For Javier Bardem and Nicole Kidman, the pressure of taking on one of the most iconic sitcoms of all time came with a lot of pressure.
This week, the “Being the Ricardos” stars are on The Hollywood Reporter‘s final cover of 2021, talking about the new film by Aaron Sorkin that takes audiences behind the scenes of “I Love Lucy”.
In March 2021, just a month before production was to start, the daunting task of playing Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz started to get to the actors, prompting them both to back out of filming. They even got on a Zoom call with Sorkin in an attempt to push the start date back a year.
“The more I knew how iconic [the show] was… it was like, ‘S**t,’” Bardem says, with Kidman adding, “S**t, what did we do?”
Bardem’s casting in the film has also come in for some amount of criticism for having a Spanish man play a Cuban, but the actor doesn’t agree with the complaints.
“I’m an actor and that’s what I do for a living, try to be people that I’m not. What do we do with Marlon Brando playing Vito Corleone? What do we do with Margaret Thatcher played by Meryl Streep? Daniel Day-Lewis playing Lincoln? Why does this conversation happen with people with accents? You have your accent. That’s where you belong. That’s tricky,” he says. “Where is that conversation with English-speaking people doing things like ‘The Last Duel’, where they were supposed to be French people in the Middle Ages? That’s fine. But me, with my Spanish accent, being Cuban? What I mean is, if we want to open the can of worms, let’s open it for everyone… We should all start not allowing anybody to play Hamlet unless they were born in Denmark.”
The actor is sensitive, though, to issues of representation: “I do recognize that there are many underrepresented voices and stories that need to be told, and we should collectively do better to provide access and opportunities for more American Latino stories and storytellers.”
Meanwhile, for Kidman, getting to play one of the 20th century’s most iconic comedians was a special opportunity despite the pressure.
“Yeah, there’s making people cry, but making people laugh is sort of exquisite,” she explains. “When I started doing all the physical comedy, and doing her voice, when it finally came, it was like, ‘Ah.’ And then I didn’t want to stop doing it. I’ve been working in this industry since I was 14 years old. This is a first.”
Bardem adds of how he related to Arnaz, “It’s the energy of someone that has to belong. And make everybody understand that just because he’s a foreigner, he doesn’t have to be put in a box. I’ve been lucky enough to be included in a film industry that goes beyond the Spanish film industry. Being Desi Arnaz in the ’50s in the States was a different thing. It was like being an alien. It was something very unique, especially when you were married to an American icon. People didn’t really respect him for what he was.”
And despite their differences, Kidman says she also found a lot to relate to in Ball.
“There were so many things when I first read the script that I related to,” she says. “A sense of trying to make a marriage work, juggling a desire to have children, of ‘I want to have a career, but I want to have the home.’ And then the idea of being a couple who are deeply protective of each other. I relate to it and I understand it.”
“Being the Ricardos” premieres on Prime Video Canada on Dec. 21.