Where’d You Go, Bernadette? is the masterful Richard Linklater’s latest character study. Cate Blanchett stars as the titular character, an eccentric, depressed artist stuck out of step with the world and living with her husband Elgie (Billy Crudup) and daughter Bee (Nelson) in an abandoned church in Seattle. Bernadette finally has enough of living a life that doesn’t resemble her own anymore, so Bee and Elgie go to Antartica to look for her. Opposite Blanchett, Crudup, Kristen Wiig, Laurence Fishburne, Judy Greer, and more; Emma Nelson makes her acting debut in this film that is sure to get Oscar attention, particularly for Blanchett. We discuss how they didn’t really go to Antartica, working with Linklater, and more!
How Did You First Become involved with Where’d You Go, Bernadette?
Emma Nelson: Well, actually I’d been doing a lot of audition tapes that we were sending off to casting directors. This was just one in a lot of auditions. I usually let them roll off my shoulders, just don’t think about them, but this one happened to work out.
There are a lot of great people in the film, and I’m just wondering what it must have been like to work alongside them, this being your first feature and all.
It was amazing. I learned a lot. Obviously, it was a transformative process. It was like a masterclass. These amazing actors that I’m working with, it makes my job more fun, and it makes it easier. These actors are just amazing at what they do, and they made me feel so comfortable throughout the whole process.
“I usually let them roll off my shoulders…but this one happened to work out.”
Then there’s Richard Linklater who’s incredible. How would you describe his directing style to us?
I’ve never experienced other directing styles because this is my first film, but I can speak to what I experienced with him. He gave me so much freedom. I always use the word freedom because before we shot any scene, we would always have rehearsals for it. So we would go over the scene, and it would always be a conversation. He gave me so much freedom to explore the character and if we needed to change the lines, we would. We would just talk about everything, and I mean every line. It was a process where I had a lot of creative freedom, and I was able to put a lot of myself into the character.
How similar would you say you are to Bee?
Well, obviously, we’re both 15. We are similar in some ways. Like we both love to do well in school and things like that, but she’s her own person, and I am mine. I hope when I’m acting that there is no difference.
Would you say that you have the same kind of free spirit? Like the rebellious nature that she probably inherited from Bernadette? Is there any of that in Emma?
I do. When I read the book, I saw so much of myself in Bee, and in Bernadette. I really, really, really felt a connection to Bee because she’s growing up in this weird kind of environment and she has an especially close relationship with her mom. I think that she inherited a lot of her quirky qualities from her mom and her sane qualities from her dad. I think she’s got a really good spunk to her, and I think that in a way, describes me as well.
Oh, we did not film in Antartica.
I’ve never been to Antartica, believe it or not, but what was it like to shoot, if not in Antartica, at least something so close to that kind of environment?
Oh, we did not film in Antartica.
I figured, but where did you shoot?
We actually went on a boat to Greenland. Greenland is very similar to Antartica but is easier to get to. We were on a boat and that’s where we filmed most of our Antartica scenes. Some of the indoor Antartica scenes were shot in Pittsburgh. Most of it was filmed in Greenland, which, it was freezing. It was amazing though, and such a cool place to travel to and such a great place to be at work. Filming in that environment, it’s real. It wasn’t a set, so when you see all the ice and water and Zodiacs (a type of boat), that’s all real. It was all in Greenland.
There was something I was curious about…would you ever want to go to boarding school in real life like Bee wants to at the beginning of the film?
I think that when I was in the sixth or seventh grade, I would’ve thought about it, but now I would never want to go to boarding school.
I definitely think there’s something creepy about it. I have another question just about the family dynamic. How would you say that your own home and family life compare to that of the film? How would your parents compare to Elgie and Bernadette?
Obviously, Bernadette is a character of her own and no one can compare to her. My dad isn’t at work as much as Elgie is. I think I learned more from Bee’s relationship with her parents and the way that she communicates with them. I took from my own family because I have a really, really close relationship with my parents. Bee has something special with her mom. I would be reading the lines and think, “I wish I could communicate as well as Bee does.” You know, she’s such a good daughter. Sometimes I would see the lines and say “I need to say these to my own parents.”
Obviously, Bernadette is a character of her own and no one can compare to her.
Was there a certain film or play or television show that sparked your interest in acting?
I would say that I have two very different movies that piqued my interest in acting. I started out in musical theater, but I really found my love of acting through film. There’s a movie called Taxi Driver and a movie called Four Lines. The stories of these films, I just connected to them so much. I thought “I have to be part of this”. It’s just something I was so passionate about. The way that films made me feel, I just wanted to be a part of that and do it myself.
That’s fantastic. I’m really happy that you were able to do that because a lot of people don’t get to, so it’s really awesome you got your breakthrough here with Where’d You Go, Bernadette, and with that, I’m wondering if you have any future projects you’d like to talk about.
I don’t have any future projects right now but I am totally for hire and looking for my next opportunity. I’ve really been focusing on Bernadette right now, but in the next year or so, I’m waiting for everything to wind down so I can find my next project, but I am completely ready to work again and very excited to actually.
Well, I’m excited to see what you do next because you were so great in this film so congratulations. I can’t wait for everyone else out there to see the movie, too.