By Joey Nolfi
October 29, 2018 at 02:33 PM EDT
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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 Daughter — her 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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