Merritt Wever was supposed to be on the promotional circuit for her HBO comedy "Run" this month, hitting the red carpet and dutifully fielding questions at press junkets. Instead, she's at home and, like the rest of us, struggling to adjust to the bizarre reality of life in a pandemic.
"There are a lot of sirens, and I can't pretend I've been out of the house recently," she says by phone from her Brooklyn apartment. "And even though this is happening all over the world, I'm homesick and heartsick for my city."
In "Run," Wever stars as Ruby, a dissatisfied housewife who reunites with college boyfriend Billy (Domnhall Gleeson) for a spontaneous cross-country adventure. When she was first asked to audition for the part, she remembers telling her agents, "I'd love to go in for it. But girls like me don't get parts like this."
Turns out she was wrong.
Created by Vicky Jones, who directed the original stage version of "Fleabag," and executive produced by Phoebe Waller-Bridge, the series represents another milestone in what has already been a remarkable creative period for Wever. She won her second Emmy in 2018 for her turn as a pistol-packing leader of an all-female frontier town in the Netflix western "Godless." Last fall, she earned raves for her understated but steely performance as Karen Duvall, a Colorado detective investigating a serial rapist in the groundbreaking Netflix series "Unbelievable," and she provided some brief but vital flashes of comic relief in Noah Baumbach's "Marriage Story."
"I've appreciated a lot of what has come my way," she says. "But it's truly strange to be even trying to remember before right now. It feels like another time."
Plugging a show would be tricky for any actor right now. But for Wever, a modest, deeply humane performer who has long seemed allergic to self-promotion of any kind -- remember when she won an Emmy for "Nurse Jackie," then fled the stage after a stunned, 11-word instant classic of an acceptance speech? -- it's an absolute minefield.
As she notes several times over the course of an hourlong phone call, the gravity of the headlines has made it even harder for her to discuss her work and its challenges. "I'm struggling to feel appropriate taking up space right now -- you know what I mean? -- with anything other than the big thing," she says. "I figure we'll just find our way together, but I almost feel embarrassed."
Is there anything you've been able to watch or listen to during this time that's been helpful?I've been having a hard time focusing. So my experience is not one of using this time to read the books that I haven't read. I don't mean at all that you shouldn't. I can only speak to my own experience, which has been one of incredible emotional, mental and physical disorientation and grief and anger.
When we meet Ruby, your character in "Run," she's in a moment of crisis. How did she get there? I thought of her as somebody who was starving for something. When somebody is finally offered what it is that they crave or they need or they've denied themselves of for a long time, they are not going to be able to keep themselves from taking it. As much as this is a return to Billy, I wanted it to also be a return to herself. I know what it's like to be in a relationship with someone and feel like your best self with them. And then when the relationship ends, it feels like you don't have access to it anymore. As much as she wants Billy, I think that she also wants to feel like that person again.