Eye on the Oscars: The Actress - Supporting Role: Janet McTeer

As a lead actress nominee for the 1999 pic “Tumbleweeds,” Tony Award winner Janet McTeer dazzled as Mary Jo Walker, a hard-drinking peripatetic mom with a penchant for cowboys and truckers.

Now, with “Albert Nobbs,” critics are talking her up for portraying the type of fella Mary Jo might have hooked up with. Burly, sardonic Hubert Page is a professional house painter who lives life on his, or her, own caution-to-the-wind terms.

“He has a great sense of humor and a great sense of irony, whereas Albert is so repressed as a human being,” McTeer says.

“The idea that you can have a laugh about something, and not be so scared and shut down, is a really wonderful thing.

“She got married to someone who beat her up, probably when drunk,” McTeer continues.

“I think she escaped; probably pinched her husband’s gear, and in order to avoid him and get a job, she got dressed up as a bloke because she could get away with it.

“And then as she carried on, she realized she enjoyed it and found the whole thing quite funny. It was pulling a joke on the rest of the world.”

McTeer says she enjoyed transcending familiar labels.

“I wanted to achieve the best of yin and yang,” she says. “I wanted him to be a bloke-y kind of bloke you could imagine would happily sink a few pints of Guinness and punch you in the nose if you didn’t toe the line. Yet also someone who was very warm, nurturing and empathetic, with all the best of the womanly qualities.”

What was the most difficult aspect of this role?

“The voice,” she responds promptly. “Making sure you kept the voice as deep as you could without losing the almost sing-song, very melodic Irish color. Even the guys go really high when they talk, and every time I went high I lost it, I sounded like a girl, really. I worried the tone might sound a bit dull and monotone trying to keep it in my lower register.

“As I got more confident, there were only a few times it went ‘up there,’ and I wish I could’ve gone back and done those scenes again. But then you always wish you could go back.”

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