Constance Wu on How Her Past and Motherhood Shaped Her for ‘Solos’

The new Amazon limited series Solos, set to debut on May 21, consists of seven separate inspiring stories that are all loosely interconnected. The anthology explores the strange, beautiful, heart-breaking, hilarious, wondrous truths of what it means to be human. In the trailer, Morgan Freeman’s voice describes the mutual feeling of loneliness that all of the characters feel, “We all feel alone in different ways; in feeling alone, we are somehow all together.” 

In the David Weil-directed episode titled Jenny, Constance Wu plays Jenny, a woman dressed in an angel costume, waiting in a room by herself. She doesn’t know what she’s waiting for, but goes through a multitude of emotions throughout the course of the episode. Waiting is the hardest part, especially when you don’t know what to expect or who you’re waiting for. Audiences are in for a real treat when it comes to Jenny’s story, especially when the first words to come out of her mouth are, “Can you smell my vagina?”

The Nerds of Color got to chat with Wu during the Solos press junket, and broke down what exactly was going through her mind when portraying Jenny, and how she honed in on this performance. 

The story of Jenny completely broke me. I have to know, when you read the script, what was going through your head? 

Wu: I really loved the first line. I was kind of sold from it. Do you remember? It’s funny because a lot of times I get these offers for lawyer parts and with all these business languages. I’m like do they think that I can say this? I don’t have any experience that would say that I could say this. Lawyer lines don’t fit in my mouth. It doesn’t work. But, then, when I read ‘can you smell my vagina?’ I was like, oh yeah, I know how to say that. I understand that. So, right away, her dark sense of humor, I really connected to. And then, as I read it, I could tell from the beginning something’s going on. As I read it, I really got excited about how dynamic her journey is. And in any project I choose, when something is darker, I think I like for it to have some levity in it. That makes a whole piece more kind of round. And then when something is very comedic and humorous, I think it needs to have depth. Otherwise, it just doesn’t really [work]. It doesn’t have that roundness that I see in a project. So for me, reading the script, I was like this has that marriage of depth and levity that I think is a good representation of [the] human experience.

Jenny does go through a variety of emotions and is very blunt in her storytelling. How did you approach the complexity of this character? Did you have to take some breaks to reset because of the intensity?

Well, we shot it chronologically which helped a lot. We sort of separated it into chunks which helped in terms of the dialogue or the monologue, because I didn’t improvise. I was pretty much very word perfect — true to the text — through the whole thing. So, in each chunk, we would finish that chunk and then do it again. And then, we moved onto the next chunk, and it was all chronological, which really helped. I know the way they eventually cut it, there’s a lot of cuts in the beginning and then there’s a one tick at the end, but that’s not how we shot it. That’s how they edited it. But, for me, each section has a different color to it. Jenny is sort of talking to a different type of person in each section. And the way I navigated that is sort of how sort like when you have a dream — you’ll start the dream and you’re talking to your sister and then the sister will suddenly morph into your neighbor, and then that morphs into your like high school crush, and then, for some reason, that morphs into your dog. In the dream, you don’t question it. It’s just seamless. That’s the truth of the dream. So, that’s sort of how I rationalized changing my viewpoint for each section of the monologue. You have to do that because the thing with a monologue is there’s a potential for a lot of actor tracks — you know to get real actor-y and real indulgent and stuff. Especially in this case, there are traps, and the way you avoid that is, for me, always just giving yourself over to the character and not having a personal constant agenda or an actor agenda, and really having faith that the character will flow through you and then you don’t have to do anything but open yourself up to it. Jenny really genuinely really did a number on me. What Jenny goes through is not anything that I’ve ever gone through, except for the drunk part and the crushing on somebody part. Okay, I get that.

I noticed the wait room had kids toys and the magazine focusing on fertility and pregnancy, we also find that Jenny has a connection to that. One that I personally could relate to as a mother. I was wondering if the story had any effect on you or changed for you through the eyes of motherhood? 

Yeah, it’s interesting because Jenny’s not a mother and I am a mother. I’m a pretty new mother. Jenny has tried to get pregnant and I didn’t really have to try all that [hard], which is a blessing. [I’m] very, very lucky that it was so easy for us. I definitely have a connection of love for my child but like for an imagined [child], because she’s not a mother. I don’t really know what that’s like, so I think, for me, a lot of that meant engaging in my imagination and my empathy.

Solos deals with a lot of the inevitable and dealing with grief and tragedy as well as the praises and horrors of advancing technology. What did you feel was a major theme from your episode?

I’d say penance. Is that the right word? What does penance mean? It’s dealing with consequence. I’m so far away from my vocabulary days. Yeah, it’s understanding the consequences of, not just your actions, but your possibilities and your dreams, and putting [a] voice [to] your dreams and how frightening that could be and what it means to lose [it]. 

This episode of Solos made me think of the quote by public defender/attorney Bryan Stevenson: ‘Each of us is more than the worst thing we’ve ever done.‘ Do you believe that is true? Especially in Jenny’s situation.

At the beginning of my episode, they say ‘if you could take back the worst day of your life, would you?’ I think Jenny would. If you were to ask me that question, I wouldn’t, because when I think of the hardest, most heart-wrenching or difficult or most consequential days of my life, I think I’m really happy where I am now and [where] it all led me to. I think also the hardest moments of your life are also the places that give you the most opportunity to learn about yourself and to really, really reckon with who you want to be and how to be the person you want to be. [It] really makes you focus on something that maybe you lost sight of before. We all have moments. So, to say you’re not the worst moment of your life nor are you the best moment of your life, we are definitely an industry of clickbait headlines, it’s whatever is the sexiest most clickable thing. And I think that’s really reductive to the human experience. I definitely think there’s a tendency and clickbait culture to reduce somebody down to the most titillating thing. I think that I love this piece and this series is because it doesn’t reduce, it [actually] expands.

And I couldn’t agree more! Solos expands to your screens on Amazon Prime this Friday, May 21.