A potent tale of generational trauma, loss, immigration, hope and reconciliation, HBO’s I Know This Much Is True is a dual-role tour de force from Mark Ruffalo. And the Emmy-nominated actor is unequivocal on what it meant to him professionally and personally.
“It was the most gratifying and challenging thing I’ve ever done,” the Avengers alum said during a panel for Deadline’s Contenders Television: The Nominees about the middle-aged twin brothers he portrayed in the six-episode limited series.
The acclaimed performance by Ruffalo sees the actor up for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Limited Series or Movie heading towards the September 20 Emmy Awards ceremony on ABC.
Based on Wally Lamb’s 1998 novel of the same name, the early 1990s-set I Know This Much Is True delves into the close and fractured relationship between the charismatic yet rage-filled Dominick Birdsey and his paranoid schizophrenic twin Thomas. In a remarkable physical and psychological transformation, Ruffalo navigates the roles of both the Italian-American brothers seamlessly.
“We didn’t want it to be a visual trick,” director Derek Cianfrance said of the decision to stay away from VFX on the prestige premium cabler’s offering.
“I find often times when I see twins, one actor playing two characters on the screen, I’m always looking for the seam,” the Blue Valentine helmer admitted. “What I’m more invested in is performance and people and characters … Mark and I talked very early on about incorporating a process where he would be able to become two separate people,” using an analog approach as opposed to digital solutions for the twins.
As well as directing all of the triumph- and tragedy-filled I Know This Much Is True, Cianfrance also penned or co-wrote the whole series, which ran this year from May 10-June 14 and featured a cast including Melissa Leo, Kathryn Hahn, Rosie O’Donnell, Imogen Poots and Juliette Lewis.
For Ruffalo, the dedication and transformation paid off – philosophically as well as in the performance on the screen.
“I learned a long time ago that we don’t have any control over what happens to something once it comes out into the world,” the actor said. “What we have control over is how we do it, the grace that we do it with, the love that we do it with and the quality of the experience. And for that, I would say, it was beyond my wildest dreams of success.”
Check out the video above, and click here to watch all of Sunday’s Contenders TV panels.