Directed and co-penned by David Guy Levy, The Mandela Effect centers on a game designer named Brendan (Charlie Hofheimer) who attempts to find meaning in his life after the death of his daughter (Madeleine McGraw). Though his wife Claire (Aleksa Palladino) and brother-in-law Matt (Robin Lord Taylor) lend their emotional support to Brendan, he believes a grander plan is at hand. Check out my Q&A with Palladino and Lord Taylor below, as they talked about collaborating with Levy and discussed a few other projects that are on the horizon!
Do you remember one of your favorite childhood characters as The Berenstein Bears or The Berenstain Bears? Did the Monopoly guy wear a monocle? And is Looney Tunes actually spelled Looney Toons?
This idea of misremembering facts is part of The Mandela Effect universe, and director David Guy Levy takes that idea and expands it with a sci-fi thriller twist. To give further plot details about Brendan’s journey would head into spoiler territory, but I really enjoyed this 80 minute look into a man searching for a parallel universe.
Aleksa Palladino’s extensive credits include two films directed by Sidney Lumet (Find Me Guilty, Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead) and two acclaimed shows (Boardwalk Empire and the criminally overlooked Halt and Catch Fire). Lord Taylor, who previously worked with The Mandela Effect director David Guy Levy on the 2012 feature Would You Rather, is best known for playing Penguin on the Fox series Gotham.
Was David Guy Levy’s personal approach to this sci-fi tale one of the reasons why both of you decided to take on the project?
Lord Taylor: For me, definitely. I had the pleasure of working with David a couple of times in the past. He’s just a really brilliant and visionary person. We are also very close friends, so before we even went into pre-production for the film, he was telling me about it. I just fell in love with the idea.
I love when you take something as esoteric as multiple realities and simulation theory and then root it in a real human experience – as an actor that’s what I can really sink my teeth into. The melding of those two aspects is what made me the most excited about this project.
Palladino: That’s exactly what I was going to say. It’s not often that you read something that is so heady but described and shown in such a grounded way. It never felt like the theory got in the way of the story or got in the way of the emotional arc of the characters. It was just a really beautiful marriage of the two.
Aleksa, just a random question. Leonard Cohen is an artist you have mentioned as an influence. It seems that he married both life and art, and is it a fair assumption regarding how you view your work as well?
Palladino: No I think that’s a really lovely assumption and I’m happy that’s how it comes across. My whole family is in the arts in different aspects and so it was a very normal and natural thing to try and understand your own experience through (something) outside of yourself whether it be a painting or in a song or a character. So yeah, that’s fair.
Robin, do you see yourself working with David again, since he seems to be a singular storyteller (which is a good thing)?
Working with David is so freeing because he works in a similar way I do in that it’s all about jumping in and getting on our feet and just working through it physically without a lot of talking or overanalyzing. I love working that way. And yeah I would love to work with him again and I feel like, especially the second time, he and I having had worked together before and being very good friends – it’s really nice working with someone (you know). When it’s time for the scene – his kind of direction with me is like ‘yeah man, you know what you’re doing.’ (laughs) It’s a really good collaboration that we have.
Can both of you pick one of your all time favorite films and what is special about that film for you?
Palladino: One of my all-time favorite films is Network. (Directed by) Sidney Lumet. Paddy Chayefsky (wrote) the screenplay. I just adore that movie. I think it is so well written and timely. It’s so ahead of its time and is just as relevant if not more today than when it was (released).
Lord Taylor: Flirting with Disaster is one of my many favorite movies. It was on television the other day and I had to watch the entire thing – it’s been a while since I had seen (the film). It’s one of the earlier David O. Russell films. I love a film where you can see really brilliant actors and know they are having as much fun as you are watching the movie.
That movie kills me every time. The humor and the relationship between the parents and the husband and wife and everyone else in the film is just so funny and well done. I love that movie.
Robin, I never watch TV, but I really love You. Were you a fan of the series before you joined the program for its second season?
Lord Taylor: It’s so amazing when you are a fan of the show and you find yourself on set. That’s happened to me once before when I had the honor of being, for a very small time, on The Walking Dead. I was also a very huge fan of that show as well. In terms of You, (I am) a fan of the show and I think it is such a subversive, really perfectly written satire.
It really lampoons the culture that we live in now, especially in terms of social media and how we can all be manipulated that way. And also I was coming right off of Gotham and I was just so excited to be part of something and play a character that is so different, so removed from what I had been doing on Gotham.
Fortunately an audition came along and I booked it and it happened to be this job. I’m so excited (for You).
Aleksa what did you learn from working with Sidney Lumet? He’s a director who seemed to have focused on story first before anything.
Palladino: There was so much I learned from him. I worked with him twice and the first time I worked with him I think I was 26. There’s so much that I wanted to absorb from him. He as well was not an over thinker like (Robin) was saying about David Guy Levy.
The first film I did with him was Find Me Guilty and I played Vin Diesel’s daughter. At a certain point, Vin and I were talking and we (felt that) there were a few scenes missing between the father and the daughter. There is no sort of real resolution with them at the end. We went to Sidney and we talked about it and Sidney just stopped us in our tracks and said ‘He’s not a family man.’ (laughs)
(Lumet) was right! Because we’re so into the emotional life of a character, we see very strong things for our characters that don’t necessarily serve the story or don’t even serve the character. So yeah, the notion of him putting story above everything is absolutely right. And you see it in all of his films where he’s got a signature style that feels so gritty and earthy and from the street. But that’s really it. He just disappears. He doesn’t show off. He just tells the story and did it so beautifully. He’s one of the masters of our lifetime.
Aleksa, I really love your music, and just wondering if there is another Exitmusic album in the offing (the group’s last album, The Recognitions, came out in 2018).
Palladino: Thank you, I really appreciate that. There’s one more record from Exitmusic coming out probably next year but that’s it for that project. But yeah, I’ll have another project following that.
The Mandela Effect hits theaters and VOD Friday, December 6.