Mark Ruffalo endured a five-week period of “force feeding” to pack on 30 pounds for his new TV drama series I Know This Much Is True.
The Avengers star pulled double duty to play twins Dominic and Thomas Birdsey in the project, based on Wally Lamb’s book of the same name, but he had to shoot the roles completely separately as one brother is significantly heavier than the other.
Ruffalo filmed his scenes as Dominic first, before stuffing his face to fill out his frame as Thomas, whose medication for paranoid schizophrenia causes him to put on weight – but it wasn’t a task the actor enjoyed.
“When you’re force feeding yourself, some of the romance of food leaves,” the actor explained during a Television Critics’ Association press tour panel.
“Those five weeks were kind of lonely. I’d been away from my family and (Thomas) hears voices, and I was imagining that life, and there was a couple weeks where I was just staying by myself, going down into the heart of this mental illness and studying it.”
Ruffalo threw himself into his research in a bid to ensure he nailed his portrayal of Thomas, because he didn’t want to misrepresent the mental health struggle onscreen.
“There’s an element of mental illness in this project and you want to be as honest as you can to that, and it means a lot to me to be honest to that, which means going into that world and getting to know it and getting comfortable with it.
“I was really afraid to play it, I think it’s a really an important issue and I want to tell it as honestly as possible, the responsibility of playing it was really apparent to me.”
I Know This Much Is True, which follows the siblings on a journey of sacrifice, betrayal, and forgiveness in 20th century America, also stars Melissa Leo, Rosie O’Donnell, Juliette Lewis, and Kathryn Hahn, and was written and directed by Derek Cianfrance.
The six-part miniseries is due to premiere on U.S. network HBO in April.