Michael Shannon Talks Singing With Jessica Chastain for ‘George & Tammy’

They’re gonna hold on. Oscar winner Jessica Chastain and two-time nominee Michael Shannon, costars in the 2011 thriller Take Shelter, reunite as country music’s hotheaded hitmaking couple George Jones and Tammy Wynette in the riveting six-episode profile, George & Tammy.

“They had one of the most passionate and indestructible loves I’ve ever seen,” says Shannon of the pair, who wed (the third time for each) in 1969, the year after her legendary “Stand by Your Man” was released. “Even after they were divorced [in 1975] and married to other people, they still couldn’t get over each other.” The actor takes us backstage.

Michael Shannon and Jesscia Chastain in 'George & Tammy'

(Credit: Showtime/Paramount)

How much did you know about George Jones?

Michael Shannon: I just remembered seeing him on Hee Haw when I was a kid. I had a lot of work to do. I read his autobiography, Tammy’s book and [their only child] Georgette’s book. Everybody tells a different story; Jessica and I knew we had to be telling the same one.

But everyone can agree that they both had substance abuse issues and short tempers.

There’s some dark, painful stuff. George and Tammy went through hell to get where they got. It’s a story about survivors who know how to turn whatever pain they’re experiencing into something beautiful.

How were your months of singing rehearsals?

Singing with somebody, particularly duets with intricate harmonies and songs about love and the difficulties of being alive, creates a bond different than any I’ve had with a performer. You practice technique, but it’s got to be from the heart to move people.

Which duet moved you?

“Golden Ring” is pretty amazing. We sing it at different points [in their lives]. To see songs revisited by people who were realizing the songs may not mean the same thing they meant 10, 20 years ago was fascinating.

What held George and Tammy together?

They made each other happy in a way that other people just weren’t able to. They enjoyed each other’s company when they weren’t too caught up in their own problems, which wasn’t very often.

George & Tammy, Series Premiere, Sunday, December 4, 9/8c, Showtime (first episode also airing on Paramount Network)

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