‘The Deuce’ Star Margarita Levieva on the Importance of Malleability

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Photo Source: Paul Shiraldi

Margarita Levieva stuns in HBO’s “The Deuce,” the latest venture from “The Wire” creator David Simon and writer-producer George Pelecanos, where she stars alongside James Franco and Maggie Gyllenhaal as Abby, a college student who’s bored with the straight-laced femininity of generations past. She came by Backstage’s Brooklyn HQ Sept. 6 to chat about spinning a masculine world of porn and prostitution with a female perspective, the importance of being flexible as an actor, and the lasting role of Backstage: “When people are starting out, I’m like, ‘Go to Backstage!’ You are one of the best resources.”

‘The Deuce’ excels in portraying complex women.
“It’s such a tricky subject to be making a show about. How do you present the women and how do you tell their story in a way that really serves them and doesn’t demean them? Sometimes, unfortunately, I find with certain projects, when people do present prostitutes or strippers, there’s a very one-sided way to look at the character; [Simon and Pelecanos] were able to bring these three-dimensional characters and were able to show them in a way that brought them so much depth and vulnerability and intelligence and strength and everything that a woman like that would have.”

READ: How to Get a Show on HBO

Levieva ‘highly recommends’ NYC’s William Esper Studio.
“It’s a two-year program. It’s just such well-rounded training. I did clown work and movement work and speech, voice, and all that stuff.... I feel like that early training, some of the things that were developed during that time were so instrumental and helpful, and I miss them.... Honestly, I’m always involved in some sort of class or workshop. I now train with Larry Moss, and I do a lot of his workshops.”

Studying Meisner taught her how to listen.
“[With] Meisner, we did a lot of repetition work, which gets you really in the moment and present with your partner, but also just develops such attuned listening skills. It’s like any muscle in training anything: Over time if you don’t use it enough or if you’re not working on it enough, it starts to [stop] working. If I ever meet anyone who’s trained in Meisner, I’m like, ‘Let’s do repetition!’ ”

Actors must flex their malleability.
“If there’s [one] muscle that I would encourage anyone [to develop, it] is the ability to let go of things easily and be malleable. I think in the beginning, I was so keen on developing the thing that’s going to work all the time, that’s going to be bulletproof and that is going to get things ‘right’ because I was a gymnast, so I had that mentality of getting the high score. And I’ve just learned that no—creating, acting, it’s about the ability of saying, ‘Yeah, I’m gonna see what I need today.’ But if I have all that stuff [from training] behind me, and I have the foundation, then I’ll have a big suitcase of tools to pull from and I’m not, like, searching for it.”

READ: Maggie Gyllenhaal on the Character Choice She Fought for on ‘The Deuce’

Read other actors’ biographies.
“I’ve known people that have done a $200 million movie that they were a lead of and they didn’t work for a year and half later. And that’s why I love reading biographies. I read, a few years ago, Ellen Burstyn’s book. This [was] so extraordinary for me to read because she takes you through her entire life and career, and there were times when she had just won a Tony and an Oscar and was broke; for years she couldn’t get a job. This idea of, like, once I reach a certain level I will be somewhere—there is no ‘somewhere.’ There is no place to reach.”

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