Kelli Garner on Playing Marilyn

KelliGarnerAsM.Monroe-ftr Kelli Garner has been talking about the challenges of playing Marilyn in a series of press interviews – firstly, with GM News:

One of Marilyn’s most distinctive attributes was her voice. Difficult nailing that part of the role down?

Early in the process when I was working with the director, she really didn’t want a voice. Everyone has their idea of Marilyn Monroe, so it is probably hard to watch so many people’s tapes come in, and I think she was done with the voice by the time I met with her. She was like, “Please don’t do the voice,” and I was like, “Can I just try one?” [Laughs] But by the time it came to shooting, we were more about it being there for times when she wanted to be using Marilyn for some effect and not being there for others to try to keep her more human. It was fun to play around with!

Tell me about getting to peel back the layers on an entertainment icon that even fans know so little about and to show how complex her life really was.

It was beautiful to see that this is a woman that struggled with things that we all still struggle with today, and some stuff that we don’t — like mental health, like the fact that her mother was diagnosed as schizophrenic and she had to deal with that on a daily basis. It was a really interesting side of her that is not as playful as we know Marilyn to be. She was so smart. She had the courage and fortitude against everything she was dealing with in her life to become this construct that was Marilyn Monroe. I didn’t know a lot about her when I booked this. She is so wise. She is deep and she is soulful. And she is really creative. It makes me sad she is, to this day, so loved, and it is probably the one thing she couldn’t find.

Did a little bit of Marilyn go with you when filming ended?

I think one of the most beautiful things about Marilyn Monroe is she had fun playing Marilyn Monroe. I have been acting for 15 years and I am proud of myself most days and it is such an interesting thing to live in. But I have the tendency to forget to have fun. And I think Marilyn is such a feminist. … I think that one of Marilyn’s greatest qualities is her vulnerability — and maybe one of her worst. But she stood up for her power and her talent. She was way ahead for her time. The tragedy is what a voice Marilyn Monroe would have been today for the continuous struggles with inequality of the sexes and civil rights, and I think she would have been a huge voice for gay rights. I just think she is really special. We all do.”

Kelli Garner as Norma Jeane
Kelli Garner as Norma Jeane

In a Hollywood Reporter article, Kelli discusses Marilyn’s glamorous style:

“I can only imagine all the cool pieces you got to wear on set.

[There were] 99 costume changes. It was over a week of costume fittings and the costume room was just wallpapered with, I think, every image of Marilyn possible. That was my first week of work. Everyone kept handing me photo books and I was like, ‘I get it! I know what she looks like [laughs].’ It taught me a lot about my own wardrobe. I actually came home and threw out half of my clothes. I had gone through this phase where I stopped being attracted to color.

Was that an influence on today’s darker color scheme?

Yes, well, I love hunter green. And it is a color. Marilyn taught me, for my figure, to go tight but high neck. Keep it classy, so that’s really nice. I think I was also doing that bohemian thing where all my sweaters were boy sweaters and boyfriend pants, which I love, but this is me, too, when I dress up. I was just not embracing my figure the way you can as a woman. And she loved colors. A lot of people say she wore famous black turtlenecks, but she was really good in some color.

Of all the costume changes, which one was your favorite?

Well, I’ll give you two. Iconic Marilyn — I would have to say that gold lame dress with the crinkle and low [neckline]. It’s just such a beautiful dress. But I think my favorite in the whole show is a Norma Jeane outfit. They reconstructed to the exact outfit that you see she wears in a little red striped shirt, these tiny Daisy Duke white overalls and big ol’ ’40s heels.”

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