Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.
Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

Tatiana Maslany and Tom Cullen stole cars and spelled their own names wrong

Graphic: Nick Wanserski
Graphic: Nick Wanserski

In 11 Questions, The A.V. Club asks interesting people 11 interesting questions—and then asks them to suggest one for our next interviewee.


For Tatiana Maslany and Tom Cullen, starring together in forthcoming relationship drama The Other Half wasn’t just a chance to act out a searing and painful exploration of how people with mental illness deal with being in love. It was an opportunity for each of them to star in a movie about falling in love opposite a co-star they loved—the two have been in a relationship for several years now. Cullen first came to U.S. attention following the superlative indie sorta-romance Weekend and a subsequent stint on PBS drama Downton Abbey, while Maslany has gained fame for her starring performance on the BBC America mind-bender Orphan Black. The two sat down during a late brunch at South By Southwest to answer our 11 questions, tease each other, and hypothesize about the ethical dodginess of stealing cars.

1. What’s a question you wish an interviewer would ask you?

Tatiana Maslany: “Tell me about your favorite performance in the last 10 years?” Your favorite performance that somebody else did—ask me about somebody else. That’s what I’d prefer to talk about. Do you know what I mean? [To Tom] You’re just twirling your beer.

Tom Cullen: I’m just thinking. Maybe, “Are you hungry? I’m buying.”

TM: That would be a great question.

TC: “Would you like a beer?”

AVC: Those are both excellent. You went the pragmatic route.

TM: “How do I get something out of this?”

TC: I think I might be hungry.

AVC: That’s a universal question that everybody wishes they’d get asked more, right? “What would you like me to purchase you?”

TC: “Would you like me to cook for you?”

TM: “Do you want me to buy you a piece of lamb?”

TC: “Would you like a million dollars?”

TM: Exactly. That is a great question.

TC: “Would you like this house?”

AVC: Tatiana, if you had to answer your own question about your favorite performance, what would you pick?


TM: Now I can only think of Bad Grandpa. We watched Bad Grandpa about a week ago and I’ve not stopped thinking about it since. I thought Johnny Knoxville was transformative. He was, like, transcendent.

AVC: That’s a really good one. Johnny Knoxville probably doesn’t get enough—

TM: He doesn’t get enough credit for that amazing turn. And the makeup artist! That is some amazing prosthetics.


TC: And the kid—so good in that movie.

TM: So good.

TC: Have you seen it?

AVC: I have.

TM: I’m not even a Jackass fan. I hate Jackass. I can’t get into it. It freaked me out. But that movie was hilarious. It was great.


AVC: That movie is what you wish Jackass would be all the time?

TM: Exactly. Less vomiting, more character study.

2. If you could ride a giant version of an animal to work every day, what animal would it be?

3. What movie have you seen the most?

TM: The Mask. Or Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II: Secret Of The Ooze.

AVC: Really? Secret Of The Ooze over the original?

TM: I know. I’m sorry to everybody. Those two, I’d say, I’ve seen the most.

TC: I have probably seen Indiana Jones And The Temple Of Doom the most because it was the only video that my mum actually recorded, and I watched it so much that there’s huge blank spots in the VHS. It was the first movie I could say every single line from start to finish. Just on a side note: I watched Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II with Tatiana recently and she knows every single word, every grunt.


TM: Every impact sound.

TC: It’s bizarre.

TM: A large part of my brain’s dedicated to storing that memory and other memories are gone. Life memories are gone.


AVC: Could you act out the entire movie?

TM: Definitely audibly, verbally.

TC: You could do it now without even watching the images as you go.

TM: There’s a part where I’ll start in, which is right before the logo comes up. I can get there. I can start there and I can probably go.


TC: Ridiculous. Also There Will Be Blood.

TM: Oh yes! Me too.

TC: I’ll put that film on just to watch a scene and then I end up watching the whole thing.


TM: Same, same.

TC: Every time.

TM: That and Woman Under The Influence. Both of them.

AVC: That’s a good way to lose three hours of your day. And it’s a nice about-face from Indiana Jones


TM: Totally.

