To mark this year’s Hollywood awards season, Sebastian Kim photographed the actors behind some of this past year’s most impressive portrayals for TIME’s Great Performances gallery. Joel Stein was also on hand to interview those capable capturers of character about the topic at hand: great performances.
Here, those 12 men and women—well, 11 men and women plus one remarkably human dog—discuss the portrayals that have moved them, the thought process behind acting and, of course, their own performances.
But in at least one case, the performances on display were not limited to acting.
“When I drove up, five minutes early, at 9:30 a.m. on a Saturday and saw that black car outside, I knew: Clooney,” says Stein, who has known George Clooney for some time. “He was early. He was the only one to come without an entourage. And he was funny. Then he beat Michael Fassbender in ping-pong on the table in the lobby and claimed that they weren’t keeping score. I was.”
To view TIME’s Oscars portfolio photo gallery, click here
To see more of TIME’s Oscar coverage, click here