Maria Bello is one of the most underrated actors of her generation. Or rather, I should say she was one of the most underrated since there is simply no way for anyone to continue denying her talents now that “Beautiful Boy” is leaving movie theaters littered with tear-stained tissues.
As a mother dealing with the dual depression of losing a child and losing a child who took his own life after shooting up his school, Maria brilliantly vacillates between grief and anger — at herself, her son, her husband — throughout the triumphant performance.
It’s one more amazing woman on her resume. A CV that’s about to get even more jam-packed with the September premiere of “Prime Suspect,” a small screen reboot of the BBC series that casts Maria as the daring detective Dame Helen Mirren originated in 1991. Big shoes, no doubt — but ones Maria can not wait to walk 100 episodes in.
PopWrap: First let me say that I loved “Beautiful Boy.” It’s so good.
Maria Bello: I agree with you [laughs]. I think Shawn Ku [director] did an amazing job with a wonderful script. As did the genius Michael Sheen. I’m just so lucky to be a part of it. I’m not really “promoter girl” – I usually hate doing press, but this is a movie I can’t stop talking about!
PW: Given the shoestring budget and fast-paced shoot, it strikes me as a film that was very much a passion project for everyone involved.
Maria: It was. For all of us. It felt like Michael and I were paying them to let us do the movie [laughs]. I mean, we never knew if anyone would see it, but we were just so connected to the material. It was wonderful that we got to play together. We did and just had a great experience. It was fun exploring that curiosity and wonderment.
PW: Was Kate a character that stuck with you after filming wrapped?
Maria: I was pretty exhausted when I went home at nights, but I’m also a mother to a 10-year-old, so I had to suck it up, make dinner, do homework – the whole thing. It makes it easier to let my job go at the end of the day because, truthfully, I don’t have a choice.
PW: Did being a mother in real life influence your choice to tell this story?
Maria: I think being a parent for sure changes you. No one could understand just how much it changes you if you don’t have a child. It’s deepened me as a person and an actor and given me a compassion for people that I never had before. For parents in general. It’s painful to even imagine your child doing that.
PW: Kate is an amazing character in a long line of amazing characters you’ve played — are there any you’d like to revisit and tell Chapter Two of their story?
Maria: Yes! I’d love to do a sequel to “The Cooler” with Bill Macy. See where we drove off to at the end. Wouldn’t that be cool? You actually made me think of it for the first time.
PW: I’m also very excited for your new show, “Prime Suspect.”
Maria: Oh man, let me tell you — that’s a good character. I haven’t been excited like this for a project in a really long time. Such an incredibly strong, compelling, funny, interesting character and I’m just so fortunate to play her. Not only that, but to be – as Helen Mirren was to me – a role model in so many ways for women and girls is a gift.
PW: You’ve pretty much ticked all the boxes — drama, comedy, action. I mean, it looks like you kick some serious ass in the “Abduction” trailer!
Maria: [laughs] How’d you see that? Is it out?
PW: Yes! And it doesn’t look like director John Singleton skimps on the action one bit.
Maria: No he doesn’t! And working with him was one of the big reasons I did the film. John Singleton is such a brilliant guy and a friend. But Taylor [Lautner] did a really good job! He’s a really wonderfully committed actor. In addition to being a lovely person – which he doesn’t need to be since he’s so gigantically famous. Has women following him everywhere. But he’s just so grounded.
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