AVC: The most depressing counterpoint.

TM: The film has cool hats, though.

AVC: That’s true. There’s, like, a—

TM: A hat theme going on there.

AVC: Are you a hat person in general?

TC: I am not. I wish I was a hat person. I look ridiculous in anything that lands on my head.

4. What’s a stupid thing that you incorrectly believed for a long time?

TM: Oh! There’s so many! Stupid things I incorrectly believed for a long time—oh my God, I hate this because there are, like, 500 of them. That my middle name was spelled G-A-B-R-I-E-L-L-A.


TC: You didn’t know—

TM: It’s not. It’s G-A-B-R-I-E-L-E.

AVC: So you thought your own middle name was spelled differently?

TM: I spelled it wrong for a long time. For 25 years of my life.

TC: I spelled my middle name wrong.

TM: With an “E” or something?

TC: I put a “U” and an “E” in it.

TM: That’s wrong.

TC: It’s wrong.

AVC: How did you get clued into the fact that you were spelling your own names wrong?


TC: I just thought—my middle name is my mum’s surname, and I just looked at her name once, and I was like, “Ugh, that’s not how I’ve been spelling it.”

TM: I’ve got no idea.

TC: I’ve got so many. My grandma told me that—I asked her once why we put our knife and fork together, and she told me it was so the glints of the cutlery would catch the waiter’s eye. I believed that for years, into adulthood. I mean, you just don’t think about those things that your grandma tells you.


5. What’s the most interesting thing you’ve ever heard about yourself that isn’t true?

TC: I heard something only a few weeks ago. I went to drama school at the Royal Central School Of Speech And Drama and I left after a year and I ended up at Royal Welsh College Of Music And Drama. I got told by somebody very recently that I didn’t know, “Oh yeah, you got kicked out, didn’t you? Aha, you got kicked out because you had a really bad drug problem.” I was like, “No. What are you talking about? That’s not true at all!” But I kind of liked—I think that’s so hilarious that people think that I got kicked out of this drama school for a drug problem. It wasn’t even remotely true.


TM: That’s what I heard.

TC: That’s what you heard, too?

TM: Yeah. Weirdest thing I’ve ever heard about myself—so many things. On my IMDB Pro, for a long time, it said that I play football. It said I was like, a football pro—I’d played football for years.


AVC: Like a line tackle?

TM: [Laughs.]

TC: You did play football, didn’t you?

TM: In grade seven. And it was, like, touch football against dads.

TC: Not football.

AVC: Like a pickup game?

TM: Yeah, exactly. But “I played football.”

AVC: That’s a good one, though—you can suss out who’s on the ball if they’re like, “Are you still playing football?”


TM: [Laughs.] “How’s the ball going?”

AVC: “How’s the ball going”?

TM: That’s what they say, right? When they’re talking to football players? “How’s the ball going? How’s the ball going?” That’s the lingo. If you were a football player, you’d understand.


AVC: Yeah, I’m not a sports reporter.

TM: You don’t understand.

AVC: It’s an inside code you use.

TM: It’s sort of an inside thing. Yeah, yeah.

6. What’s the weirdest thing you’ve ever eaten?

TM: Horse sashimi.

AVC: Horse sashimi?

TM: He made me eat it.

TC: It was good, though.

AVC: What does horse taste like?

TM: Really thick, really thickly sliced—

TC: Everyone’s tasted it; it’s in the majority of the burgers that you eat in the states.


TM: But not raw.

TC: It’s a Japanese specialty.

AVC: How thick was it?

TM: It was like a thick piece of canvas.

TC: I had it in Tokyo before and it was really thin, almost like a carpaccio. And then you have it with lots of garlic, crushed garlic.


AVC: Does it taste like beef?

TC: It’s a different taste. It’s a—

TM: It’s a horsey taste.

AVC: A horsey taste? Like how you think horse would taste?

TM: Yeah, exactly.

TC: It’s got an earthy taste to it.

AVC: And you?

