If it was up to Javier Bardem, he would have had over five months to prepare for his role as Desi Arnaz in Aaron Sorkin's Being the Ricardos. Instead, he had just over a month.
"Every time I would look to a video of Desi or try to sing a song or get close to his accent or his mannerisms... and the amount of dialogue that Aaron Sorkin injects in his beautiful, unique stories, I would say, 'I cannot do this. I don't have time to do this,'" Bardem tells A.frame.
"What I learned is that... I guess it was a moment where I said, 'OK, if I look up and I see that huge mountain, it's going to be impossible for me to get on the top of it. I guess it's step by step, line by line, note by note of the song, scene by scene, episode after episode,'" he shares. "What I learned is to really give myself the confidence to be patient and believe that the little ant work will take you there if you trust and you don't get despair by anxiety -- which I did many times because of the time limitation."
Bardem earned an Oscar nomination for Best Actor for his performance. Being the Ricardos also produced nods for Best Supporting Actor for J.K. Simmons, who played William Frawley in the film, and Best Actress for Nicole Kidman, who played Lucille Ball.
"We literally met in person two days before the shoot," Bardem says of Kidman. So, building the chemistry of one of America's most iconic couples required a lot of homework -- and a lot of trust.
"We just have to relate to each other through Lucy and Desi. We play ball, and she's a great player. She's a great colleague," he raves. "That is a huge achievement because if for any reason it would've been a different scenario, I don't think we would've been able to do it."
Bardem divided his approach to the character into two parts -- having fun with discovering how to transform into Arnaz, and trying to work through the "fear and insecurity" of playing a real person. "It's a different responsibility," he explains.
The actor -- who was also nominated for Best Actor in 2001, for Before Night Falls, and in 2011, for Biutiful -- looks back on his Best Supporting Actor win in 2008, for No Country for Old Men. Bardem felt like a "fish out of water" on that film, his first American movie, as he isolated himself to get into the mindset of such a villainous character.
Being the Ricardos was a stark contrast, with Bardem at times feeling the comfort and company of the character he was playing.
"That day when we were playing the scene of 'Babalu,' I let myself go and be taken by his energy, Desi's energy," he recalls. "I saw and studied the video where he plays 'Babalu'... I saw it a million times, but then it comes the moment, and you have to really let go of all you've seen and just be there. I kind of felt it. Maybe it's because Desi's spirit was there."
"I think he was a revolutionary," Bardem says of Arnaz, listing off his invention of the three-camera system and shooting on film, which was pioneering for the time. "He was a man who changed the way we understand and create TV shows today. "[But] most of all, he was... a very passionate man."
Reporting by Elisa Osegueda
Why J.K. Simmons Was Hesitant to Star in 'Being the Ricardos' (Exclusive)
For 'The Power of the Dog,' Benedict Cumberbatch Delved Deeper Into Himself Than Ever (Exclusive)
A Stroke of Magic: Inside Cooper Hoffman's Casting in 'Licorice Pizza' (Exclusive)