Anyone who is surprised or perhaps even put off by the idea of comedic actor Ed Helms playing a dramatic role probably hasn’t seen the 2017 film Chappaquiddick. Helms, best known for showing his goofy side as hapless Stu in the Hangover trilogy and the usually affable Andy in The Office, played him straight and serious as the actual character of Joe Gargan in this Ted Kennedy story and the events. terrible that happened on Marthas Vineyard. And Helms nailed the game.
He has done a lot of comedy since then and is currently in the midst of more on his new TV show Rutherford Falls. But a few years ago, the script for Together Together came to him, telling Matt, a middle-aged man whose marriage had fallen apart but still wanted to be a father. The solution: Hire a surrogate mother, Anna (Patti Harrison), to carry her baby. The story, dramatic with a comedic side: how these two very different people relate to each other.
Helms spoke about the film on a Zoom call from his home in Los Angeles.
Q: What was going through your mind as you read the script for the first time?
A: I was immediately impressed and excited. It’s a little bit outside of my normal comfort zone, as a comedy actor, and that was part of the appeal. I didn’t know anything more about it than the basic description of the connection line. But I remember reading it and being amazed, all the time, by the basic tale which is so simple, yet so fresh something I hadn’t seen before. I was also surprised at the trajectory of the story, which totally defied my expectations.
Q: Did you know you were going to say yes to him before you even finished reading it?
A: Yes, I think so. Usually I know, 20 or 30 pages in a script, whether or not I’m even going to finish the script (laughs), let alone say yes. So usually I know quickly if I’m going to say no. It takes a lot longer until I know I’m going to say yes. On this one, before the end, I was hooked.
Q: If I had to introduce Matt to someone, I would say he’s divorced, he designs apps, he’s a meticulous planner, he’s lonely and a little lost, and he’s a very nice guy. What would you add to that?
A: It’s important to understand that he has family and friends, but there is a feeling of isolation in his life. Separately, he also wants to be a father very much, which is why he hires Anna as a surrogate mother. But I think the isolation and loneliness is what really is the magnetism of the connection that is forged between Matt and Anna.
Q: There are a lot of references to the 20-year age difference between Matt and Anna in the movie. It was never even recorded to me. I was more focused on their differences and similarities in character, not their age. Was your reaction anything like this?
A: You talk about some of the tropes and expectations that this movie subverts. It is very common to see older men with younger women. This is something that doesn’t surprise a lot of people, although it is a little scary! I don’t remember if it was a flag for me when I first read it. But then, to see how the relationship progresses, and that it doesn’t take the turns like so many conventional romantic comedies would … It takes a much more grounded, honest, and, I think, poignant direction.
Q: This was your first time working with writer-film director Nikole Beckwith and your costar Patti Harrison. What happened during your first meetings with each of them?
A: My first meeting with Nikole was at a cafe near my house, and it was just a relaxed and fun conversation. At first it was an exploration, to get to know each other a bit and find common ground as human beings. But then, as we got into the story and the script, it was clear that we understood these characters the same way and that my take on Matt was what she intended to write it down. . It was cool. The first time I met Patti, it was actually with Nikole. Nikole and I had talked about her and she said she really wanted to get her on board. I said let’s go. So we all met. Nikole had already become friends with Patti by then, so she was sort of the common element between Patti and me. We were both comfortable with Nikole and as a result we were instantly comfortable with each other.
Q: I have a non-cinematic question. What is the status of your bluegrass group? Are you still together?
A: The lonely trio? It’s very kind of you to ask. Were a bit on hold, with Covid. Jacob Tilove and Ian Riggs are two of my best college buddies. But they live on the East Coast, so that’s another fight for us. But it was a long-standing group. We will always play together. We released an album a few years ago and I hope to have another one later.
Together Together debuts on VOD on May 11.
Ed Symkus can be contacted at [email protected]
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