Katherine Waterston Shares Exclusive Look into Creative Process of “The World to Come”
The World to Come was virtually premiered at the Venice Film Festival to high praise and won the Queer Lion Award for best LGBTQ-themed film, yet something about it might just surprise you: The romantic drama only has five credited actors. Based on Jim Shepard’s story of the same name, The World to Come is set on a remote farm in 19th-century New England and tells the poignant love story of two neighboring women, played by Katherine Waterston (Tina Goldstein in the Fantastic Beasts franchise) and Vanessa Kirby (Mission: Impossible, Hobbs & Shaw, Pieces of a Woman) as they battle trauma, hardship, and loneliness together. The problem is, they’re both married, to Dyer (Casey Affleck) and Finney (Christopher Abbott), respectively.
In a recent Entertainment Weekly interview, Waterston took readers on a behind-the-scenes journey into the making of the film, starting with how director Mona Fastvold approached her to join the cast:
There were a few lines of voice[-]over on [the script’s] first page and a description of her that was so compelling and so complete, even just there on the first page, that I just knew that I had a really great script in my hands. So then to discover all the places that I would get to go with this character and the harrowing journey I would get to go through was the icing on the cake. But I knew on that first page.
But what exactly in the script was it about her character, Abigail, that attracted Waterston so much? The actress explained how Abigail was described as “an asset to her husband,” which intrigued her to explore the “incredibly negative and very positive associations” with the word.
It unlocked the period of the film for me, because a marriage was very much also an economic relationship, not simply romantic, if even at all a romantic contract, but actually mostly an economic arrangement. So what does it mean? What does it mean to be a person in that kind of arrangement, in that kind of life? That was the first thing that got me really curious about the character and her world.
Another reason why the compelling characterization in the film script was a major asset to Waterston was that there was little research about the LGBTQ community in the 19th century, and any existing literature was written by authors who did not share the same profile as her character. Thus, she relied heavily on the script to guide her in her portrayal of Abigail.
I think Abigail, my character, is a woman whose life was never really her own to choose in any way. There was basically nothing about my life, my experience, that prepared me for playing Abigail; she is of another world. It’s fascinating to explore her world, and what her life would have been like. It all starts with the script, and they did a lot of that work for us by creating two women who were just fully-fledged [sic] individuals.
Finally, Waterston shared what she felt was the tone of the drama, which she described as “a Western about interiority.”
It feels like a female perspective of a world and an experience we’ve known very well from the other side. […] I really think it’s about love and vulnerability, and that’s true for all four of the characters. It is an ensemble, and though these two brilliant male actors have done a cool thing of supporting female leads, they, too, are shown in this refreshingly multi-dimensional way. It feels like a missing puzzle piece to the story of this period and this part of the world.
“With little pride and less hope, we begin the new year,” writes Abigail despondently in a New Year’s Day diary entry. Although 2021’s prospects for the film industry remain bleak, The World to Come is a moving and genuinely authentic film that has much to be proud of and offers us optimistic hope for filmmaking in the midst of a global pandemic. The award-winning romantic drama will be released on February 12, 2021, by Bleecker Street.