SANTA MONICA, CALIFORNIA - MARCH 06: Geraldine Viswanathan attends the 2022 Film Independent Spirit Awards on March 06, 2022 in Santa Monica, California. (Photo by Jon Kopaloff/Getty Images)
ManOfTheCenturyMovie Film Geraldine Viswanathan has been a rising star for a long time (and that’s okay by her)

Geraldine Viswanathan has been a rising star for a long time (and that’s okay by her)

SANTA MONICA, CALIFORNIA - MARCH 06: Geraldine Viswanathan attends the 2022 Film Independent Spirit Awards on March 06, 2022 in Santa Monica, California. (Photo by Jon Kopaloff/Getty Images)

(Editor’s note: The following interview was conducted before the SAG-AFTRA strike began on July 14, 2023.)

Geraldine Viswanathan seems like the kind of girl you can kick off a conversation with — a professional one, to boot — via owl-based non sequitur. In fact, you can, as the ever-rising girl (and that’s good!) and the constant “rising star” (she’s state here!) is as easy and fun an interview topic as anyone would want to have.

Where you know Viswanathan from depends on your tastes in entertainment: the Emmy-nominated Aussie has been working since the age of 4 (when she booked her first commercial) and has since appeared in a range of roles, from raunchy ( and smart ) 2018 teen comedy “Blockers” to the TBS comedy anthology series “Miracle Workers”. She did a lot of indies (“Hala”, “Bad Education”, “7 Days”) AND had a recurring role in the animated comedy ‘BoJack Horseman’.

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Yet, whenever Viswanathan shows up in a new project, people seem to remember again and again that he is someone to watch. It’s fine for her.

Her latest film role speaks to this: In Kristin Gore and Damian Kulash’s “The Beanie Bubble,” Viswanathan plays one of three female characters who prove invaluable to the supposed genius of Beanie Baby Ty Warner (all roles are based on female truths of Warner’s life; her character, Maya, is based on entrepreneur Lina Trivedi). It’s Maya who invents everything from cute poems that adorned toy labels to using the Internet to market what would become an American behemoth (and cautionary tale). Being the underdog? Now That resounded with Viswanathan.

The following interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.

IndieWire: I’ll start with a kind of weird question that will hopefully get us off on the right foot. Did you know that there is a great horned owl in Central Park named after you?

Geraldine Viswanathan: What?

I became a pandemic birder. Her name is Geraldine. She is a great horned owl. She came about 17 months ago and she hasn’t left and all the birders love her. So every time I think of you, I think of her, and vice versa.

Oh, my god, that’s amazing. I take note of it right away. It’s so funny.

OK, now the real stuff: “The Beanie Bubble” is built on this idea that Ty Warner had a number of amazing women around him who all had great ideas and he didn’t, so he just stole from them. In the film, you play the young upstart who knows everything and is still surrounded by people who are like, “No, no, I know better.” Did he resonate with you?

Yes, 100 percent. I think I really related to Maya’s underdog status and I was also inspired by her attachment to her guns and being so savvy and smart and knowing what’s best before the “grown-ups” did, basically. I think Maya’s journey is very relatable, because she had to fight so hard to be appreciated, and it shouldn’t be such a tough fight. Its value is so clear, and unfortunately, I think a lot of women and women of color can relate to that feeling, feel like the game is rigged and whatever you do, you gotta work twice as hard, you gotta be twice as good. But ultimately there is one thing you can’t change and that is your avatar in the world.

Obviously it’s really frustrating and I love it about this movie, which is not about here the genius of a boy and just this capitalist propaganda of “You can do it too! You just have to have a stroke of genius and break all the rules! I think it looks like one of those kind of movies, but it also has more complex layers than this is how people are exploited in the process and is it really worth it?

The cap bubble
“The Cap Bubble”Apple Original Movies

Every time you’re in a movie or a TV show, people are like, “Oh, she’s the big break, she’s the next big thing,” but to anyone paying attention, you’ve been a thing for years. Is it something you feel?

I feel like I’m going to “rise” up to death. I once heard someone say to women in business, “You get up or you’re dead.” It’s like, OK, so I’d rather be resurrected than die. But honestly, I’m really starting to like it. I love flying under the radar and doing really different work and being a part of projects that I love rather than really just being known for one thing and then having to try and get out of it. I love this direction of continuing to try things. I think I’m still trying to figure out who I am as an artist and what I’m capable of. And I love throwing anything out there and giving it a try.

You also seem to be on the cutting edge with some of your projects. Something like “Blockers”, we are still having the conversation about “raunchy sex comedy is back!” or how teenage girls are portrayed on screen as sexual beings.

