Michelle Monaghan — A Class Act
Acting alongside the biggest names in Hollywood, Michelle Monaghan has been captivating audiences on the big and small screens for years, but her versatility and powerhouse performances make her the one to watch.
If you aren’t yet familiar with the work of the versatile talent that is Michelle Monaghan, it’s time to get better acquainted.
Born in Winthrop, Iowa, Monaghan came from modest beginnings. Her mother ran a daycare centre and her father was a factory worker and farmer. In 1999, she quit college, moved to New York and became a full-time fashion model on runways in Milan, Singapore and Tokyo. After starring in a few television shows, her big break into acting came when she starred opposite Robert Downey Jr. in Kiss Kiss Bang Bang in 2005. She’s been commanding the small screen and silver screen ever since.
Monaghan’s list of impressive filmography includes the The Best of Me, Mission: Impossible III and Source Code. Her list of television roles is just as impressive, including hits True Detective and The Path. Poised, smart and sassy are only a few of the words used to describe Monaghan. Having acted alongside some of the biggest names in the business, including Tom Cruise, Charlize Theron and Frances McDormand, her performances are powerful, personal, raw and straight from the heart.
Dolce spoke with the television and film actress to discuss who she’s dying to work with, how she manages life as a busy mom, and why movements like #TimesUp and #MeToo are now more necessary than ever.
You began your career as a model. How did that help prepare you for the world of acting?
Having spent years modelling, I definitely felt comfortable with the camera. I understood what it meant to create a persona and convey a feeling or a story, albeit in a different way. I revelled in it, actually. Little did I know it was grooming me for what ultimately would be my passion. In addition, practically speaking, the industry gave me a really thick skin. After so many modelling castings, by the time I started auditioning, the process of not getting a job was more the norm than actually getting one. It rolled off my back, and I just kept going. Still, today, I never consider not getting a job as a failure. That’s where the perseverance comes in.
Talk to us a little bit about The Path. What attracted you to such a unique role?
The Path, to me, is a very unique look into how spirituality and religion — or the lack thereof — can intimately affect families and relationships. Religion is a universal theme. People either identify with it or they don’t. Our creator, Jessica Goldberg, has so honestly and acutely examined what it’s like for believers to have a crisis of faith, or what followers are willing to do or sacrifice in the name of religion — for better or for worse. Faith is inherently personal and provocative, and in being so, it has allowed us a rich and complicated story to tell.
You’ve acted for both television and film. Do you prefer the process of one to the other?
I enjoy them both for very different reasons. They both present different challenges. [In film,] I love a firm beginning, middle and end. It’s fun creating the emotional arc of the character and feeling (hopefully) satisfied and creatively complete in the end. With television, when I don’t necessarily have the ability to know the potential storyline, my choices tend to be more measured. I consider it more of a layering technique than an uncovering, so to speak.
Will we see you tackle the stage someday?
Yes. It is my ultimate creative dream. Manifesting it as I speak.
Do you still get nervous as an actor during the audition process? How do you handle those nerves?
Earlier in my career, absolutely. In the moment, it can be terrifying, but I always reminded myself that, “Hey, they invited me into this room. They want to give me this job.” Shifting your perspective to the positive in these vulnerable moments means everything. When I started out, I was very realistic. If I knew the material was beyond my capacity at that moment, I would simply do my best and focus on making a personal or memorable connection with the casting director. That, in turn, would hopefully allow me the opportunity to be invited back for material that was better suited for me. It’s all about celebrating the baby steps.
What attracts you to a role or project? Is it the character, the script, or the subject matter?
All of the above. It must be firing on all cylinders. I’ve learned that the hard way.
Have you ever worked on a project and known during the process that it was going to be a hit?
True Detective. True Detective. True Detective. It was a wildly intense and creative bunch. It was demanding as hell, and everyone gave it their all. That’s when magic happens.
Robert Downey Jr., Tom Cruise, Hugh Dancy, Matthew McConaughey, Aaron Paul, Jamie Foxx, Chris Evans, Jake Gyllenhaal, Patrick Dempsey — the list of leading men you’ve worked with goes on and on. Who are some actresses you’d love to work with?
Viola Davis is something else. I just want to breathe the same air as her. And I appreciate the enormous talent of Naomi Watts. I really respect her choices. I have a pretty major girl crush on Kathryn Hahn, as well. And I embarrassingly remind her of it every time I see her. Meeting Gena Rowlands is also a dream of mine. I’d definitely embarrass myself in front of her, as well.
Who are some favourite actresses you’ve worked with in the past?
Frances McDormand. I love and respect her profoundly, personally and professionally. Charlize Theron. Her commitment to character is the real deal. And she’s a total badass. Malin Åkerman. We’ve been best friends since we made The Heartbreak Kid. I’d go to the ends of the Earth for her. Alfre Woodard. She is salt of the earth, powerful, poised and funny as hell. There are so many whom I respect and admire — the list is long.
Which artists inspire you these days?
As being on stage is a dream of mine, I see a lot of theatre. I’m in constant awe of a stage actor’s commitment, stamina and heart. I find it to be one of the most moving and authentic experiences. I always leave the theatre feeling inspired and with a lump in my throat.
What is the best piece of advice you’ve ever received?
Do the unexpected, and never let them put you in a box.
The #TimesUp, #MeToo and #MindTheGap movements are redefining the entertainment world. What do these causes mean to you?
It’s an honour to support these causes, and it’s also a necessity. Times are changing, the shift is happening and that is simply because people are listening, becoming more aware of the issues and understanding their accountability. These movements are collective, and they don’t happen overnight. But if we can appreciate that each of us can make a difference, the impact will be lasting. I’m also incredibly grateful for all the candid conversations I’ve had with men and women this past year. People are being vulnerable and sharing, and it’s humbling and empowering. There’s a silver lining in everything, as they say. I do believe things will be different for our children, and that gives me great solace.
As a mom of two, what does the term “work-life balance” mean to you?
It means quality over quantity. I spend a lot of time travelling, so it’s important that I maximize my time with the kids when I can. Sometimes it’s a quick boogie before school, which my son loves. Sometimes my daughter and I just snuggle up and do our reading together at nighttime. They’re simple things, but they require me to put the phone down and be present, which I know is a constant struggle for a lot of us. My husband and I also stick to a pretty tight routine so we can enjoy our time together, independent of the kiddos. And thank goodness for FaceTime. It’s been a saviour.
When it comes to health and beauty, what is your philosophy?
Balance, balance and more balance. I don’t deny myself anything, and honestly, that approach keeps me happy. I really appreciate food, and I love experiencing new restaurants and cooking and sharing. I take great pleasure in it. And because I’m a bit of a foodie, I try to squeeze in a daily workout — a hike, a jog, a spin class. It’s not always manageable, but when I do, I feel my best. I love being outdoors. I also drink three litres of water a day. It’s free and easy, and it does wonders for my skin. I’m also fortunate to be surrounded by fun-loving people in my life. Being a bit of a rascal keeps you young.
What is something about you most people wouldn’t know?
I’ve never had a cavity. I can drive a big rig, and I speak Japanese.
Fans can catch you next in Mission: Impossible — Fallout. Can you tell us about some of your other upcoming projects?
Stay tuned. You’ll know shortly.
Photography By Pulmanns
Styling By Erica Cloud @ The Only Agency
Makeup By Shane Paish @ Crosby Carter Mgmt Using Chanel
Hair By John Ruggiero @ The Wallgroup
Manicure By Michelle Saunders @ Forward Artists
Production By Frank Roller @ Glam PR