John Magaro interview: ‘First Cow’

John Magaro had to put in some work to get into the mindset of Cookie, his character in the new Kelly Reichardt film “First Cow.” As a self-described city boy, it wasn’t easy for the actor to embody a cook who is used to living off the land in 1800s Oregon. To prepare for the film, Magaro and co-star Orion Lee spent time in the woods at a Lewis and Clark-style boot camp for about four days. “It made us feel a little more comfortable stepping into his world where you have to be a master or a jack of all trades, in a way,” says Magaro in an exclusive new interview for Gold Derby. Watch the full interview above.

Reichardt gave Magaro some old cookbooks to help him further get into character, which the actor admits helped him embody Cookie’s humility. As he describes, the recipes in these cookbooks required a “tremendous patience and quiet to it, and precision.” Cooking and baking every day for a few weeks ultimately “let that quiet and let that weight wash over me.” That inherent sensitivity in Cookie makes him an outsider in the world of the film, but it is part of what brings him and Lee’s character, King-Lu, a Chinese immigrant, together. “They both are aliens in this world,” observes Magaro. “At the real core of it, I think you could say they’re almost soulmates. These are people who for whatever ethereal reason are drawn to each other.”

“First Cow” has been a long and winding process for Magaro. The film began production in late 2018, debuted at the Telluride Film Festival in the summer of 2019, had its release in theaters in March at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic before being pulled, dropped on VOD in the summer and is now earning end-of-the-year critics awards. One of those awards is for Magaro himself, who was nominated at the Gotham Awards for Best Actor. Magaro is thrilled with the response to the film, especially for Reichardt finally earning her due. “It’s … heartwarming to see people respond to the film in this way because it is a film with a lot of heart and a lot of care put that’s been put into it,” he notes. “I think Kelly has been under-appreciated for far too long and I really think she deserves it.”

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UPLOADED Dec 22, 2020 1:00 pm