Thurman talks to ET about nailing the author and entrepreneur's distinct accent and working with Joseph Gordon-Levitt.
Super Pumped: The Battle for Uber features a number of portrayals of Silicon Valley and tech’s top players in the series’ retelling of the creation of Uber, one of the most successful and most disruptive startups, as well as the rise and fall of its notorious CEO Travis Kalanick. While Joseph Gordon-Levitt leads the ensemble as Kalanick with Jon Bass as Uber co-founder Garrett Camp and Kyle Chandler as venture capitalist Bill Gurley, Uma Thurman stands out with a fiery portrayal of Arianna Huffington.
Ahead of Thurman’s debut in episode 4, “Boober,” airing Sunday, March 20, the actress opened up to ET’s Lauren Zima about transforming into the author and entrepreneur behind The Huffington Post who later joined Uber’s board of directors in a shrewd power play. “She plays a decisive role in this business thriller,” she says of the series adapted from Mike Isaac’s book of the same name by creators Brian Koppelman and David Levien, the duo behind Showtime’s Billions.
Even though the series is about Uber and not so much Huffington’s life and career, that didn’t stop Thurman from diving deep into her real-life counterpart’s background, “to sort of see through her eyes as much as possible,” the actress says, revealing that she’s previously met the author a number of times. “I admire her.”
“It was kind of amazing to me that she was in those rooms,” Thurman adds of Huffington, noting her “incredibly diverse background from politics to journalism.” A Greek immigrant, she went on to co-found the news aggregation site before starting the wellness brand Thrive Global. In addition to co-authoring 15 books, she also sits on the boards for Onex and Global Citizen.
Now, Huffington has “become a power broker in these completely diverse industries,” the actress says.
In order to bring Huffington to life here, Thurman is the latest star to undergo a significant transformation onscreen. In addition to wigs and makeup that mimics the author’s iconic look (“I went fully for her hairdo,” Thurman says), the actress worked extensively with renowned dialect coach Tim Monich to recreate her Greek accent. “At first I thought it was going to be impossible,” she says of trying to figure out how to capture Huffington’s “essence,” “the bigness of her sound” and still “play her as a person.”
Thurman adds, “I just walked the line between the persona and the woman.”
But for all her hard work, the actress credits the writers for creating a character for her to play. “It has to start with the writing,” she says. “Her sort of gummy use of language and her wit and her twisting of metaphors and scoring points, it has to be there on the page… and I think they did a good job of that.”
Meanwhile, when it comes to working with Gordon-Levitt, Thurman has nothing but good things to say. “He is the best. He’s such a great actor and he’s such a sweetie,” she gushes. “Working with him was by far the highlight of my year.”
When asked about her performance, Gordon-Levitt says, “She just knocked it out of the park.”
“She drove deep into this character of Arianna Huffington. She nailed her voice, she nailed her vocabulary, she nailed all her history,” the actor continues. “She would tell us all about this woman in a truly admiring way. I mean, she truly did an honor to someone who is an incredible, accomplished figure in our entire world. And I would watch an entire series of Uma as Arianna.”
While Super Pumped has been renewed for season 2, its focus will be on Facebook and once again adapted from one of Isaac’s books. But Gordon-Levitt is into focusing on the Huffington Post in another season. “Not a bad idea. I’m just saying, I’m just saying,” he muses.
Chandler agrees with Gordon-Levitt. “I thought it was brave of her to take on that accent and I thought she did it wonderfully,” he says. “She is very strong and she is very playful, at least in our case, with slipping the dagger in and then slowly turning it before extraction. So, it made it a lot of fun.”
Despite all the praise from her co-stars, Thurman admits she hasn’t seen her performance outside of a brief teaser. “I try to stay in the moment and do what feels right and not worry too much about how it’s going to come out,” she says, noting that if she did, “I would have vertigo and become frozen.”
However, Thurman, who lights up the screen here, notes that “it’s not a shy performance.”
Super Pumped: The Battle for Uber airs Sundays at 10 p.m. ET/PT on Showtime.