Chris Messina: the hardest working man in the business

"28 Hotel Rooms" is in New York theaters now.

Among the six movies and three TV shows Chris Messina appears in this year, “28 Hotel Rooms” holds a special place in his heart, as he also produced and helped conceive the heavily improvised film about a couple (Messina and Marin Ireland) who carry on an adulterous affair during meetings in hotel rooms across the country. Also special? Being regularly employed. Messina is appearing on TV screens every week in “The Mindy Project” — after popping up this summer in HBO’s “The Newsroom” — and that kind of regular employment is something special, he says.

This entire movie is really just the two of you. How much more pressure is that as an actor?

Yeah, that’s scary because if the audience doesn’t connect to either one of the characters then they’re pretty much not going to want to stick around. It’s a hard movie to make, to get people to get on board with — just these two people in hotel rooms. And probably a harder film to edit, because there was just hours of improv and footage and a lot of different takes he had to dig through.

While the relationship in this film is based in infidelity, there’s a refreshing lack of judgment in how it’s presented.

Yeah, I liked that. We discussed that, that we didn’t want to say these people are bad people or these people are great people. They’re just people that made this choice at a particular time in their lives. We knew that people would be angry with them, and we hoped that people would be sympathetic to them or either want them to break up with their significant others and get together or just stop cheating altogether and just figure it out.

You shot in an impressive number of hotels. Did you have any favorites?

We had this hotel on the Sunset Strip here in L.A. that was nice. We had some really dingy rooms sometimes, but this one was like a suite. The scene when we’re dancing outside naked on the balcony and yelling down to the people, that was there. It was nice for us for a change. There were ones where you were scared to sit on the bed because you might get crabs or something.

You’re in quite a lot of things this year.

You know, my life hasn’t always been like this. Most actors would say the same thing. You spend a lot of time out of work. It’s been an amazing year or two for me, and I’m extremely thankful for it. “28 Hotel Rooms,” an experience like that doesn’t come around that often, to get together with a group of friends and really create something from the ground up is just an amazing feeling. You get spoiled. You then want every experience to be that. They can’t all be that, though, but you learn from all of them.

And with “The Mindy Project,” you’re very steadily employed now.
It’s great to go to work every day. The other day, two cameras were staring at me. It was my turn to act, and I had two cameras on me. I remember a time when two cameras would be on me and I would be freaking out, like they were some monster that was going to kill me. And because I get to work every day on “The Mindy Project” and I feel comfortable there, the two cameras all of a suddenly became my friends. And that, as an actor, is a huge gift that you don’t get when you roll up to a movie for a couple of days or you come onto a TV show for a guest spot here or there. You only get that after working on something every day for a long period of time — or at least it’s that way for me.


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