Kate Mara and Nick Robinson on what to expect from A Teacher
The FX on Hulu miniseries is adapted from from Hannah Fidell's 2013 film.
When Claire Wilson (Kate Mara) begins teaching at a new high school, her biggest worry is fitting in with her co-workers. But that quickly changes when she falls for Eric Walker (Nick Robinson), one of her 17-year-old students. Adapted from Hannah Fidell's 2013 film, A Teacher (premiering Nov. 10 on FX on Hulu) examines the complex dynamics of teacher-student relationships, and what happens when society finds out.
EW spoke with the stars about their experience making the series.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: Over the years, we've heard about many cases like this, most notably Mary Kay Letourneau. What is society's fascination with these relationships?
NICK ROBINSON: There is a definite fascination with these kinds of relationships. The Mary Kay Letourneau story is probably the most famous, but these happen all the time. I don't know what the fascination is, it's sort of dangerous and taboo and wrong.
KATE MARA: Well, it's very thought-provoking, right?
ROBINSON: Yeah, it is. "Why would this person do this?"
MARA: The thing that I was more fascinated about, why I wanted to tell the story, was for us to explore what happens to both the victim and the abuser after the headlines, and to really explore whether Claire is worthy of forgiveness.
ROBINSON: Also to explore the idea of victimhood, to really see this story play out from both sides and see how they're treated differently by the justice system, by their peers, and by the media.
What did you discover in your research for these roles?
ROBINSON: I was really surprised by how many cases there were, and how many probably go unreported.
MARA: Yeah, all you have to do is Google-search it, and it's sort of endless.
ROBINSON: And I talked to a psychologist who specializes in male sexual trauma and was actually part of a relationship similar to this one. So it was really interesting to hear him talk about it. [On the show], people hear about this relationship and a lot of people's first reaction is to give Eric like a high-five, and that was interesting to explore and unpack why it is that there's a different standard for male victims versus female victims. Eric is not immediately seen as a victim. He's not 13, he's a 17-year-old high school senior, and I think that blurs the lines even more in an interesting way.
What is it that Eric and Claire see in each other?
ROBINSON: They both see a sort of escape in each other, in different ways. Eric sees Claire, in a weird way, as his ticket to adulthood and real love and manhood. Also, things happen really fast and he doesn't have the emotional toolkit to deal with what's going on. But I think there's also the level of where he's just attracted to her and you wouldn't necessarily look twice seeing them walking down the street together, so in his mind it's not such a bad thing, at least at first. It takes him a while to come to terms with all the power dynamics and the manipulation that was happening unbeknownst to him over the course of the relationship. But at first, yeah, he just has a crush I think and acts out on it.
MARA: Some of those things are also accurate for Claire… the feeling of someone giving you all this attention, and it's exciting and new. It's interesting, the lies that she tells herself to justify her behavior. But the thing I like so much about our show is that the more you watch, the more you see the consequences of these choices for both people and how it affects their lives so intensely.
This show also explores what happens after they're found out. How does their dynamic shift when that happens?
ROBINSON: Up until they're found out, they're both building this fantasy world together, and when they're found out, then reality comes crashing down and they're both left to grapple with that and what that means and pick up the pieces. For Eric, he's in love with this person and then I think very quickly, once he gets found out, all these reservations or yucky feelings he might have come to the surface and he's forced to confront and examine what this relationship is.
MARA: For her, the relationship definitely changes when they're found out because there's the fantasy versus reality. It's a very harsh shift in her life, especially because she is the abuser and it does really affect her life, as it should. But it's interesting I think to watch how long it does take her to really accept the things that she has chosen to do. It's a really fascinating journey to go on, to see from both of their points of view.