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Merritt Wever sees honesty, relevance in the woman-duck romance of 'Roar'

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Merritt Wever sees honesty, relevance in the woman-duck romance of 'Roar'
Merritt Wever can now be seen in the Apple TV+ anthology series, "Roar." Photo Jim Ruymen/UPI | License Photo

NEW YORK, April 15 (UPI) -- Nurse Jackie and The Walking Dead alum Merritt Wever says a lot of truth exists about how modern relationships can devolve in her episode of the Apple TV+ anthology series, Roar, even though its premise of a lonely medical student falling in love with a duck may seem absurd.

The actress admitted it was initially hard to wrap her brain around the project from GLOW writer-producers Liz Flahive and Carly Mensch.

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"I had no idea what the experience of shooting would be like," Wever told UPI in a recent Zoom interview.

"When I got the script, I got a note that said it's about a woman who is in an abusive relationship with a duck. So, before I even cracked a page, I knew I was being invited to play in a certain sandbox."

The mini-movie, "The Woman Who Was Fed By a Duck," required Wever to share her scenes with a live bird, voiced off-screen by Justin Kirk from Weeds and Perry Mason.

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Although Larry the duck is the perfect partner at first -- making Wever's character Elisa laugh and supporting her dreams -- he becomes messy, moody and critical once he moves into her apartment.

"I definitely don't think it is an episode Liz and Carly wanted to do because it was kooky," Wever said.

"I do think that there is a point. I think it is slightly more amorphous, maybe, than some other episodes, so I decided to accept the invitation and wade into this land and hope it would prove a worthwhile way to tell the story."

Wever said during a cast press conference that she was happy this was her first job after a nearly two year break because of the Coronavirus pandemic.

"I often felt a bit like Gumby when I was acting: 'This is my job. How do you do it?' It also felt really beautiful sometimes to find myself shoulder to shoulder with somebody in the trenches with a common goal again. That felt very meaningful."

The adaptation of Roar -- P.S. I Love You and Samantha Who? creator Cecelia Ahern's book of short stories -- debuted on the streaming service Friday.

Each episode features a female protagonist in a standalone story that blends different genres, such as comedy, drama, horror, sci-fi, western and romance. The cast includes Fivel Stewart, Nicole Kidman, Cynthia Erivo, Issa Rae, Alison Brie, Betty Gilpin, Meera Syal and Kara Hayward.

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"There is some sort of journey and discovery and some version of growth for better or for worse," Flahive told UPI in another Zoom chat about what links each vignette.

"I love how different they are in that the sort of dissonance of the episode is also part of the point. How these things bump against each other is also fun."

Flahive noted she and Mensch were new to magical realism, horror and anthology series when they took on the project, but she said many wonderful collaborators helped them make Roar the quirky, complex and relatable show they knew it could be.

"Everyone was so game to take these big swings," Flahive recalled.

"We wanted to do something new and, after GLOW, many people were approaching us to do another GLOW or something GLOW adjacent. This shares DNA with GLOW tonally. Carly and I will always tell dramatic stories with a comedic voice and be focused on female-led series."

Atypical and Umma actress Stewart gets a Roar episode that is part Western, part road-trip comedy. It follows Jane, a teen in the 19th-century Old West, who sets off on horseback with her awkward neighbor Millie (Hayward) to avenge the shooting death of Jane's father.

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"So much happens in a short amount of time," Stewart told UPI. "When I was reading the script, I thought it was going to go one way, and then the journey happens, and it completely takes a turn, which kept me on my toes."

Although the episode is only 30 minutes, it essentially shows Jane growing from a kid who loves drawing horses to a grieving young woman seeking justice for a dead parent. The acting exercise allows Stewart to exhibit sorrow, regret, anger and independence.

"She has this idea of what her revenge looks like, and then when this girl comes in that she never really liked in the first place -- because the differences, right? -- they end up becoming best friends, and then the revenge [they take] actually turns out to be something way different. It was a heavy load, for sure," Stewart said.

The stakes are high and the gravity of the situation evident in the episode, but laughs abound as the women bond while plotting how to destroy a villain with as little risk to themselves as possible.

"Jane is stoic and serious," Stewart said. "Millie is just a light of humor and wit and life. Kara Hayward did an amazing job for bringing the comedic timing to the episode."

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The story also subverts the trope that women act rashly and emotionally in the wake of conflict or tragedy, relinquishing control to men, Stewart noted.

"'The Girl Who Loves Horses' really switches that or maybe even combines it to where Jane is mad and she is angry, but she is going to internalize it and let life happen -- and then she is going to mindfully actually watch and see how she feels," the actress said.

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