ASLEEP IN MY PALM Star Tim Blake Nelson On His Acting Process, Working With His Son And MCU Return (Exclusive)

Tim Blake Nelson is a screen icon who has racked up a long list of impressive credits across film and television. However, his latest project, Asleep in My Palm sees the actor deliver one of his best performances to date. 

The movie explores the nature of parenthood and class as a father and daughter live off the grid in rural Ohio where they must confront the challenges of her sexual awakening as he escapes a violent and conflicted past. Written and directed by Tim’s son, Henry Nelson, and featuring a breakout performance by Chloë Kerwin, this is a very special movie that takes its leads, and the audience, to some very unexpected places. 

Earlier this month, we had the good fortune to sit down with Tim to learn about how he approached this fascinating, and sometimes harrowing, role. He talks us through his acting process, including the collaboration with Kerwin and how the cold weather factored into his performance. 

We also hear from Nelson on collaborating with his son and how important their relationship was to this process and when it was time to put that to one side. 

Finally, the actor addresses his return as The Leader in 2025’s Captain America: Brave New World, sharing the first details about undergoing a physical transformation to play the iconic Hulk villain. 

Check out the full interview in the player below.

I know you shot the movie in 17 days, but what was it like working with Chloë and creating that father/daughter dynamic between Tom and Beth Anne?

Well, Chloë and I prepped for the movie…I guess if you figure that we shot it in three weeks, we spent twice that amount of time preparing, she and I. Once we cast her, Henry was in Ohio and before I went out there to work with him on setting the movie up, Chloë and I did six weeks of intensive Krav Maga training as a way of getting to know each other and bonding, while also being responsible to that segment of the movie where I’m training her to fight. We would regularly go to our training and then have lunch afterwards. 

We just developed, simultaneously because of the age disparity, a surrogate father/daughter relationship. Also, because she was going to be acting opposite me and, you know, you’re not more important than your scene partner. A relationship as peers, even though this was her first movie. It was important that she felt she had her space as an equal. She merits that because of her talent, but also her decency and her work ethic. She’s just an extraordinary actress. Henry and I were blessed beyond words to be able to work with her on what’s her first movie.

It’s an incredible performance from her and yourself, and as well as those time constraints, you were shooting down in Ohio in the winter. Does that present a lot of challenges or do you take it and feed it into your performance? 

That’s the beauty of doing movies. Some of the effects movies I’ve done, and I’ve certainly done plenty of those where you’re acting in front of a green screen. When you’re doing films like Asleep in My Palm, so particularly indie films, you’re acting in practical locations. There’s no stage work. When you’re acting outdoors, that’s the weather. That’s the weather being depicted in the movie. 

I tend to look at that, even though it can be incredibly uncomfortable, as an advantage. It’s one to be embraced on all levels. When your character is cold, you’re actually cold. Movies are all about capturing truths when and why they’re happening. That’s the magic of a good film performance. You’re watching somebody experience or work their way through a moment in real time and it’s put there on the screen in front of you, captured by a camera. When the environment lends itself to that, it’s great. I was really, really cold. 

I know a lot of people are going to talk about that Chicken Little monologue, but beyond the fun of that scene and the way Tom tells the story, it says a lot about his relationship with Beth Anne. How important was a scene like that to introduce us to their dynamic?

I think what was important to me was to play it truthfully and honestly. It’s always tricky to allow yourself, and this is whether you’re doing a Shakespeare monologue or a contemporary monologue intimately in a film or you’re telling a story, to allow yourself to come up with it in the moment. So it doesn’t feel rehearsed or learned. In doing so, to allow yourself to be surprised by what you’re saying and to stop and laugh at something you said almost unexpectedly.

It was important for Henry and me, Henry the director and also my son, to find when those moments happened and get them on screen. Then, working with a scene partner who was open and responsive to that, you couldn’t come up with a better one than Chloë Kerwin.

This is a fantastic debut for Henry as a writer and director, but for you being father and son, did you have to put that relationship to one side as an actor so he could direct you or was it an important part of your collaboration?

It was largely an important part of the collaboration. My attitude was, ‘Exploit it when it can be useful and aggregate that aspect of that relationship when it’s going to get in the way.’ How could it be useful? You know, I knew this story has refracted through Henry and has been generated by Henry; both him as a writer, that’s the generative part, and then the refraction of how he’s going to see it as a director and what he’s going to want better than anybody because I raised the kid. We’re incredibly close. 

[Laughs] I just felt like, ‘Okay, you have a really sensitive understanding of what it is he’s after, use that. It’s going to make you better for him.’ In terms of what I needed to remove, it’s any residue of being the boss as his father. That’s not really interesting coming from an actor. You need to give yourself over to the director and the director’s vision. If the director wants something or asks for something and you’ve signed on to a project as an actor, then you just do what the director wants in the best way possible. There were a couple of instances where I disagreed with Henry and I had to say, ‘Look, he’s 70 years old, this is his 50th movie, and you do the project a service by treating it that way.’

One example was he wanted the character to wear glasses and I had questions about that. He was right! I could have easily said, ‘No, Henry, I’m not going to do that.’ But it didn’t even cross my mind. I said, ‘Okay, let’s look at glasses’ and we worked with that a little bit and it was then I said, ‘My God, you’re right, I love it.’

While I’ve got you, Captain America: Brave New World is coming out next year. Is there anything you can tease about that transformation into The Leader? Are you excited about the project?

Really excited. I had a great time filming it. And [I] worked with the Marvel team and this wonderful makeup artist named David Atherton with whom I’ve collaborated on a dozen movies now. I think people are going to be pretty excited about what this guy looks like. And what he has to say and what he does. All power to the amazing team over there at Marvel.

Asleep in My Palm arrives in theaters on March 1, on Digital on March 19, and on streaming on April 19.

Asleep in My Palm explores the nature of parenthood and class in America as a father and daughter live off the grid in rural Ohio near a small liberal arts college. The two must face the challenges of her sexual awakening and need for independence as he escapes his violent and conflicted past. At once poignant and mordantly funny, the film delves into an America rarely seen, while juxtaposing it with the rarified privileges of an elite college in the social media age.