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Troian Bellisario on Women’s Stories and Working with Cate Blanchett

The former Pretty Little Liars star talks about her new role in Where'd You Go, Bernadette.

troian bellisario and cate blanchett in where'd you go bernadette

Richard Linklater’s latest film, Where’d You Go Bernadette, explores what happens when genius and creativity are stifled within a person. And while these films are usually centered around a man and his artistic process, WYGB focuses on the frustrations of a woman, Bernadette Fox (Cate Blanchett).

After a series of personal traumas, Bernadette has retreated into her life as a wife and mother, abandoning her successful architecture career and subsuming her personal ambition. What results is an anti-social, prickly, and wholly original character creation from Blanchett in a bitterly funny performance. Based on the 2012 novel by Maria Semple, Where’d You Go, Bernadette is a refreshingly original, uniquely female comedy.

Troian Bellisario, best known for her work on Pretty Little Liars, plays Becky, a woman who Bernadette encounters on her adventures to rediscover herself. Saying anything more would spoil the plot, but suffice it to say that Becky and Bernadette find in each a kindred spirit in the unlikeliest of places.

We chatted with Bellisario about working with Cate Blanchett, the roles for women in film and television, and how her perspective has changed since becoming a mother.

The Mary Sue: Almost all of your scenes are one on one with Cate Blanchett. What was it like to work with her?

Troian Bellisario: Wild! I had to say, growing up I really idolized her as an actress, her work on the stage and her work in film was and is such an inspiration for me, and then when I realized I was going to have to act opposite her, it’s kind of that thing where people are like “don’t meet your heroes”, and it couldn’t have been a more incredible experience.

She was funny, and she was kind, and she was down to do the work and also joke around, and she was just a dream to work with, really. So it was more just me trying to keep my cool – Becky certainly isn’t that impressed with Bernadette, so I relied on the character.

TMS: One thing I really enjoyed about the film was its exploration of motherhood, and how that role can often subsume women, and we can lose ourselves in it a bit. You had a baby last year, did that change your perspective on your creative process and did you find yourself relating to that theme in the film?

TB: Oh my God, I totally do. When I first read the book and then read the script, I really related to the idea of being an artist that, you have this burning desire to create, and since we wrapped the film I got pregnant and then had a baby girl, and I really now relate to that exact storyline … which is ‘what’s my identity now?’ and ‘how do I balance being a mom?’ which can sometimes be so all-consuming with being an artist, and more than that, just being a creative person?

What I used to count on in my creativity was that all consuming passion and like, I could use every part of my brain to think about something, and then when you have a child, a part of your brain is always thinking about them. You cannot go back to that mindful, all-consuming, gone for all hours focus on what you want to do because when you’re a mom, you’re always wondering ‘are they safe? are they warm? do they need something? Are they happy?’, so I really love this film because it really is about that balance of how you hold those two individual identities, the artist/the dreamer/the creative with the mom, and not just the mom, the parent, how do men balance it as well?

But I think this is a really beautiful story that examines particularly how that resonates with a woman.

TMS: It’s such an authentic, uniquely feminine take, especially coming from a male director like Richard Linklater (Boyhood) was really refreshing.

TB: Yeah, I think so too, but Maria Semple (who wrote the book), it’s such a wonderful story from which Richard got to jump off of, and frankly, I’ve always been a huge fan of Linklater … I love his female characters. Julie Delpy’s continuing character (Céline) in Before Sunrise/Before Sunset/Before Midnight is such an incredible woman, and she’s so complicated and so layered, that to me, I feel like the character of Bernadette was in such good hands with him. I just feel like he knows how to direct and write for men and women equally.

TMS: In addition to acting, you’re also a writer and director. Do you have any plans to direct something in the future?

TB: Yeah, you know, while I was pregnant I wasn’t really acting because I was just getting bigger and could only play pregnant people, so I did get to write and direct a little short film in which I got to act, a little bit about my experience at the time, so I’ve been working on that and hoping it will lead to more work. Mostly I’ve done TV, so it was really exciting to do a short film. I definitely want to direct more in the future!

Where’d You Go, Bernadette hits theaters Friday August 16th, 2019.

(image: Wilson Webb / Annapurna Pictures)

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Chelsea was born and raised in New Orleans, which explains her affinity for cheesy grits and Britney Spears. She currently lives in sunny Los Angeles, with her husband and two poorly behaved rescue dogs. She is a former roller derby girl and a black belt in Judo, so she is not to be trifled with. She loves the word “Jewess” and wishes more people used it to describe her.