Strangely enough it was another popular young actress who initially turned Adams on to the script in the first place. "Emily Blunt, I was working with her and she brought the idea to me," said Adams. "She had read the script. I had not read the script, and she said, 'I know what you're doing next. You're doing Doubt,' very enthusiastically. And I read it and I was just like, 'You're right. I really want to do this.' I'm like, 'You don't want it?' And she’s like, 'Oh I'm not right for that but you…' So it was actually Emily who brought the idea to me."
Sharing the screen with Streep and Hoffman might be a little disconcerting for younger actors, and Adams admitted she was concerned about working opposite the two powerhouses. "Only in the sense that I wanted to be a good scene partner for Meryl. I wasn’t scared of her. I was scared of myself," explained Adams. "I wanted to make sure that I was bringing [it]. You know, you want to be good for Meryl and for Philip. These are two people that I respect greatly and you just want to be 100% percent for them and be present."
Adams admits that despite her success she does still get a little intimidated by her peers. "Every time. I mean, you go into a project [and] you don't know these people. You don't know. You don't know what it’s going to be like. And I've been really fortunate because everybody’s been fantastic and generous and open and welcoming, and I've never felt like an outsider on sets with Tom Hanks or with Meryl Streep. I mean, I think there's a reason these people are where they are and that's because they're pros and they're going to make sure you're doing your best work by doing their best work. And yes, I mean there's definitely an intimidation factor that you put on yourself. It’s not them that does it," said Adams.
Streep has the ability to make her co-stars feel comfortable and Adams recalled one particular scene where Streep's professionalism helped her immensely. "We were working on a 10/13 minute scene, the one with Frosty the Snowman, and we did my confrontation with Sister Aloysius at the end of, I think, two days after, at the end of it. It’s like, 'We're hour 12 and we've got to be done in like a half an hour and go,' and I kept messing up the words. And I don’t mess up words often so I don’t really have the skills to get myself back on track. We did about 11 takes and I have to tell you, the most brilliant thing about that was that Meryl Steep was on the other side of that camera just serving it to me every time. Not an ounce of frustration, not an ounce of impatience, no judgment. No like, 'Oh, I would have had this in two.' None of that. She was so supportive and she so understood the challenges for an actor to sort of do their emotional high point at the end of two days without the build-up."
Adams prefers to keep the backstory she developed for her character to herself, but did share a little on how she approached the character of Sister James. "…We had wonderful access to nuns that joined at that time and would have been Sister James’ age. Sister James was actually there, Sister Peggy was our technical advisor, and that was John Patrick Shanley’s first grade teacher who was a Sister of Charity and wore the bonnet," revealed Adams. "I had access to a number of the Sisters who really gave me a lot of information about the choices that were available at the time, why they chose, how their family reacted, and it really, really helped me understand some things. And one of the things I think when watching the film, because John Patrick Shanley, like the writing is just so clean, you don’t know all of the rules. I mean, my character is not supposed to talk back. My character is not supposed to question. My character is supposed to listen, and you have a vow of silence in the morning that lasts until after the first mass. You don’t get together and like question your faith and question the priests. This is huge and it’s completely inappropriate and it's very difficult for her, and yet she can't help but wrestle with these ideas."
If Adams sounds fascinated by the world featured in the film, it's because she was totally captivated by what she learned while preparing for the role. "There are things I didn’t realize - that you weren’t allowed to leave and you weren’t allowed to leave by yourself. If you had a doctor’s appointment, two of them went together. If somebody was sick in your family, you weren’t allowed to leave. So, you know, when my character says, 'I can't leave my class,' it’s not like, 'I can't leave my class!' But no, 'I really can't leave my class. I'm not allowed to leave because my brother’s sick.' And so there's such a great sense of isolation and being sort of trapped in the situation and in this world for her through the story."
Doubt is one film that didn't need to spend much on the wardrobe budget. And despite the plain apparel, Adams absolutely loved wearing the habit. "I know you probably don't believe me, but I did. I loved it," said Adams, laughing. "It lacked all vanity and it was comfortable and I didn’t have to worry about my gut. I could just eat whatever I wanted. It was great. It was like doing Junebug again."
* * * * * * *
Doubt hits theaters on December 12 and is rated PG-13 for thematic material.