We spoke to the star of the Ruth Bader Ginsburg biopic, On the Basis of Sex, about equality, fatherhood and his signature dish.
RD: We’re not used to seeing the role you play in this film—that of the supportive husband to a leading lady wife—on screen. Was that lack of representation part of why you took the role?
AM: Yes. It's a tragically underrepresented character in film of a supportive husband who has an amazingly strong intelligent powerful wife who he believes in and also believes in what she’s doing, and will do whatever it takes to facilitate her greatness.
I really liked that about the role and I liked the idea of playing a good husband and putting that out there because it’s aspirational in a way.
Did immersing yourself in the role affect the way you were looking at your own marriage?
Yeah, that’s the fun thing about this job, everything you do kind of becomes two sides of the coin. It’s a part of you that you have inside of you that you get to access and play around with or it’s something that you can kind of brush up against that’s different.
In terms of Martin, being able to play that part and be that guy, highlighted ways to me that I could be better at [being a husband]. And I do feel like—I mean you’d have to ask my wife Elizabeth—but I feel like that part made me a better husband and a more supportive husband and highlighted ways to me that I could be better at being an equal partner.
Marty is also an excellent chef, do you have your own signature dish?
I love steak. I love steak more than anything and I went on a quest to try to perfect steak.
I spent years tweaking little things; when do you put the seasoning on, what seasonings do you use, how much of each, what’s the ratio, what do you cook it in, in terms of; do you use gee? Do you use oil? Do you use butter? When do you add the butter so that you don’t burn the butter but still get the butter in the steak? So I would like to say I’ve perfected steak.
It’s really a double-edged sword, though, because I can cook a perfect steak at home but now when I go to a restaurant I never order steak because it’s like, they did this wrong or they should have done this or that.
I'd love to see a documentary where you go in search of the perfect steak…
Yeah, that would be fun… [turns to publicist] Oh my god I would love to do a documentary about finding the perfect steak.
You’ve met with Ruth a few times. She’s such an icon, but what humanised her for you?
You know it’s funny, when you meet Ruth you get Justice Ginsberg. You get this woman who is incredibly sharp, incredibly together, incredibly intelligent and still very present and passionate about what she does. And that’s very impressive and very intimidating. But when she talks about Marty she smiles like he’s still here, like the love is still very much existent even though he passed eight years ago.
That was the real humanising thing, just seeing how much love they had and how much love is still there.
For Felicity, those meeting must have been such an amazing way into the character, but how did you go about getting into the headspace of Marty?
I talked to a lot of people who knew him, I read his cookbooks and his recipes were really the biggest way that I could get into who he was because they were really funny.
Normally recipes are really cut and dry; add this, use this temperature or whatever, but his were really clever and quippy. Even the way he described cooking food, I would laugh while reading his recipes. And I just thought Wow this guy is charming as hell, I love this guy. And that was really my in on Marty.
I tried his recipes too. I did a big dinner party for the cast and the directors and producers in my apartment in Montreal. I picked eight recipes from his book and I called it the “Party Marty” meal, and I had everyone over and cooked for them.
With his wife Elizabeth Chambers. Via Wiki
And just like Marty and Ruth, you have an older daughter and a younger son. I love that moment when Marty says of baby Jane, 'It’s hard to believe in a few years she’s going to be slamming the door in our faces.' Is your daughter Harper going to be a feisty teenager?
Oh my god yes. And she comes by it very naturally.
She is every bit as strong-willed and opinionated and smart as my wife, so I’m sure there will some sort of inherent challenges of raising such a strong daughter.
There’s a great deal of discussion around gender norms and discrimination in the film—did you face any gender-based discriminations growing up?
No, not really, I don’t remember that ever being a discussion. This is probably to my parent’s credit, but I don’t remember ever being told to “be a man” or “man up” or anything like that. I was a sensitive kid and I think that was allowed and fostered and that’s probably part of the reason I’m in the creative arts now, because I was never told, “you have to be a strong man”.
Los Angeles is a progressive place and I’d like to think my wife and I are progressive parents. I worry about the world my kids are going to grow up in not only because of [gender norms] but because of what the landscape looks like. I worry about the world of social media too; what world is that going to give my children to live in, what is that going to look like?
Does having children make you worry more?
For sure. When you’re by yourself and you don’t have kids, you don’t have to think about it. It’s just not anything that you really need to worry about. But when you have kids you get a longer view on perspective; this is a human being that I’m in charge of. Not that I’m going to shape in any sort of weird way but I need to foster this person growing into who they are. And I want to protect them but I also need to let them be themselves, and it’s a balance.
As we're speaking on Valentine's Day, what is your favourite romantic film?
On the Basis of Sex is in cinemas now