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“The Good Nurse” actor discusses preparing for his role as one of the most prolific serial killers in American history, going to nursing school with Jessica Chastain, and his attempts at being a cool dad.
The Golden Globe-nominated star of The Good Nurse talks playing one of America’s most notorious serial killers.
Eddie Redmayne is the sort of actor whose talent across stage and film precedes him. Having won Academy, BAFTA, Tony, and Critics’ Circle Theatre Awards for dramatic roles like Stephen Hawking in The Theory of Everything and Shakespeare’s Richard II, he also has a certain cross-generational appeal for his leading role as wizard Newt Scamander in the Fantastic Beasts series. Redmayne has now put his natural charisma and deep sense of performance to work for a darker role in Netflix’s The Good Nurse. His portrayal of the real life serial killer Charles Cullen who murdered dozens, if not hundreds, of patients earned the British star a Golden Globe nomination for Best Supporting Actor. Below, Redmayne discusses preparing for the grim role and his attempts at being a cool dad.
In The Good Nurse, you play Charles Cullen, a nurse who may have killed as many as 400 people, making him the most prolific serial killer in American history. Are you a fan of true crime dramas?
I’m not. I know the world is obsessed with true crime, but I have a slightly moral opinion of fetishizing killers. Our film is not just about this monster—it’s about the hero who stopped him. And she stopped him by using compassion and empathy rather than through violence. That felt like an important message.
No one knows exactly why Charles Cullen killed all those people. Was that frustrating for you?
He never expressed why, and when I read the script, I was like, “Why?!” It’s a human instinct to need to know why, so we can look at the murderer and go, “Well, he had this happen to him, and I’m nothing like that, so it would never happen to me.”
You’re so likable as a performer and as a person. Was it hard to take on the mantle of a sociopathic serial killer and live with that every day?
Eddie Redmayne turned in one of the subtler but ultimately shocking serial killer portrayals, starring with Jessica Chastain in the Tobias Lindholm-directed Netflix drama The Good Nurse. In the movie based on actual events, Redmayne’s Charlie Cullen goes from a non-descript night nurse who becomes a lifesaving friend to co-worker Amy Loughren (Jessica Chastain), until she realized her pal might be killing patients who should be recovering. He would ultimately confess to killing about 40 people, and drew 18 executive life sentences, while the hospital administrators who quietly dismissed him even though they had their suspicions were not punished for the cover-up.
In Redmayne, this is the kind of versatility you might expect from an actor who’s won the Oscar, Tony, Golden Globe, BAFTA and two Laurence Oliver awards and in turns such as Cabaret onstage, and The Trial of the Chicago 7. Here, Redmayne discusses the opinions he formed playing a serial killer who was not at all the cinematic Hannibal Lecter prototype, and which has put him squarely back in the awards conversation.
DEADLINE: We’ve seen many serial killer portrayals, but few as subtle as the one you turned in on The Good Nurse. What was your view of Charlie Cullen going into this when you played him?
EDDIE REDMAYNE: What Charlie did was monstrous and indefensible, but when you’re playing someone who’s done horrific things you have to try not to judge them in those terms. My view on him was massively colored by the real Amy Loughren, who I got to spend time with on Zoom before we started shooting. The thing that she really made a point of reaffirming was, this was two different human beings.
When she met her friend, he was this kind, gentle, compassionate, quite funny, self-deprecating man who saved her life. Later, she twice met a different human being, and something in his eyes made him an arrogant, unrecognizable human. Once was in the restaurant, in a diner, and then once was in the interrogation room. She believed it was a dissociative personality, and that was really interesting to me because that meant that it was about playing the truth of what that friendship was. More tricky was finding this other side, this furious, arrogant side to him. Both Amy and Charles Graeber, who wrote the book, and in Krysty’s script described this moment of one eye dislodging, as it were, going off in a different direction during conversation. That was very disconcerting.
But then, there was also this discussion of when he was in court and the judge was giving out a statement, and many of the families of the victims were there. Charlie started furiously repeating this mantra about the judge’s ineptitude, and he screamed it and screamed it and screamed it and screamed it in the court to the point he ended up being bound and gagged in court. That was an insight into this more violent side of him, which is sort of touched on.
That scene and the interrogation scene, Krysty had managed to whittle down some of the real dialogue from the documentation, and aligned it with this more violent outburst. As I discussed with Jessica and Krysty, so much of the script in the rehearsal period beforehand, we never touched on the diner scene or [the interrogation room] scene because we all believed that if we had done our work, right, if we had filled these characters with a truth, then these scenes would reveal themselves.
Redmayne and co-star Jessie Buckley both won 2022 Olivier Awards for their performances.
The Olivier-winning revival of Cabaret is getting a cast recording. The album will feature the Olivier-winning performances of Eddie Redmayne as The Emcee and Jessie Buckley as Sally Bowles. Redmayne’s “Willkommen” and Buckley’s “Mein Herr” will hit streaming platforms December 21, with the full release following January 20, 2023.
The Rebecca Frecknall-directed production of the Tony-winning 1966 Broadway musical, currently running at London’s Kit Kat Club (a.k.a. the renovated Playhouse Theatre), officially opened December 12, 2021. The original cast also featured Omari Douglas as Cliff Bradshaw, Liza Sadovy as Fraulein Schneider, Elliot Levey as Herr Schultz, Stewart Clarke as Ernst Ludwig, and Anna-Jane Casey as Fraulein Kost with Josh Andrews, Emily Benjamin, Sally Frith, Matthew Gent, Emma Louise Jones, Ela Lisondra, Theo Maddix, Chris O’Mara, Daniel Perry, Andre Refig, Christopher Tendai, Bethany Terry, Lillie-Pearl Wildman, and Sophie Maria Wojna.
The London production also features a new addition: a Prologue Company of nine actors, dancers, and musicians, who welcome audiences to the world of the club as they arrive at the theatre. The initial Prologue Company consisted of Gabriela Bendetti, Rachel Benson, Laura Braid, Julian Capolei, Hollie Cassar, Celine Fortenbacher-Popławska, Samantha Ho, Andrew Linnie, and Sally Swanson with an original score composed by Angus MacRae.
Since last October, the revival has been led by Callum Scott Howells and Madeline Brewer as The Emcee and Sally Bowles (respectively) with Sid Sagar as Cliff Bradshaw, Danny Mahoney as Ernst Ludwig, and Michelle Bishop as Fraulein Kost.
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