Actress Madeline Walter stopped by Solzy at the Movies to discuss her role in Cold War. The indie comedy will be released on Digital HD and Video On Demand platforms on Friday, April 6th.
Thanks for joining us today. How are things treating you?
Madeline Walter: Things are good, thanks! My husband and I both recently traded the same cold back and forth for a couple weeks, so we were really living that Cold War reality for a minute.
You’re starring in Cold War, which arrives on VOD this weekend. What was it that attracted you to the script?
Madeline Walter: I initially wanted to do the movie because Wilder had directed some comedy videos I’d done, and I was just a real fan of him and his sensibility. Then, I read the script, and I loved that it captures this very relatable relationship moment– that moment after you really commit to someone and start seeing all of the more vulnerable parts of their personality. And I loved that the script took that moment and really heightened it by making the main characters REALLY vulnerable by making them so nasty-sick.
As far as the performance goes, was it easy or hard to play sick?
Madeline Walter: You know, it was actually kind of easy because I have this naturally sort of hoarse-sounding voice, and I had bronchitis a ton when I was younger so one of my special skills is I can produce a really disgusting cough on command. Also, no joke, my nose has truly been beet-red since I was a kid, so without a little makeup, I actually do look like I have a perma-cold. I’ve had a few people ask me how the makeup department got me to look so sick, and the answer is: I was the makeup department, and all I did was not wear makeup.
What the hell is the Raccoon Flu, anyway?
Madeline Walter: That’s a great question. My best guess is that it’s like swine flu, but more sinister because it comes from an animal that can use its opposable thumbs to open a trash can.
For a comedy such as this film, how much of your performance was improvised?
Madeline Walter: Less than you’d think. Mookie (who played Jon), and I both came up through the Upright Citizens Brigade Theatre, so Stirling and Wilder really encouraged us to improvise on set. We’d do that thing where we’d get the scene as scripted, and then do some more improvised takes. But the script was so well-written, that often the most natural-feeling, best takes were the scripted ones. I found myself not really wanting to improvise (which is rare for me!), because I felt like I was adding unnecessary fat to a moments that were already well thought out and tightly written.
How did it feel to take home Best Actress for your performance in Cold War at the LA Comedy Festival last year?
Madeline Walter: It was so exciting! This was my first feature film, so I was genuinely very curious about whether I could pull it off. Because I do so much comedy, everything I’ve done has been short– I’ve acted in commercials, one-off scenes in TV shows, web-series, live comedy shows… but this was my first time embodying a character who had to have a full arc and who had to be on screen for more than 5 minutes at a time. It was a real leap of faith (for both me, and for Stirling and Wilder when they cast me), and winning that award was a really wonderful confirmation that this is the kind of challenge that I am absolutely up for and could do again.
As far as improv goes, who has had the most meaningful influence on your career?
Madeline Walter: Oh geez, so many people. Some of my most influential teachers were Los Angeles improvisers like Suzi Barrett and Will McLaughlin. But I would say the people who have had the most meaningful influences on me are maybe my friends Marcy Jarreau and Nicole Byer, two of the very best improvisers you’ll ever encounter. We’ve been improvising together for years, and they both perform with a level of boldness and confidence that was really formative for me, especially when I was coming up and improv was really male-dominated and it was easy to shrink on stage while these louder, more confident dudes were front and center. Marcy and Nicole have always done such an amazing job claiming their space and expressing their points of view on stage, and through performing with them, I’ve learned to rise to that level of confidence.
When did you know that you wanted to pursue comedy for a career?
Madeline Walter: Not really until I moved to Los Angeles and I started taking classes at UCB. I did theatre as a kid, which made me think that I wanted to be an actor “when I grew up.” Then, in high school and college, that felt really impractical, so I became way more focused on academics. But I did discover that I had a real passion for writing, and in my fiction classes, the most successful stories I wrote were sort of funny. But when I moved to LA, people’s advice to me was that I had to pick “one thing” and focus on that– I had to be an actor OR a writer. And I bought into that until I discovered the comedy community and saw that this was a world where people were doing everything– writing, acting, and producing their own work. Comedy felt entrepreneurial and empowering in a way that other areas of the industry didn’t. It was also a world where I felt like I was valued for my brain, rather than how I looked, which is obviously (and depressingly) super rare in this industry.
Is there someone you’d like to work with some day?
Madeline Walter: Ah man, I think Greta Gerwig is a genius, and Lady Bird really wrecked me, so if I ever got the chance to work with her, that would be a literal dream. I also want to throw out there that if I honestly even just got to meet any of the guys from the new Queer Eye, that would pretty much do it for me and I’d be happy forever.
What upcoming projects are you working on?
Madeline Walter: I’m doing a lot of writing– my writing partner and I are about to take out a TV pitch that I’m really excited about, and not to brag, but I do have a commercial running for vaginal cleansing wipes right now.
Thanks again for your time and congrats again on the film.
Madeline Walter: Thank you!!
Cold War will be available through Video on Demand and Digital platforms on April 6, 2018.