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Jennifer Ehle on her character Ally Hextall, germs and Laurence Fishburne in Contagion

Jennifer Ehle on her character Ally Hextall, germs and Laurence Fishburne in Contagion

How did you prepare for the role of Ally Hextall?

Jennifer Ehle: I spent two really great mornings with Dr. Ian Lipkin up in Columbia University at his lab studying virology and microbiology. And they had me do these extraordinary experiments with pigs brains and cephalitis and growing things and coding things. And finding out sequences, DNA sequences and all this stuff. Which I understood a tiny fraction of at the time. And now I know nothing. But that was really amazing. And then Ian was also around when we were filming. So I actually didn't come up with anything I said. They very much gave it to me. And it's all absolutely what would be said in the situations that character was in if she was dealing with that information.

Does the idea that a pandemic is very realistic increase your awareness of germs and bacteria?

Jennifer Ehle: It's really plausible. And they do say that it's just a matter of time. Cause of course, there have always been pandemics. And it's been quite a while now since there has been. I have so much faith in the science behind it all. And the people who are out there now. So I feel pretty safe. I worry about our farming methods and things like that I think make all of this more likely. And the use of antibiotics in factory farming and all that. I think that scares me. But, no, the scientists I have faith in. And I wash my hands more often now.

What was it like to work with Laurence Fishburne?

Jennifer Ehle: It was wonderful working with him. I mean, he's iconic in several ways. And to be able to just sit next to somebody in between shots and hear them tell stories about Apocalypse Now, was absolutely extraordinary. And really cool. And he's wonderful. And he's a gentleman. And a very unaffected one.

What was it like to work with Steven Soderbergh?

Jennifer Ehle: He's wonderful. He's wonderful. When I saw Sex, Lies, and Videotape when I was 20, it blew my mind. And his intelligence and he's absolutely sure of what he wants. But at the same time he's using whatever is around him. The environment around him and the actors around him. And he's using the information he's gathering when he looks around and he so still and his brain, he's all brain kind of just churning around in there. And he just does everything with the minimum. Everything is sort of minimalist. But everything is this minimum fuss. He's absolutely just like a shark just moves through and just tells the story.

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