Oscar nominee Maggie Gyllenhaal has directed her fair share of films — in character as Eileen “Candy” Merrell, a sex worker turned pornographic movie-maker on HBO’s period series The Deuce, of course. Currently prepping for her first undertaking as a feature filmmaker in real life, however, Gyllenhaal tells EW she can feel Candy’s influence guiding her hand on the upcoming project.

“I don’t know that I would actually have taken the step and be directing if it weren’t for having played Candy,” Gyllenhaal told EW of working on The Lost Daughterher planned adaptation of Elena Ferrante’s 2006 novel of the same name — at the 2018 SCAD Savannah Film Festival. “The making of Candy has totally inspired me. One of the things I realized as I was playing her, there’d sometimes be scenes where Candy would be kind of tough to her actors and I never played it like that. I was always like, ‘No, you can’t be mean to your actors! Actors only do well when you love them!'”

Gyllenhaal goes on to recount a particular moment that cemented that sentiment while she filmed the performance that would culminate in her first Academy Award nod.

“I think about Scott Cooper on Crazy Heart. One day, [he came] up to me to give me a note. He was like, ‘I love you!’ That was all he said! And I was like, ‘Great! Now I’m ready to go!’ the 40-year-old actress (currently starring in Netflix’s The Kindergarten Teacher) remembers. “And Candy is the same. She’s never mean to her actors. Even in season 2 she [works with] this jerk, this guy who gives her such a hard time… she tries so hard to understand him and to be kind. I mean, she’s done it. She’s been naked… she knows what it’s like, just like me. I’ve done it. So I know I will be kind.”

The SCAD Savannah Film Festival continues through Nov. 3. Head here for more of EW’s coverage from the event.

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