Anne Hathaway has made a career of reminding audiences that no matter whom she’s playing on-screen, there’s a complex person inside her characters. The Devil Wears Prada’s Andy Sachs, while used and abused by Miranda Priestly, fought for her own career ambitions while learning which costs (her friends, her reputation) were worth it in that fight. Hathaway’s Catwoman in The Dark Knight Rises illustrated a Selina Kyle who, sure, was just another Batman love interest — but also one who battled to avenge what was wrong in the world while pragmatically accepting the realities of that world. Even as Fantine in the film adaptation of Les Misérables, Hathaway was more than just the beautiful voice behind a few sad songs; she embodied the agony of a mother who would make any sacrifice necessary for her child.
Hathaway’s prowess is on display yet again in the new Apple TV+ series WeCrashed. Based on the hit Wondery podcast, the show follows the meteoric rise (and crash) of entrepreneur Adam Neumann and his coworking-space company, WeWork, which went from a $47 billion valuation over a decade to losing billions of dollars in less than a year, due in large part to aggressive expansion and poor management.This content is imported from YouTube. You may be able to find the same content in another format, or you may be able to find more information, at their web site.
Jared Leto plays the brilliant but troubled Adam Neumann, while Hathaway plays Rebekah Paltrow Neumann, Adam’s wife, partner, spiritual guru, and co-conspirator. For the Oscar-winning actress, the opportunity to play Rebekah was a welcome challenge. “I thought, what if we just remember that she was a person? What if she had really good intentions that she wasn’t able to fulfill in a way that she would have liked? To me, that’s an interesting character. That’s a story that I think we can all relate to.”
As the series makes its debut, Shondaland caught up with Hathaway via Zoom to discuss her process of stepping into the role of Rebekah Neumann, how she values her worth as an actress in Hollywood, and the importance of amplifying the voices of Black women and women of color on social media.
REBECCA THEODORE-VACHON: While I was watching WeCrashed, I had to keep reminding myself that this really happened, because Rebekah and Adam Neumann are such over-the-top personalities. In preparing for this role, what was your entryway into playing such a mercurial character?
ANNE HATHAWAY: I worked with Amy Hammond, who’s a researcher that I worked with on a lot of my projects. And she helped show me Rebekah’s world, which was fascinating to understand certain things that might seem unusual if you didn’t grow up in that world but would have been less remarkable if you grew up in it. So, some of the more extreme examples of wealth that you could take for granted, that was really great [for] understanding kind of her starting place. And then, Rebekah is very open about her interest in spirituality, and she had spoken in interviews about which books were important to her. So, I made sure that I read those. And there was a passage in one of those that really jumped out at me, which was “judge all persons favorably.” When I read that, I felt like I had found my North Star in approaching the character, because we all know what happened at this point there. I mean, there’s been a podcast, there’s been books, there’s been a documentary, there’s a lot of information about the facts of the thing. And I’ve read the media narrative about her, which is not generous.Peter Kramer
RTV: Rebekah and Adam have a very complicated dynamic. I feel like there’s love in this relationship, but there are definitely some toxic behaviors that are fueled by their respective insecurities. How did you and Jared work to bring that dynamic to life on-screen?AH: I wish there was a process! Jared’s an unbelievable actor, and he showed up on his first day of filming as Adam Neumann, and I responded to him as Rebekah Paltrow Neumann. There’s something about the truth to their bond that he and I were both tapped into. And it was just there, and we didn’t have to strategize about it. I think we just listen to each other. And I love how free Jared is as a performer, so I was just really down to play. We just had so much fun. And then in between takes, we were very gentle with each other. There wasn’t a lot of chitchat. I think we just both stayed in a state of gratitude that the connection was so strong between us.
RTV: Rebekah is a cousin of Gwyneth Paltrow, and it seems she feels in the shadow of Gwyneth because she’s an aspiring actress herself. When you were coming up in Hollywood, were there any actresses in your circle about whom you felt the way Rebekah did
AH: I always felt empowered by other actresses and by their greatness. Not in the sense that I even was convinced that I could achieve it, but I’m always so thrilled by what’s possible. And so, whenever I saw an actress really succeed, I was inspired. It’s the same way I felt working with Jared on this one. When he came in and he set the bar so high for himself, I was inspired by it. And it made me want to set the bar higher for myself.Peter Kramer
RTV: In one episode, Adam struggles to figure out what his company is worth. Rebekah tells him it’s not about the money, but it’s about what you’re worth. Because we know that there are pay inequities for women in Hollywood, how do you advocate for yourself in negotiating salaries that you feel reflect your worth?
AH: It’s an intense topic, and it’s kind of hard to synthesize and simplify. Because we’re also in a very interesting time in terms of what things get funded and at what level. So, I think that you always have to consider what your worth is based on the context of the project. One thing I’ll say is there’s a lot of talk about representing what you’re worth, but I think you have to also learn how not to take things personally. Because I think when you feel that your worth is not being respected or reflected, you have to be able to walk away. And the only way to walk away, I feel, is to not take things personally. But there are exceptions. I think the first step is before you get anywhere, before you have a career when you’re coming up, you need to be able to look in the mirror and say that you have worth and believe it. That being said, nothing begins unless you’re able to have it within yourself. And even if you’re the highest-paid actress in Hollywood, if you don’t have self-worth, you won’t appreciate it.
RTV: Lastly, you’ve been lending your Instagram platform to Black women and women of color to advocate for social and racial justice. What advice would you give to white actors and actresses to be a better ally?
AH: I think the best words that are coming to me right now are from Dee Rees, who I was fortunate enough to work with, and she was generous enough to give me my star on the Walk of Fame when I got it, and she talked about currency. I think that you have to consider how much currency you have, where it comes from, if it’s fair the amount that you have, and how you want to use it if you are lucky enough to have some. And I just feel like I’ve been fortunate that women who might not have the platform that they deserve have trusted me to use my currency in support of them.
Rebecca Theodore-Vachon is a film and TV critic who focuses on race, gender, and representation in Hollywood. She has contributed to The New York Times, RogerEbert.com, Entertainment Weekly, Fast Company, and Vulture. She is also the creator of The Spectrum Lounge, a podcast that highlights creatives of color in Hollywood and pop culture. Follow her on Twitter @FILMFATALE_NYC.
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