Actress Melanie Lynskey

The actress of Two and a Half Men fame talks about her latest film, Hello I Must Be Going, wanting to become a more versatile actress and navigating the entertainment industry while being shy.

A versatile actress with an impressive list of credits, Melanie Lynskey initially had ambitions of becoming a film critic. However, at age 16, while still in high school, she ended up on the screen, with her debut in the Oscar-nominated Heavenly Creatures. She completed her education in her native New Zealand and has since played a range of characters on the big and small screens, including in Win Win, Up in the Air and the hit series House, The Shield and Two and a Half Men. Lynskey has two new films in release: Hello I Must Be Going, the opening night film this year at Sundance, and The Perks of Being a Wallflower.

TRANSCRIPT

Tavis: Melanie Lynskey is a talented actress known to many for her role as Crazy Rose on “Two and a Half Men.” Starting September 7th you can catch her in the new film “Hello, I Must Be Going.” The film was selected as the opening night screening at Sundance this year and also stars Blythe Danner. Here now, some scenes from “Hello, I Must Be Going.”

[Clip]

Tavis: Opening night Sundance. My grandmother would call that “high cotton.” (Laughter) That’s a big deal.

Melanie Lynskey: It’s a big deal, yeah.

Tavis: Yeah, yeah. So this is not Crazy Rose on “Two and a Half Men.” This is your project. You’re carrying this thing.

Lynskey: I suppose so. (Laughter)

Tavis: No, no, I’m telling you, in case you didn’t know. (Laughter)

Lynskey: Okay.

Tavis: You have to carry this thing. How’d that make you feel?

Lynskey: It was exciting.

Tavis: Yeah?

Lynskey: It was exciting. I like working, I like having something kind of difficult to tackle. So it was really fun, it was really fun to really sort of like sink my teeth into something, but scary.

Tavis: How would you describe the project?

Lynskey: It’s a really funny, sweet, heartfelt movie. It’s complicated, there’s a lot of comedy in it, it’s kind of sexy. For an actor, it was kind of an amazing opportunity. There was so much to do with the role.

Tavis: I was looking at your discography, as it were, of all the films that you’ve done. You like comedy, you prefer comedy? I know you like it, obviously; the question is do you prefer comedy?

Lynskey: I like doing all kinds of things. I like being able to go back and forth. My favorite kind of thing is a movie like this, where it is comedy but there’s drama behind it. It’s like based in reality and there’s a depth to it.

Tavis: Blythe Danner has been on the program a couple of times. I actually like her.

Lynskey: Yeah.

Tavis: What was it like working with her on this?

Lynskey: So wonderful.

Tavis: Yeah?

Lynskey: Yeah. You would know if you’ve met her. She has such a lovely, sweet energy and she just puts out just a really lovely feeling into the world. She was very kind. She was very worried about having to be mean to me in the movie.

Tavis: Oh yeah?

Lynskey: Yeah. (Laughter)

Tavis: That sounds like her.

Lynskey: Yeah, she didn’t like it.

Tavis: You mentioned a moment ago that you were scared by the project. What scared you about taking on the role?

Lynskey: It’s just a little scary to be such a big part of something. I’m used to playing smaller parts in things, and then when the movie comes out I’m proud of the movie, but I don’t feel – it doesn’t feel like my responsibility. With this one, I feel like oh, God, if people don’t like it, it’s my fault.

Tavis: Have you gotten comfortable, though, in playing those smaller parts? What’s wrong with playing the big part?

Lynskey: No, I love it. I’m excited. (Laughter) It’s great. If it’s a good part, I’ll play it. It can be one scene or every scene.

Tavis: How did the “Two and a Half Men” thing happen for you?

Lynskey: Oh, it was funny. It was pilot season and I just went and auditioned, and it was just like a little guest-starring role in the pilot. It was supposed to just be that one episode. Then when the show got picked up, they make the character a permanent thing, so I was a regular for two years. Then I came and went for the last seven years.

Tavis: Obviously you’ve done movies before. When you bounce between TV and film, what specifically at this point in your career, at least, are you looking for in terms of film opportunities?

Lynskey: I’ve been lucky enough to work with people that I really respect and admire, so that’s just kind of my dream is to keep working with people whose work I like, and touch wood, it seems to have been happening so fast.

So I’m open to any kind of thing. I just get a feeling when I read something and I just know that it’s like the right project for that point in my life.

Tavis: In preparing for our conversation I read something where you said that at one point in your career there were a certain type of script, you were getting offered the same kinds of roles.

Lynskey: Yes.

