Local ‘Carol’ Actors Talk About Working With Oscar-Nominee Cate Blanchett

Feb 19, 2016

Ann Reskin as housekeeper “Florence” in "Carol" with twins Sadie and KK Heim, who played Rindy, Carol’s daughter.
Credit Provided by Ann Reskin

I’ve been waiting two years to tell this story about the local actors who appeared in “Carol” with Oscar-nominated actressess Cate Blanchett and Rooney Mara.

When “Carol” was shot here in 2014, local participants were ordered not to speak to the media. Believe me I tried, but nobody wanted to talk and jeopardize their part in the film.

With “Carol” up for six Academy Awards on Feb. 28, I finally got actors Kevin Crowley, Ann Reskin (Strunk) and Ken Strunk to tell about the film, along with “Carol” local casting direct D. Lynn Meyers.

In addition to their comments below, Crowley and Meyers chat with me about "Carol" on WVXU-FM’s “Around Cincinnati” 7 p.m. Sunday. Here's the interview: 

Crowley, whose credits include “The Fugitive,” “Backdraft,” “CSI,” “Without A Trace,” “Malcolm in the Middle” and “Murphy Brown,” calls working with Blanchett “one of the biggest thrills of my life.”

Kevin Crowley
Credit Jennifer Manhuet

CROWLEY: “She had just won the Academy Award for the Woody Allen film (“Blue Jasmine”), and a week later I’m standing next to her…. She is the consummate professional. It was like playing tennis with Roger Federer. You know, you had your A game on.

“As Cate Blanchett’s lawyer, Fred Haymes, I had essentially two scenes with her. One scene is where I notify her where her husband (Kyle Chandler) is seeking a divorce because of her ‘immoral behavior.’ That was basically about an eight-hour day for five pages of the script….. We shot it in one of the judge’s chambers at Eighth and Broadway, the old building a block down from Arnold’s.”

Reskin, the former WLWT-TV “Midday” news anchor, played Florence, the German housekeeper for Carol and Harge Aird (Blanchett and Chandler).

RESKIN: “I was sitting at the top of the stairs of the house in the house where we were shooting in costume. Someone pointed me out to her, or she realized by looking at me (in my drab dress and old fashioned shoes), that I must be playing Florence. She strode enthusiastically up the stairs, bent down and shook my hand to introduce herself. I was very impressed.

Oscar nominees Rooney Mara (left) and Cate Blanchett
Credit The Weinstein Company

“Rooney Mara was pretty private.  We had a short conversation, but she didn’t seem much interested in socializing.  She struck me as a bit shy.”

Veteran actor Strunk (“Secretariat,” “Hoosiers,” “The West Wing,” “Buffy The Vampire Slayer”) was a “Carol” bartender.

STRUNK: “My scene did not include Cate, but she was there and we talked briefly. She is a consummate pro and a genuinely nice person. The poor girl had to, in one week, fly home to Australia for an unexpected funeral (her father-in-law) and back. What a trooper.”

Ken Strunk
Credit Provided by Ken Strunk

Meyers, producing artistic director of Ensemble Theatre Cincinnati, also did casting for “Shawshank Redemption,” Don Cheadle’s “Miles Ahead,” Mariah Carey’s “A Christmas Melody,” Jessica Biel’s “A Kind of Murder” and Nick Jonas’ “Goat.”

MEYERS: “They were very clear about wanting to cast as much of the film here as they possibly could… We put together (audition) tapes, but unlike a lot of directors, Todd Haynes wanted to meet as many people in person as possible. And I really give him great credit for that. Taped auditions are convenient, but it’s nothing like getting to know the people you’re going to work with.”

CROWLEY: “On a film set, everyone takes their cue from the director. And he was completely in charge. There was a great article in the New York Times (Jan. 28) about how he does these image books whenever he shoots. It’s not a story book, it’s an image book. He had 800 photographs of what he wanted New York 1952 to look like. He shared it with the actors. He came very prepared.”

Director Todd Haynes discusses the toy store scene with Cate Blanchett.
Credit The Weinstein Company

STRUNK: “Working with Todd was a breeze because he knew exactly what he wanted. I have done about 25 movies now, and this one was one of the easiest, made so by Todd and the producers knowing what they wanted.”

MEYERS:  “Kristen (Kristen Schlotman, film commission executive director) is a powerhouse! A rock star about selling this city! She knew exactly where to take Todd and his producer when they came to town -- where to have them walk, where to have them look.”

Kristen Schlotman
Credit Provided by Kristen Schlotman

CROWLEY: “The way “Carol” is set with the cars and the costumes, it is transformative. You’ll recognize Cincinnati – Oh there’s Eden Park! - but you are squarely in 1950s New York.

STRUNK: “The work (of) Kristen Schlotman at the Greater Cincinnati & Northern Kentucky Film Commission has been unbelievable! I truly believe that without her input and dedication, most of the films shot here over the past few years would not have happened. All of us, the actors and crew, owe her a great debt.”

RESKIN: “I originally auditioned for another role that didn’t make the film at all. In the screenplay, there is no indication that Florence has a German accent, but Todd for some reason wanted to see the actresses auditioning for the part give it a try… I was on the set for a week, anywhere from 8-12 hours a day. I was in front of the camera five or six times, once with dialog with Rooney, and once with Cate. Both ended up on the cutting room floor. The other scenes show Florence in the background, usually eavesdropping.”

RESKIN: “Sandy Powell (Oscar winning costume designer for “The Aviator,” “Shakespeare in Love” and “The Young Victoria”) decided that all the women must be outfitted in authentic vintage undergarments. It certainly gave me a very good idea of how uncomfortable women in the 1950s must have been to spend all day in those contraptions, or torture devices as I like to call them. Spanx they are NOT!”

D. Lynn Meyers
Credit Ensemble Theatre Cincinnati

MEYERS: All the women who were extras in “Carol” had to have their hair cut in a ‘50s style. We had to make sure the men would fit into the vintage clothing, because there was nothing fake about this movie. When they said, ‘We need seven men, and they need to fit a size 38 Regular suit, and they need to look 1950s,’ it was a chore… If you look at a movie like “Carol,” the way (background actors) crossed the street, in one of the opening shots, it set the tone for the film.”

CROWLEY: “I’m really disappointed “Carol” wasn’t nominated for best picture.  And more so that Todd wasn’t nominated (for best director). Our best hope now is that Ed Lachman, the cinematographer, gets an Oscar.”

MEYERS: “It’s really shocking in that (Haynes) isn’t nominated. He created a magnificent piece of work….It is a piece of art”.

My interview with D. Lynn Meyers and Kevin Crowley airs 7 p.m. Sunday on WVXU-FM’s “Around Cincinnati.”