[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 hit films like Zero Dark Thirty, and it’s been almost as long as her last project George & Tammy was in the works.

    Kicking off in December 2022 and ending in January 2023, it’s been roughly a decade-long journey to the small screen for the flawless limited series directed by Chastain (who’s already been nominated for a Golden Globe Award and a SAG Award) and his costar. Michael Shannon who together portray one of country music’s most famous couples – George Jones and Tammy Wynette. The Oscar winner who has been lucky in the past to play another famous Tammy in The Eyes of Tammy Faye has been gearing up for this big country break ever since the idea was floated by her during another award show by executive producer Josh Brolin.

    Below, she talks about the process of honoring Wynette throughout her preparation, working with co-stars Shannon and Steve Zahn, as well as what it was like to work alongside the real girl of George and Tammy, Georgette Jones. Plus, learn about the story behind the show’s creation, as well as Chastain’s approach to recreating the country icon’s performances.

    (Credit: Dana Hawley/Courtesy SHOWTIME)

    Congratulations on your recent nominations at the Golden Globes and more recently at the SAG Awards.

    Jessica Chastain: Thank you. It is very surprising. Most Recognized Shows Released in the Spring [and] we went out on December 4th. So, we are really surprised, and hopefully this will encourage more people to watch it.

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

    Oh yes, absolutely. I mean, Josh Brolin actually approached me at the Golden Globes over 10 years ago and he was the one who told me I should play Tammy Wynette. I didn’t know much about her. It was the first year that I attended an awards show, and the first year of my career, when a movie star pushed me and told me that I should play a character. I was like, “Yes, I will.” So it really took a while to come up and it was a lot of work. It’s a bit bittersweet because a lot of the show is two in between, [Michael Shannon] and me. And I just hope more people will watch the show and recognize the unique performance he gives in this show.

    You previously worked together on the 2011 film Take Shelter. Was that helpful in creating George and Tammy’s on-screen chemistry?

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

    (Credit: Dana Hawley/Courtesy SHOWTIME)

    You’ve had quite a bit of success playing Tammys recently between George and Tammy and as Tammy Faye in The Eyes of Tammy Faye for which you won the Best Actress Oscar. Will you ever turn down a Tammy role in the future?

    [Laughs] No. It’s so funny because I signed before Tammy Faye and before there was even a script for Tammy Faye. And I don’t know, I’m going after everything that’s awesome. I don’t really think about their first names, mostly because they’re such different characters.

    How much training did you have to do to sing as Tammy and what was it like getting on the mic the first time?

    I find that when I’m working, it’s more interesting for me if I almost feel embarrassed. If I feel embarrassed doing something, it probably means I’ve never done it before. For George and Tammy, a lot of this series was completely out of my comfort zone. Because I signed over 10 years ago. I started to really familiarize myself with [Tammy Wynette]. But once I met Ron Browning, who is a voice coach in Nashville, he helped me so much, and Liz Stein helped me with her voice. Because her voice is so different from mine and her laughter and all that.

    I had done a little singing at Julliard when I was a student there, but there is another feeling in country [music]. The way the production was set up was that all the singing was live. So there wasn’t a single take where we lip-synced. People have been so generous with us because even playing a normal scene, you’re going to try things that aren’t going to work, and it just doesn’t happen. It’s the same with singing. Like, I sing “Stand by Your Man” for ten hours, but that doesn’t mean I’m gonna hit that note every time. So every part was out of my comfort zone.

    (Credit: Dana Hawley/Courtesy SHOWTIME)

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

    Stephanie Ingram and Linda Dowds, who I’ve worked with on every project, are my hair makeup team. It’s the perfect working relationship. Mitchell Travers, who made costumes, I worked with him several times. And I asked the production, I said, “can we please do episode 6 at the end?” Because I knew she died at 55 and looked much older and had stopped eating. So I knew that I was going to have to lose weight and that I couldn’t do it if the scenes for this episode were scattered throughout filming.

    When I got to that point, I talked to Mitchell, like, “Okay, let’s start getting the costumes that will make sense.” And I just worked with Stephanie and Linda on how to age myself. And then I just stopped eating healthy. I like to drink green juices and have vegetable broth with kale. But I just stopped because I wanted to pay homage to him. And the only way I could really show [that meant] I had to change bodies.

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

    I mean, that’s always the challenge because you have to start with so much hope and so much love that everything will be fine. It’s almost like you have to have amnesia until the end of the script you’re reading. It’s such an exercise in being in the moment, especially my scenes with Steve [Zahn]. I think he’s brilliant at it because he doesn’t show anything that’s going to happen. He always apologizes for his behavior, it’s not this character who twirls the mustache. He really dug deep to find out why this person could behave this way and the relationship between the two.

    (Credit: Dana Hawley/Courtesy SHOWTIME)

    It was very difficult to find out more about his drug use and what had happened to his body. She’s had three dozen surgeries in her lifetime, on her belly and on her belly. And you just think, what does that say? Even as a woman, you know? I thought a lot about that, the idea of ​​pain, how much pain she had in her body, where she was holding it, how she was coming out when she was singing, and how she was trying to numb herself to the pain physical, and then possibly the emotional pain.

    And despite Tammy’s rise to fame, she is repeatedly treated as George Jones’ second. Was this an intentional portrayal of misogyny?

    In society, people talk about George and Tammy, but Tammy [doesn’t get] the respect it deserves. What I love so much about how we end the series with the scroll that describes his success as an artist and people underestimate that. There are many people and many men who have made careers and written books and done podcasts and so on about George and Tammy who downplay her accomplishments and what she has done. And they say she ended up with George because she wanted to succeed, she was too ambitious. But you know what? I do not care. People used the fact that she was ambitious, but she didn’t end up with George because she didn’t succeed.

    She was very successful without George when they met. And the reality is that he was losing his success when they met. She worked very hard. She showed up in Nashville, a divorced woman with three kids on her hip, determined to make a name for herself, and she did it in 1960s Nashville, which is unheard of. This woman was a force of nature. Anyone who downplays her voice, her accomplishments, her artistry… It’s a misogynistic thing and they just don’t want to acknowledge what she’s done separately from George.

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

    Georgette Jones was also involved in the project and she even appears in one of the episodes. Was it helpful to have her there to answer questions?

    Oh yeah. [There were] a lot of questions. There are many things in our series that no one has written about. There are people who went on tour with them, hairdressers and makeup artists, especially on the final tour. We’ve been told from multiple sources that George and Tammy find times to have a romantic date while they’re on tour together. By having access to Georgette Jones, their daughter, [she] has been so generous with us in having access to the [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 “Golden Ring” with Georgette Jones on stage next to me was intimidating. I’m not going to look like Tammy Wynette. No one looks like Tammy Wynette. You could be the most successful country artist in the world and not look like Tammy Wynette. So the one thing I kept trying to hold on to is that I’m going to practice as much as I can and tell the story through song. And having Georgette there to support me through it built confidence.

    George and Tammy, Streaming and On Demand, Showtime

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