I had just screened “Florence Foster Jenkins”, a well acted and decidedly entertaining film, when I was honored, along with a few others, to have a chance to then speak to one of its stars, Simon Helberg, most known for his work as Howard Wolowitz on the hit show “The Big Bang Theory.” I say that I was honored because not only was Helberg courteous, friendly, open and honest but he was extremely attentive and gave a lot of thought to his answers, never once giving the impression that doing press for the film was the last place he’d want to be. He was warm and pleasant and very thorough in his responses; being careful to answer the question to its fullest. Here is that interview.
Q: Outside of some other great films, your father, Sandy, was in “Spaceballs”, “History of the World pt 1”, “High Anxiety”, This is Spinal Tap, not to mention the great television he has done. Once you saw this quality in him, was it his comedic talents that encouraged you to follow in his footsteps and would you encourage your children to follow in yours?
SH: Encourage is a tricky word cuz I think you want to be supportive but I’d never want to suggest to my children (and my dad never did to me) in any sort of way, push someone into something. You’d be kind of a fool if you did that because it’s so hard to make it as an actor or a comedian or anything in the arts so, I’d be very supportive and my dad was very supportive of me and I think he was more inspiring. I watched him at “The Groundlings” and, obviously, those were great movies that you named and I think it definitely shaped me in many ways and I also say that it was very hard to, sort of, get success and make it. Even though my dad worked and did well, it… that’s kind of, that’s sort of grounding. It kind of helped me as I went into it to have a pretty good handle on the difficulty of it and then to sort of be appreciative of the successes.
Q: You character and performance has tons of facial expressions they’re a huge part of your performance; they range from very subtle to overt. In the scene where you hear Florence sing for the first time, were you already aware of what Meryl was going to sound like or were those expressions real?
SH: Both, I guess, which is kind of a trick in doing this which is, it has to be new, sort of, every time. She’s doing something every time and she made my job a lot easier. We’d already rehearsed for about a week and a half with the music and we’d actually recorded at Abby Road, as well, which was amazing. So, we had a lot of time to laugh and figure out what we were doing and then, of course, they ended up wanting to shoot it all live so all of the stuff that we had recorded was thrown out and because of that we’re playing all that music live as you’re seeing it and as it was being shot which I think both helped… well, it helped us contain our laughter and, sort of, focus but it also made all of it very authentic; so those reactions… that was really happening, for the most part, in real time. I mean, obviously the editing is pretty masterfully as well, but what you’re seeing is actually what is coming out of us… for better or for worse.