TC: I was a very odd kid and I used to eat a lot of weird, weird stuff. I was very experimental with my food as a kid. I’ve eaten all sorts of stuff. The strangest thing—I was on holiday one time and we were in Greece on this tiny little island and I made friends with these local fishermen. I was like, 8, and they took a shine to me, and they went out sea urchin grabbing where they used to bring up these sea urchins, and inside a sea urchin was a mushy goo, which is the urchin. And you scoop it out and eat it. And on this one particular day I had an incredible taste for it, and I must have eaten 30, 40 sea urchins.


AVC: I wish the audio would pick up Tatiana’s face.

TM: [Retches.] Barf face.

7. What’s the first concert you went to?

TM: I think the first one I really remember was when I was 12. It was Our Lady Peace. You know them?


AVC: Oh yeah.

TM: Canadian band.

TC: I don’t know who it is.

AVC: They had a brief hit in America.

TM: They had “Superman’s Dead.” I was obsessed. Like, obsessed. And I went to the concert with my uncle who worked for Sony at the time, and he took me backstage and I got to meet Raine Maida and my 12-year-old heart exploded. I peaked there.


TC: I can’t—I’m not sure. I grew up with hippie parents, so we were often going to folk music festivals.

AVC: So it was probably some folk music festival.

TC: Definitely some folk music festival. And I used to—I started DJing when I was 12, so I used to go to clubs and follow DJs and was DJing at these huge clubs as, like, a 14, 15-year-old.


AVC: Was that a rebellion against the folk music festivals?

TC: Definitely. God, it’s so black and white. But I never thought of it like that. I think the first big concert I went to that wasn’t a DJ or folk music was Madonna.


TM: Really?

AVC: That’s an awesome first concert.

TM: Yeah.

TC: I went to go see Madonna in Earl’s Court when I was like 16. It was great. And then, in college, I was so poor—that is what you do when you’re in college, especially in drama school.


AVC: Be poor?

TC: Yeah. Be bloody poor. Me and my friend—I went to college in Cardiff and Madonna hired out a stadium in Cardiff to rehearse her concert for two weeks. And we said that we were costume people. We got a job working for Madonna and ended up steaming and ironing her pants.


TM: Her underwear.

TC: Her underwear and her trousers and costumes, for two weeks. And ended up backstage, like, pressing and, like, sending her out on stage. I applied for a first gig and ended up doing that. Quite odd. I don’t know why I told that story.


AVC: It’s a good one, that’s why.

TM: [Laughs.] Madonna’s underwear.

AVC: I don’t know why you’d keep that to yourself.

TC: My friend, he had a big stack of clothes, and he was rushing around, like—it was total chaos, because we had to deliver them or whatever. He bumps into this person and says, “Oh, sorry,” and it was Madonna being filmed. And she went, “Oh, don’t worry about it.” And by the time he got to the room where we were delivering the clothes, he opened the door and someone’s like, “You have to leave, you’ve been fired.” Immediately.


AVC: The lesson is: You don’t bump into Madonna.

TM: No.

TC: I’m sure she didn’t care, but somebody else around her did.

AVC: You don’t bump into Madonna within eyesight of Madonna’s manager.

TC: Exactly.

8. What’s the most interesting opportunity that you’ve gotten through your work?

TC: Working with Tatiana.

AVC: Aw.

TC: To me, that was the best opportunity I’ve ever had.

TM: Yeah, it was really wild.

TC: Sharing that experience as a couple.

AVC: And now she says something totally different?

TM: [Laughs.]

TC: I would not blink an eye.

TM: No, but that was the most special—I’d never worked with a partner before, with somebody I knew that well, to get to do something so intimate for 16 days where we’re playing people who aren’t us, but allowing for all of our knowledge of each other to play out and to be there… yeah, it was really, really special.


TC: The nature of the job—I feel so lucky, I’ve only been doing this for a handful of years, and I’ve traveled the world and I’ve met amazing people. I mean, everything this job has led me to, I’m so grateful. It’s very lovely.

