Readers of Our Orbit know that the topic of foster care plays a major role in the plot and the lives of all the characters. To honor everyone who helped me learn and write about this system of neighborly care, I will be posting on this topic for the next several weeks.
We start on a light note, with this addition to the series OMG – It’s CELEBRITIES! Rick and Deanne Fletcher, the young couple who become foster mom and dad to 9-year-old Miriam Winslow after her father’s arrest —
Rick & Deanne: “Ideal foster parents”
As you may know, Our Orbit features a number of meaty roles that actors are sure to enjoy: an alcoholic 14-year-old, closeted aunts and uncles, men whose masculinity is dangerously entangled with religious devotion and resistance to authority. So at first glance, the parts of Rick and Deanne Fletcher may not seem like the best in the book.
Born and raised in small-town Ohio, Rick and Deanne meet at the local liberal arts college. They get married as soon as he graduates and finds work teaching chemistry at a rural high school. Deanne teaches kindergarten, then works as a substitute when the babies begin to arrive. Rick’s family boasts a small claim to urban sophistication, coming from the regional hub of Cincinnati, while Deanne grew up on a farm that her family has proudly held for over a century.
By their mid-20s, the couple has a mortgage and two children. Already eager for a third baby, they decide to look into foster care as a way to grow their family while limiting the financial strain. (Maybe not the best reason to do a good thing? You be the judge.) In short, Rick and Deanne are both traditionalists with slightly left-of-center political views. Oh—! and Rick has now been promoted to Assistant Principal of the high school, so he is an official member of the local establishment.
Not necessarily the sexiest roles, these are, nonetheless, central characters that in movie parlance (Watch me pretend I speak it!) must be considered the male and female leads. I need consummate talent to render their authenticity without letting too many hints of stuffiness, much less irony, slip in.
My first thought was the brilliant German-Irish actor Michael Fassbender as Rick, and undisputed genius Jessica Chastain as Deanne. Both come laden with enough awards and nominations to daunt a stout mule.
Since his bone-chilling portrayals of a diehard Confederate racist in Twelve Years a Slave and an amoral lawyer casually consorting with drug kingpins in The Counselor, no one could doubt that Fassbender has talent to burn. His action and fantasy experience attest to range, while Shakespearean roles demonstrate the respect he has earned.
Quite aside from her austere, award-winning role in Zero Dark Thirty, Chastain has shown that she can breathe convincing nuance into maternal roles in Tree of Life and The Color of Time. Even her portrayal of the ditsy Celia Foote in The Help redounds to Deanne’s credit—both are country girls who confront the often constricting demands of rural society. (As a recovering Russian Studies instructor, I’m especially thrilled that Chastain appeared in a festival production of Chekhov’s The Cherry Orchard—more small-town chops.)
Any idea how I can get these folks to show up for a casting call?
Actually, although Fassbender and Chastain are clearly big-screen magic, maybe I don’t need quite so much star power. Actors a bit less blinding with renown could find a way to shine in these modest-seeming roles.
So then, like a real-life Casting Director, I browsed some headshots and experienced an epiphany when I saw Matthew Morrison posing by an institutional-looking brick wall! Who knows more about playing a high school teacher confronted with mega-challenges than the star of the hit TV show Glee?
True, Mr. Schuester slips in and out of conventional character with ease amid Glee’s meta commentaries and fantastical elements. Not much of that in OO, I’m afraid. But with several awards to his credit, there’s no question that Morrison possesses the skill to head up a dramatic cast, hands tied behind his back. (Which we might need to do: Sorry, Matt—no singing or dancing.)
And as Deanne? How about the irresistible Michelle Williams?
She did motherhood in her multiple award-winning role in Blue Valentine (though, admittedly, that is a tortured and hence perhaps less challenging take on maternity than the unruffled Deanne Fletcher). And as Norma Jean turned Marilyn Monroe, Michelle embodies the sweetheart next-door with endearing ease.
So hey, kids— It’s a definite maybe! I’ll call you as soon as the funding comes together. And even though we now take a pause on the CELEBRITY trail, a few biggies remain to come, later this summer: patriarch Levi Winslow, his wife Emaline, and sister-in-law Aunt Melanie.
Thanks for joining my fantasy. I’ve had good fun. And I think it’s proof that I can dream—can’t I?