Alison Brie on 'Sleeping with Other People' and getting turned on by dark things
"Sleeping with Other People" star Alison Brie talks loving traditional rom-coms, the late Wes Craven and all the little voices she does on "BoJack Horseman."
Alison Brie laughs a lot when she talks, though she only does that half the time in “Sleeping with Other People.” She plays Lainey, who has a love addiction to a man she shouldn’t (played by Adam Scott). The only person who makes her perk up is Jake (Jason Sudeikis), a man she slept with once in college and reconnects with a decade later. The two share obvious sexual chemistry but decide they should stay friends. It’s a classic romantic-comedy setup, only one tempered by dark themes and brutal honesty — qualities that crop up, in various degrees, in other shows and movies Brie has been involved with, from “Mad Men” to “Community” to “BoJack Horseman.” But that's how she likes it.
First off: I somehow didn’t realize till I was prepping for this that on top of voicing Diane on “BoJack Horseman” you’re also Vincent Adultman, the character who may or may not be three children stacked on top of each other under a trenchcoat pretending they’re an adult man.
I do so many voices on that show, so many little voices. Basically every time I would go to record they would be like, “Can you do this other character while you’re here?” It became an interesting challenge — like, “I don’t know, how many voices do I have in my arsenal?” More than I expected. And you’re really on the spot. They’d have you read something at a table read and you think it’s because the person isn’t here. And you go to record and they say, “Oh yeah, you’re doing that voice. So think of something. Go.” It’s fun watching the episodes because I usually don’t remember who I am. I watch it and go, “Oh, that’s me!”
Who else do you voice?
“Cow waitress,” “body of crickets,” “intern number two.” They’re so random. Vincent Adultman is definitely the largest of my other roles. I get excited for characters that have two lines.
“BoJack Horseman” is a very, very dark show. “Sleeping with Other People” can get pretty dark too. Are you actively looking for that tone in projects?
Absolutely. I love that kind of stuff. It’s what I like to watch as well. When things become a bit darker or unexpectedly dark, it really turns me on. I’m into it.
There’s a balance in the film between what’s a traditional romantic comedy and something that’s sometimes brutally honest.
That’s what drew me to it. Lainey is such a deep character. She’s so emotionally fragile. But she can still be upbeat. I find that interesting — characters who aren’t just one thing, especially in the romantic-comedy genre. We do see a lot of one-dimensional female characters and their quest for love is the only thing defining them. In this movie she has a love addiction, but that doesn’t mean she doesn’t have moments where she’s laughing or making other people laugh.
There’s a will-they-or-won’t-they thing going on here, but their relationship is so deep that it almost doesn’t matter if they get together or not.
It could go either way. The characters transform throughout the movie and they could end up together, or not. Leslye [Headland, writer-director] wrote a romantic-comedy for cynics. It tows the line between being cynical and very romantic. The whole time you’re watching it you’re like, “Yeah, f— love.” [Laughs] At the same time you’re watching them fall in love. I like that, as the title suggests, we’re watching these characters fall in love but we also see them sleeping with other people, having sex with other people. It feels very current. It feels like the way people do date and have complex and confusing relationships with people at the same time they’re sexually active. Romantic-comedies became very chaste for awhile, and weirdly so. The characters are focused on falling in love then eventually they do. I don’t think that’s how people date today.
Sometimes I think we’re a little hard on romantic-comedies. What’s your take on the genre?
I love them. I love them. I’ll kind of watch all of them. I don’t love all of them, but I love it as a genre. It took me awhile. I agree: everyone’s a little snobbish about them. I used to be as well. Then I realized I watch them more than any other movies. If they’re on cable and I’m flipping through channels, I’m always going to watch “Hitch” if it’s on. They’re feel-good movies.
We’re definitely a lot easier on old romantic-comedies, from the ’30s or ’40s or ’50s. Perhaps with some distance from when they came out we can be more forgiving of conventions.
Back then romantic-comedies were just kind of just comedies. They was certainly no stigma. They got great actors to be a part of them. A film Leslye referenced a lot was “The Apartment,” which when you watch it it’s dark. [Laughs] It has a lot of dramatic moments. But the first time I read this I didn’t think, “Oh, what a good dark rom-com.” I thought, “What a good indie dramedy.” I didn’t even think of this movie as a comedy because my character was so serious so much of the time. When we were shooting it I was in constant emotional turmoil. Then you watch it later and think, “Oh, it’s hilarious!” [Laughs]
The way Leslye constructs the film seems to allow lots of wiggle room for actors to ad-lib.
Leslye is super open to that kind of stuff. Jason and [Jason] Mantzoukas and Andrea Savage, a lot of their stuff is improv’d. But most of the stuff between Jason and I was from the script. Leslye writes banter so well, but she also leaves room. Like the avocado-mousetrap scene where we’re pitching safe words for their friendship, she’d plan on letting us improv those. But it’s not as much as you’d think. A lot of it is the magic with which she writes dialogue.
The filmmaker Wes Craven passed away last week. You had a small role in “Scream 4,” which wound up becoming his final movie. What are your memories of working with him?
He was one of the loveliest people I’ve ever worked with. And so funny. I was obsessed with the “Scream” trilogy when I was younger, so much that I made a parody with friends in high school. It was called “Yell,” and we shot it when we were 15. [Laughs] We had a guy in a suit and a mask and he would walk instead of run. People would yell but they wouldn’t quite scream. It was really fun. That movie is a touchstone of my youth and my relationship to film.
Follow Matt Prigge on Twitter @mattprigge