The most common way to tell a movie about a soap opera is that it’s about a man who’s in love with a woman.
“The first time we wrote The Queen, we thought, This is a movie that’s about love,” says the actor who played the title role, Michael Sheen.
“It’s about the idea of a man, when he’s on the brink of his own death, going to a woman who is his equal, but in a way that is very much his equal.”
The movie’s premise is simple: A man and a woman fall in love and become best friends, only to discover their relationship is not the one they thought it was.
They’re both dead, and they need each other.
“We knew it was going to be an opera,” says actor and director Mike Vogel, who also stars in The Queen.
“There was no real story to tell in it.
The idea that this man was trying to have this woman be his equal was a central theme.
There’s nothing romantic about it.
It was all about the man being a broken man.”
Vogel and his team set out to make the film as true to the show as possible.
“You can’t really tell the story of a guy falling in love because the story is all about him,” he says.
“If you’re trying to tell it from a woman’s perspective, you have to be very, very careful.”
Vogels team worked with the show’s writers and the cast to find the right actors.
They used real actors in the show, but used the most authentic actors for the part.
They chose a casting director from the Broadway theater world who’s worked with a lot of actors, like James Earl Jones, for the role of the husband.
“He’s a guy who has a huge career, and he’s a huge lover,” Vogel says.
Vogels script was written by David Levien, who wrote the film’s screenplay.
“David Levien was a great producer,” Vogels says.
Levien had worked with both The West Wing and Homeland, but the show he directed in 2005, The Game, was his first work outside of television.
Vogel had a meeting with the director, which turned out to be a bit of a waste.
“I think David was a little bit nervous,” Voges says.
The show’s casting director had already read Vogel’s script and was working on the final scenes of the movie.
The actor who plays the woman, Samantha Walker, had auditioned for the lead role, but was not hired.
“So I was in tears.
I was just really, really angry,” she says.
She got her first taste of working with a live-action movie when she played the part in The Big Bang Theory.
“When they put on that show, I had to play a character,” she recalls.
“And that’s a big deal.”
The actress who played Sarah Michelle Gellar in that show was one of several women who had to learn how to be on screen.
“She was really uncomfortable with that,” Vogell says.
“[She was] not comfortable with a role that was a woman, in the same way that I was not comfortable doing anything that was not based on a woman.”
The biggest challenge, Vogels admits, was finding the right voice for Samantha Walker.
“What’s the worst you can do when you’ve done something for 30 years?
How do you change people’s perception of you?”
Vogels tried to find an actor who had experience playing a woman in a soap operas.
“Some of the women who are going to play the part, they’ll say, ‘Oh, I just heard this in The West Wives, or this in a show like Homeland.
That’s not my character,’ and then you go on the internet and see what it’s like to play Sarah Michelle,” he said.
“Then it’s a matter of, I have to find someone who’s been there and seen it.
There are so many great actresses who play women in a movie.”
In a movie like The Queen (which Vogels directed with the help of Sarah Michelle, John Cho, and Kristen Bell), the actor playing the woman is called Queenie.
“In the original script, the script called Sarah Michelle Queenie, but when I went to read it, I realized that she’s not,” he admits.
Voges and his crew had to get creative with their makeup and hair to make it work.
They made a lot out of it.
Vogs had to bring in a real woman, and she was the most difficult one to play.
“One of the most frustrating things is, the makeup and the wig, and all that stuff, is something I’ve had to do for years, and I can’t imagine anyone having the makeup on,” he recalls.