AVC: That was a very sweet, serious answer in the middle of—

TM: In the middle of horse sashimi.

9. What embarrassing phase did you go through?

TC: Lots.

TM: Every single one of them. I was a skater for a while.

AVC: You were a skateboarder?

TM: I carried around a skateboard and I dressed like a little skateboarding boy. With a little chef’s hat—I don’t know why I wore a chef’s hat, but that was my phase. I went through a horrid poser phase.


AVC: So you were bad at skating?

TM: I’d, like, sit on it and then ride down the driveway. On my butt. That was about the extent of it.


TC: I was into garage, which is a certain kind of U.K. two-step music. That came complete with shaving bits of my eyebrows, a really nice goatee and silver chains.

TM: Wow, yeah.

TC: I, like, shaved bits into my sides. I was a little rude boy.

AVC: Is there a picture of this on the internet?

TC: Fingers crossed not. I really hope not.

10. Have you ever stolen anything? And, if so, what?

TM: No. No.

AVC: Not even when you were a kid?

TM: Like, no. No, that would have been—I was raised Catholic. God would have smote me.


AVC: The mental anxiety would’ve been too much?

TM: He would strike me down, yeah. My guilt complex is so major. I don’t think I could have stolen five-cent candy. Couldn’t do it. Too much guilt. You’ve for sure stolen many things.


TC: I used to have a friend who was a kleptomaniac. That was always an interesting experience, going into town with them to go shopping. Yeah, I think I’ve stolen some fun stuff. I’m trying to think of the biggest, coolest thing I’ve stolen. I stole a car once. Me and my cousin used to—

TM: What?

TC: He actually went to—I shouldn’t probably say this. He went to jail for joyriding, yeah. But we stole a few cars, yeah.


AVC: How long would you have them?

TC: Oh, you know. You drive it for a few hours, just driving around.

TM: People stole cars out of our driveway.

TC: I’m sorry.

TM: That’s not a nice thing to do.

TC: I liked it. Oh, I know it’s not a nice thing to do.

TM: That’s a horrible thing.

TC: When you’re 15 and you grow up in the countryside and you’re very gullible and you’re very bored—we didn’t have improvisation groups where I grew up. Nothing to keep me—


TM: Occupied.

TC: I’m sorry, I’m not proud of it.

10. Who’s the most famous person you ever met?

TM: Amy Poehler.

TC: I played football with the class of ’92, my soccer idols growing up were Manchester United and I actually played a game with them, and they were vicious. The 10-year-old in me is still crying his eyes out.


AVC: And Tatiana was like, “Let me tell you a little something about football.”

TM: You’re using the wrong word, first off.

Bonus question from David Crosby: What’s the best book you’ve read this year?

TM: Oh, what did I read this year?

TC: Best book I read this year is called Grief Is A Thing with Feathers. I highly recommend it. It’s very well reviewed. I haven’t lost anyone close to me, but it’s a really bittersweet, very funny, really well-observed look at grief.


TM: I read Fun Home by Alison Bechdel, which is amazing, I loved it. I want to see the musical. It’s such a cool story.

AVC: All right, you guys get to pick a question for the next person.

TC: What about: If you could run a bath with anything, what bath would it be?

TM: A bath?

TC: Like a bath of spaghetti or something.

TM: Oh, right. If you could fill a bathtub full of anything and sit in it, what would it be?


AVC: And they’re not allowed to say water, right?

TM: Yeah, no water.

TC: You can say water if you’re boring.

TM: The most boring—

TC: It could be Champagne or spaghetti—or slime! I always wanted to know—

TM: Jell-O.

TM: Or coins like Scrooge McDuck.

AVC: I always wanted to do that as a kid.

TM: It would hurt, though. You’d get hurt so bad. And the smell of the money would be so overpowering. You know that smell of coins?


AVC: You’re right. Scrooge McDuck’s money room must smell deplorable.

TM: He was so full of bacteria, not only being a duck and not wearing pants but also being around coins.


AVC: A troubling message for young children.

TM: I fucking hate that show.