IAR EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW: Ioan Gruffudd talks 'Fireflies in the Garden' and 'Ringer'

Monday, 10 October 2011 21:23 Written by  Jami Philbrick
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IAR EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW: Ioan Gruffudd talks 'Fireflies in the Garden' and 'Ringer'

To comic book fans Ioan Gruffudd may be best known as the man who portrayed Marvel’s elastic hero Mr. Fantastic in 20th Century Fox’s Fantastic Four franchise, but the classically trained Welsh actor also has a very impressive resume of non-superhero work to his credit. Gruffudd first gained attention for playing the title role on the A&E television series Hornblower, and eventually went on to appear in such assorted films as Black Hawk Down, King Arthur, The TV Set, Amazing Grace, W., Horrible Bosses, and Sanctum.

Gruffudd currently stars opposite Buffy the Vampire Slayer actress Sarah Michelle Gellar on the popular new CW series Ringer. On the series he plays Andrew Martin, a man who unbeknownst to himself, is secretly married to the identical twin sister of his own wife, who took her place after she mysteriously disappeared. The classically trained actor now returns to the big screen once again with a pivotal supporting role in the new dramatic ensemble film Fireflies in the Garden, which opens in theaters on October 14th.

Ryan Reynolds stars in the new film as Michael, a successful writer with a troubled childhood and a failing marriage, who returns home to face his demons and attend his baby sister’s college graduation. Upon arrival, his mother (Julia Roberts) is killed in a car accident and Michael must now deal with the aftermath that includes confronting his abusive father (Willem Dafoe), reuniting with his estranged aunt (Emily Watson), and forgiving his recovering alcoholic wife (Carrie Anne-Moss). Meanwhile, Michael discovers that his mother was having an affair with a co-worker of his father’s (Gruffudd), a college professor whose class she was taking. Eventually, Michael must come to terms with his childhood, his family and his own life before ha can move on.

It should be noted for all fan-boys, that in addition to Gruffudd’s superhero street cred the film stars several other comic book movie/TV and genre film actors including Reynolds (Green Lantern), Dafoe (Spider-Man), George Newbern (Justice League Unlimited), Carrie Anne-Moss (The Matrix), and Hayden Panettiere (Heroes). If you liked those actors in their previous heroic or villainous performances, then you should give them a chance in this mature and sophisticated family drama.

I recently had the pleasure of speaking with actor Ioan Gruffudd, who was a true gentlemen, about his work on Fireflies in the Garden and Ringer. The actor spoke candidly with me about the new film, his character, working with Ryan Reynolds, not working with Julia Roberts, the movie’s super hero connections, adjusting to working on a TV series, and just when his Ringer character might figure out that the woman he is sleeping with is not his wife.

Here is what the talented actor had to say:

To begin with, often when you are in an ensemble film like this you don’t get to work with every actor on the project. All of your scenes in this movie are only with Ryan Reynolds, so did you get to meet the rest of the cast? Also, how bummed out were you when you found out that Julia Roberts was going to play your lover but that you weren’t going to have any scenes with her in the film?

Ioan Gruffudd: I know, it’s going to be one of those trivia questions: name one of Julia Robert’s on screen lovers that never actually appeared on screen with Julia Roberts. I mean I was pretty bummed out about that. I remember bumping into her after at an event in New York and I said, “Hi, I’m Ioan Gruffudd your lover,” and she said, “Oh.” So we actually have spoken about it. But during the filming no, I don’t think I met her once. I mean Danny (Cinematographer Daniel Moder) of course … her husband shot the movie so I met him everyday on the set. All the other cast members I only saw in passing. But as you know with the scheduling of these things, sometimes you just meet the actor you’re working with that day. I mean it was so fast. I was literally in and out in like two days.

I assume that as an actor you had to create a backstory for your character Addison, and his relationship with Julia’s character Lisa. Julia Robert’s is not the worst person in the world to have to imagine having an affair with, is she?

Gruffudd: No not at all, you know it was such a sort of romantic campus down there. We shot down in Austen, in Texas. The campus of the University was pretty romantic so I can imagine those heady days of captured moments, just after lectures or in cupboards or whatever.

For the most part, Ryan Reynolds is best known for his comedic or super hero roles, so what was it like working with him in such a dramatic and serious film?

Gruffudd: Well I was just thrilled to be working with him in the first place. I’ve always been a huge admirer of his, especially the stuff that he does in the comedy world. He manages to play that sort of fine line between being the straight handsome leading man, and being funny, which is something Jason Bateman does quite well. It was a departure I guess for him to play this sort of part and I’m sure he was dying to do it on the big screen. So he was wonderful to work with. He was so smart, so bright, and so generous to me. It was a real thrill to work with a contemporary of mine who I admired so much, and who’s obviously now become a bonafide movie star.

While Michael is obviously going through a lot emotionally having just lost his mother, Addison’s also dealing with the devastating loss of the woman he loves, and there is a kind of understanding between the two men, isn’t there?

