Philip Roth’s Pulitzer Prize winning novel American Pastoral is a decades-spanning story about an American family dealing with the repercussions of tragedy. Two-time Emmy winner, Uzo Aduba, for her work on Orange is the New Black, plays a key role in the big screen adaption. In the film, for 40 years the Newark Maid Gloves factory has employed blacks, and Ewan McGregor's "Swede" Levov continues the family business. Aduba's character, Vicky is the loyal, longtime forewoman to McGregor's glove factory owner, in an All-American suburban New Jersey family during the tumultuous 1960's despite the factory being under siege by rioters and protected by the National Guard. Aduba spoke with Screen Rant about the playing Vicky, the moral compass of the Levov's.
This is a huge departure from the character you play on Orange is the New Black.
Uzo Adubo: Yes.
The question I have for you is what drew you to the role of Viky?
Uzo Adubo: I was drawn to the role of Vicky because of her strength, and her voice. The time on screen is economical, but every time she speaks is with power, and she has something to say, and that was exciting to me.
One of the most touching scenes—for me at least—in the movie was where Vicky was talking to the soldiers outside. And she was telling them, “you’re supposed to be protecting the people, and you’re supposed to be watching out for these people.” It was very impactful, actually, because there’s so much of the scene that you can relate to now. What was it like doing that scene, in general? Was it impactful for you at all?
Uzo Adubo: Absolutely. When I read the script and was preparing for that scene it was impossible for me to not feel, somehow, like I wanted to give voice to the voiceless, you know? Watching the news, you see—whatever story, it’s almost like you’re listening to it with the sound off, you don’t always hear the battle cry, or the cry, or some of these characters in our news. And so when I was preparing for this part I felt like that was what I wanted to do. Cause I thought it was so interesting, the language in that scene, which she’s talking. She’s not really addressing herself and her needs, she’s always referring to the neighbors, the people who live in this area. And so she’s speaking for a people, and I wanted to do my very best, both literally and figuratively, to speak for a people.
She also seemed like Swede’s—the family’s—moral compass in a way, too. Because I’d have to assume that she’s been around this family for generations, and decades.
Uzo Adubo: Absolutely. Ewan, when we spoke on the phone the summer before we started working on this, we were having the conversation and he was so keen on our relationship really being clear, that this is a longstanding relationship, from the first exchange. And I think that’s true; she’s known the Levov family her entire life, she’s known the Swede her entire life, and that’s who she’s most fiercely loyal to, you know? And that was important to me, and I loved trying to dig into that.
And you did such an amazing job. I do have to ask, since Screen Rant likes this kind of stuff, anything coming up on Orange is the New Black that you can talk about?
Uzo Adubo: No [laughs]
[Laughs] Well that sums that up!
- American Pastoral (2016) release date: Oct 21, 2016