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Tobias Menzies: New 'Modern Love' stories move fast, go deep

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Tobias Menzies: New 'Modern Love' stories move fast, go deep
Tobias Menzies (L) and Sophie Okonedo can now be seen in Season 2 of "Modern Love." Photo courtesy of Amazon Prime Video

NEW YORK, Aug. 13 (UPI) -- The Crown, Outlander and Game of Thrones alum Tobias Menzies said a lot of moving parts have to be in place for Modern Love episodes to be believable and emotionally satisfying for viewers.

"The story has to move quite quickly," Menzies told UPI in a recent Zoom interview.

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"We only had a half-hour to tell the story and there's quite a bit to tell."

Inspired by the New York Times column of the same name, the show is a collection of short films, each telling a different, standalone tale. Season 2 premiered Thursday on Amazon Prime Video.

In one new episode, Menzies and Sophie Okonedo play a divorced, middle-aged London couple who fall in love with each other again.

The episode's success depended on getting audiences to care about the couple and root for them to reconcile shortly after meeting them.

"It was a lot about atmosphere and building up a sense of the previous relationship and what the texture of that relationship had been and then how it had changed," Menzies said.

Playing his off-on partner is Okonedo, who is best known for her roles in Ratched and Dirty Pretty Things.

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"I forgot that it was only 30 minutes," said Okonedo of her Modern Love tale. "There's so much going on. I was just thinking about the story. ... Things happen fast with this couple."

Their relationship is exciting and authentic, but not a fairytale, Menzies emphasized, noting he liked seeing this type of oft-neglected, mature love portrayed on the screen.

"There is an element of acceptance of who each other has become," he added. "There is a realness to their love now, which, I feel, maybe when they were younger, was more romantic, more charged."

"There's lots of hope in it," Okonedo added.

"A second chance and also it's nice to see something on television where getting older is quite an enjoyable and hopeful experience, and it's where things can start anew instead of end," she said.

Minnie Driver goes driving

Good Will Hunting, Grosse Pointe Blank and Speechless alum Minnie Driver said she totally understood the character she plays in her Modern Love episode, an Irish doctor struggling with whether to sell the expensive, impractical car that belonged to her late husband (Tom Burke).

"I really do believe that as humans we do that," Driver said in a separate Zoom chat.

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"We have totems in our lives and things that carry meaning and that it's actually really important to be able to physically look at something that brings you back to a person or a time."

Driver said she has things that are incredibly meaningful to her that do what the vintage blue convertible Stag does for her character, Stephanie.

As the woman considers getting rid of the vehicle, she reminisces about all the good times she had in it and even speaks to her dead spouse while driving it. Their entire relationship, spanning decades, is glimpsed through flashbacks.

Driver said they shot a lot more than was used.

"I wish that episode had been a movie," Driver said, emphasizing she treated the project as seriously as she would a feature-length film. "It was so beautiful, and Tom Burke is such an incredibly fine actor."

Much of Driver's episode features her behind the wheel, navigating twisty roads in Ireland with the car's top down in freezing November. The actress didn't mind a bit.

"It was fantastic driving," she said. "I love to drive. I loved driving that car. It was magic."

As for her character, driving represented not only a means to connect to a person and past she missed terribly, but also a sort of freedom she didn't enjoy anywhere else in her life.

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Driver said this situation broke her heart because even though Stephanie has a really nice husband and sweet children, she only feels free in that car.

"What I hope for her is that by the end of that episode that freedom has become a shared freedom and she really does bring it into her life as opposed to it being a secret behavior, but that is something she can live fully, out loud, with witnesses," she said.

Garrett Hedlund disrupted

Another episode of Modern Love casts Friday Night Lights, Country Strong and Triple Frontier actor Garrett Hedlund as an American war veteran whose wife leaves him for a married neighbor.

Grieving a loss that disrupts his meticulously planned life, he strikes up a friendship with the other jilted spouse (Anna Paquin).

Hedlund could relate to being "the fixer and the one who wants to solve problems, but not the planner."

"I've always been very spontaneous, very last minute, to a fault and, so, I thought this was a very sweet and common theme," he said. "There are a lot of very, very diligent Type As where everything is completely planned and, so, it was fun to play one like that."

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While taking on an intense emotional role for a short period of time can be refreshing for an actor, Hedlund said he and the rest of the Modern Love team actually would have liked to continue exploring their characters and their stories.

"You want to know what happens to these characters and if they stay together, if they break up, if they find true happiness or love or if everything is just one traumatic piece of chaos," the actor said about the show. "The greatest thing is when you don't have the answers. It just keeps you wanting more."

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