honestly. Everything that is fantastical is rooted in the emotions of the characters and the emotions of the characters are never overplayed."
Set to debut on the streaming service Friday, the series was inspired by Simon Stalenhag's art book of the same name. It tells the tale of people who live in a town over a machine built to unlock the mysteries of the universe.
"I paint a lot, and I am very interested in things that have a particular visual sensibility," Hall said. "I'm intrigued to watch people work who have that sort of stylistic originality, I suppose, and it felt to me that this was going to have that."
Hall said it wasn't difficult to figure out how to play brilliant scientist Loretta, the daughter-in-law of the architect of the Loop, who is played by Game of Thrones alum Jonathan Pryce.
For Hall, the easiest characters to play are the ones with personalities shaped by enormous, relatable life events.
Loretta is a defensive workaholic, Hall said, but also filled with love and the desire to be the good mother she didn't have when she was a child.
"With Loretta, it's right there front and center. There is a thing that happens to her, which on some level is the most extreme act of abandonment that you can imagine," she added. "If this thing happened to you, you would spend your whole life trying to work out why, and you would spend your whole life trying to control the world."
The finished television show, which was beautifully photographed and features music by composer Philip Glass, far exceeded Hall's expectations, especially scenes in which she doesn't appear.
"Every episode deals with different people in this town, and my character and her family kind of bookend the piece," she said.
"There was an awful lot about it that I didn't really know. Even if I got the scripts, part of me was a bit like, 'I don't even want to read them, necessarily, because I just want to watch them.' Because I love the sensibility and style of the show, so I'm curious to know what's going to happen. So, some of it I didn't imagine and loved it."
Parks and Recreation and The Family Stone actor Paul Schneider plays Loretta's husband, George, on the series.
"The first thing that I responded to was my character having a robot arm," Schneider said in a separate phone interview.
"As an actor, you always want to be given the chance to be different, to do something different than you've done before. I also liked the fact that his robot arm is not the prevailing feature of this character. His defining characteristic is that he is the son of an extremely powerful, world-changing inventor."
Schneider noted his mechanical limb, like many of the sci-fi elements in the series, has this "wonderful background quality," with the show focusing more on the characters' interactions.
For instance, George is driven by the desire to be a better dad than his father was. Scenes with his parents and sons -- sometimes affectionate, other times tense -- generally are quiet and emotionally restrained.
"It's challenging because when you are acting, making someone laugh or scaring someone or screaming or yelling -- those are the days when you go home and you feel like you did something," Schneider said. "It is harder to do less and walk away trusting that the filmmakers have enough."
The actor said he learned in film school that you can shave things away, but you can't add much when shaping a performance in the editing process.
"As an actor, I'm always trying to give directors different flavors," he said. "What made it easier was having [showrunner] Nathanial [Halpern] at the helm and seeing the confidence he had in the stories and the confidence he had in the team he put together. ... You want people to take care of the creative contributions that you make."
Although it has robots and parallel dimensions, the show works because it is steeped in humanity.
"They're exploring the only things that really matter to any of us -- emotions and human connections and family relationships and your relationship with yourself and jealousy and failure and the desire to have meaning in the world," Schneider noted.
"It is an earnest take on these stories. It feels like Nathaniel started writing every episode asking himself, 'What if this happened?' And always made his way from, 'If the beginning is science-fiction, the end is empathy.' Stories don't work unless you see yourself in the characters."
Amazon Prime's Tales from the Loop premieres Friday.