“I loved the book so much when I read it all those years ago and I had been thinking about this character and what a wonderful role it would be to play,” admits Rosie O’Donnell about wanting to be involved in HBO’s “I Know This Much Is True,” in which she plays a stoic and empathetic social worker. Watch our exclusive video interview with O’Donnell above.
HBO’s star-studded project is adapted from the Wally Lamb novel by writer/director Derek Cianfrance. It stars Mark Ruffalo as a man revisiting his troubled past and the relationship he has with his schizophrenic twin brother (also played by Ruffalo) while trying to have him released from the asylum in which he is being held. O’Donnell costars as his brother’s well-meaning social worker Lisa Sheffer, who is a no-nonsense but empathetic woman who cars deeply for his mentally ill brother.
O’Donnell disappears into the role, which is unlike anything audiences have ever seen the multiple Emmy winner and comedian, actor, activist and author do before. For O’Donnell, it was important to give the character authenticity, drawing inspiration from her own upbringing and personal experience.
“I had a teacher when I was a little kid. My mom died when I was ten years old in the fifth grade and when I was in the seventh grade I had this wonderful public school teacher,” O’Donnell reveals. “I saw what it takes to be a social worker and what kind of person she was and how she lived her life truthfully and honestly and how you have to give your heart without getting it broken and it’s a challenging, challenging job.”
O’Donnell also credits writer/director Cianfrance for getting the most out of his cast when shooting the series. “He would ask you to do 30 or 40 takes and it’s not because he didn’t get what he wanted, but it’s because he’s always searching for that one other piece of gold, that tiny something that shines more than the rest of the performances and the authenticity is what he picks out,” she says. “Once he feels that his gas tank is full, he can say we will go on to the next scene and again we start with an empty gas tank and we fill it up as close to the truth as we can get.”
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