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ISSY-LES-MOULINEAUX, France — Wiry Zoe Saldana got a kick out of wearing a huge fake belly as she played a young, pregnant wife on the Paris set of the remake of the classic horror tale “Rosemary’s Baby.”
“Every time I wear the really big ones, it breaks everybody’s heart whenever we’re doing all those stressful scenes, so I am milking that, I am really milking that,” the actress quipped as she sat in a hospital room used as a filming location.
Saldana is Rosemary Woodhouse in the two-episode remake of Ira Levin’s 1967 book, which director Roman Polanski also turned into an unforgettable 1968 film. The four-hour series directed by Agnieszka Holland also stars Patrick J. Adams, Jason Isaacs and Carole Bouquet and will air on NBC on May 11 — Mother’s Day in the U.S. — and May 15.
Saldana and Adams play an American couple who settle in Paris near posh French neighbors, Margaux and Roman Castevet (Bouquet and Isaacs). Then newly pregnant Rosemary begins to worry that the Castevets have malevolent plans for her baby.
Holland, a Polish director known for her work on HBO’s “The Wire” and “Treme,” said the plot of “Rosemary’s Baby” follows the novel, except it’s set in Paris and shows more “blood.” Fans of the original may wonder how that is possible.
“It has more adventures. It has more blood,” said Holland, a three-time Oscar nominee. “ It is, you know, a contemporary American TV series, so you need some meat inside.”
Moving the story to the French capital isolates the main characters more than the book and increases the tensions, according to Adams, a Canadian actor known for his role as Mike Ross, an up-and-coming New York lawyer in the TV series “Suits.”
“The sense of being alone in a place can be so terrifying. I think it really ends up putting Guy and Rosemary in a difficult position because they don’t know anybody,” Adams said.
Holland said the series explores the tensions between the happiness of giving birth and the sometimes-shocking psychological and physical changes that pregnancy brings about in women.
“It’s interesting to see how this acceptance (of the baby), even if it’s something very painful, is coming,” she said.
Saldana, who starred in “Avatar” and the two “Star Trek” films, said playing a pregnant woman took both a physical and emotional toll.
“The moment I put the belly on, my body just feels really tired,” she said. “I just allow myself to be sort of like an open vessel, where emotions just come in and then they go out.”
Bouquet, a French film star, praised Holland’s filming style and her relentlessness on the set.
“She does whatever she wants with the light, I must say,” Bouquet said. “I mean it’s exquisite the way she shoots, you know, and she gets exactly what she wants. She won’t give up.”
Polanski’s “Rosemary’s Baby” starred Mia Farrow and John Cassavetes and won Ruth Gordon an Oscar for best supporting actress for her role as Minnie Castevet.
Saldana said she was grateful for getting to play the same part as Farrow but added that she and Holland tried to give Rosemary their own touch.
“It is a gift to be able to play a role that another actress, a very iconic actress, played and found a very special way to make it authentic,” she said.
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