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Actress Zoe Kazan on her new movie 'She Said'

MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:

By now, you know the story of Harvey Weinstein.

(SOUNDBITE OF MONTAGE)

AMY ROBACH: Allegations by numerous women who say the Hollywood mogul sexually harassed them.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER #1: Harvey Weinstein, a man used to walking red carpets, now in handcuffs, doing a perp walk.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER #2: Welcome to ABC News Live. We have breaking news for you. Harvey Weinstein is heading to prison. Judge James Burke in New York City just delivered the sentence - 23 years.

KELLY: The story you may be less familiar with is how Weinstein, one of the most powerful men in Hollywood, was protected for many years by many people and how he was ultimately brought down by women he had targeted and by journalists who persuaded those women to come forward and share their accounts. That story of two New York Times reporters is at the heart of the movie "She Said." Zoe Kazan plays Times reporter Jodi Kantor, who, along with Megan Twohey, won a Pulitzer Prize for their work. Zoe Kazan, welcome to ALL THINGS CONSIDERED.

ZOE KAZAN: Thank you. Thanks so much for having me.

KELLY: OK. So talk to me about how you went about preparing for this role, preparing to play a New York Times reporter.

KAZAN: Well, you know, it all starts with Jodi and Megan's book "She Said," which just details the reporting so carefully and in such detail that I didn't need to ask a lot of questions about that. But I spent a lot of time with Jodi sort of just trying to, like, absorb her essence. And I asked her a lot of the nosy questions that, you know, secretly I want to ask everyone. Like, a lot of actors, I'm just, like, insatiably curious about how people live. So, you know, who helps you with childcare? How does dinner get on the table when you and your husband, Ron, are both on stories? Like, and then, you know, really specific questions about how she is physically with her sources. Like, what do you wear into an interview with a source? Do you bring a recording device? When do you use a notebook? Why? You know, those kinds of things that are sort of ineffable.

KELLY: It struck me how many details of family life the film includes, including Megan Twohey's struggle with postpartum depression and coming back to work. There are scenes of you playing Jodi Kantor and trying to pack the lunch boxes while fielding key work calls. I mean, these are details fascinating to me as a working mom, not strictly necessary to conveying the story of Harvey Weinstein. Why was it important to include them?

KAZAN: You know, I think there's a kind of portrait of womanhood that - and sisterhood that the movie is putting forward. There's a kind of unseen, you know, what is it, the second shift? There is a kind of unseen thing, I think, behind a lot of women's lives, which is that they are juggling something else that's incredibly important to them and that traditionally has fallen to women. You know, even within my own - you know, I'm in a relationship where we strive towards equality. And at the same time, I'm the person who's usually arranging childcare for us.

KELLY: Yeah.

KAZAN: So I wanted to ask those questions because they seemed pertinent to who Jodi is as a person. And I think it informs their investigation.

KELLY: Well, and I read, if I can make it personal, that you had a daughter who was starting preschool as you were filming. And you're working 17-hour days. And both you and your husband are commuting, and y'all are trying to figure out, you know, how to make the juggle work, even as you're playing a woman who was trying to figure out how to make the juggle work in pursuit of this huge story.

KAZAN: That's right. My partner, Paul Dano, was filming the Spielberg film "The Fabelmans" in Los Angeles at the exact same time as I was filming this. And it was really only because of our incredible nanny and because my parents relocated for a few months and came and lived with us and made it possible for us to do both these jobs. Otherwise, we wouldn't have been able to make these films.

KELLY: I want to ask about the moment in the film where the reporters are right up against their deadline. Jodi Kantor, who you play, has been trying and trying to persuade the actress Ashley Judd to go on the record. I want to play you a little piece of what the real-life Jodi Kantor told me when I interviewed her about that moment and then let you respond.

JODI KANTOR: I had been working up to that with Ashley for months. We didn't have 10 actresses or five actresses at that point. And what Ashley, like everybody else, had wanted, was company in going on the record. So lo and behold, she calls me back a day after I made the final ask. I picked up the phone, and she said, I'm prepared to be a named source in your investigation. And I just - you know, I started crying. I lost it.

KELLY: Zoe Kazan, did you talk to Jodi Kantor about that moment and what it meant to her and how you were going to play it?

KAZAN: Yeah, I actually - you know, there were a few moments that I asked her to talk me through, like, the minute-to-minute experience of it. And that was one of them because it did seem like such a a powerful moment for her not just as a journalist but as a woman. Carey Mulligan, who plays Megan Twohey - she's been my friend for 14 years. And, you know, we had a true partnership off screen in the same way that Jodi and Megan had a partnership in in this investigation and getting to look into her eyes and tell her, you know, Ashley's going on the record and have her there as Jodi had Megan there. There was sort of like a perfect mimetic moment.

KELLY: The movie ends with text up on the screen, and it's scrolling through where the story landed, which, of course, was Harvey Weinstein being convicted in New York of rape and sexual assault. He is serving a 23-year sentence and now standing trial again in LA. And as a woman working in Hollywood, as a mom of a young daughter, how have you come to think about justice? Like, what counts as justice in this case?

KAZAN: I don't know how possible justice is, and that's really for the people who are seeking that justice to determine, I think. I do think about, like, how change can happen because of people being held to account. And I think the thing that I come back to time and again is that it just starts, you know, so much younger than we think it does and that, really, we need to be changing how we think about consent and how we talk about consent with our children.

I don't like to talk about my child's private life very often. You know, and by that, I mean I don't like to talk about her in public very often. But I did have this moment with her when she was just 2 - just turned 2 years old on the playground where a little boy was holding on to her hand, and she didn't want him to. And she kept saying no, and he didn't let go. And she was weeping with rage and said to me over and over again, I said no. I said no. And I just did not expect to be talking with my child about consent when she was, you know, still in diapers. And yet there I was having that conversation. And, you know, I'm really hoping that as a culture, that by holding a person like Harvey Weinstein, who holds so much power, to account, that we can begin to think about how we think about consent and how we think about a culture that - how our culture enabled him.

KELLY: That is the actor Zoe Kazan talking about her new movie, "She Said." It's out now. Zoe Kazan, it's been a pleasure. Thank you.

KAZAN: Thank you so much. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Courtney Dorning has been a Senior Editor for NPR's All Things Considered since November 2018. In that role, she's the lead editor for the daily show. Dorning is responsible for newsmaker interviews, lead news segments and the small, quirky features that are a hallmark of the network's flagship afternoon magazine program.
Mary Louise Kelly is a co-host of All Things Considered, NPR's award-winning afternoon newsmagazine.