Tony winner Julie White is among the ensemble cast of NBC’s new comedy Go On. The funny lady plays Anne, a widowed lesbian and member of the support group that series star Matthew Perry (who plays Ryan) is forced to attend against his will. During a break from filming, White called up Broadway.com to talk about her character's mourning process as well as her upcoming films Hello I Must Be Going and Lincoln.
Are you having fun on the Go On set?
It’s so wacky! Unlike a play, you just don’t have the first clue who your character is in the pilot episode, then stuff gets revealed as [the show] goes along. It’s just a delicious group of people. We have the amazing Laura Benanti—we knew each other from the high school lunchroom that is New York theater, but we had never worked together. It’s really nice there’s someone in the cast who has my same background, but it’s fun to work with people I wouldn’t normally get the opportunity to—stand-up and improv comedians in addition to actors.
What do you love about playing Anne?
She’s smart and very dignified and is working so hard to stay above despair. I like to play a fighter. She is so sad that getting through a day without stepping in front of a bus is a victory. I don’t think you’re a human being unless you have that feeling! Anne doesn’t mean to be funny, but her juxtaposition within this group is funny because they’re very goofy and she sees herself as the normal one. The more deadpan I am, the funnier it is.
How do Laura Benanti and Matthew Perry's characters fit into the mix?
Laura’s character is a decidedly amateur therapist, but Anne finds her comforting and therapeutic. I think I endure Ryan, but they’re evolving into a brother-sister type relationship. My character is invited to the wedding of close friends that are lesbians, and he volunteers to come with me as my date. He’s everything Anne as a lesbian thinks of as a “white guy.” He goes out and buys a Porsche, which she just thinks is ridiculous.
Did you get a chance to ride in the Porsche?
Anne gets behind the wheel and ends up driving it like Danica Patrick. Anne is so much cooler than I am! They had to hire a stunt driver; I would have just put-putted along. And we’ve made Anne a clothes whore because I love to wear good clothes. I don’t love to wear them in real life, it’s just one of the special skills on my resume: “wears clothes well.”
You’re also playing the mother of Christopher Abbott [of TV’s Girls] in the new movie Hello I Must Be Going [in theaters September 7].
You know me, mother to the hot boys! He’s f**king great, and so good on Girls. It’s a very grown-up and thoughtful romantic comedy. Melanie Lynskey plays one of those girls who got married really young, hung in for 10 years, and then her huband left her. She’s frozen at age 35, and the guy she falls for in an unlikely way is my son—who my character thinks is gay!
Is he aware of that?
Not so much. He started acting very young, so I think she just assumed he’d be a gay theater person. She’s a little bit clueless, but very well meaning.
Audiences can also catch you on the big screen this fall in Steven Spielberg’s Lincoln.
I love doing things that could be on both sides of the Approval Matrix, highbrow and lowbrow at the same time. I play Elizabeth Blair Lee. She was married to an admiral and her father was the founder of the Republican party. I think she would have been a senator had she been a man. My god, they made me some gorgeous clothes! The Blairs were very wealthy, so the costume designer Joanna Johnston really went to town on my dresses. She just went apeshit.
Are those 19th century dresses hard to wear?
There’s a corset and hoop skirt made of steel, so they’re heavy. We were using the Virginia State House as our dressing room. I sat on the floor, and when I tried to get up I was suction-cupped to the floor. They had to pull my ass off the floor!
It must have been exciting to work with Steven Spielberg!
He could not have been lovelier. He so clearly knows what he’s doing. It was nice to be around that level of craft and professionalism. I love that he dresses and shows up in a suit every day. He certainly matched his demeanor to the gravity of the subject.
Go On premieres on September 11. Click below to watch White and Abbott in the Hello I Must Be Going trailer.