To prepare for a role, Margot Robbie tells Variety for this week’s cover story, she dives deep into research. In the case of her “Bombshell” character, Kayla Pospisil — a fictional composite created by screenwriter Charles Randolph — Robbie worked on Kayla’s Florida accent, studied the Fox News programs she would have watched, and created a Twitter account to follow the social media antics of conservative millennial women. She worked with an acting coach to trace Kayla’s emotional journey, and a movement coach to create her physicality. It all paid off: Robbie is nominated in the supporting actress category at Sunday’s Golden Globes, as well as for outstanding performance by a female actor in a supporting role at the Screen Actors Guild Awards.
Yet Kayla was a puzzle to Robbie. More than anything else about her, Robbie tried to understand the character’s fluid sexuality so she could credibly communicate the line “Oh, I’m not a lesbian!” right after she’s had sex with a woman. Toward the beginning of “Bombshell,” Kayla has a drunken hookup with Jess (Kate McKinnon), a fellow Bill O’Reilly producer who is a closeted lesbian — and, more damningly at Fox News, a secret Hillary Clinton supporter.
“She’s just slept with a woman!” Robbie says of Kayla’s Sapphic denial, flatly stated from Jess’ bed. “I wanted to deliver that completely genuinely, not being ironic, not being sarcastic.”
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Jess has taken Kayla under her wing at “The O’Reilly Factor” after the junior producer draws O’Reilly’s wrath at her first pitch meeting. “You have to adopt the mentality of an Irish street cop,” Jess tells Kayla. “The world is a bad place. People are lazy morons. Minorities are criminals. Sex is sick, but interesting.”
The O’Reilly mantra, Jess says, is: “Frighten, titillate. Frighten, titillate. Frighten, titillate.”
They have sex after getting drunk at a bar, which is when Kayla notices Jess’ Hillary Clinton poster. “My parents would be horrified if I went home with a Democrat,” Kayla says.
Soon after this scene — which wouldn’t be out of place in a romantic comedy — Roger Ailes (John Lithgow) begins sexually harassing and abusing Kayla, and the focus of “Bombshell” darkens, turning to Ailes’s slow downfall. But for an obsessive investigator like Robbie, the unanswered question of Kayla’s sexuality, that “huge aspect of her story and emotional journey that’s unresolved — I couldn’t just let that be.”
She set about mapping the rest of Kayla’s life. Since Robbie and McKinnon “clicked immediately,” Robbie says, when she thinks about what might happen to Kayla after the events of “Bombshell” conclude, one of the possibilities is fun: “I secretly want a spinoff movie where Kayla and Jess go on a road trip with their opposing political views and their blossoming romance.”
More realistically, though, she sees Kayla as someone who “compartmentalizes” her attraction to women. “And she is not going to acknowledge it until she’s 60,” Robbie says. According to Robbie, Kayla will go on to have several marriages to men, and will have kids. But she has a clear picture in her mind of “the woman that she eventually leaves them for.”
Robbie says she told “Bombshell” director Jay Roach that being with a woman will be endgame for Kayla.
“Yeah! Jay was probably a little surprised, but entertained by that, I’m sure,” Robbie says. “I was like, ‘I know this doesn’t come into play in the movie, I just need to know what happens to Kayla.’’
“A character always starts off as just this bit of writing on the page,” Robbie continues. “And then by the end of it, she’s such a real person to me.”