Melissa Leo continues to flex her diverse acting chops in the new historical drama “Novitiate.”
The Oscar winner, 57, stars as the imposing Reverend Mother Marie St. Clair in the film that follows the 1964 reformations from the Second Vatican Council. These changes helped to ease some of the long-held restrictions of the church.
While some in the church may have rejoiced at the prospect of change, Leo said in a recent appearance on “Popcorn with Peter Travers" that her character is not at all "interested in freedom.”
“She’s quite happy in her marriage to God and Jesus, and stunned that this decision would be made basically nullifying her entire existence that she has lived without question,” Leo added.
The Reverend Mother makes her appearance later in the film after “getting these papers from Vatican II,” which peel back restrictions she had been “very much at peace” with her whole life, Leo said.
“This is what undoes her. This information that the men have decided that you are not his wife,” she said, without giving too much of the film away.
Peter Travers, the show’s host and longtime Rolling Stone film critic, said Leo “is absolutely at her best in this movie.”
Travers asked Leo what fuels her acting drive today.
“I think that female actors are brought up in the industry with how they look being the primary thing. That’s not why I approached acting,” Leo said. “I was never the prettiest girl in the room. I approached it because of the thing you’re admiring, because Melissa could hide within these characters. It was a protective coating to pretend to be somebody else. It’s not bravery. It’s abject fear.”
“Novitiate” is currently in theaters nationwide.
Be sure to watch the full interview with Peter Travers and Melissa Leo in the video above.