“There’s an added pressure when you know you’re going to play a literary icon character,” reveals Christopher Abbott about taking on the lead role in Hulu’s new adaptation of the classic Joseph Heller novel “Catch-22.” He adds, “Ultimately, I decided all that’s going to do is hinder me and there’s nothing I can do about people’s perceptions other than just be truthful and honest and do the best I can.” Watch our exclusive video interview with Abbott above as he discusses playing a soldier in World War II and the significant amount of nudity that this role demanded.
In “Catch-22,” Abbott plays Captain John Yossarian, a bombardier stationed in Italy during World War II, desperate to finish off his flight missions and get the hell out of there. Based on the classic Heller novel, the limited series executive-produced by awards magnets George Clooney and Grant Heslov will premiere on Friday, May 17, on Hulu.
Abbott wasn’t troubled at all about meeting the lofty expectations of fans of the famed novel, and relished the opportunity to play up the darkly satirical aspects of the book. “Everyone reads a book differently. That’s always the funniest thing when you’re adapting something and people have read it already and are fans of it. In your head, you have an endless budget and you cast it perfectly, however you envisage it, so it is hard to make it specifically what each person expects from whatever story or picture that they have in their head,” Abbott explains. “Some people interpret the book as very humorous and some people interpret the book as very heartbreaking and harrowing at the same time.”
“It’s hard to play satire. The only thing we can do is play every moment truthfully,” he adds. “I think it’s funny because it’s played seriously, and I think it’s heartbreaking and harrowing because it’s also played seriously.”
While the series has some genuinely humorous moments, it is at its core an exploration of a man’s journey as he struggles to maintain his sanity against all odds. “This guy in a lot of ways is fighting the system and at his heart he’s an existentialist, put into this very extreme situation,” Abbott says about how his character suffers setback after setback until he ultimately reaches breaking point. “Being put through these insane, extremely unfortunate events, it makes you ask what does it take to drive someone to hysteria and what does it take to break down a person’s psyche.”
Note that at the 11 minute mark, the interview becomes audio only.
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