Nick Kroll was in Boston to promote his latest film Adult Beginners. Kroll not only stars in the film opposite Rose Byrne and Bobby Cannavale, he produced it and wrote the story the movie is based on. The funny man gave his thoughts on its story, wearing so many hats on a feature length film, his co-stars and calling in favors.
Nick Kroll came up with the overall story and talked about passing it on to other writers. “I just started reading a bunch of people and I really wanted to have at least one female voice in the writing process just because so much of the story was based on Rose (Byrne) being a young mother figuring out how to work and be a mom. It just seemed it would be really helpful because my imagination is somewhat limited. I read with a bunch of people and met with Liz (Flahive) and Jeff (Cox) who wrote the movie. They are actually husband and wife and when they wrote the script they had a 2 year old son and by the time we started shooting the movie they had had another kid. They really were just keyed into that slightly tired, overwhelmed, parents trying to work, and figure out how to navigate all those things life. I was really excited to have real life experience to make it feel more realistic.”
Comedians taking a dramatic turn is quite common. Robin Williams, Adam Sandler, Jim Carrey have done some big dramatic films so I asked Nick why it’s easier for comedians to do drama than it is for a dramatic actor to play comedy. Kroll jokes, “Well we’re just more talented (laughing). I only half mean that. You can learn to have access to whatever emotions you need to have for a drama performance, but sometimes comedy is something intangible, some innate quality to it. Obviously there are (qualities) to with dramatic performances. Only a certain amount of people can pull a more intense, dramatic performance off, but I do think it is easier to go comedic to dramatic than vice versa.”
Nick talked about his co-star Rose Byrne. “She was the first person we went to to play my sister and obviously we wanted to cast that sister role first because it’s the most central to the movie working or not. There a lot of talented comedic actresses out there, but she’s just so adept at both (comedy and drama). We got very fortunate that she wanted to do it. I think she identified with the siblings relationship, she’s the youngest of four as well, I think she just connected with that element. There was just something that felt very familiar to her without putting words in her mouth. We just got very lucky and she happens to be super f*cking cool. She was game, we put her in a freezing pool for two days with no heater. The heater at the pool broke. She didn’t complain about anything, she was just a pleasure to work with.”
After signing Rose Byrne, Nick was asked (jokingly) if he got a discount signing her real life boyfriend Bobby Cannavale. “Ironically we went to Rose first because we just needed to figure out who that sister character was, but when we sat down to talk about the part, she was like ‘I hope this isn’t weird, but the guy playing the part of my husband, it feels like it was written for my boyfriend.’ I said ‘Who’s your boyfriend?’ She said Bobby Cannavale and I was like ‘We literally did write the part for him.’ I’ve known him socially and Liz Flahive was an EP on Nurse Jackie which he did a season of and they know each other from the theater world. He was always that template of a real man who was much more masculine and intimidating to the kind of guy my character is. But also who had a really sweet, thoughtful, tender part of him. Bobby fit that bill perfectly. He’s such a good actor and I really got to learn a lot working with him. The emotional stuff with Rose, it’s not easier to do, but you’re like ‘Oh ok their mom died.’ You know what you need there, he’s super bummed, his mom died. But when I’m fighting with Bobby, I think I saw you cheat on my sister, there’s that grey area and being able to work with a guy like Bobby who is natural actor, but also puts a lot of thought into why he’s saying what he’s saying, it was really fun for me.”
Nick comes from an improv background and talked about working with those who don’t. “Rose and Bobby don’t come from an improv background, but both of them can improvise. I think it’s just creating an environment where people are able to do what they are comfortable with. There was definitely improvising throughout, but we worked hard on making the script right, making the jokes land or the dramatic moments land as much as we could. Me and Bobby Moynihan’s scene, we both come from the Upright Citizen’s Brigade so that had more improv in it. Joel McHale’s stuff, there’s some really fun improvised stuff there. But then also the parents’ Skype scene with me and Rose ended up being quite improvised, but there’s stuff improvised in there that’s not comedic at all. It’s more underlying story stuff. The nice thing about having the ability to improvise is that things feel fresh, but I didn’t want to lean on it in this project.”
He talked about producing a film for the first time along with writing and starring. “I had never produced a feature so that itself was a new experience. I’ve produced some TV, shorts, web stuff. I hadn’t been the lead of a film before so trying to figure out how to track that stuff and just being aware that I’m not just in one scene where you don’t have to worry about anything besides what you’re doing in that one scene. Those were new things for me. All of this stuff, the press stuff, it’s a different thing doing it for a movie. Part of the reason I wanted to do the movie was to learn how to do it. You have to learn how to do everything for the first time at some point.”
Mike Birbiglia, Joel McHale, Bobby Moynihan make appearances in the film so I asked Nick if there was anyone he wanted in the film, but couldn‘t get because of schedules and what not. “There’s a long list of people that were in and people who were out. Honestly because we had such a low budget there were so many time constraints. We had no flexibility. Someone would love to do it but would ask if we could shoot it in February, no. So many of my personal friends, Jason Mantzoukas, he flew in gave us a day. Josh Charles was shooting The Good Wife, came in and shot with us. I remember sitting in a stairwell with him and was like ‘I’m leaving the show. My character will be done on the show.’ It was the last few episodes for him, it was his day off. Joel McHale flew in on the last day of shooting. I was so grateful that he did, but also I was so burnt at that point and we were shooting this big party scene so there’s a lot of keeping everyone entertained and he’s a natural host and leader. He carried the weight of the last day or two. It was a lot of calling in favors.”
Adult Beginners is out now.
Follow me at www.Twitter.com/Murraymaker