Jessica Chastain says a scene was altered in George & Tammy with the help of co-star Michael Shannon to give country icon Tammy Wynette more agency in the Showtime limited series.
In the first episode of the series, based on Wynette’s personal and professional relationship with fellow musician George Jones, the duo is confronted with their future while Wynette is still married to her soon-to-be ex-husband Don Chapel.
In an interview with Marie Claire, the actress and producer on the Golden Globe-nominated show shared that, in an early outline of the scene, Jones gets Wynette alone by distracting Don with an escort. For Chastain, the sequence around this moment was upsetting.
“I read it, and I was deeply disturbed,” Chastain recalled. “[Tammy] was just kind of sitting there. People were creating stuff so she could be caught rather than her making decisions.”
Giving the country music icon and voice behind hit “Stand By Your Man” agency in her narrative was incredibly important to Chastain. “The song isn’t about being a doormat,” she said of Wynette’s famed single. “And the reality is Tammy Wynette was married five times.”
Ultimately, the subplot was nixed and during filming, Shannon would make a tweak of his own, changing a line that implied George didn’t acknowledge Wynette’s agency in their physical relationship into one that underscored it.
“[Michael] changed the line from, ‘Yes, I’m going to f— her’ — excuse the language — to ‘I sure would like to,’” Chastain remembered. “The second he said, ‘I sure would like to,’ it was like, ‘Oh, yes, this is happening.’ Because he sees her as someone who gets to make the decision. And that’s working with an actor who’s very aware he doesn’t own me.”
Shannon, who worked with Chastain on 2011’s Take Shelter and celebrated their shared collaborator Guillermo del Toro during his recent MoMA career tribute, said the line switch was a byproduct of them being “so in tune with one another.”
“The notion of sitting in front of another man and looking at a woman and proclaiming that you’re going to f— her seems a little neanderthal to me,” he said. “I mean, if I was the woman in question, I wouldn’t enjoy that so much.”
The scene is ultimately just one way Chastain saw to not just assert Wynette’s choices and humanity in the limited series about her life and relationship — “she made decisions in her life,” the actress noted — but ensuring she was equally respected within the storytelling.
“To be a producer, and to have a production company, means you get to police that in the writing,” she said. “You get to say, ‘Whoa, whoa, whoa. We need to honor women as human beings. And they make their own choices — just like men do.’”
This article originally appeared on The Hollywood Reporter.