Jessica Chastain Reflects on Dealing With ‘George & Tammy’ Country Code

[Warning: The below contains MAJOR spoilers for George & Tammy Season 1, Episodes 1-6.]

Jessica Chastain has been a household name for just over a decade with critically acclaimed performances in blockbusters like Zero Dark Thirty, and it’s been quite some time since her latest project, George & Tammy, was in the works.

Debuting in December 2022 and ending in January 2023, it’s been an almost ten-year journey to the small screen for the flawless limited series led by Chastain (who’s already been nominated for a Golden Globe and a SAG Award) and actor Michael Shannon who together portray one of music’s most iconic couples. Countryside – George Jones and Tammy Wynette. The former Academy Award winner for playing the other famous Tammy in The Eyes of Tammy Faye has been preparing for this big country getaway ever since she floated the idea at another awards show to executive producer Josh Brolin.

Below, she opens up about the process of honoring Wynette through her preparation, teaming up with actors Shannon and Steve Zahn, as well as what it was like working alongside George and Tammy’s real-life daughter Georgette Jones. Plus, learn more about the story behind the show’s creation, along with Chastain’s approach to recreating country icon shows.

(Credit: Dana Hawley/Courtesy of Showtime)

Congratulations on your recent Golden Globe Award nominations and most recently the SAG Awards.

Jessica Chastain: Thank you. It’s so amazing. Most recognized shows came out in the spring [and] We checked out on the 4th of December. So, we’re really surprised, and we hope it encourages more people to watch it.

This series has been in the works for quite some time. Is it gratifying that all that hard work has been recognized in this way?

Oh yeah, sure. I mean, Josh Brolin actually approached me at the Golden Globes over 10 years ago and was the one who told me I should play Tammy Wynette. I didn’t really know much about her. It was the first year I’d been to an awards show, and the first year in my career, so I had a movie star pushing me and telling me I had to play a character. I was like, “Yeah, I will.” It’s been a really long time and a lot of work. It’s a bit bittersweet because so much of the show takes place between two, [Michael Shannon] And I just hope more people watch the show and get to know the once-in-a-lifetime performance he gives in this series.

They previously worked together on 2011’s Take Shelter. Was that helpful in building George and Tammy’s onscreen chemistry?

yes. We were looking for another project to do together and when this came up I know Mike is a singer and plays in a band and I just realized he never had the chance to show that passion [onscreen]. So it seemed like a perfect fit. Of course, you never know what it’s going to be like, especially in terms of chemistry, but I’ve found surprisingly, that the best male or female chemistry is when it’s someone I know.

(Credit: Dana Hawley/Courtesy of Showtime)

She had great success playing Tammys recently between George & Tammy and Tammy Faye in The Eyes of Tammy Faye for which she won a Best Actress Oscar. Will you ever turn down Tammy’s role moving forward?

[Laughs] No. It’s very funny because I fell down this road before Tammy Fay and before that there was a Tammy Fay script. And I don’t know, I’ll go after whatever is the coolest part. I don’t really think of their first name, especially since they are such different personalities.

How much practice did you have to do in order to sing like Tammy and what was it like to step onto the mic the first time?

I find that when I’m working out, it’s more exciting for me if I feel almost embarrassed. If I’m embarrassed to do something, it probably means I haven’t done it before. For George and Tammy, a lot of this series was completely out of my comfort zone. Because I signed more than 10 years ago. I’m just starting to get to know myself [Tammy Wynette]. But once I met Ron Browning, a vocal coach from Nashville, he helped me a lot, and Liz Stein helped me with her voice. Because her voice is so different from mine and her laugh and all that stuff.

I sang a bit at Julliard when I was a student there, but there’s a different feel in country [music]. The way the production was set up was that all the vocals were live. So there wasn’t one where we lip-synced. People have been generous with us because even if you play a normal scene, you get to try things that just won’t work, and they never see the light of day. It’s the same with singing. Like, I’ve been singing “Stand by Your Man” for ten hours, but that doesn’t mean I’m going to hit that note every time. So every bit of it was out of my comfort zone.