Tavis: Over and over and over again. So what’s happened? Obviously, this film doesn’t fit that genre.

Lynskey: Yeah.

Tavis: So what happened in your career that you think allowed you or has allowed you to start getting these kinds of opportunities?

Lynskey: Well, I got a new agent. (Laughter)

Tavis: Okay, enough said. (Laughter) That’s always the answer in Hollywood – just get a new agent. Yeah.

Lynskey: Well, I’m lucky enough now to be working with somebody who really will read a script and think about her clients and think about what might be an interesting new opportunity for them, what might be something different for them to try, or a type of character you maybe haven’t played before, people you haven’t worked with.

So it’s just having somebody looking at it in a different way and not just slotting you into the same sort of -

Tavis: I’m glad you raised that. I was in a conversation at a dinner party the other night and we were talking about agents.

Lynskey: Mm-hmm.

Tavis: Uh-oh. Talking about agents in this business. The point was made, and I made the point, that I have not had an agent for all the years that I’ve been in the business.

Lynskey: Oh, wow.

Tavis: I had one many, many years ago, and it lasted for a very short space of time. The reason why I got rid of an agent is because I find, and I’m not saying this to diss agents, I find that agents tend to be transactional people. In other words, most agents in this town want to do a transaction.

They want to get you a job, they get you a job, you get your check, they get your check. They tend to be transactional.

Lynskey: Right.

Tavis: Most agents in this town, not all, but many, don’t have a holistic view. They’re not able to do what you’ve just said a moment ago, to chart out a path for you and to see you grow and to see you develop and to help you build a brand and build an empire. That’s often not the case. They’re transactional people.

I raise all that to say you got a new agent and that’s a good thing, but how much of pushing your career where you want it to go has to do with having your own vision about what you want to do and where you want to be and how you want to progress, as opposed to just relying on an agent to do that? Does that make sense?

Lynskey: Yeah, it does, it totally makes sense. I think for me, my own – without getting too personal – my own biggest obstacle has been sort of believing in myself and believing that I’m deserving.

Tavis: That’s fair, that’s fair.

Lynskey: I come from a small country and it’s been – I’ve been doing this for a very long time, and I’ve sort of made a path for myself, but it’s still hard for me at times to be like yeah, I deserve this. I should be the lead in a movie. I can barely get the words out of my mouth.

The other great thing that my agent does is she really helps me believe in myself. If I have an audition that I’m nervous about she’s like, “Go get it.” She’s like that person for me.

Tavis: I’m laughing inside, because I’m like if you’re that shy (laughter) and need to be pumped up that much to believe in yourself, you chose the wrong profession.

Lynskey: I guess so. (Laughter)

Tavis: This is like the wrong business to be in.

Lynskey: I know.

Tavis: Seriously, this is a -

Lynskey: People have told me that.

Tavis: This is a – you’re good at what you do, obviously, you’re excellent in the movie, but this is a very, very tough business, because the level of rejection, you have to have a strong constitution to survive and to make it in this business.

Lynskey: Yeah. I guess I have a strong constitution. But it’s just difficult. I don’t know, there are some actors who are very confident and full of a lot of self-belief – extroverts and very outgoing people. Then there are some people who are more comfortable when they’re playing a character.

Tavis: The truth of the matter is that most of them are insecure.

Lynskey: Yeah.

Tavis: That’s the secret, as you well -

Lynskey: Everybody’s insecure.

Tavis: Everybody in this business. (Laughter) They’re actors so they act like they’re strong and they act like they’re self-confident.

Lynskey: That’s what I need to do, I guess.

Tavis: The truth is, they’re – yeah, it’s just acting. They’re all insecure. That’s how the process works. Well, I hope that we can figure something out here, because the success of this is going to mean a whole bunch more offers coming your way.

Lynskey: Oh, I hope so.

Tavis: And not for the same kind of character, either, so congratulations in advance.

Lynskey: Thank you.

Tavis: Good to have you on the program.

Lynskey: Thank you, that’s very sweet. So nice to meet you.

Tavis: Nice to meet you as well.

“Wade Hunt:” There’s a saying that Dr. King had, and he said, “There’s always a right time to do the right thing.” I just try to live my life every day by doing the right thing. We know that we’re only about halfway to completely eliminate hunger, and we have a lot of work to do. And Walmart committed $2 billion to fighting hunger in the U.S. As we work together, we can stamp hunger out.

“Announcer:” And by contributions to your PBS station from viewers like you. Thank you.

Last modified: August 30, 2012 at 6:51 pm