Geraldine Viswanathan on ‘Drive-Away Dolls,’ American Accents + Joining Marvel’s ‘Thunderbolts’

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In the Envelope: The Actor’s Podcast features in-depth conversations with today’s most noteworthy actors and creators. Join host and senior editor Vinnie Mancuso for this guide to living the creative life from those who are doing it every day.

Geraldine Viswanathan first broke out in Kay Cannon’s comedy “Blockers,” followed by four seasons of the anthology series “Miracle Workers” alongside Daniel Radcliffe and Steve Buscemi. This year, the Australian is riding that momentum toward the A-list. She kicked off 2024 by starring with Margaret Qualley in the queer road-trip comedy “Drive-Away Dolls,” directed by Ethan Coen—the Oscar winner’s first directorial effort without brother Joel—from a screenplay he wrote with his wife and longtime editor, Tricia Cooke. Viswanathan is following up that auteur adventure with a certified blockbuster; in January, news broke that the actor would replace Ayo Edebiri in Marvel’s superhero team-up film “Thunderbolts.” 

On this episode of In the Envelope: The Actor’s Podcast, Viswanathan opens up about the road that led to Hollywood success, her go-to tip for doing an American accent, and the No. 1 perk (so far) of joining the Marvel Cinematic Universe. 

On collaborating with Coen and Cooke:

“Even their notes were artistic. I have a one-word line where I say to Matt Damon, ‘Democrats.’ And [Coen] said, ‘Try rising instead of falling.’ That's a beautiful way of giving a very technical note. I remember we were in one scene afterward, and he said, ‘OK, that’s how a modern woman would react to that situation, a woman steeped in Henry James.’ That’s when I think the whole character really clicked for me. That’s the energy here. Coupled with: Tricia said [my character is] ‘zipped up.’ That helped with the physicality of her. It’s very minimal, but it’s really precise and technical. There’s no shit that you have to sift through to understand what they’re trying to ask of you. It’s really direct and like an art form in itself.”

Drive Away Dolls

“Drive Away Dolls” Credit: Wilson Webb/Working Title/Focus Features

On perfecting her American accent:

When I got ‘Blockers,’ on the first day, I had just been doing sort of my best American impression. Kay Cannon was like, “Oh, we’re gonna need a coach.” I did have one session with a dialect coach, and that changed everything for me. The biggest takeaway was he said that Americans say no like they're saying no to a dog. “No!” Whereas Australians, they sing a song; it’s like, “Noooo.” I think just that energy…informed a lot. 

In terms of process, I just have one phrase that really helps me when I need to reset, because it’s such a different placement. Australian is so in the back and sort of lazy, but then American is so in the front. The phrase that helps get my mouth around it is, “All Sheila talks about are all the watersports she takes part in.” For some reason, it hits all of the points. It gets me there.” 

On what she’s hoping to take away from “Thunderbolts”: 

“Well, I’m training. I had my [first] personal training, which is…huge. Just to kind of give yourself permission to focus on that, I think is kind of sick. So, yeah, gettin’ ripped. I don’t even really have to, but, you know. But I’m just excited to work with those people. I’m treating it like any other movie. I’m excited to work with [director] Jake Schrier. I’m excited to work with Julia Louis-Dreyfus. I’m excited to learn from the greats again—just getting a little peek behind the curtain. 

It’s a whole machine, and I’m just really curious about it. I want to understand it. I’m excited for that experience. And I’m excited to hear what Ayo had to say.”

Listen and subscribe to In the Envelope to hear our full conversation with Viswanathan.