Renée Zellweger has left her mark in notable Hollywood movies. Her acting chops have ticketed her in memorable roles over the years. Now, Zellweger is seen back on television with Netflix’s What/If. The thriller is Zellweger’s return to TV since appearing on King of the Hill in 2001.
Created by Mike Kelley, What/If is a moral venture into a single, unacceptable decision that leads to a ripple of effects and consequences. Each season tackles a different narrative, but with the same idea of decision-making.
For Zellweger, this is a role that pushes the actor to new heights. Many of her characters are usually sympathetic and vulnerable. In What/If, Zellweger plays Anne Montgomery, a venture capitalist in San Francisco. With a mysterious past, Montgomery’s specialty is in manipulating behavior and threatening people.
Zellweger’s inspiration for the role was Mrs. Robinson from The Graduate.
“Mrs. Robinson was a really, really, pretty telling prototype,” Zellweger said. “So, we went from there and of course he had suggested, well, we’ll subvert the trajectory of that character. Let’s just say you take all that power and self-loathing and instead of channeling it into alcoholism. What if she did something proactive? What if, say, she builds an empire?”
Her openness to any character she plays is Zellweger’s biggest tool for developing Anne Montgomery.
“It’s only on when it serves her. Warmth is a tool. And she’s very contained and calculated, meticulously to how she presents herself,” she said. “It’s funny to consider that she’s so completely contained and tightly wound because [it’s] a part of her or a necessity for perfection. It was pretty clear to me who she is through my conversations with Mike and who’s he wanting her to be. Her sense of entitlement is extraordinary. Her ambition and that everything is a tool including her sexuality, which she leads with unapologetically so uses to manipulate. So those things were necessary to tap into. And what does that look like? Well she takes up a lot of room but at the same time she has to be groomed.”
Kelley’s intentions for the show come from a real place, but with a twist.
“The tone of this was meant to be heightened, and fun, and it exists in our world, but there’s something just a little bit off of it because it is a morality play, and that’s as intended,” he said.
Kelly’s format for season one – and the following seasons – is described as a 10-hour film. “Each season of What/If for me is going to follow that path,” he said. “It’s very liberating and really exciting. I was glad I got that chance on Revenge to discover how I really want to tell stories. Netflix gave me the opportunity to do it.”
What/If dropped all 10 episodes on May 24 on Netflix.