LH: You’ve acted since you were a child—you’d think it would be second nature to play any character.
MW: I was 10 when I started getting paid to act. I moved to L.A. when I was 15 and I got emancipated from my parents. I thought I knew everything at 15 [Laughs]. That feels a million miles away—I don’t feel I’m the same person anymore.
LH: You were cast in Dawson’s Creek almost immediately after you arrived in L.A. I’ve always believed that being in a successful TV show affords young actors a financial cushion that allows them to do interesting work.
MW: Absolutely. Dawson’s Creek allowed me to make choices based only on desire. I was so lucky to get Dawson’s. I was auditioning for pilots twice a day. You get used to a rhythm of rejection. But auditioning taught me to change my clothes really fast. To this day I can get in and out of my bra and panties faster than anyone [Laughs].
Dawson’s probably saved my life. I did it for six and a half years, and it gave me financial security. A project like Blue Valentine took years to get off the ground, and I was able to stick with it. I first read the script when I was 21, 22, and it became my reason for being for the longest time. When I ran into Ryan [Gosling], he said, “What about that movie?” I was surprised; I thought Blue Valentine existed only in my head. Until he said that, I was worried it wasn’t quite as good as I had thought. He validated my reaction.
Filming the movie was like being in a kind of bubble. Making Blue Valentine made me feel like I could quit. That’s the story you tell yourself to remind yourself that you have options.
LH: If you quit acting, what else would you do?
MW: That’s the problem: I profoundly don’t know how to do anything else. Except…I could be a pie baker. I like to bake a blackberry pie. I am pretty proud of my pie skills. Pie could be my future.
LH: Ryan, you’re from Canada, but you seem distinctly American. You don’t have a Canadian accent.
Ryan Gosling: As a kid I decided that a Canadian accent doesn’t sound tough. I thought guys should sound like Marlon Brando. So now I have a phony accent that I can’t shake, so it’s not phony anymore. I’m going for the Madonna thing, the Lady Gaga thing—a phony accent that becomes your trademark.
LH: And you have interesting tattoos—they look like you got them in prison.
RG: I like when they look bad, but no one will do bad tattoos. So I did one myself. That’s why it’s bad. I’m waiting to get old—I think old guys with tattoos look good.