America Ferrera produced and helped develop “X/Y,” an ensemble indie drama written and directed by her husband, Ryan Piers Williams. But she wasn’t always supposed to act in it. In fact, they both did, playing a couple who split in the opening scene after her character, Sylvia, reveals to his character, Mark, that she cheated on him. Not that you should be worried it reflects any problems with their marriage.
Apart from it being a film made by your husband, what attracted you to the material and this character?
What compelled me was the search for intimacy, and how that becomes increasingly challenging in a culture where we make constant connections with the outside world. Yet there’s this loneliness that doesn’t necessarily get remedied by that. [All the characters] are on journeys to find true intimacy, but Sylvia’s was much more personal. She’s very lonely and her journey’s very much about her relationship to herself, and how that was stopping her from having true intimacy in her romantic relationships and her friendships. That felt really true for the modern day.
What is your working relationship with your husband like?
We met working, and working together has always been a big part of our relationship. Often when we’re working together we’re completely consumed by what we do anyway. To be completely consumed by the same project and be on set together in the long run becomes quite a bonding experience. When it came to discussing playing a couple in the film, we though there would be a built-in intimacy and history in terms of body language — the kind you see in people in a long-term relationship that’s hard to fake.
What is it like making a dark relationship movie with someone with whom you’re in a relationship?
We’re both people who dive in and make the work feel personal. The relationships depicted aren’t by any means biographical, but they are inspired by the challenges we face in our relationship and challenges we’ve observed other friends facing in theirs. The hope was to hit a nerve and make it feel raw and real to people who are watching it, who can say, “Yep, I recognize that kind of bad sex.” [Laughs] But there is a scary element of writing about those experiences and putting them out there. Some people may look at it and project, saying, “Oh, wow, we hope America and Ryan are doing OK!” [Laughs]