“Blockers” was my first movie ever, and it felt like a dream to me the whole time. It was so exciting and I was having so much fun and with the best people. “Blockers” will forever be the thing that changed my life. But I guess we were having so much fun doing it that I thought, me think this will come out. But timing is a big thing and I’m really grateful that I was part of that conversation at the time.

In the early stages of the pandemic, you were also in this lovely rom-com, ‘The Broken Hearts Gallery’, and people still talk to this day about how rom-com is suddenly ‘back’, but you were in a great one. in 2020.

I’m such a rom-com girl. I think I love girls. I am a feminine girl. I live for girls. Romantic comedies are what I always want to turn to, and I think that’s a big part of what I want to do in this career. I want to make people feel good and be a force for good in the world, and I think rom-coms really do that. They can really cure what ails you sometimes.

I’m in New York right now and walking around New York, I feel like I’m in a romantic comedy. It’s just the fantasy. I want rom-coms to come back for sure, and I think they are. We are navigating in a truly ever-changing world.

The Gallery of Broken Hearts
“The Gallery of Broken Hearts”Sony images

It’s funny to hear you say that you like being in things that make people feel good, because in January at Sundance, I saw you in “Cat Person,” which is a movie that makes everyone feel so fucking bad.

(laughs) Fair enough. It’s so funny, the things that make me happy. I love things that are incredibly uncomfortable or embarrassing or embarrassing or whatever. I actually thrive on that feeling, especially when it’s, I don’t know, just embarrassment.

I was obsessed with that story and felt like it captured the nuances of things that are so hard to explain, it just hit a raw nerve. I think that’s why the article popped up so much. So when I heard they were making the movie, I was like, I just want to be a part of it in any way because it was just a conversation that I wanted to be a part of. It was interesting to me and I felt I had something to say about it. I also love social commentary thrillers. This is a genre that I think is really worthwhile and makes me feel good, but in a different way. It makes me feel I livenot just happy.

The way the film and story uses text messaging is insane, it captures what it’s like at a certain time and at a certain age. This it’s the way people talk to each other.

If we could collect all the text messages in the world and see what people are talking about, I think we would be very upset.

You have another film coming out this year, Ethan Coen’s “Drive-Away Dolls” with Margaret Qualley. How was that experience?

Oh my god, absolutely surreal. Working with Ethan Coen has been thrilling and intimidating, but he’s also such a wonderful person, and it’s been such a joy to work with and absorb as much of that experience as possible. I would say it was quite unique and it was also a completely different mode. He is such an amazing writer; he and Tricia Cooke wrote it and they are both so smart. It was a real pleasure to honor those words, but it’s also very tonally specific. It was a really fun challenge and, at the same time, also one of the easiest jobs. Without stress. They know what they’re doing and it’s really cool to be on their set.

(L to R) Margaret Qualley as "Jaime" and Geraldine Viswanathan as "Marian" in director Ethan Coen's DRIVE-AWAY DOLLS, a Focus Features distribution.  Credit: Courtesy of Working Title / Focus Features
“Dolls that go away”Courtesy of Working Title / Focus Features

Do you have in mind a list of directors you would like to work with in the future?

Jordan Peele, Sofia Coppola, Greta Gerwig, these are all people making movies now that I think are brilliant. And who else? Daniels. I’m available!

What kind of movies did you grow up watching?

I was a little weird. I feel like I’ve been really scared of movies for a long time. My dad tried to show me “The Matrix” and I freaked out and that turned me off from movies for a while. But I watched “The Matrix” recently and I was like, OH, this is an amazing movie. I was only 8 years old. My father was foolish to show it to me.

I was such a TV girl growing up. I just watched all the sitcoms, that was my thing. I’ve seen ‘Friends’, ‘Third Rock from the Sun’, ‘Arrested Development’, ‘The IT Crowd’, ‘Mighty Boosh’. In my teens, ‘(500) Days of Summer’ and ‘Little Miss Sunshine’ did something to me that I was like, oh, great indie films. That’s when I started getting obsessed.

What is something you haven’t done yet that you would like to do?

Until you see it or until you get the idea or something, it’s hard to make one out of thin air, but I think I’d like to make a show. I’d like to do Broadway. Something live would be really thrilling. And then it’s like, action, maybe something like a fully underwater spy movie or something.

We could cast you in an underwater spy action comedy directed by Jordan Peele.

It looks really cool. “The Little Mermaid”, but it is also something else. Love that.

“The Beanie Bubble” will premiere in select theaters on Friday, July 21 and worldwide on Apple TV+ on Friday, July 28.

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