It’s hard to believe a seasoned actor like Nicole Kidman would find herself doubting her ability to play an iconic figure like Lucille Ball, but that is just what happened when she started prepping for her role in Being the Ricardos.
Aaron Sorkin created a script that takes some of the dramatic aspects of Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz’s life and throws them together into one movie to give audience members a brief glimpse behind the curtain of such a powerful couple in the entertainment world. Between cheating scandals, Lucille Ball checking the box for Communist, and tensions with the cast, it all is wrapped up nicely in Being the Ricardos. It also challenges the cast to step into two roles—the main characters’ lives and their on-screen personas that were ofter extreme opposites. Nina Arianda and J.K. Simmons do a phenomenal job switching back and forth in this task.
“She’s one of a kind, and I think the thing that this film does, it sort of pulls the curtain back on it’s not the I Love Lucy show,” Nicole Kidman says. “It’s how was that made and who was this person that was capable of that genius. What was her story? What was her life? It’s Aaron Sorkin’s storytelling where he compresses a number of things into a week and then flashing forward and back is able to show the essence of who this woman was and who these people were.”
Fans everywhere made it clear that playing Lucille Ball was a big responsibility, so when it came time for preparations for the role. Kidman found herself struggling with impostor syndrome that she wouldn’t live up to these standards.
“Initially, when I said yes to [the role], I did not realize what I was saying yes to,” Kidman says. “I was saying yes to an Aaron Sorkin script and a great opportunity. Maybe a week later, it hit me, and I was trying to work on just getting the little baby steps into her voice, and I was nowhere within reach. And I was like, ‘oh, no, what have I done? I wish I had the talent to do this, but I don’t.’ Aaron was fantastic. When I freaked out, which I did, he would say, ‘you’ve got this. You’re just going to have to take it day by day. I don’t want an impersonation. I want you to do the work that you can do. I know you will do, and I want you not to freak out, basically because I believe you can do it.’ I would challenge him on that at different points throughout the thing, and he would never waver.
“It took me time to get over that,” Kidman says. “I was able to work on the actual Lucy part of it, which I could hang my hat on that. I’ll have that, and then out of Lucy Ricardo came Lucille Ball. And Lucille Ball is very different from Lucy Ricardo. Lucille Ball created Lucy Ricardo.”
The important thing to remember about Being the Ricardos is that it is not a film about I Love Lucy. You can count on your hands how many scenes that Kidman is actually in Lucy Ricardo’s form. The film focuses on the behind-the-scenes that changed television forever. While seeing Kidman as Lucille Ball was a treat, Javier Bardem as Desi brought this film to life. He embodies the role so well that he was stealing scenes left and right.
“His absolute confidence in himself and how supportive he was of his wife on the whole show and how he overcomes the obstacles by a strong sense of humor,” Javier Bardem says. “He was making fun of everything. That doesn’t mean that he didn’t take it seriously. But he didn’t get stuck in the drama of it all.”
What stands out the most from Being the Ricardos? That would be Alia Shawkat as Madelyn Pugh. Every line out of her mouth had me rolling. She was a much-needed comedic relief in a film that takes on all the dramatic parts of the I Love Lucy cast’s lives.
Being the Ricardos is in select theaters now and streaming on Amazon Prime December 21.
ABOUT BEING THE RICARDOS
Lucille Ball (Nicole Kidman) and Desi Arnaz (Javier Bardem) are threatened by shocking personal accusations, a political smear, and cultural taboos in Academy Award®-winning writer and director Aaron Sorkin’s behind-the-scenes drama Being the Ricardos. A revealing glimpse of the couple’s complex romantic and professional relationship, the film takes audiences into the writers’ room, onto the soundstage, and behind closed doors with Ball and Arnaz during one critical production week of their groundbreaking sitcom I Love Lucy. Featuring J.K. Simmons and Nina Arianda.