Q: So tell us, why did you sign up for this project?
A: I loved the story; it's an amazing musical and it meant I could sing and dance and see the wonderful Hugh Jackman all the time. I love working with him! Also, I really wanted to have a good time. I had just finished doing a Broadway play, Blackbird. It had taken years off of my life and I wanted something else that I wouldn't have to bleed for (laughs)! I needed a break from doing intense dramatic roles and this was the perfect project. Another great thing about it was that we shot the film in Brooklyn (New York), so I was 10 minutes from home. It was so great to be making a film that I will be able to take my daughter's Girl Scout troop to see!
Q: Is Hugh really as lovely as he seems? He always seems like such a delight ...
That is entirely true, he is amazing. And I can tell you it's as true on Monday morning as it is on Friday evening. He is not a ray of sunshine – he is the sun! Being around him makes me happier and makes my life better. I mean … I'm a pretty lucky girl. To have Hugh Jackman look into your eyes, singing these sweet songs that we sing together … what could be better? We just had a ball working with each other. We both love to sing and dance and we've been friends for a long time and so the whole time we were pinching ourselves and reminding ourselves that this is our job and that we got to make this film together.
You play Charity Barnum, the wife of P.T. Barnum. But while a lot has been written about him - her story isn't very well known ...
There's really not a lot of available material on her. In our film, Charity was conceived as someone who was a dreamer, like her husband, and she was the stabilising force in his life. But Charity also gave him the confidence to go and pursue his dreams while trying to remind him of what is really important. In the film, Charity has a big influence on her husband and a very strong role in his life. They love each other and they have a lot of fun together, but Charity also acts a little like the moral centre, his moral compass.
Why do you think P.T. Barnum's story resonates? What did he contribute to the world?
Well, he was a self-made man and he was a dreamer and a visionary and he saw something that nobody else could see with his circus, and he brought it to life.
He seemed to embrace outsiders like the Bearded Lady, who were treated terribly by society at that time ...
It is definitely interesting and I think that is a big message in the film, that everyone is important. He would say: "Come as you are." I think that he saw what was beautiful about these people and what was special about them, and he helped them to see that for themselves, so they could appreciate who they were uniquely as humans. I think that was one of his genius gifts, seeing things and people with a different eye."
You have been singing and dancing for a long time and you perform some wonderful songs in this film. Does it get nerve-racking or are you completely comfortable?
I have just found that it makes me happy. I find that singing and dancing is a direct path to joy. And I just wanted more of it, that's why I wanted to make the film. Singing is natural for me. I don't know if I'm the greatest in the world at it, but I just love it!
Q: How much do you appreciate variety in your work, switching from heartbreaking dramas like Manchester by the Sea, to entertaining comedies and musicals?
I think it's so wonderful to have that variety and I feel so lucky to have a balance of the two things. I couldn't exist on a steady diet of just one of them. I need both to keep a balance.
Q: And finally, how challenging is it juggling acting and family life?
As far as motherhood and balancing work is concerned, it's not something that you arrive at one day and then it stays in perfect order. It changes. Balance is something that I strive to find on a daily and sometimes hourly basis. I ask myself: 'In this hour, how am I going to serve all of my masters? How am I going to give my daughter what she needs and wants? And how am I going to create the time that my work requires and that I want for my work?' It's a struggle, but such a worthwhile struggle. Some choices that I make work-wise are expressly for my child and some choices are expressly for me. There are definitely decisions that I make for the family. It's not all about the roles. But I love working right now more than I ever have and I cannot wait for my next job!