A title like The Accountant, the latest
film from director Gavin O Connor (Warrior, Pride and Glory),
defies expectations. Not suggesting the action film thatís about to
unfold lends it further drive and energy. There are various surprises
in this tale of a man with Aspergerís who is possessed with very lethal
skills beyond accounting, played by Ben Affleck, doing his work for
He is buoyed by such stellar talent as Anna
Kendrick as a junior accountant who finds disparities in a med-tech
firmís books. Her discovery causes the companyís CEO (played by John
Lithgow) to bring in accountant Christian "Chris" Wolff to review the
books. JK Simmons plays the head of a Treasury division investigating
Wolff for his many suspicious activities. Into this mix comes relative
newcomer Cynthia Addai-Robinson, who handles the burden of researching
and finding Wolff as he proves to be both an elusive and dangerous
Though providing a fresh, equally accomplished
presence in this film, she is not exactly a newcomer. Addai-Robinson
made her mark on the small screen in notable genre series such as
Arrow, playing the benchmark DC comics character Amanda Waller (a
character played in various permutations by Viola Davis, Angela Bassett
and Pam Grier). She has also been in both Spartacus: Vengeance
and Spartacus: War of the Damned as Naevia.
Born to a Ghanaian mother and American father
in London, she moved to the States and grew up in Washington, DC. Then
she went to New York to attend NYUís Tisch School of the Arts and The
Lee Strasberg Theater Institute. The 31-year-old actor went on to work
in various off-Broadway shows and a bunch of cop-and-crime series such
as Law & Order: Criminal Intent, CSI: Miami and the Ridley
Scott-produced Numb3rs Ė ironically, a show about a mathematician
solving crime for the FBI.
Though such experience may not have necessarily
prepped her for this part, she apparently has insights into Marybeth
Medina that have made the character a crucial element of this unique
cast you as [Marybeth Medina] were you told that your character had a
secret past from the start or did they see how youíd play her without
I read the script and really responded to it,
because I appreciated the fact that it was an original script. I know
itís popular to do remakes and movies inspired by other stories, but
thereís something about characters youíre not familiar with [and] that
you get to originate a role thatís really exciting. You get to put your
stamp on it, bring a little of your own quality to it. I had the full
script to read. Itís difficult to [have] information about a character
and then just play [her based on] that information. I donít know how you
would play [her with] all that background. You have to get a sense of
the circumstances of when this particular bit of information gets
revealed in the movie to know how sheís feeling at that moment. The information is there as far as Ray King
showing Marybeth Medina her files, Ray King of course is played by JK
[Simmons]. In that moment itís about [her] sense of shame and
humiliation. In that moment, youíre just trying to determine how your
character feels, what does it mean to her, how does it inform how she
moves about in the world and work? I just try to think about those
things [in] putting the character together. I had a lot of opportunities
to research and come up with her back story, which you donít necessarily
see all of in the movie, but again it does inform how she moves around
in the world.
the circumstances of getting offered this role? Was it serendipitous or
was it just being at the right casting call?
Youíve got it. It was just the regular old
audition process. I auditioned with the casting director, then our
director Gavin OíConnor [who also directed the powerful Warrior].
I was certainly hopeful it would go my way. You never know what theyíre
looking for [based on] just a description on a page. There are still so
many actors they see and consider [for] the cast as a whole. I donít
necessarily have a sense of what they may or may not have been looking
for, but all you can do as an actor is get a sense of the character, try
to present what you think are the traits that would make sense to see in
a casting situation, and cross your fingers and hope for the best. It
ultimately ended up going my way.
this incredible cast with people who have amazing resumes and now youíve
got to step up to the plate. Did that put any extra pressure on you?
Yeah, but [itís] pressure in a good way. Thatís
how you ultimately improve and hone your skills. If youíre going to
participate and collaborate in something, you want to be with the best
of the best, which I was lucky enough to get to do. Right when we
started filming, JK was going through award season with Whiplash,
and right before I had been brought onto the project I had seen
Whiplash and was just blown away. I really responded strongly to the
movie, to what those actors were doing.
To find out not long after that I would be
going toe-to-toe with JK Simmons, thereís of course the initial shock
and awe and intimidation and excitement, but at the end of the day this
is someone whoís a peer and I always felt like he treated me as such. I
have a lot of respect for him and I [felt that] getting the chance to
work with him made me bring my A game. You almost donít have a choice;
you donít want to look bad next to a person like that and it wouldnít be
fair. Itís such an exchanged when youíre playing with another seasoned
actor, you really have to be present for that. And you hope theyíre
present for you as well and I feel like that was the case with JK.
I take it
you didnít have to do a lot of takes with him.
