Christopher Meloni on Training With Meisner + His New Series ‘Maxxx’

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Beloved for his work on genre classics like the long-running “Law & Order: Special Victims Unit,” “Oz,” and “True Blood,” Christopher Meloni has been bringing his stellar talents to screens big and small for years now. His recent string of performances on “Happy!,” “The Handmaid’s Tale,” and the upcoming one-two punch of “Maxxx” on July 28 and “Law & Order: Organized Crime” this fall are no exception. The Emmy nominee  sat down to chat with Backstage on Instagram Live about his new stint with creator-star O-T Fagbenle on “Maxxx” (coming to Hulu this month), what it was like working opposite Elisabeth Moss as High Commander George Winslow on “The Handmaid’s Tale,” what he’s taken from his early-career Meisner training, and more.

“Maxxx” brought Meloni and Fagbenle back together after “Handmaid’s.”
I just got this script out of leftfield. They wanted me for this show and it shoots in London and I said ‘OK, I'm intrigued." O-T Fagbenle was the writer, he's the guy who plays Elisabeth Moss’ husband on ‘The Handmaid’s Tale,’ and yeah it was great. We did a lot of tweaking, everything was great on the page, but just did a little massaging on the edges and we came up with this great character: Don Wild. In his mind, [he’s a] record producer extraordinaire and he’s going to try to reboot O-T's career, back into the upper echelons of the music biz.”

Meloni was excited to explore a new aspect of “The Handmaid’s Tale” when he joined Season 3.
“I had always been a big fan of the show. I think it is one of the most cinematically [and] satisfyingly shot shows. I find it very atmospheric; I enjoy how they allow the story to breathe, the characters’ emotion to breathe. I was very looking forward to being part of that storytelling. I found Commander Winslow, my character, cleanly written, so I felt as there was a lot of varied ability to color outside of the lines as I saw fit. I felt I put some of those things in there. I thought it was  a very interesting insight to the power structure because you were always seeing this world through Elisabeth's eyes and then the attendant players to her—but then my character came in and it was like, what’s it like at the upper upper echelons? The federal level of power in this dystopian world? I felt as they hadn’t touched on that aspect of the story too deeply, so I was all in. I enjoyed doing it.”

Training with Sanford Meisner upon moving to New York City prepared him for his work today.
“What stuck in the Meisner was the repetition, the hammering home of moment to moment, and I just think that to me has been a cornerstone. When things don't feel right or they feel off, it's usually you're not going back to the very basics of the training of listening and answering, moment to moment. It's not rocket science, but I think it is constantly a honing or working or being cognizant of that muscle that needs to be engaged and paid attention to.”

Want to hear more from Meloni? Watch our full Backstage Live interview below, and follow us on Instagram: @backstagecast.

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