(Credit: Dana Hawley/Courtesy of Showtime)

How did makeup and wardrobe help you disappear into the role?

Stephanie Ingram and Linda Dodds, who I’ve worked with on every project with, are my hair makeup team. It’s the perfect working relationship. Mitchell Travers, who has done costumes, with whom I’ve worked many times. And I asked about the production, and I said, “Can we please do Episode 6 at the end?” Because I knew she died when she was 55 and looked much older than she was and she stopped eating. So I knew I was going to lose weight and not be able to do so if the scenes for that episode were scattered throughout the shoot.

When I was getting to this point, I talked to Mitchell, like, “Okay, let’s start getting costumes that are going to make sense.” And I’ve just worked with Stephanie and Linda on how do I get older. Then I stopped eating in a healthy way. I like to drink green smoothies and eat vegetable broth with some kale. But I only stopped because I wanted to honor her. And the only way I can really show it [that meant] I had to change my body.

Was it hard knowing she ends up where she works, or is that part of the exciting challenge of a role like this?

I mean, that’s always the challenge because you have to start with a lot of hope and a lot of love for everything to work out. It is as if you have amnesia until the end of the text you read. It’s such an exercise in being in the moment, especially the scenes I’m in with Steve [Zahn]. I think he’s good at this because it doesn’t show anything going to happen. He always apologizes for his behavior, he’s not that mustache-twirling personality. He really delved into why this person acted this way and the relationship between the two.

(Credit: Dana Hawley/Courtesy of Showtime)

It was very difficult to learn about drug use and what happened to her body. She has had thirty surgeries in her life, both in her womb and in her stomach area. And you just think, what does that say? Even as a woman, you know? I’ve been thinking about it a lot, about the idea of ​​pain, about how much pain she feels in her body, where she’s holding it, how it comes out when she sings, how she tries to numb herself to the physical pain, and then ultimately the emotional pain.

And despite Tammy’s rise to fame, she is time and again treated like a handmaiden to George Jones. Was that a deliberate portrayal of misogyny?

In the community people talk about George and Tammy but Tammy [doesn’t get] The respect you deserve. What I love most about the way we end the series with the scroll describing her success as an artist and people belittling that. There are so many people and so many men who have made careers, written books, done podcasts etc. about George and Tammy that underestimate her achievement and what she did. And they say she ended up with George because she wanted success, and was so ambitious. But did you know? I’m not interested. People used the fact that she was ambitious, but she didn’t end up with George because she wasn’t successful.

She was very successful without George when they met. The truth is, he was losing his success when they met. I worked hard. Featured in Nashville, a divorced woman with three kids on her hip is determined to make a name for herself, and she does it in ’60s Nashville, which is pretty much unheard of. This woman was a force of nature. For anyone to underestimate her voice, her accomplishments, her art… It’s such a misogynistic thing and they don’t want to acknowledge what she did apart from George.

Inside Jessica Chastain and Michael Shannon’s Transformation into ‘George and Tammy’

Georgette Jones also participated in the project and appeared in one of the episodes. Was it helpful to be there to answer questions?

Oh yes. [There were] Many questions. There is a lot in our series that no one has written about. There are people they’ve gone on tour with, hair and makeup artists, especially on the last tour. We’re told from multiple sources that George and Tammy were having moments of romantic reunion while on tour together. By reaching out to their daughter, Georgette Jones, [she] He was very gracious with us by getting us through [friends] who were on tour with them.

They told us many secrets. It felt like a great gift and responsibility. And at the same time, singing “The Golden Ring” with Georgette Jones on stage next to me, it was scary. I will not look like Tammy Wynette. Nobody looks like Tammy Wynette. She might be the most successful country artist in the world and she doesn’t look like Tammy Wynette. So the one thing I kept trying to stick to was I would practice as much as I could and tell the story through song. Having Georgette there supported me by building confidence.

George and Tammy, Streaming and On Demand, Showtime

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