Given the fact that you are such a drastically different person from Bev, how did you prepare to become someone so completely different from you? ^ I really trusted Penny. It was scary though because I did things that I disagreed with, that terrified me and that I was making judgment calls on, but I also just committed to being Bev for the entire film– even on the weekends. I was never myself. I talked like her, I thought like her and I acted like her. I didn’t do anything encaustic to the times and I paid extreme attention to the ages. Penny also directed me in such an extraordinary way that I got to bring a lot of my own instincts and ideas to the role, but then at times she would stand by the camera and make me imitate a certain line that she is looking for in a certain way– those are things I would have never gotten to on my own, so I loved that she did that. Something that I fundamentally disagreed with we might talk about, but I didn’t have a lot of moments like that. I wanted Bev’s instincts. I did not want anything to do with myself because I would have only gotten in the way of this.
Now the subject matter of Riding in Cars with Boys is quite serious. The story deals with teen pregnancy, kids raising kids, religion, drug addiction and divorce, just to name a few things. Despite all this though, many people are calling it a comedy and the trailers are even promoting it like one. Do you consider the film a comedy or a drama? ^ I knew that the film was a comedy because of Bev’s book. She was able to face such dark and painful and honest things with such an incredible sense of humor that it made it not only debatable, but tolerable. And Penny is the type of director that has that very rare ability to do that too.
So how do you deal with acting in these serious moments when you know they could be played for a subtle laugh later on? ^ I just went deep down into these emotional places and was ready and willing at any second to do something that could be funny in that moment. I also looked to Penny for that guidance. I knew because Bev pulled that off in the book that it was so important to pull it off in the film, so I was just very aware that that was very important and necessary and to be ready for that at every second– not to go so deep down in the depression of it because that lacked some levity that the situation might need. So I just took each scene differently and I thought about it a lot.
You mentioned earlier in our conversation how you depended on Adam Garcia not only today as Drew, but also in the film as Bev. Another character though that Bev leaned on during the film was Brittany Murphy’s character, Fay. What was it like working with Murphy, who many consider to be one of Hollywood’s current “IT” girls, and what do you think of her work? ^ I love Brittany. She gives so much and she is just such an extraordinary actress. In every film I have seen her in she just steals it, and I felt so lucky to be acting with someone who I think is one of the most important actors right now. She just emulates all these incredible people of the past that we put on a pedestal. I thank God for Brittany. I love her and I think she is someone who is such an amazing comedian, but also can go to these deep places in her soul and be so honest and brave. I loved working with her. We were very much Fay and Bev– not in our actions, but in our closeness.
Finally, given not only the film’s subject matter but also the fact you were playing a type of character you’ve never played before and that you had to deal with a handful of kids on the set who played your son, what was the hardest day you faced while shooting this picture? ^ Every day was hard in a weird way. It was a very long and challenging experience, but it was also wonderful and an incredible opportunity that I felt lucky for every single day. That made me inexhaustible. And Penny is the most relentless, inexhaustible person I ever met, so that was a good example for me. I just really fought so hard to get this film and I fought so hard to be good every single day.
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