Stephanie Hsu interview: ‘Everything Everywhere All at Once’

“You want to be able to communicate very complicated ideas through art. And you hope that it works,” divulges Stephanie Hsu. In “Everything Everywhere All at Once” writers and directors The Daniels tasked her with the dual roles of Joy and Jobu in their multiverse-hopping adventure. She recently earned an Independent Spirit nomination for her performance, proof that she certainly made the complexity of her characters “work” in the hit film. Watch the exclusive video interview above.

Hsu describes the Daniels as her “artistic soulmates” due to their shared love of experimenting, improvising and a “deep intention to hopefully offer some goodness in the art that we make.” The actress embodies Joy, the sullen daughter of Michelle Yeoh’s Evelyn, and Jobu Tupaki, Joy’s nihilistic alternate universe counterpart, who is set on destroying the multiverse. It’s a lofty concept, but because of her connection with The Daniels, she “understood the heart of the film” immediately after finishing the script.

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Joy and Jobu had to resonate with audiences as two different sides of the same coin, yet exist as distinct characters on their own. So Hsu explored the concept of “hyper empathy” as a launching pad for these two women. “If someone feels everything, it can often lead to hyperabsorption, it can lead to depression, overwhelm, anxiety,” she explains, “Just being completely over-sensitized.” That description fits Joy perfectly, but Jobu exemplifies a different reaction to this condition. As Hsu notes, this sensitivity “can launch a villain to be able to access chaos at any moment.”

The actress believes that bouncing between Joy and Jobu provided her with “the most fun” she’s ever had on a set, yet sadness hovers over them both. “I knew that I had to root both Joy and Jobu in this proximity to darkness,” says Hsu. Indeed, she indicates that the films “Joker,” “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind,” and “Dumb and Dumber” served as important touchstones of inspiration while working on the film. What she describes as a constant “availability towards sadness” was necessary in order to make moments like the tender parking lot scene with Evelyn feel cathartic.

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In reflecting on her recent successes, Hsu admits, “So much of what my career is or has been…is something I never imagined for myself because I never saw it.” That includes lauded runs in the Broadway musicals “SpongeBob SquarePants” and “Be More Chill,” diving into a period comedy with “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel,” and now playing a member of the Asian family at the heart of one of this year’s top films in “Everything Everywhere All at Once.” “It feels very humbling and overwhelming and beautiful, to get to be a person who is making space for the people that are coming after me,” admits Hsu. “And even space for myself that I didn’t see.”

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UPLOADED Dec 9, 2022 7:30 am