Andrew Garfield becomes existential

Photo: ALANA PATERSON/The New York Times/Redux

We’re experiencing something of a Garfieldaissance right now: Andrew Garfield has starred in four projects released since 2020, not to mention a surprise cameo in Spiderman: No way home that caused heart palpitations in theaters everywhere; his last was his role as Mormon police officer Jeb Pyre in the new FX series Under the banner of heaven, based on the true crime book of the same name. Although the 38-year-old does not use social networks, Twitter is full of fan cams and stan accounts reminiscent of the many Tumblr blogs dedicated to him in the early 2010s.

Part of Garfield’s appeal, beyond his face, is that he seems completely in touch with himself and his feelings, and it all comes through in his work and all of their interactions. With all the heart and fortitude that he puts into his work, it makes sense that he decided take a break later Under the banner of heaven.

With each project, Garfield ultimately searches for the molten core of how to be human. Jeb, the fictional devout Mormon and principled detective he plays Under the banner of heaven, is forced to doubt all the answers he thought he knew to that question when he begins to investigate the very real 1984 murder of 24-year-old Brenda Lafferty and her young daughter, Erica, a murder he soon discovers is deeply linked to yours. religion. “Ultimately,” Garfield tells The Cut, “we can never know more than one percent of what it’s like to be a person while we’re conscious.”

Looking at Under the banner of heaven not long after i saw Tammy Faye’s eyes got me thinking: there seems to be a cross line in your career of projects addressing institutional corruption, as soon as The social network. Is there something that attracts you to these types of projects?

For this particular project, I loved the book when it first came out. I think I was drawn to it because I was fascinated with the way that human beings, and in this case these two men, can get to the point and be enabled to the point where they can commit heinous evil acts in the name of God, in the name of God. name of love, in the name of justice.

Every institution is made by humans, so there will be cracks and human flaws in every institution. It is fascinating to me to see how human beings can be corrupted by their own ego, power, primal and adolescent drives. How can we understand, integrate and appropriate that in a way that we learn from it? Right now we are in a moment where the culture is in a lot of fear, a lot of uncertainty, a lot of pain, a lot of disengagement, a lot of dislocation and dissociation from the fruits of life and of life, that is, for multiple reasons. I think in those times, and we’re seeing it all the time, people are attracted to extremism and fundamentalism. We are much more susceptible to that kind of strongman manipulation, or to the simplified version of life, a much narrower, black and white version of life. It is dangerous. How do we stay open and present to the massive experience of reality that does not move away from certainty and closer to faith?

All those things interest me, but above all it is about how to live. I’m curious about how human beings organize themselves: how do we create meaning as we live? Religion and spirituality are the quickest way to do a study on how we do that and where we went wrong and where we got it right. Hopefully every project I do is kind of an attempt to get to a pole star of meaning and how we make lives of true vitality.

Another big theme I saw on the show was the value of community, but it’s also a warning about the dangers of tribalism and how easy it is to go from community to worship. Did it affect the way you think about community in your own life or in general?

Definitely. I have it so hard because it’s all we all want. We want to belong to something bigger than ourselves, to feel warm and comforted. As we live, we want to feel supported, we want to feel contained. For me, I remember being in the most difficult moments of my life and knowing that there was a tribe of people who supported me and cared for me and loved me. That was what made me feel like I wasn’t going to be falling through the universe, unattached.

We can be so tempted to sacrifice our own truth, to sacrifice our own knowledge, for the sake of belonging, being accepted, being loved, being safe and protected and fed and clothed, all of those things. Absolutely, there is a tension there to be very aware of. For Jeb Pyre, what is happening is How do I hold on to this foundation of my life: my faith, my religion, my family, my community, my children, the internal structure of how my psyche is organized? I don’t want to have a nervous breakdown, I prefer to keep cheating and lying to myself instead of having to face the truth about how limited I’ve seen the world so far..

That relates to how you see and relate to your fellow Native American. At the beginning of the journey, there is a sense of superiority that she subconsciously feels, that she would never admit until the end: she realizes that she has discarded any other form of faith. There is the only true church in her mind that has now been decimated. As he sheds light on it, he sees that he has been living in an illusion and that, in reality, his partner may have answers about how to live that he is now desperate to know. It is a beautiful journey. It is an expansion of the psyche, it is a kind of breaking of the heart. And it is painful, but it is the only way to live a life of truth and meaning: to be open for life and to let go of what we think we know. Because, ultimately, we can never know more than one percent of what it is to be a person while we are conscious.

Although your character, Jeb, is not a real person, you are portraying real life events. Is there a difference in how you prepare for roles like that?

I talked to certain people who have had the same experience that Jeb has had: detectives who are in certain organized religions, who had major crises of their faith because of the cases they were on and how it related to their faith and how these acts were horrible deeds in the name of their God. It was definitely humbling and allowed me to treat Jeb like a real person.

I thought you spoke so beautifully in Stephen Colbert about grief and how art helps to sew up our wounds. With this show, it’s a very heavy thing, even as a viewer, I came out of every episode with the need to decompress. So much of what your character and other characters experience is so painful, so traumatic. Having to carry those heavy emotions, how do you process that?

The only way to heal the wound is to get into the wound and actually heal from the base of that wound, instead of putting a Band-Aid on it. One of the themes, and one of the things in this story, is that my character is surrounded by his church superiors and his police superiors, saying, “Put it on the shelf, put a Band-Aid on it, and move on. ” The culture tells us that all the time, like, “Don’t feel your feelings too deep. Get over it quick. Always up and up.” There are not many real calculations. Until we fully acknowledge the hurts of the past, we cannot heal in the present. That is on the personal level, and that is on the universal collective level.

Jeb knows that if he’s going to do his job right, he has to reckon with the deep wounds of the past to understand how this happened and make sure it doesn’t happen again in his neighborhood, under his watch. He would like nothing more than to put a Band-Aid on it and move on. But as more information is revealed to him, he realizes, Can’t. I have to keep digging into this scab to fully honor Brenda and Erica Lafferty, these two innocent people who were so horribly murdered. I’m doing them a disservice unless I dig deeper. It’s a really important road for Jeb, and it’s a road we don’t go down often. So yeah, it feels like a tribute.

Jeb is a police officer and we see a lot of this story from that particular perspective. The role of the police in our society has been much questioned and debated. Is that something you thought about when playing this role?

Of course. When you think of police officers, the power that a police officer has is a duty and a very heavy burden. When someone who is intrigued with power is given that position of power, it is obviously incredibly dangerous and incredibly irresponsible. Maybe if you want that kind of power, you should automatically be disqualified from that role. I think the same for the presidency: anyone who wants to be president should not be allowed to be president. Someone who really understands what it’s like to lead a country — anyone who understands it completely and humbly — wouldn’t want to take responsibility. We have to look for the people who would run away from work.

But then you have people who are really called to protect and serve. There are people who feel genuinely called. It is up to us as individuals to discern, Am I genuinely being called, or do I have an unhealthy attraction to power because I somehow feel powerless in my life? And because of that powerlessness, am I going to act out my unresolved issues over the people I’m supposed to protect and serve? This is the psychological work that we have to do as a culture, and it is not something that encourages us very much. Once again, we are encouraged to put on a Band-Aid instead of taking a deep look at ourselves.

This interview has been edited and condensed.

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