How Roar's Merritt Wever Found Emotional Depth In Dating A Duck

The new Apple TV+ series "Roar" is a kind of feminist "Twilight Zone" from the creators of "GLOW," and it's a doozy. "Roar" asks its performers to tackle some pretty wild ideas, but few are as unusual as "The Woman Who Was Fed By a Duck," in which medical student Elisa (Merrit Wever) gets into a complicated relationship with a handsome water fowl named Larry (voiced by Justin Kirk). Elisa and Larry go through a couple of different romantic comedy tropes, but they're all complicated by the fact that Larry is, well, a duck.

Wever really sells the idea that her character is developing confusing feelings for a bird and Larry manages to feel like a fully-fledged feathered character, and it turns out that sometimes the best kinds of storytelling magic can be the simplest. 

The MVP is a mallard

In an interview with ScreenRant, Wever revealed that they used an actual duck for the scenes instead of relying on computer-generated imagery. She worried that she might have to perform with a tennis ball or a line on the floor, but instead she was able to lock eyes with a real live duck:

I'm acting opposite a real live duck. We didn't really know how it would go on the day; if I would be working with a piece of tape and we'd be cheating it all the time, or grabbing a couple of lines of us in the same shot before it waddled away. I certainly anticipated that would be the biggest hurdle of the episode. And, for some reason, this duck was absolutely magical and wonderful. It was actually really helpful to be talking to this live creature; this being that was looking at me, listening to my voice, moving its body and responding to me and the way that I spoke. Having an animal that I didn't know, second to second and moment to moment, if it was gonna waddle away or start squawking kept things very alive.

There's something about the duck actually being there that helps sell the scenes (and the romance), especially in moments like their initial meet-cute at the local park. Larry's mouth doesn't move when he speaks, and for all intents and purposes, he's a totally normal duck. He can just somehow talk to Elisa, and the two of them hit it off. Their unusual romance gets more complicated when Larry movies in with Elisa and he starts expecting more and more of her. While it seems pretty weird that this woman is just magically in love with a duck, Wever said there is an allegory at the heart of it all:

"I do think that there is a point. I think it is slightly more amorphous, maybe, than some other episodes, so I decided to accept the invitation [to take the role] and wade into this land and hope it would prove a worthwhile way to tell the story."

There are plenty of fables where the darker sides of men are depicted using animals, like the Big Bad Wolf, but a duck? A plain little old mallard, with a pretty green head and webbed feet? There's something truly un-intimidating about a duck, a creature most people think of as relatively harmless. He's a wolf in duck's clothing, to cross metaphors, and while it can feel a little heavy-handed, Wever and the duck seem to have a kind of onscreen chemistry that would be impossible to imitate with CGI. Thankfully, Wever's feathered co-star gave his best work, and she was able to react to his actions. Let's nominate this duck for an Emmy. 

All eight episodes of "Roar" are currently streaming on Apple TV+.