‘Modern Love’: Sophie Okonedo on Quarantining with Tobias Menzies and Her Most Challenging Scene

“It’s not totally resolved, and I just love that. It wasn’t put into a neat package,” actress tells TheWrap of the episode

Sophie Okonedo and Tobias Menzies
Amazon Prime

(Warning: This post contains spoilers for “Modern Love”‘s “Second Embrace, With Hearts And Eyes Open”)

In the second season of Amazon Prime Video’s anthology series “Modern Love,” Sophie Okonedo stars as Elizabeth, a woman who unexpectedly begins a casual fling with her ex-husband, Van (Tobias Menzies), years after they’ve separated. It begins easily enough, with the two reminiscing on their relationship and comparing their parenting styles for their two young girls, before they rekindle their romance for real. But right as Van is about to propose, Elizabeth reveals her breast cancer diagnosis to him, altering the couple’s already complicated dynamic.

The episode, titled “Second Embrace, With Hearts And Eyes Open,” is a story about healing, second chances and rediscovering one’s connection with their partner, even as they float into the unknown of their future together.

See below for TheWrap’s interview with Okonedo about quarantining with Menzies before filming the episode, dissecting their characters’ relationship and filming the “challenging” climactic scene.

TheWrap: Why did you get involved with “Modern Love“?

Sophie Okonedo: I got offered the script and I read it. I hadn’t seen the series before, but I thought if I’m going to join something that’s already been going, I wasn’t going to watch it, as each story stands alone, and so I thought it’d be better if I went into it fresh. I knew Tobias would be doing it — and I just think he’s such a great actor — and I knew John Carney’s work and had seen some of his films, and thought he was a really good director. Also, I got to go to Dublin in the middle of lockdown, and even though it was lockdown there, it was nice to go somewhere else. I went into the script without reading anything first, but then after, I listened to the podcast, but because so much in the show has changed from the original story, I had to build a new character — I wasn’t playing the person from the story.

What touched you the most about your character and the couple’s story?

I just love that in a sense, they weren’t this couple at war that you often see. They were managing quite well. They were this couple that parted and grew out of each other, but share a care for their children, raise the children and get on pretty well. Then they have this realization and [my character] suddenly falls back in love with [Menzies’ character] and I found that very moving to be able to have all those chances and see someone that you’ve known for so many years afresh because they’ve both changed. She changed and was open to seeing him in a different way, and of course, how they dealt with what life threw at them straight away was just very moving as well. It all just felt refreshing to have this story told, and because this was based on a real-life story, it gave it even more depth. And I loved that this episode was left open-ended. You don’t really know what the next place for them is — it’s not totally resolved, and I just love that. It wasn’t put into a neat package. I thought that felt very fresh as well.

How was it filming the dinner scene, as it was sort of the emotional climax of the episode, being both the time at which Menzies’ character proposes and your character reveals her cancer diagnosis to him?

That was just the hardest — that scene was just so tough to film. There was such a fine line between the humor in it and how devastating it is. There’s so many things happening at once, and it was quite nerve-wracking because you want to be true to the situation and the diagnosis — which so many people have been through — you want to still be true to that and not get it wrong or not be authentic, but at the same time, there’s all these other elements happening in a very compacted scene. What was really fortunate for Tobias and I was that we were actually in quarantine together in a hotel in Dublin before we started. So for about 10 days, we spent quite a long time talking through the relationship and filling in all the backstory, which you often do on your own as an actor, but not really with the other actor. We don’t really get the chance to really explore what might happen before you start filming, but we had that time undisturbed, so I think that’s what helped the whole episode, really. We were on the same page and both John [Carney, the episode’s director] and Kieran [Carney, the episode’s writer] were very open to changes being made and most of the changes we wanted were about having less talking. So in that scene, the four of us removed a lot of stuff, so that it was more about what was not said.

Why was it important to amplify the things left unsaid in that poignant moment of the episode?

So much is happening, and I think that oftentimes, you’re not very eloquent at the most tense times in your life — there’s so much to be said that sometimes, you can’t say anything. I remember when we were doing the scene, although I say it was a really tough scene to do, I really love that way of working, so I felt very awake and alive all day long because the way we were working was so challenging. All day long, we did that scene in so many different ways, I don’t even know which way it ended up being (laughs). But I like being challenged, personally.

The second season of “Modern Love” is streaming now on Amazon Prime Video.


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