Q&A: The Brass Teapot‘s Juno Temple Talks Indie Movies and Black Magic

The actress talks about her desire to have a flying carpet

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Juno Temple arriving for the BAFTA British Academy Film Awards nominees party in London on Feb. 9, 2013.

In director Ramaa Mosley’s new indie morality tale The Brass Teapot (Apr. 5), Juno Temple and Michael Angarano play a young married couple in possession of lots of unpaid bills—and one very special teapot. The teapot, it turns out, rewards pain: when its owner gets violent, it fills up with cash. If it sounds like a recipe for disaster, well, it is. Temple—who has also been seen in recent festival fare like LovelaceMagic Magic and Afternoon Delight, as well as major blockbusters like The Dark Knight Rises—talked to TIME about playing a grown-up, struggling to do the right thing, and the difficulties of an American accent

How does the experience of doing an independent movie like The Brass Teapot compare to making a huge movie like The Dark Knight Rises?

Both are extraordinary experiences. It’s great because both make your jaw drop at certain points. But the size of a movie like Dark Knight Rises—you never get to meet everyone. You never get to shake everyone’s hand. And on a movie like Brass Teapot, you really do, because it’s such a small crew that you really become a family. But you learn huge things doing both. And I think it’s really important to try, if you’re lucky enough, to be in studio films and in independent films.

What are some of the different things you learn?

The size of a studio film lets you see technology in a way that you wouldn’t on an independent film, like the gadgets and the angles and all that. On an independent film, you really learn about pace. You have so little time to do things, that you really have to know your scenes. You really, really, really have to have the ability to jump from hysterical tears to fantastic laughter within two hours because you have to get those scenes shot. Whereas in a studio film, you might sometimes shoot two weeks and then be off for a month and then come back again.

The Brass Teapot is quite violent. Were there any real injuries during filming? Or close calls?

It was very hot, so sometimes you’d feel a little faint. But I don’t remember any serious injuries. But we made the fake ones look really good.

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What do you think you would do if you found the brass teapot?

I dunno. It depends what kind of day I was having. I’d be pretty freaked out, for sure. I’d probably question myself. I think things happen for a reason so I would feel not like a very good person just beating people up and taking money from a teapot. I would leave it…well, like, I said it would depend what kind of day I was having.

Are there any magical objects you’d rather have?

A flying carpet. I can’t drive.

Where would you go?

To get coffee and stuff. Sometimes, to England.

The Brass Teapot is a fable. Is there anything specific you wanted the audience to take away from it, as a message?

I think it’s really interesting how my character and Michael’s character react very differently to the teapot, and how one is more afraid of it and one isn’t. It’s a cool thing to give an audience the opportunity to be, like, “Which one would I be?” or, “How would I behave?” It’s like you asking me that question. I don’t know what I would do. If I had $11 in my bank account, I might go wild.

Did you think your character was the villain or the hero?

I don’t think she’s a villain. I think she’s confused and she’s desperate. My character is more lost and I think she takes it to a darker place—she’s more manipulated by the teapot; she’s more vulnerable to it. So I guess, maybe, she’s a little bit more of a victim.

What’s it like to play a character who goes dark like that?

It was fun! It was a little crazy on some days. You’re excited to go home at the end of the day and take a bath and wash the day away.

Were there any scenes that were particularly difficult in that sense?

A lot of the scenes toward the end of the film, where we start doing the emotional pain, were pretty nasty. Putting someone through that, a wife putting a husband through that, would be rough—and treating this teapot like an addiction.

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I was also interested to see you and Alexis Bledel and Alia Shawkat playing characters who are married and grown up.

That was the weirdest thing!

Did it feel like more of a grown-up role than some of the parts you’ve played in the past?

Yeah, but at the same time she also definitely felt quite childish to me. It was the first time, really, one of the characters I’ve played has been having to pay bills and take care of their own house and that kind of stuff. But in some ways, she was much more naïve than some of the other characters I’ve played.

What was it like playing a married couple with someone who you’re with in real life?

I don’t really want to get into that, but I had an amazing time working with Michael.

You’re British, but you’ve played characters that are Australian and from the American South. Are those accents difficult to learn?

I find standard American the hardest. It really fits in a different place in your mouth. Southern, I find the easiest. If you talk to a dialect coach and you get sort of technical, where an English person keeps their voice in their throat, a Southern person does the same, and it’s got the same sort of music to talking. Standard American is a little more monotonous, and the way you guys pronounce your vowels slightly differently, it’s just a harder accent.

Are there any words that are particularly hard?

In standard American, anything with an “o.” I sound incredibly English, or I sound like I’m from Clueless.

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