Gruffudd: Well a revelation happens, the secret is out and he confronts him with it. It was slightly embarrassing and I’m glad they cast somebody like myself opposite Ryan. Somebody who is exactly the same age and could be his contemporary at University, so to give that uncomfortable feeling. There was a moment in the scene where Ryan threw in an answer of “I’m sorry for your loss.” To me, it was like he found compassion in himself. At least enough to say that he was sorry about my loss because obviously things haven’t been that great at home for her. It was a really delicate scene and it hopefully came across nicely because of the fact that the two of us shot it together.

Did you and Ryan have a lot of time to rehearse the diner scene together before you shot it?

Gruffudd: As you know from experience, these independent films are so fast and unless you are front and center like Ryan was, you don’t have chance to catch your breath. I literally had come in, we decided on the costume I think that morning, we stitched it all together, I threw it on and suddenly I was in that little café shooting that scene and I had to cry and do all that emotional stuff. So there is no real time to think, you’re really acting on pure instincts. It’s so fast, that’s the thing. Then you catch your breath, you’re on your way home and you go, “Oh, that’s how I should have played that.”

Did you have that experience on this film? Was there something you wish you had done differently?

Gruffudd: Oh listen; I think every actor has that feeling the moment they step off the set. You go, “Oh damn, I wish I could do that again. I got to do that again. I kind of know what to do now.” Every actor you talk to will have that feeling. Look, there was nothing specific but you just always feel … I mean the experience shines through in these sorts of scenarios. You just have to trust that your instincts and your experience will carry you through these moments.

Please forgive me but I have to ask you this, I’m a huge comic book and superhero fan, and the fact that this film features the Green Lantern (Reynolds), the Green Goblin (Dafoe), Mr. Fantastic (Gruffudd), and Superman (Newbern) was not lost on me. Not to mention Trinity from The Matrix (Moss), and the cheerleader from Heroes (Panettiere), so do you think this cast could attract some fan-boys that ordinarily might not want to watch a serious dramatic film like this?

Gruffudd: Oh my god, of course! You know that is incredible. I didn’t realize that before. Of course because Ryan went on to become the Green Lantern, and then the Goblin was Willem, I was Mr. Fantastic and … who else?

George Newbern was the voice of Superman on the animated series Justice League and Justice League Unlimited.

Gruffudd: Oh you’re kidding me? That’s right. And then of course, what’s her name from The Matrix?

Carrie Anne-Moss played Trinity.

Gruffudd: Oh my God you’re right. We’re a real who’s who of superheroes. That’s the trivia question! I guess what’s great about promoting a movie like this is that you’ve got Ryan, myself, and all the other actors that we’ve mentioned in these cameo parts who can actually get on the phone with people like yourself and get it out there. Because this is the kind of stuff that we sort of live for but people don’t really get to see, so if we can encourage people to see it then that would be fantastic.

Finally, if you don’t mind, I wanted to ask you a little bit about Ringer. How are you adjusting to the daily grind of weekly episodic television?

Gruffudd: You know it is a strange feeling to begin with but because I’m now a father, I have to live in the moment when life changes and presents new chapters. Before Ella (his daughter), I don’t think I would have wanted to have a rhythm and routine. Now that I have Ella, she’s now two years old, I love the fact that I go to work, do good work, and come home at the end of everyday. It gives me some sort of rhythm, routine and stability in my life. And if this show runs for four or five years, even better. Even if I came out of this show then, I would still be in my very early ‘40s if the thing ran and was a successful show. So in terms of career goals, I’m still young in sort of male leading man terms.

Without giving away any specifics, do you know the timeline for when it will be revealed to your character what is going on? Do you think that is something that will happen soon, or do you think it will be stretched out through the remainder of this season and beyond?

Gruffudd: I think the main secret will have to be kept away from Andrew; I think that would be too devastating for him. I’m not even sure if they would want to reveal that at the end of the first season. I don’t know, but certainly that is what makes it fun for the rest of us that are watching the show. They did the same thing in the early seasons of Breaking Bad. We were let in on the secret but Walter was hiding it from his wife all along. I mean it was really incredible what they were able to do then once he confided in her what had happened. It was really impressive to see what they were able to do with the rest of the show, with her in on the act as it were. So who knows? There is potential for everything, but I can’t imagine that they would want to reveal it until at least the final episode of the first season.

When he finally finds out that his wife is really his sister-in-law, how do you think your character will react?

Gruffudd: Well based on how I’m playing him at the moment, and what’s happening to him at the moment, I think he would be utterly devastated and distraught because we’re trying to establish him as a guy who is really trying to hold his marriage together. Beginning with the pilot things weren’t great at home but since then I’ve been trying to patch the relationship up and make a real effort to put this relationship back on track. Based on the current form I think he would be absolutely devastated.

Fireflies in the Garden opens in theaters on Friday, October 14th.

Ringer airs Tuesday nights on The CW. 

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