My Tribeca Film Fest: Zosia Mamet on Swearing, Eyeliner, and Co-Star Jessica Biel

zosia mamet
Photo: Henny Garfunkel

When, as an actor, the film festival you're attending is just a short cab ride away from your home and filming location, it's easy to treat the event like a relaxed affair. But for Girls star Zosia Mamet, it is also a chance to work hard on behalf of a role other than the one everyone knows her for (the speed-talking, eye-rolling Shoshanna).

In Bleeding Heart, Mamet plays Shiva, a young sex worker trapped in an abusive relationship who meets her well-meaning, yoga-instructor sister May (Jessica Biel) for the first time. The two sisters quickly bond, and despite their obvious differences, embark on an unplanned adventure that propels radical change in both of their lives.

InStyle sat down with Mamet in a quintessential Tribeca loft space to talk about the film, sisters in blood and in heart, and the one bad habit she is trying to break.

Shiva is very different from Shoshanna. Can you tell us a little bit about how you'd compare the two roles? Shiva doesn’t talk so fast. That was a nice change. But one of the things they had in common, and it’s one of the things I love about Shoshanna, is that she is incredibly honest, no matter what. Even if a situation is delicate, she’s just going to be honest. I thought that was definitely a quality Shiva had as well. She was so forthright about everything. She wasn't afraid of talking about what she did. She wasn’t afraid of her choices, which is sort of the same for Shoshanna. But Shiva is super-different. She was a dark human. She was an incredibly damaged human, and that was a welcome challenge.

How does costume and makeup help you get into a character? It's a huge aspect. If I showed up in this movie wearing a tiny pink skirt and a Shos sweater, it wouldn’t be portrayed the same way. As an actor, I don’t have a huge process other than learning my lines and being prepared, so costumes help a lot. I remember a family friend saying once when I was very young, “If you’re going to an audition for a woman who wears high heels, wear high heels.” It literally, physically, puts you in a different position. We had a wonderful makeup artist on Bleeding Heart. Every day he would put that huge black cat-eye on me, and it set me up right.

You and Jessica Biel play sisters. It's amazing how much you two look alike! Wow, thank you! Yes, when we were making the film and spending so much time together, we were like, “We could be sisters!”

Their bond is instantly very deep even though they just met. Could you relate to that? I was actually just having this conversation with one of my best friends and my boyfriend last night, about how when you find a similar soul in another woman, there’s that type of connection that’s kind of magical. I think that’s really what you see happen here in this film. They have a bond, no matter if they’re blood or not.

I've noticed that the characters you play swear a lot. Does that bad habit bleed over into your real life? Yes, I have a very bad mouth. I think that’s something I brought to Girls. They had to ask me to not use expletives as much. That’s something I learned very young, and I’m working on it.

Is it fun hanging out in Tribeca for the day? I don’t get to spend a lot of time in Tribeca, but I lived here once when I was shooting Girls before I officially found a place here. I love it. I think it has a really interesting, wonderful vibe that sort of separates it from the rest of the city. There’s some amazing food and art. It feels like a happy, clean place.

Will you be seeing your co-star Jessica Biel soon? No, Jessica's a bit busy with the tiny human that she made. She will not be here [for the premiere tonight], but we wish her all the best.

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