NEW YORK -- When Jared Leto last appeared in a TV series it was 1995 and he played Claire Danes’ high school crush, Jordan Catalano, in ABC’s “My So-Called Life.” His character was the perfect bad boyfriend who left Danes’ angsty Angela Chase analyzing every encounter.
The show lasted only one season (but it's cemented in 90s pop culture, along with the Catalano character) and Leto went on to become an Oscar winner for his work in the 2013 film “Dallas Buyers Club” and a rock star with his band 30 Seconds to Mars.
Leto returns to television Friday in the limited series “ WeCrashed ” for Apple TV+ and says the experience felt more like making a film rather than TV.
“The approach was the same. It was just much more material. It was like making six films. I loved it. I love the opportunity to live with a character a little bit longer. I love the challenge. It nearly broke me, but it was exactly what needed to happen," he said.
“WeCrashed” follows the rise and fall of Adam Neumann (Leto), as the co-founder of the shared workspace startup, WeWork. It also tells the love story between Neumann and his wife, Rebekah, played by another Oscar winner, Anne Hathaway. Rebekah is a colorful personality in her own right with big dreams, a yogi who believes in manifesting dreams and feng shui. She was WeWork's chief branding officer and founded its offshoot school, WeGrow.
To play Neumann, Leto immersed himself into the character. He adopted “a different way of walking, of talking, of laughing, an accent, a different range in my voice — that's a lot to juggle,” said the actor.
Kyle Marvin, who plays WeWork co-founder Miguel McKelvey, said all of his interactions with Leto during the making of the series were of him in character.
“From the very first day I met Jared, he would call me Miguel, even when we passed off-stage or talked. It would always be Adam and Miguel. That was really fascinating because it sort of threw me into the right headspace.”
Leto says his approach isn't “method” but more "immersive.“
“I kind of reject the term method because it’s just been so perverted. I mean, really, method was used to describe a certain school of acting — a certain approach — but it’s become the default word to describe extreme approaches to acting or something that people think is weird. I love immersive work, I love to dive deep with character. I think it’s really fascinating to work that way and rewarding. What was needed for this character was transformation," he said.
Hathaway also says she and Leto remained focused on their characters' connection while on set (but says she stopped taking her work home with her once she had children.)
“In between takes, there wasn’t a lot of chit-chat. We would arrive on set and be hours and hours and hours in that zone and then we would go home and just send each other a text and just be like, you know, a thumbs up, or something.”
A board of investors pressured Neumann to resign as WeWork's CEO in 2019 for exorbitant spending and erratic behavior and plans for an initial public offering of stock were scrapped. Rebekah closed WeGrow, which was her passion project. She wanted to take a holistic approach to education and also teach its students (who were as young as 2) to be young entrepreneurs.
Despite the couple's public failures, both Leto and Hathaway make a point to say they are not interested in shaming or judging their real-life counterparts.
“When I read the pilot, I didn’t know anything about WeWork and so I googled Rebekah and the media narrative is one that villainized her," Hathaway says.
"I quickly called (creators) Lee (Eisenberg) and Drew (Crevello) and I said, ‘Are you trying to take somebody down, because I have no interest in that.' They said, ‘No, we’re actually trying to do the opposite. We want to lean into how complicated she is.'"
Added Leto: “It’s important to me to really put a life on screen, even if it’s imperfect."
Hathaway says she has only compassion for Rebekah Neumann.
“I just don’t want to drag anybody. I don’t want to humiliate anybody. We need dreamers in this world. We need people who want to do good things. I have thought a lot about this. Maybe I’m going out on a limb saying this, but I do think that her intentions were good, and I do think it must have been heartbreaking to realize that you didn’t execute your good intentions in a way that you would have hoped."