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NEBRASKA

Mommy Dearest - June Squibb
"Keith White. He wanted in my pants, too, but was so boring. See what you could have had, Keith, if you hadn't talked about wheat all the time?" -- Kate Grant

"Nebraska" might be a father-son story, but it is a woman who instigates some of the most remarkable moments -- as June Squibb takes on Kate Grant's razor tongue, wicked sense of humor and impenetrable strength as a wife and mother devoted to her family through thick and thin.

Previously, the Illinois native who made her debut in Woody Allen's "Alice," played Jack Nicholson's wife in Payne's "About Schmidt," but this was an entirely different type of role. Yet Squibb says she had a handle on it from her first videotaped audition. "I don't know if it was a shock or a surprise to Alexander, but I knew who this woman was and I think he got that from the tape I made," she says. "She doesn't just say these things, she means them. There's no pretention at all about her."

Squibb found great joy in Kate's unapologetic bluntness. "There's no filter with her," she muses. "Words come out of her mouth as she's thinking them. She has very definite ideas about who she is and who her husband is and who her sons are, and that is just who she is. But I love her dearly. She's funny, yet she also protects the family and she's quite a formidable person."

Kate is also more than she might appear, especially to her son David, who discovers a whole unsettlingly lusty side of his mother's youth in Nebraska in the course of his trip. Revealing that part of the character was key to Squibb's multi-layered performance.

"Kate and Woody went to a small-town high school, where she was probably a pretty sexy young woman," comments Squibb. "I kept thinking of the wiles she must have used to get Woody, and I'm sure sex was part of it. Of course she was also Catholic, but she used her wiles to say 'no more hanky-panky until I get a ring,' and in her mind, all the boys wanted her. It's the way she sees herself."

On the set, that portrait of a woman who tells it like it is, no matter how inappropriate, became honed in Squibb's close collaboration with Payne. "He and I have a relationship that is like dancing, because he let me move in a way that seemed right to who this woman is - and then he started tweaking that and giving me ideas to incorporate. I remember him doing this same thing with me in 'Schmidt,' but this time there was much more. We were working like that constantly and it was very exciting."

The results excited the entire team. "June dove into the center of this feisty, irrepressible, uncensored mother who is full of desire and fiery opinions and she was something," concludes Yerxa.

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