Playback: Laurie Metcalf on ‘Lady Bird’ and Getting the ‘Roseanne’ Band Back Together

Welcome to “Playback,” a Variety podcast bringing you exclusive conversations with the talents behind many of today’s hottest films.

Actress Laurie Metcalf is no stranger to awards. She’s been nominated for nine Emmys for her work in television series like “Roseanne,” “Desperate Housewives” and “The Big Bang Theory” and has three of those trophies on her mantle. She’s also been recognized with four Tony Award nominations for her work on the stage, including a win just last year for “A Doll’s House, Part 2.” But she’s never been swept up in an Oscar season whirlwind until “Lady Bird,” which yielded her first Academy Award nomination last month. Even for an industry veteran, the rush of the circuit (or “circus,” depending) has been a fresh and exciting new experience.

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“I had no clue this is what happens when you’re in such an explosive hit movie,” Metcalf says. “I’ve started to run into people I never would have been able to meet anywhere else. Willem Dafoe I can say hi to now, Martin McDonagh, Sam Rockwell, Octavia Spencer, Frances McDormand, my God. What’s so different about it is usually, if I wrap something that’s on TV or stage, there’s a quick toast afterwards and you pack your suitcase and fly home the next day and never revisit it again. But with a movie — everyone else in the world knows this, I just didn’t put two and two together — 18 months later you’re talking about the movie and what that experience was. It’s a new phenomenon for me to revisit something you’ve done in the past and be present with it again.”

Gerwig’s film has become one of the most universally acclaimed pictures of the year, nearly topping “Get Out” for best-picture notices on the critics’ awards circuit (where Metcalf was far and away the most laureled supporting actress player of the season). It is also reigning best-picture champ A24’s highest grossing film to date. How was it able to tap such universal vein?

“It’s very detailed,” Metcalf explains. “[Everyone connects with] the struggle to fit in and finding yourself, ‘What makes me different,’ and, ‘God, I just can’t wait to get out of here and start over,’ and reinvent yourself. And it’s only in hindsight that you see that all these influences, the people who raised you and the people you grew up with, are a part of you that has provided that shape. But Greta’s writing is so delicate. None of this is hit over the head.”

Next up for Metcalf is the return of television’s “Roseanne,” the groundbreaking series that brought her those three Emmys. It’s part of a rush of TV reboots and revisitations of late, but one that could be particularly meaningful given its focus on real-world, blue-collar themes and characters.

“We did nine of them and I think the writers wrote very true to the characters,” Metcalf says. “It addresses some issues, some current events, but also issues that haven’t changed since the family was dealing with them. But because of the groundwork ‘Roseanne’ laid early on about being willing to sacrifice laughs in a particular show to make the episode about an issue, it was always a show that could handle some weight and go to some dark places. There are a handful of those moments again.”

For more, including discussion of Gerwig’s unique energy on set and a few quick movie highlights from Metcalf’s past, listen to the latest episode of “Playback” via the streaming link above.

Subscribe to “Playback” at iTunes.

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