'Homecoming' will see Julia Roberts' genius bring intrigue into 'the mundanity'

Julia Roberts, one of the biggest Hollywood darlings is setting foot into the world of TV, much like her fellow A-listers with the Amazon Prime show 'Homecoming'


                            'Homecoming' will see Julia Roberts' genius bring intrigue into 'the mundanity'

It is no grandiose moment in Amazon Prime’s 'Homecoming' that will tell you that you do not recognize this version of Julia Roberts – a sickly looking, mentally disturbed counselor who lacks the easy charm of Kiki Harrison or Anna Scott. This is because, much like her contemporary Hollywood A-listers, she is shedding – or at least temporarily hanging up – the movie actress coat to put on a thicker, meatier coat of television.    

Gone are the days where TV stars are seen as less than, or as Amy Poehler coined it at her 2013 'Golden Globes' hosting gig – "rat-faced". All Hollywood stars are clamoring for the right project to truly show off their acting chops, dig deeper into their characters and make full use of the fact that they are alive and active during the golden age of television.

Much like her fellow-Hollywood actresses, Roberts too is making a deliberate and explicit shift into television, recognizing everything that it has to offer. Being a producer on the show gives her the added advantage of being in charge of the choices she makes as an actress and that her character makes within the realms of the story. We would not be surprised to see an Emmy and Golden Globes nomination come next award season.  

Julia Roberts and 'Homecoming' creator Sam Esmail behind the scenes (Hilary B Gayle/SMPSP)
Julia Roberts and 'Homecoming' creator Sam Esmail behind the scenes (Hilary B Gayle/SMPSP)

She is helming a project she is passionate about, embracing the opportunity to get into the skin of the character and explore what it means to be a waitress in a crummy diner trying to piece together the puzzle pieces of a forgotten life. Never before have we seen Roberts bring so much life into a character, who is inherently boring and not really someone you pro-actively root for.  

She lives this character without any façade, even that of make-up, we get to see warts and all. The only time she tries to actually 'look pretty', she wipes it off before anyone gets a chance to see her. This scene cements Roberts and her character Heidi’s intentions to be true to themselves throughout the show.  

As we discussed in the review of the show, while she is in the center of the story, she is not the sole protagonist through whom we see the tale unfold. Her role stands-out only because of performance and that, we think, is what this new era of Roberts will be all about – unforgettable performances based on stories that inspire her.  

The show's co-writer Micah Bloomberg, who was also the co-creator of the eponymous podcast that 'Homecoming' is based on tells Meaww that Roberts, who was a huge fan of the podcast "really connected to the character and wanted to bring her to life. She came to us." It is evident from her performance that Roberts understands who Heidi is and what drives her.

Stephan James as Walter Cruz and Julia Roberts as Heidi Bergman in 'Homecoming' (Picture credit: Jessica Brooks)
Stephan James as Walter Cruz and Julia Roberts as Heidi Bergman in 'Homecoming' (Picture credit: Jessica Brooks)

The subtle changes within her while portraying Heidi in her different habitats is what adds layers to her character. The fun-filled and joyous Heidi seems to cover while interacting with her boss Colin, portrayed fittingly as a douchebag by Bobby Cannavale. It is her seeming cowardice that makes her too difficult to root for because it is uncomfortable and too familiar to most of us.  

"When Heidi is talking with her boss and the audience is thinking 'he is such a jerk when are you going to stand up to him? Is this going to work out? Is he going to make you do this or are you going to find a way to protect yourself and protect the people around you from what is going on?'" Bloomberg relates his narrative of Heidi. "I just really related to Heidi a lot and I thought about a lot of other times in my life where I kept my thoughts to myself and sort of allowed something to go on when there was something bothering me and I wanted to speak up. I think it's the mundanity, the boring nature of those interactions that are set against this elaborate, strange and spooky backdrop."

However, only an actress of Roberts’ caliber could be expected to make us intrigued in, as Bloomberg puts it, "the mundanity". As equally talented co-star Shea Whigham puts it, "She is smart and this is not a piece of material you can fake. When you have six to seven pages of intensive dialogue you got to bring it, and comes in and brings it and she is also wearing a produceorial hat as well. She is incredible."