In Universal’s She Said, Andre Braugher plays real-life journalist Dean Baquet, the former executive editor of The New York Times who helped spearhead the paper’s investigation into Harvey Weinstein. While this is the first time the actor has played a historical figure who is still alive (he previously portrayed Jackie Robinson and labor unionist A. Philip Randolph, for example), Braugher didn’t feel he had to meet Baquet to capture the spirit of the editor.
“Sometimes when you’re playing real people, there’s a tendency to get stuck on their real mannerisms, and what you imagine their real attitudes are as opposed to the script, and I think my highest loyalty goes to the playwright [Rebecca Lenkiewicz, who penned the screenplay] in collaboration with the director to find out what it is that we want to try to play,” Braugher tells THR. “I felt that the Dean of the script was very much a father figure, a mentor, a friend, a guide through treacherous borders, and that’s what I tried to play. I’m not blessed with the ability to be a chameleon, so it’s really about the instincts that I pick up from the person, and all that was done secondhand through documentaries or YouTube videos, and not so much over lunch or that sort of personal affiliation. I felt as though I captured the spiritual essence of Dean. My feeling throughout the film was, Dean is watching out for these journalists who are going through immense pressure in the course of delivering the truth. That guided me through the entire role.”
She Said follows Times journalists Megan Twohey (Carey Mulligan) and Jodi Kantor (Zoe Kazan) as they investigate Weinstein and talk to the women who stepped forward to accuse the producer of sexual assault and harassment. Braugher credits the work of director Maria Schrader (Unorthodox, I’m Your Man) for capturing not only these women’s immense bravery, but also the toll it took on Kantor and Twohey to get the story out to the public.
“If not for the courage of the women who came forward to tell this story, this would be a very different place, a very different workplace, a very different world,” Braugher says. “I think it’s an important film, and I think it’s going to resonate very much with women, and I’m hoping it resonates very much with men.”
Coming from television — the actor’s credits include Brooklyn Nine-Nine, Men of a Certain Age and Homicide: Life on the Street — Braugher found Schrader’s directing methods to be quite unconventional.
“It’s part of her genius, but we never rehearsed,” he explains. “We just started filming, and there was a broad outline, like, ‘You go here, and you go here, and you’re sitting here and there.’ And that’s quite shocking coming from television, where you get rehearsal time and everything’s programmed [with] three cameras. The most shocking part — which I thought was actually liberating in its own way, because it was new for me — [was that] we just started acting. Mistakes will be made, but there’s a spontaneity I felt in the film that was quite refreshing. That was, for me, the most challenging part.”
This story first appeared in a December stand-alone issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.