Rachel Weisz teases a 'twisted and darkly comedic' ride in psychosexual thriller Dead Ringers
"And the Emmy goes to…?" We'll know the answer to that on Sept. 18, but this week EW's The Awardist is kicking off its coverage of the 2023 Emmys with an exclusive look at five returning and new series that will debut over the next two months — shows and actors that hope to be nominees when those are announced on July 12.
Paging Drs. Mantle and Mantle.
In Dead Ringers, a modern take on David Cronenberg's 1988 thriller of the same name, Oscar winner Rachel Weisz plays the dual roles of twin obstetricians Elliot and Beverly Mantle. The two share more than just a deep bond — drugs, lovers, career ambitions, nothing is off limits here. Above all, though, they have a deep desire to modernize women's health and create the perfect place to give birth, and they are not above pushing the boundaries of medical ethics in order to do so.
However much they share, due in part to Weisz's bravura turn(s) and in part to the sharp writing of Succession alum and series creator/executive producer Alice Birch, the two sisters are very different people. They were so radically different on the page, in fact, that Weisz didn't see just one person playing them. You could say she was seeing double. "I just always thought two different people were going to play them, because they are just two different people," she tells EW for our Awardist preview, adding, "I mean, obviously, I'm not completely crazy — somewhere I knew [I was playing both], but I felt like there was going to be two of me doing them."
Playing twins presented an interesting technical challenge for the Favourite and Constant Gardner actress, who also executive produces the series. To do so, she would film one side of the scene as one sister, go back into hair and makeup and costumes, and then do the same scene from the other side as the twin. By the end of the shoot, Weisz says "it was just second nature" to slip between the brazen and cynical Elliot and more serious and reserved Beverly. "I don't even know which one was more fun or which was more difficult, because they were both challenging and both joyous. And both just gorgeously written characters, aberrant, strange, unusual women to inhabit. I love them both," says Weisz.
NIKO TAVERNISE/Amazon Prime Rachel Weisz as Elliot Mantle in 'Dead Ringers'
Weisz, who was deeply involved in getting Dead Ringers off the ground, says she loves the original film. And while they did seek Cronenberg's permission to pay homage to his movie, he did not provide any notes or advice, instead leaving Weisz and Birch to execute their own vision. The parallels are obvious: Both feature co-dependent twin doctors at the top of their professions who start to unravel under the weight of their obsession with each other and their career pursuits.
In the show, however, they are obstetricians and not just fertility doctors — and, of course, they are women and not men (in the film, played by Jeremy Irons). Weisz says she and her fellow creatives were also "very interested in seeing women with that kind of dichotomy — hugely successful professionals, and hugely dysfunctional private lives." And, in adapting from a two-hour film to a six-hour television series, they were able to expand on the world that Cronenberg built. Says Weisz, "In the show, I think we really got to investigate how their sisterly obsession unravels over six hours. You see them coming together very tightly, and then they unravel in a pretty twisted way. You get more of that very dysfunctional, intertwined world — a few hours more."
Like its predecessor, the show does not shy away from blood and gore. In fact, it embraces it, but purposefully so. Real midwives and doctors were ever present on set for some of the more gory scenes. "It's definitely very graphic. Very, very voyeuristic," admits Weisz. "They both deliver babies. So the body horror is more around that [than in the film], which is just part of life, how every single human on the planet got here. We all came from a woman's body."
So, she wasn't squeamish then? "No, nothing really made me squirm. And there are definitely some quite graphic deliveries which are filmed in the first episode. But no, I think it's kind of cool and beautiful," she says, adding with a laugh, "but yeah... there is quite a lot of blood."
Amazon Prime Rachel Weisz as twin sisters Elliot and Beverly in 'Dead Ringers'
The series begins with this, by shining a light on some of the issues in women's healthcare today and begging the question: What if you could design the perfect place to give birth? "But," says Weisz, "it's like that on steroids, and it becomes very, very heightened, highly entertaining, and pretty wild."
Without giving away too much, the star teases that viewers can expect a "psychosexual thriller that's twisted and darkly comedic and camp and voyeuristic." Says Weisz, "The show does intersect with some serious questions, but I hope people are entertained and moved and find the writing funny."
All six episodes of Dead Ringers premiere April 21 on Prime Video.
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