Celebrity Interview: Simon Helberg

Celebrity Interview: Simon Helberg

August 20164245Views

“The Big Bank Theory” actor makes music with Meryl Streep

When you’re on a top rated TV series such as “The Big Bang Theory,” you might not think your star could get any brighter, but that’s just what’s happening to Simon Helberg. His character in real life inspired “Florence Foster Jenkins” is a far cry from his geeky role as Howard Wolfowitz, a super confident ladies’ man and aerospace engineer. In his latest role on the big screen, Helberg plays Cosme McMoon, a shy and timid pianist who lands a seemingly posh gig accompanying singing socialite “Florence Foster Jenkins” on the piano as she sings operatic tunes. There’s just one thing, he’s a talented pianist, but she can’t sing! I recently joined a media conference call to interview Helberg and get behind-the-scenes intel on his role in “Florence Foster Jenkins.”

On his facial expressions when Meryl Streep sings

“It’s kind of tricky. She did something new every time. They wanted to shoot it all live, so the recordings were thrown out. It helped being shot live because you had to contain laughter and focus. It made all of it very authentic—what is seen is what is coming out of us.”

On portraying Cosme McMoon

The character Helberg portrays was actually in his 70s during this period in his life when he accompanies Florence Foster Jenkins on the piano. Helberg listened to a rare recording of McMoon at Carnegie. He realized that the real McMoon’s outlook was much different than the character in the script and he wanted to stay true to the script. He depicted McMoon as what he describes as “Pure, chase, and innocent with no sense of cynicism or having been corrupted … child-like and unaware of sexuality.”


There’s a very human quality … I think it’s funny, it’s tragic, and it’s comforting.

On what drew him to the film

“Why would I not be interested or claw myself into this movie? The music, all the people are brilliant, it’s a dream script.” He goes on to describe the film as being unique and showing a disparity in our perception of ourselves versus how others see us, while celebrating this woman and the joy she found in music.

On the challenges of making a period film inspired by real life events

Helberg explained that the most challenging part of making the film was combining the music with acting and being hired as an actor and having the music take over. “It was hard but an enormous part of film. Whether I played piano or not, people would see my acting and Meryl was singing live so they needed the piano to be live. You want to be faithful to these characters because they are real. There’s not much info on them, so you feel liberated.”

On working with Meryl Streep and the other film talents

“It’s every actor’s dream when he can jump into a part with the greatest people working today. Ultimately, you’re only as good as the people around you, that’s the sign of greatness. You don’t want to be the one to bring Meryl down … it’s scary to get to work with people who are your heroes. When you get to work around people that great, usually they are there to make the best thing—to make something wonderful.”

On the compassion portrayed in the film towards Florence

This film has such a compassionate component where each character seems to protect Florence. Helberg explains what makes her so lovable: “There’s a very human quality. I think there’s almost nothing more human than failure. I think it’s funny, it’s tragic, and it’s comforting, but only when it’s done passionately. She was so filled with joy and so moved by music and wanted to share that joy and love of music with people, I think it’s just magnetic. It’s like watching a little child with total abandon singing out and dancing. The part of your brain that has any kind of judgement or criticism is sort of overridden by the joyous part. Whether people are laughing or their jaws are on the floor, I think they were enjoying themselves.”

On really playing the piano in the film

“I love acting. sometimes it requires other talents and you learn them. I think that is what’s great about acting, you get to know other people and you get to sort of find other interests. I’m interested in discovering what else I might be able to do. When I find things that I think I can’t do, it’s torturous sometimes but its very gratifying to push through that, and this was no exception. I did not think I would be able to play all these pieces. I thought about Meryl … she’s going to sing all of this live. I better do my best to get there.”

Release date: August 12th

Mignon Gould

Mignon Gould

Mignon Gould is a multimedia publisher and the Agent-in-Chief of She is a style enthusiast, who views fashion as an art form that anyone can master. In our Culture column, she shares her musings on the latest happenings in the world, from diversity in fashion to pop culture controversies. Mignon has also interviewed celebrities and insiders including actress Emma Stone, 70's supermodel Pat Cleveland, and Audrey Hepburn's son, Luca Dotti.

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