When a lonely new mom and a lonely, newly-handicapped high schooler bond over similar taste in music and a shared distaste for their current lifestyles, the result is going to be an interesting friendship. In Jen McGowan’s Kelly & Cal, that friendship extends beyond the bounds that are considered appropriate for a married woman and a teenage boy and the result is a fascinating look at an unconventional relationship.
Co-starring in the film are Juliette Lewis and Jonny Weston and both of them turn in excellent performances. They have a remarkable chemistry on screen and that’s a major part of what makes the film so enjoyable. For more on why Kelly & Call works so well, feel free to check out our review.
Last week at South by Southwest, I had the opportunity to chat with Lewis and Weston about the film. We discussed the process of preparing for these complex characters, the importance of music and much more.
Check it out below and enjoy!
WGTC: What was it about the movie that appealed to you guys?
Weston: Well, the script was amazing. The script contained all the elements of selfishness and selflessness and compassion and fear and crisis and all these things, but mostly it was the amount of love these two people had for each other even though nothing could ever come of it. There was a real kind of attraction.
Lewis: I was just lit up by these two characters. There were several things. The turning point that Kelly faces in the script, I felt like I had just been through. This feeling of being lost in a kind of nostalgia for what you had and what you were before and kind of re-configuring yourself and your place in the here and now and feeling lost about that. Going through the confusion of it – of an existential crisis.
Also, it gave me an opportunity to play something that was really close to my heart, this kind of intimacy and, if I can use the metaphor, paint in really subtle strokes. It’s not broad strokes or bright colors. It’s super quiet and still and nuanced. It was really challenging, much more challenging than you would think looking at it, to do nothing yet be completely wound up inside and go through slow changes.
And I was in love with Cal on paper. The process of finding an actor that would be able to give everything Cal deserves and also be able to dominate scenes with me, it was really exciting. So when we found Jonny it was really amazing.
Weston: I think one of the most difficult things, and we both had to deal with it, was creating a whole well of chaos and then faking it. Hiding it from each other in a way. That’s one of the most difficult things to understand. How to not just live in the emotions and the chaos. To not be outward about it, but to hide it for a reason.
WGTC: Watching it, I felt like Kelly especially was depressed and hiding things about 95% of the time, but then that 5% was pure jubilation. How’d you handle those extremes?
Lewis: I tend to live in those colors sometimes. Within myself. I don’t want to get overly personal, but sometimes when you release from so much melancholy, the release is so bright because you were so sad. I just connected to that. Also, you’re trying to liberate your old self but still a current self. And she does it in the wrong ways. She’s slightly irresponsible. That was challenging too.
I normally don’t concern myself with, “Will audiences like me or like my character?” I am reminded they tend to like me when I’m bad. But she’s a good person, she’s not a bad person. She’s a good person doing kind of selfish, irresponsible things and if I’ve done my job right, you sort of can understand her plight a little bit. But not everybody would do it the way she does.
WGTC: Jonny, what kind of prep work did you do to get ready for being in a wheelchair?
Weston: It just came down to being in the chair as much as possible before the film started and doing research and knowing that whether something is in the shot or not, your hands are in the shot or whatever, just realizing that people who are disabled do the best with their skills. They don’t have to remind themselves to not use their hands or not use their legs. You’re using what you can, not not using what you can’t. You understand what I’m saying? So it was a lot about me realizing what my character’s strengths were physically more than anything.
Lewis: Jonny works like a lot of the actors I love, where off-camera he’ll stay in the chair. On our days off he was riding around New York.
Weston: I’d ride it into diners. Getting free pancakes.
Lewis: He made it look really real. He was really committed to that part of the process.
Weston: It’s actually an advantage to a certain degree. You do something where it’s such a strong choice physically that it actually reminds you constantly of who you are as your character. It’s like wearing a pair of shoes or something. It reminds you who you are in the scene. It actually helped me in a lot of ways.
WGTC: I thought especially when you crossed your legs in that one scene that worked really well.
Weston: Oh yeah, well that was really a call-out for her. Because there’s an elephant in the room and she’s pretending like there’s nothing weird going on in this room. So I just had to make it really obvious that I’m paralyzed. Like, “Okay, I know you’re looking at my legs right now.” I think I stole that from Brad Pitt in Fight Club. Boom! I just remembered that.
Lewis: Which part?
Weston: In Fight Club, when he’s sitting there and he just got his ass beat by the guys that came downstairs and he’s like, “Ahhh!” He’s laughing his ass off as he’s getting his ass beat. And then they leave and he kind of throws his leg over.
WGTC: Your tribute to Brad Pitt.
Weston: Yeah, this made me kind of like Brad Pitt (laughs).