Ben Whishaw (‘Women Talking’) on finding strength in quietness: ‘To listen well I think is a really hard thing’ [Exclusive Video Interview]

Actor Ben Whishaw “felt quite close” to the character he plays in “Women Talking.” “It’s a very delicate situation that he’s in. And I thought he must be a special kind of person to be able to do it … He is allowed to be there by this group of women who are going through something extraordinarily painful. I think it said something about the kind of humanity of this man.” Watch our exclusive video interview with Whishaw above.

He plays August, a former member of a Mennonite community who is brought back to record the deliberations of a group of women trying to decide their course of action. They have been systematically drugged and sexually assaulted by the men of their colony and have three options: to stay and forgive the men, to stay and fight the men, or to leave the colony altogether. “I really just set myself the task of trying to do exactly what August is doing … Be present, and be attentive, and listen and write,” says Whishaw. “To listen well I think is a really hard thing.”

The strength it takes to listen was one of Whishaw’s chief takeaways from the film. “You can be made to think by the world that if you’re quiet and apparently passive, that that’s weakness. And I don’t think that’s true,” he explains. To center others and “not be constantly feeling like I have to put my own opinion forward” is something “I need to get better at,” but “Women Talking” was a “very gentle” set on which to take in those ideas. “It wasn’t jangly and tense and competitive, which is how I find lots of other environments to be if I’m honest. So it was beautiful actually. It was an incredible experience.”

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