Armando [asked], have you watched a lot of Keaton? And I was like, Michael Keaton? And he’s like, no, Buster. And as a gift he gave me this box of all of his movies. He said, “You really remind me of him when you’re David.” Here’s this guy that’s constantly flailing, just trying to keep his head above water. But I grew up idolizing the Rowan Atkinsons and the Jim Carreys. As a child those were the guys that I really watched all the time.
The language is so dense. Was it difficult to remember everything?
Armando would kill me for saying this, but yes. And it’s because he’s trying to squeeze all the juice out of the lemon. You would do a long shoot and then you’d be rewarded with a lovely 10 pages of new dialogue. And you’re like, oh no. But there’s a real rhythm to the dialogue. It’s not about what you’re saying, it’s about the orchestra of the scene and what everyone else is doing, and how you’re pinging off each other. That’s what you see with Armando’s work and, yes, once you get the rhythm right it’s really a joy.
As an artist, what did you learn?
It’s a coming-of-age story of a young man embracing his truth and his history in order to become the best possible writer he can be. He’s constantly putting on different skins and trying to be other people. And it’s really when he accepts himself — you see that in the story with all the different names everyone calls him — that he truly settles in himself that he’s David Copperfield and he’s proud of everything that’s gone into making him who he is. So, I really like that and it’s kind of cool when you talk to Armando because it is him kind of, it’s an ode to a writer, isn’t it?
Have you been in L.A. throughout the pandemic?
Pretty much. I was actually in India about to direct [a movie] and that’s when it really hit and I had to leave. I got out an hour before they grounded air travel.
What is it like right now trying to make a film?
I look at this whole pandemic from a case of real privilege. My fellow Black and brown brothers and sisters have been suffering, and it’s been a real time of turmoil for a lot of people around the world. So it’s made me acutely aware of my privilege, being able to have a roof over my head and to afford health care.
In terms of the creative side, I’ve been able to have time to be Dev and not other characters. I haven’t sat with this character for this amount of time.