Well we did a lot of takes in terms of
collaborating with Gavin so they can really hone in on the dynamic that
evolves over the course of the movie. So again doing another take just
gives you more opportunities in the editing to pick out the best of the
best moments. A lot of times these types of interactions are in the
glances and the looks. Thereís a lot of great dialogue in our scripts,
but there are these really great internal moments as well for all the
characters. You see them really thinking internally and itís less about
what theyíre saying verbally and more about whatís going on behind the
eyes and behind the mind. Thatís true for all the characters in their
quieter moments. We worked really hard to get as much as possible when
we were filming.
got this job did you research the other actors as well? Youíre not in
the film with a lot of the other principals Ė they had very separate
scenes Ė and it like there were two major story lines happening that
finally come together by the end. Was it fun to see it all put together?
It was great to see it all together. Youíre
always curious about how other people were spending their day. I read
the script and saw it on the page, but I was excited to see how the
other actors brought it to life. Thatís pretty common in films. You see
the cast list and some actors you work with one day; in this particular
movie Iím tracking Benís character, but Iím just looking at his photo.
Iím excited to see what everyone did; I think everyoneís work is really
strong and itís a great portrayal of a character. Itís a great role for
Ben Ė something unexpected and different.
want to go back and watch everyone elseís films or be like the
characters and not know anything about them until something is revealed?
The focus is on the characters, you have to
have some separation in terms of being a fan of all those actors Ė which
I am and have admired them and their work over their years Ė and
getting down to the task at hand, which is the story. Now that weíre
done I can go and binge watch some of their stuff. Just excited to work
alongside them. I think the cast will like the story.
helpful to have parents who grew up in Africa; did it help in adding
another layer to her back story?
I donít know if it was so conscious. Whatever
qualities I have that other people see come from a whole lifetime of
experiences, and my upbringing, and people Iíve come across in my life.
Again, itís not the decision of pulling those attributes from my own
personality. I walk into a room and people have the impression that they
have. In my day-to-day life Iím not necessarily an easy person to peg. I
try to play on that I guess. Iím pretty reserved and quiet. That can be
misread, or people can think Iím thinking about things intensely when
Iím just thinking about lunch. There has to be something about some
qualities I possess that as I get older and get experienced in the
business I start to get a sense of how people see me versus how I know
parents seen the movie?
My mother saw the movie and sheís very excited.
She loved it. I feel like audiences are going to have a strong response
to it. Iím ready for the film to be out for everyone, for my family and
friends to see and see what we put together last year.
didnít say, "See? You should have continued your education. You could
have been in the FBI!"
In my parallel universe life I could have been
an accountant, I suppose, but sheís much happier to see me fulfill my
dream of being an actor. Sheís pretty proud and happy. I still try to
work the stuff in when I can, but itís easier to portray those moments
and look extra smart on film and TV.
your accounting skills?
My accounting now is not so great, but when I
was younger I went to a math science and computer science magnet school
in Washington, DC. [I] grew up in a household that was very much about
education being your ticket [to success]. There was a big focus on those
skills. Then I just up and one day decided I was going to be an
actor. Oddly enough that worked out and my academic life very much
serves me as an actor today. Iím glad I had the experience of being
exposed to all the math and science that, maybe, in the moment were
incredibly challenging to me, but ultimately helped me. There are
similar moments as an actor when you really have to stay focused and
process a lot of information. I had that former life as a math nerd, but
those days are long gone and Iím quite content to portray one in a
film make you want to go back and research numbers or accounting, or
were you glad you didnít have to deal with it?
I will say itís nice to get the opportunity to
portray a female working at the Treasury Department, working in the
Financial Crime division, working with numbers, and hoping that in some
way that representation of that makes that cool. Thatís important to me,
making sure young women that have a knack with numbers see that
stuff. Thatís not my calling in life, but it is a calling for a lot of
young women, and a lot of young women of color. So if that small
contribution is something, then Iím more than happy to let that be my
contribution to women in math and science.
frustrated you couldnít use a gun?
Nope. I was quite happy to [not do so]. Iíll be
working in a different capacity in [the new series] Shooter for
the USA Network, thatís whatís coming up [for me]. Every job is
different and every role requires a different skill set. I was happy on
this one to just be the entry point for the audience so they can solve
the case along with Marybeth.
find it exciting to be sharing the name Amanda Waller with another
Of course! Of all the actors out there I canít
believe Iím in the same company as them. I hope our paths cross, that
would be amazing.
havenít gotten together with Viola Davis (who played Waller in
Suicide Squad) to compare notes?
I wish. If someone could make that happen, Iíd be
Email us Let us know what you think.