Gwen & Bob make personal appearance — as Michelle & Sam

Dance · Film

It was delightful to see, appearing in person, Michelle Williams and Sam Rockwell at a special screening event held on the erstwhile Twentieth Century-Fox lot (soon Disney). The duo, emitting body language that indicated real closeness, participated in a q&a session that celebrated FOSSE/VERDON’s many nominations for Emmy Awards — a whopping seventeen.

The August 19 event was co-hosted by Deadline, FX Networks, Fox 21 Television Studios and FX Productions. It included a marvelous open-air reception replete with fabulous food and adult beverages.

“I loved this job!” Williams told interlocutor Pete Hammond of Deadline. “It was seven months of shooting, one month of rehearsal. I just want to make season two!” Then she turned to her co-star with faux exasperation, saying, “But you’re dead!”

Indeed, the Bob Fosse character in the series is irretrievably perished. The final episode included Rockwell’s gripping enactment of the choreographer/director suffering a massive heart seizure on a Washington D.C. sidewalk, and dying in the arms of his then-ex wife, Gwen Verdon.

Williams, a self-confessed “acting nerd,” indicated that playing Verdon, a triple-threat actress, covered the gamut: “You sing, you dance, you act, you age.” Rockwell quipped that in his case, “I had singing, dancing — and a heart attack.”

“We did a LOT of dance. We did preliminary dance rehearsals together,” said Williams. “Then they split us up.” Rockwell admitted, “I taught myself to dance watching Footloose, Risky Business … and James Brown.”

sam rockwell, michelle williams, august 2019, courtesy fx networks

Hammond pointed out that both actors have successfully enacted real people: Williams as Marilyn Monroe, Rockwell playing George W. Bush. Williams’ process in recreating a famous person, she said, “starts with research. I go into geek mode. I listened to audio files, reading everything on Gwen Verdon. You build a structural framework bone by bone.”

[ed. note: we hope Michelle read our many Gwennish stories on artsmeme]

Asked by Hammond what he learned about Fosse during his research process, Rockwell replied, “I didn’t know what an incredible dancer he was when he was younger.” In addition, he noted, “They were symbiotic. They needed each other.” Whereupon Williams chimed in, completing her “husband”‘s sentence: “… like yin and yang.”

“They shared a similar history,” continued Rockwell. “Both had damaged childhoods; both were perfectionists.” But Williams and Rockwell, too, share a certain fate. “We are both actor nerds, theater nerds,” she said. So deeply did they delve into “reality,” said Williams, “For Christmas, I got Sammy oxygen — ’cause he was smoking all the time.”

post script:
Of FOSSE/VERDON’s 17 Emmy Awards 2019 nominations, the series has accrued three awards prior to the award-night broadcast Sunday night.

Outstanding Makeup for a Limited Series or Movie (Non-Prosthetic)
FX Networks, Fox 21 Television Studios and FX Productions
Debbie Zoller, Department Head Makeup Artist
Blair Aycock, Co-Department Head Makeup Artist
Dave Presto, Key Makeup Artist
Sherri Laurence, Makeup Artist
Nicky Pattison Illum, Makeup Artist
Jackie Risotto, Personal Makeup Artist

Outstanding Hairstyling for a Limited Series or Movie
FX Networks, Fox 21 Television Studios and FX Productions
Christopher Fulton, Department Head Hairstylist
Christen Edwards, Key Hairstylist
Nicole Bridgeford, Personal Hairstylist
Christine Cantrell, Hairstylist
Charlene Belmond, Additional Hairstylist

Outstanding Music Direction
Fosse/Verdon, “Life Is A Cabaret”
FX Networks, Fox 21 Television Studios and FX Productions
Alex Lacamoire, Music Direction by

fotos: courtesy fx networks, kimberly diehl

Read Debra Levine’s special FOSSE/VERDON story in DANCE Magazine.

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