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Julia Roberts’ Thoughts about Her Character Martha Mitchell in ‘Gaslit’ & the Similaries They Share

Bettina Dizon
Apr 25, 2022
12:50 P.M.
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Julia Roberts stars in a new series, "Gaslit," and resonates with her character, Watergate whistleblower Martha Mitchell. The actress shared instances where she felt as powerful as Mitchell without needing to be the most intelligent woman in the room.


After a four-year hiatus, Julia Roberts graced the screen again by bringing the character Martha Mitchell, a Watergate whistleblower, to life in the mini-series "Gaslit."

In the series, Roberts plays the wife of John N. Mitchell (Sean Penn), an attorney general and Richard Nixon's confidante. The powerful character embodies the actress' best on-screen personality – sassy yet charismatic – that viewers fell in love with in her previous films.

Julia Roberts speaks during the Amazon Studios portion of the Summer 2018 TCA Press Tour at The Beverly Hilton Hotel on July 28, 2018, in Beverly Hills, California. | Source: Getty Images



As the series progresses, Mitchell develops into a powerful figure who airs her knowledge of Nixon's role in the Watergate scandal. She becomes a courageous and outspoken woman in a sea of men.

While Mitchell put up a strong front, she felt anxiety when speaking to a lot of people, and was also dyslexic. However, her strong suits overshadowed her weaknesses and made her an influential woman.

Julia Roberts during The Fashion Awards 2019 held at Royal Albert Hall on December 02, 2019, in London, England. | Source: Getty Images


According to Roberts, Mitchell would have been quite the famous and empowered woman in today's time. The Academy Award winner also resonates much with the character she played. 


"On the surface, she's a woman who's sure of herself and comfortable around all the gents and cigars and knows how to work in a room," Roberts said. Mitchell did not want to be the figure who represented Nixon.

Julia Roberts during the 47th AFI Life Achievement Award at Dolby Theatre on June 06, 2019, in Hollywood, California. | Source: Getty Images


However, with the way people responded to her, she was forced to go beyond her comfort zone. Roberts added:

“She had problems with her nerves and anxiety and being in front of people, which I can completely appreciate – you have to conceal all that. [...] I feel like ultimately, I could appreciate her more than lend myself to her.”


Like her character, Roberts also felt power in ways where she did not have to be the most intelligent person in the room. Just being confident, she felt no embarrassment in feeling lost in a situation.


Working alongside her longtime friend, Penn, made the actress comfortable taking on the new project. She particularly wanted the actor because of his talent in bringing to life a completely different character from his usual. 

"[...] This complete and total internal and external transformation into John Mitchell, it's pretty astonishing," she said. "To be up close to that every day was remarkable."


Julia Roberts during the 24th annual Critics' Choice Awards at Barker Hangar on January 13, 2019 in Santa Monica, California. | Source: Getty Images

Roberts revealed Penn's kind and patient personality during a guest appearance on "The Late Show with Stephen Colbert," Roberts revealed Penn's kind and patient nature. Getting into character took a while for the actor, who endured hours-long preparation, including a bodysuit and layers of clothing.


However, despite all the exhaustion and heat underneath his costume, Penn remained quiet and professional. According to Roberts, Penn profoundly cares about the characters he portrays and the film's success.

Beyond the scenes, he is a humanitarian and a people person. However, despite all the blessings, Penn has also dealt with personal pain and trauma, including a failed relationship with Charlize Theron, who ghosted him amidst a deep and serious relationship. 

Nevertheless, the actor bounced back and fell in love again. In 2020, Penn married Australian actress Laila George amidst the global pandemic. Unfortunately, their relationship ended in separation when George filed for divorce a year after.