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‘Richard Jewell’ Scene Stealer Nina Arianda on Why Sam Rockwell ‘Is a Goddamn American Treasure’

It’s always a joy to see Nina Arianda on screen, whether playing Stan Laurel’s wife in “Stan & Ollie” or the supportive and encouraging Agnes Stark in “Florence Foster Jenkins.” She’s a familiar face to theater crowds, having won a Tony Award for her stunning, take-no-prisoners performance in “Venus in Fur” in 2012. She also earned raves for starring opposite Sam Rockwell in Sam Shepard’s “Fool for Love,” first at the Williamstown Theatre Festival in 2014 and then on Broadway in 2015.

Arianda is reuinted with Rockwell in “Richard Jewell,” director Clint Eastwood’s new film about the security guard who went from hero to suspect in record time after discovering an explosive at the 1996 Summer Olympics in Atlanta. The movie depicts the media scrutiny that badgered Jewell and his mother, Bobi. And in a time when it felt like no one was on their side, Rockwell’s lawyer Watson Bryant (who knew Jewell from a previous job) stepped in to fight for his exoneration. Arianda plays Nadya, Bryant’s best – well, only – employee at his small firm.

With her dark wig and Russian accent, Arianda provides moments of lightheartedness to the proceedings but she’s also a constant source of kindness and support – when she first meets the Jewells, she arrives at their apartment with groceries and wraps Bobi in an embrace. Later, her warmth is on exhibit again as she prepares Bryant for an important moment and quietly helps him with his tie. Though no words are exchanged, there is much that goes unspoken between them.

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Arianda: “What I found the most interesting about the film was that it was based on true events. The injustice of the matter and the exploitation of an innocent man are subjects that needed to be brought to light to honor the memory and contributions of Richard Jewell.

“I was [able to meet the real Nadya] and it was wonderful. She was incredibly generous with her time, information, and experience. Having access to Nadya was invaluable to the process. She allowed me to record her voice as she read some lines in order for me to study her tone and cadence. She studied dance when she was younger, and that disciplined posture never left her system, so it was fascinating watching her move.

“Sam Rockwell is a goddamn American treasure and an incredible friend. Working with him is a dream. He challenges you in the best ways. His care, spirit of play and support of his scene partners are incomparable.

“My favorite scene is Kathy Bates – Bobi Jewell – speaking at the press conference. It is one of the most moving and honest things I’ve ever seen. I enjoyed all the scenes I was in, because I loved working with all the actors and Clint created the most amazing environment. I loved my last scene with Sam in the office. Clint allowed us to try different things and let us bring our ideas to the table. I also loved it, because I was proud that  the hour previous to shooting the scene, I taught myself, via YouTube, to tie a tie on someone else.”

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