Connie Nielsen shines in Close to Me, the new Sundance Now series based on the Amanda Reynolds novel of the same name. The Boss star is fiercely heartbreaking as Jo Harding, who suffers an accident that leaves her with no idea of what happened in the past year of her life. While Jo searches for answers and grapples with the changes caused by her trauma, she begins to realize that her husband (Doctor Who alum Christopher Eccleston) may have a vested interest in making sure she doesn’t remember.
The domestic thriller is a well-known genre, with a number of great mysteries about people who discover new and often disturbing sides to their loved ones. But Close to Me stands apart because of Connie’s performance. In the series, she’s essentially playing two different roles: pre-accident Jo and post-accident Jo, each with carefully layered differences. She truly crafts a full arc for her character, making Jo Harding someone audiences can bond with on an emotional level, and I spoke to her about how she did it in our interview.
“What this really is about is this process of discovery,” Connie explained. “This is like a detective story, but a detective story that is led by a very deficient detective. Someone with a brain injury who has to figure out if she’s able to know the truth and understand the truth as these clues fall into her mind.”
This kind of material could easily be melodramatic, with another actor either not developing the character’s internal life in favor of focusing on the external threat, or exaggerating Jo’s post-traumatic differences. Connie makes an effort to dig into what makes Jo tick, what’s missing and what she may have gained after her accident, and she does it in a way that feels organic instead of forcing clues onto the audience. Aside from being a wonderful performance from an acting perspective, it gives Jo grace and treats her trauma with the respect it deserves.
Did Connie approach the role as playing two separate characters?
“I really was in a certain way,” she said. “Obviously it was the same person, but it was the fact that the person after the fall just has this lack of filter. She’s disinhibited. And she is no longer feeling this obligation to be couching her words with a fear of offending people, or buttering her family members up to believe that she is the perfect mother who loves them all perfectly and unconditionally, forever and ever. With this fall comes also this break from this convention of this woman that she needs to be.”
Which leads to the complexity of Close to Me‘s central relationship. It’s no spoiler to say that Jo’s husband is not the person he appears to be. But it’s not quite as simple as demonizing him—after all, she’s no longer the person she appeared to be either. There’s enough bite in their scenes together to make him a viable antagonist, but the series also doesn’t undercut the fact that they loved and cared for one another before. Connie and Christopher Eccleston had a more nuanced way of looking at their characters’ marriage.
“One of the things that we did talk about was, even a bad person isn’t bad the whole time. A bad relationship or a good relationship isn’t good all the time,” Connie recalled. “It really was about showing the unvarnished truth of an actual woman. We’re not always nice. We’re not always good. We’re not always perfect. The truth is a scrappy thing and you have to fight for that. You have to fight for the truth and accept the truth, even to yourself. That’s what we also have her doing. Like, ‘Oh my God, what if I’m a terrible person? What if I’ve been telling myself this story all along that I’m a good person, when in reality I might be a monster?'”
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