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Hollywood Rookie, Research Extraordinaire

Journalism-trained Fallon Goodson is an actress on the rise with this month’s Maladies starring James Franco and Catherine Keener—and proof that doing your homework pays off

Fallon Goodson may have had the luckiest Hollywood break ever. “When I moved out here, I didn’t know anyone and there was no way to get into the industry,” the actress recently told DuJour. “I didn’t have a reel, so I first segued into producing. Maladies was the one film I knew was going to put me in a different category.”

Set in 1960s New York, Maladies is this month’s upcoming drama starring James Franco as a former soap opera star suffering from some unspecified mental illness. Fortunately for Hollywood newcomer Goodson, who studied for a career in journalism, a number of potential actresses for the part of James Franco’s sister dropped out because of the upcoming Christmas holidays. “Two weeks before filming, I was pulled into the luckiest position ever,” Goodson says. “I got to work with James Franco, Catherine Keener and David Strathairn in this wonderful movie. It was an absolutely surreal experience.”

But don’t be fooled by her whirlwind success; Goodson is no one-hit-wonder. The Louisiana-born actress is also known for her role alongside Kate Bosworth in 2011’s Life Happens and will soon appear in two films titled Child of God and Black Dog, Red Dog directed by the ubiquitous Franco.

We caught up with Fallon Goodson to talk about her big break, staying warm with Catherine Keener and James Franco’s love for her dog.

You started off with a journalism background and eventually made the transition to film. How’d you manage that?

I did broadcast and print journalism at Southern Methodist University, and it’s been so helpful because everything I do for movies is research. I didn’t even mean to be a producer—it just happened when I moved into town and was learning the Hollywood business step by step. Eventually people started saying they liked my work as both a producer and an actor, so I got really lucky sliding into both mediums.

Your background must have helped with the research you did for Maladies. Your character Patricia is quite eccentric. 

Well, it was really interesting because the director didn’t diagnose any character in the film with a specific illness, so it was up to the actor to do their own research and create an autobiography for their character. I went out to the house in the Rockaways we were filming at while they were getting the set together and I’d walk around doing everything I could to mesh myself with this character, coming up with an autobiography of how Patricia got to where she was.

Also, I actually think that my character is the most normal of everyone in the movie! Even though she dresses in a different way, she still knows who she is and does exactly what she wants. So from the outside Patricia looks the most crazy, but she’s actually the one who’s got it together more than anyone else.

It must have been nice to have that level of freedom. How do you expect the audience to identify with a cast of characters that are inherently flawed?

I actually think that everyone can relate to these characters, even though they may not initially admit it. It’s a psychological study in a way and it looks like it’s very out there, but honestly everyone has their own tendencies and qualities that bother them about themselves, and Maladies kind of magnifies this for the audience. I think that people can actually find a lot of things in it to relate to.

It’s like watching animals at the zoo. You’re viewing each character’s strange behavior from a safe distance behind the screen, but at the same time you think, Oh, I totally see why he’s doing that right now.

 The film certainly does cover a wide range of serious issues, but it also must have been a blast to shoot—so much of the movie is humorous.

The best part is that when something’s grounded in real life, even serious subject matter can come out funny in a good way. I actually think that some of the best, funniest moments come out of things happening in every day life.

The funniest thing that happened to me on set was during a scene where my character drinks a whole glass of water in one sitting, without coming up for air. I really wanted to impress everyone on set and was trying so hard to get everything right, so I actually did drink the obnoxiously full glass in one gulp! Everyone started laughing and James and Catherine told me I could have just had a sip of water and the rest would be taken care of in editing, but they thought it was very funny that I went the distance. The looks on their faces were pretty priceless.

Maladies has a superstar cast. Did you bond with anyone on set?

The thing about these actors is that they could have brushed me off. I was this new person coming in at the last minute, and we had to shoot in 13 days so didn’t have time for that many takes—and that’s scary for any actor! But we were lucky because we all clicked really well together, and they couldn’t have been kinder or more helpful during the entire experience. Catherine was really my mom during the shoot. If I was cold, she’d help me warm up.

Now that both of your upcoming films with James Franco are completed, what do you see yourself working on next?

Later on this spring, we’re starting to shoot a movie that I’m co-starring in and producing with Eli Roth and Colleen Camp about Lake Mead. It’s a sinking lake outside of Las Vegas that’ll probably be completely dry by 2020 because there’s currently a huge drought going on. It’s weird because it’s a national park that a lot of tourists visit, but no one really knows about it! It’s really cool because the movie is a thriller, so it’s different than anything I’ve ever produced or acted in before.

Lastly, I have to ask—after working with James Franco on three different movies, do you have a favorite James Franco story?

Yes, actually, I have a good one! I have a little Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, and James really likes my dog and decided that he wanted to put her in a movie he was shooting for Francofest in New York. So he basically kidnapped her and she got to spend the entire day with James Franco! It was absolutely hilarious, I even got pictures of her riding a motorcycle—she had quite the adventure.

Watch the trailer for Maladies below:



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