Spoilers for The Undoing episode 5, “Trial by Fury,” ahead.
Admit it: You gasped at the end of last Sunday’s The Undoing.
The HBO murder mystery, written by David E. Kelley and directed by Susanne Bier, built a pyre of tortuous, sometimes questionable twists over five episodes, then tossed a lit match during the final moments of its penultimate installment. Grace Fraser (Nicole Kidman), still puzzling over her inscrutable husband Jonathan’s (Hugh Grant) involvement in the brutal killing of his lover (Matilda De Angelis), finds the missing murder weapon in her son Henry’s (Noah Jupe) violin case.
“In murder mysteries, you always rule out the kid—because of innocence, because of the fact that they’re a child,” Jupe tells me over Zoom. “It’s one of the reasons I took the job, being part of that twist and right in the center of it. I loved exploring the fact that maybe Henry wasn’t innocent, maybe [he was] on the dark side, maybe he had his own secrets.”
Henry is a just another notable entry in Jupe’s already outstanding resume—at 15, the Brit is easily one of Hollywood’s most in-demand child actors, with pivotal roles in A Quiet Place, Ford v. Ferrari, and last year’s star-making Honey Boy. In fact, despite the tension of being central to a murder mystery, The Undoing is probably one of the actor’s less stressful roles to date: “There were some nice and easy scenes at the start,” he admits. “But it did get pretty deep pretty quickly, I do have to say.”
Along with shielding his character’s burden of guilt, Jupe more than holds his own alongside co-stars Kidman and Grant. Perhaps it’s because his seven-year-old brother keeps him down to earth? “He was like, ‘What are you choosing now Noah?’ And I said, ‘I’m shooting this thing where both the Paddington villains are playing my parents,'” Jupe laughs. “He was like ‘Oh. How does that work?'”
Ahead, Jupe talks untangling Henry’s motivations, creating the “unconditional love” of a family unit, and the shock you’re not expecting from tomorrow’s finale.
When you did your initial read through of the scripts, did you have any idea of where it was going? Did you think, Henry could be involved?
Oh, I wanted to be the murderer. I was like, “I’m the murderer for this reason, this reason, this reason.” But everyone was like that around the table [read]. Hugh was like, “I did it.” Nicole was like, “I did it.” Everyone was gambling over who did it. It was such a lively table on the day we read through the last episode. Everyone was so excited. You never get that in a read-through with the episodes. I’ve been a part of lots of movie read-throughs and you read it through in one go, but these were on separate days, and then it all led up to this final episode. It was almost as if we were watching it at the table.
Give me the general vibe in the room as you read through the finale.
It’s a journey of itself. It’s like a normal finale in the sense that it brings everything together—and then takes that on a journey. It’s like a movie. It’s that last episode that has its own arc. It’d work as a movie. And it was silent. It was very silent throughout that whole episode 6 [read] until the end. It definitely delivers.
How do you think people are going to react to the finale?
I think it’s going to be extremely satisfying to a lot of people. No one’s going to expect what happens. People might have predicted the outcomes, but the outcomes are given and then taken on a whole journey. No one it is expecting that. People might have predicted who it was, maybe, but no one’s expecting the journey you’re going to go through in the sixth episode.
I know Susanne has a very particular method. She makes you rehearse first thing every day, right?
She’s very fluid. There are lots of conversation involved. We get in in the morning and talk about the scenes, and then if we want to experiment, we experiment. And if Susanne wants to show us something, she shows us something. It felt like you were on the same level. It wasn’t a structure, just a free flow of ideas. And then by the end of that, everyone coms to the conclusion of how they wanted the scene to go. But it still wasn’t even strict, “That’s how the scene is going to be.” There was improvisation in the scenes, lots of experimenting, and I really got to give it to Susanne for creating that vibe on set and it being an efficient way of doing it, because that could get out of control.
What did rehearsal look like before you shot the final scene of episode 5?
Because we were in my bedroom, we had a whole day of that, and there’s a few scenes of my bedroom. I think we had the one with Donald and me at the violin, and then a couple of moments between me and my mom that were really deep and allowed us to create this bond between us as characters. What was fun was absolutely destroying that bond at the end of the day with this last scene. We’ve built up this trust throughout the day, and then this last scene was the realization that nothing is as it seems, that the truth is not necessarily the truth. It was really fun to play that and really fun, as two actors, to have that journey throughout the day.
Throughout the course of the series, are you dropping hints for this bombshell? Or are you trying to play it as straight as possible?
Knowing my end, the journey as a whole, was good because I knew the truth of my character. And I had never really played a character before that you didn’t know everything about, that was hiding. That was really interesting in playing the scenes, knowing that there was this physical hammer attached to me constantly. And I reckon if you went back and watched the scenes, there are moments when my mom will say something and it’s like, “Do I tell her? Do I not?” Or she’ll say, “What about the murder weapon?” And then there’s a reaction from me.
I loved the scene with Henry and Jonathan walking through the park at the beginning of the pilot. It feels like a very real snapshot into a father/son relationship. How did you build that rapport with Hugh?
It was one of the first scenes we shot, and it was really cold. Terrible weather, but kind of beautiful. Central Park in the winter is stunning. The beauty of it, and the cold, me and Hugh sat next to each other in big coats shivering throughout the scene. That element broke the ice, excuse the pun. Me and Hugh got on quite well. We have a very similar sort of humor. From the read-through, getting to know him, making him laugh, him making me laugh, kind of built that relationship. And this scene, he’s really funny and it is such a nice, rhythmic scene between a father and a son. It just kind of came. We talked loads about it, but then when we actually started doing it, it all came together and felt instantly great. It came naturally.
And then you contrast it with Henry visiting him in prison. Were you conscious of the parallels there?
That scene was really interesting, because seeing your dad and not being able to touch him was a huge thing. Knowing that he’s been put in there for a reason, not knowing if that reason is true or not, but still knowing he’s done something wrong to get himself in there—the trust between them is broken.
But honestly, within a family, there’s only unconditional love. It doesn’t stop as soon as someone does something. It’s not like a boyfriend and girlfriend, when someone cheats, it just goes [away]. There is that love that will always be there no matter what happens. So exploring that and exploring the fact that he can’t not care for his dad—he has to care for his dad and he wants him back, because ultimately he spent his whole life with this person as his father figure. For that anchor to go, in a moment of Henry’s life that’s so dramatically changing all of the time, is terrible for him. So he wants it back, and [that scene is] almost exploring the lengths he will go to believe certain things just so he can get his family back together.
I could not fathom why Henry would eat up all this TV coverage. I think I would try to avoid replaying the worst moment of my life. Why was Henry doing this?
There’s no answers around him—in terms of his parents, in terms of his grandfather. The only place there’s almost answers is the news. And Henry almost got into this mental state that he thinks that, at some point, something’s going to come out that resolves all of this. He needs to be [on his phone] so can run back to his dad and say, “It’s fine. It’s fine. We’re all going to get back together.” He’s constantly waiting for that moment, for that breaking news moment, when they say, “It wasn’t him, it was actually this person,” and everything can go back to normal. I’m sure he hates watching it. He absolutely hates seeing it all. But he has to.
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