“I’ve hardly ever played the guy who gets the girl. Or the guy,” Christopher Walken said. “Romantic, that’s not it. Usually I chop people up or something.”
This was on a recent weekday morning, on a video call between Walken and his longtime friend John Turturro. In “Severance,” an Apple TV+ series that earned 14 nominations for its first season, Walken and Turturro play Burt and Irving, colleagues at a sinister megacorporation called Lumon Industries. (A few spoilers for the first season follow.) To work at Lumon, employees must volunteer for “severance,” a surgical procedure that bifurcates the mind so that the work self — the “innie”— has no knowledge of the home self — the “outie” — and vice versa.
The company maintains strict divisions between departments, and romantic fraternization is discouraged. But Walken’s Burt, who belongs to the Optics and Design department, and Turturro’s Irving, who works in Macrodata Refinement, somehow find their way to each other in a series of aching, slow-burn scenes that earned each actor an Emmy nomination.
In the sixth episode, the two men meet in what looks like a greenhouse. They speak softly, their faces and bodies coming closer. They very nearly kiss, until Irving reminds him about the company’s stance on workplace relationships. “This can’t be romantic then?” Burt asks. “Not romantic at all?” A lifetime of yearning — two lifetimes — is concentrated into these few seconds.
Did the actors ever try the scene with a kiss? They did not. “Because I’m so old, it would have been a little bit hard to watch,” Walken said.
While they may have met at a Yale School of Drama party in the early ’80s — they don’t remember for sure — Walken, 79, and Turturro, 65, didn’t work together until the 1995 showbiz satire “Search and Destroy.” (“Hollow, but crazily arresting,” the New York Times critic wrote.) Turturro went on to hire Walken for three of the movies he directed: “Illuminata,” “Romance & Cigarettes”and “The Jesus Rolls.”
They don’t socialize outside of work often. (Walken blamed himself: “I live in a kind of isolated way,” he said.) But they always look forward to sharing a camera setup, even a video call, during which they displayed mutual respect and affection.