Rachel Weisz Talks Playing Identical Twins for Reimagining of Psychological Thriller Dead Ringers in Emmy Magazine
Actress and executive producer Rachel Weisz brings to life identical twin doctors plagued with dysfunction in Prime Video's Dead Ringers, premiering April 21. Weisz and the talented team behind the limited series talk with emmy about creating a modern reimagining of the 1988 film of the same name. The award-winning official publication of the Television Academy is on newsstands April 14.
A fan of David Cronenberg's 1988 film Dead Ringers, Weisz was drawn to the story of identical twin gynecologists (played by Jeremy Irons), their destructive co-dependent relationship with one another, and their need to exert power over women. "What interested me is the level of intimacy ... the idea of sharing everything," says Weisz. "These two incredibly high-functioning siblings are brilliant at their jobs but massively dysfunctional in their private lives. That contrast between the genius and dysfunction is psychologically very profound."
With showrunner Alice Birch (Succession), Weisz reframed the story's lead characters, Beverly and Elliot Mantle, as female twin reproductive doctors that she would play herself. The gender swap dramatically changed the tone of the narrative and was intended to spark a cultural conversation on women's health and reproductive issues. Birch asks, "'How do we retain what is magic about the film?' It felt like an enormous challenge. It's a huge reimagining [and also] a chance to do something devilish and sexy with Rachel Weisz."
Though the Mantle twins look identical, the siblings are vastly different. In "Doctors Strange," Weisz shares one specific way she devised to distinguish between the two—Elliot would have an insatiable appetite. Director Sean Durkin (Martha Marcy May Marlene) says, "Rachel embraced that so fully. She ate more cheeseburgers than I've ever seen anyone eat." In fact, the actress even proposed to Durkin that she go "full animal," explaining, "Elliot is part dog in the best possible way. She's loyal. She lives on instinct. And she'll eat beyond when she's full."
Another change from the original is the emphasis of body reality over body horror. The twins, who aim to open a birthing center and an embryology lab, allow for storylines rarely seen on screen, such as menstrual blood and miscarriage tissue. "In the Hollywood versions of quick-and-easy birth, the baby comes out looking like a fresh, clean 4-month-old," says Michael Chernus (Severance), who plays a Mantle colleague. "In this show, it's intense, dangerous, bloody and deeply human." Birch adds, "We're not making a documentary—it's a drama—but it's important to depict the reality of it."
Jennifer Ehle, who plays a birthing-center investor, says, "I find it reassuring to have so much of the reality that I've experienced [with birth] reflected to me through a story on television." Amazon Studios Chief Jennifer Salke says, "Dead Ringers is one of those projects that gives you what I call good butterflies. We are all born somehow, [and] it shouldn't be something that's hidden away."
Dead Ringers remains true to its thriller roots, but it doesn't easily fit into one genre. "It's our own cocktail," Weisz says, "a real genre mashup.
Additional feature highlights from the new issue include:
- PBS’s MASTERPIECE revives the classic 18th century novel Tom Jones with a modern twist, debuting April 30. In “Something Old, Something New,” emmy talks with British director Georgia Parris about creating a fresh take on Henry Fielding’s tale with a strong female protagonist.
- In “Angel of Amsterdam,” husband-and-wife showrunning team Joan Rater and Tony Phelan talk with emmy about telling the little-known story of Miep Gies, the woman who hid Anne Frank and her family from the Nazis and preserved Anne’s diary after her arrest. The National Geographic limited series A Small Light premieres May 1.
- Emmy-nominated producer Liz Tigelaar and Emmy-nominated actor Kathryn Hahn talk with emmy in “Advice, She Wrote” about creating Tiny Beautiful Things, a project based on Cheryl Strayed’s best-selling book of the same name. The Hulu limited series premieres April 7.
Emmy, the official publication of the Television Academy, goes behind the scenes of the industry for a unique insider's view. It showcases the scope of television and profiles the people who make TV happen, from the stars of top shows to the pros behind the cameras, covering programming trends and advances in technology. Honored consistently for excellence, emmy is a six-time Maggie Award winner as Best Trade Publication in Communications or the Arts and has collected 52 Maggies from the Western Publishing Association. Emmy is available on selected newsstands and at TelevisionAcademy.com for single print and digital copies as well as subscriptions.
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