Amidst all the screenings, review writing, and foodie adventures that kept me busy at this year’s South by Southwest festival, I also found some time to sneak a few interviews into my schedule (as you can tell by what I’ve been posting these last few days). I’ve already published my interview with Nick Kroll and Bobby Cannavale on their new film, Adult Beginners, and now I’ve got the second round of talent who were in Austin promoting the film – Rose Byrne and director Ross Katz.
I sat down with Rose and Ross to talk about the phenomenon of Adult Beginners, seeing that people now explore much different paths than our ancestors from past generations. You can read on to hear about what drew both talents to the project, what each person turns to when in need of an escape, and the struggles of filming during one of Long Island’s worst winters. Ah, the joys of bureaucracy – yay!
WGTC: Have either of you experienced an Adult Beginners moment, and if so, how did you work through it?
Ross Katz: I’m constantly having them. [Laughs] I feel like I’m not grown up, yet I have to be responsible. That’s why I related to the script [for Adult Beginners] so much. It’s that feeling of arrested development, but you do get older, and you do have responsibilities. You have to address them.
Rose Byrne: I absolutely agree. I suffer from arrested development, and maybe that’s from being an artist. It’s a good thing to assert yourself, and try to push outside that. That’s why [Adult Beginners] is great, because it explores the absurdity of that notion. Because really – do we change? It’s all just a charade we put on for kids, and then the office, and then the studio. It all becomes, I don’t know, fabricated?
Ross Katz: We have to do a better job at looking grown up. [Laughs]
Rose Byrne: Exactly!
WGTC: In the film, everyone has their vice of sorts. In real life, what do you do to escape from reality, if only for a few minutes?
Rose Byrne: Heroin. [Laughs]
Ross Katz: It was complicated on set, because Rose needed her fix, and the thing with Rose, is if she doesn’t have her stuff, she goes crazy!
WGTC: [Laughing] Alright, in all honesty though, do you have that escape?
Ross Katz: You know, it’s going to sound really lame, but my escape is movies.
WGTC: That’s not lame at all. I mean, I’m a film critic – I’m right there with you!
Ross Katz: That’s how I get away from real life, through movies.
Rose Byrne: You know what I use to check out more than anything? Seinfeld. Just on TBS, like when I get home from a really long day. Just a couple of old episodes – so satisfying.
WGTC: Do you think there’s a connection between drama and comedy?
Ross Katz: I think it totally depends on the film. The first film I directed, Taking Chance, is very heavy. There was no room for humor. What I love is that in real life, a lot of funny things happen. That’s what I found so appealing about the Adult Beginners script. Funny things happen to real people, and dramatic things happen to real people. Trying to capture both sides is exciting for a director.
WGTC: Rose, when you do a more serious film like Adult Beginners, do you ever find yourself looking to do something more light-hearted on your next project?
Rose Byrne: You don’t want to repeat yourself, obviously, and as an actor, diversity is great. Or even as a director. As Ross has been saying, diversity is key to always keep challenging yourself. Comedy and drama – it’s such an interesting discussion, isn’t it? As an actor, I think they do come from the same place, weirdly. It’s the masks, comedy and drama. If you hang out with comedians, they’re some of the most serious people you’ll ever meet.
Ross Katz: Watching Rose, Bobby [Cannavale], and Nick [Kroll] do this movie, and Jane Krakowski, Bobby Moynihan, Joel McHale – I think people assume drama is harder? Comedy is really hard. For a director, when you’re watching something and it’s not landing, it’s very scary. To be funny, and to be on, and to be likable, that’s really tricky. Comedy is hard work!
Rose Byrne: If you’ve got a live audience and you’re doing a drama, how do you know if it’s working? With a comedy, you know when it’s working, and you know when it’s not working.
WGTC: Was there a lot of improvising on set?
Ross Katz: Yes – particularly where Nick was concerned. Nick would free up the environment for Rose and Bobby. We would talk about what lines were really working, which weren’t, and how the characters were evolving. Nick is really used to improv, and both Rose and Bobby were so comfortable with it. A majority of actors are less comfortable with improv, but not these guys.
WGTC: I’m always curious about what characters are forced to smoke on screen, so can you explain what’s in the “movie pot” Nick and Bobby smoke?
Rose Byrne: Yeah – what IS in movie pot? [Laughing]
Ross Katz: Ah, yes. Movie pot. Well it’s some of Rose’s heroin [Laughing] – no, I believe the props department gives out these herbal things. It’s really gross. Something like flower pieces? It’s not enjoyable.
Rose Byrne: No benefits…
WGTC: Since I lived on Long Island, I know how unpredictable the weather can be. Did you run into any issues while shooting in New Rochelle?
Ross Katz: It was something like the worst winter in twenty years. We got a reported sixty inches of snow. It was freezing, everywhere, and the town of New Rochelle was very difficult to deal with. The people were great, but the bureaucracy was not great. That made it really tough on the producers. But it’s a lovely place to be, the streets were pretty, the houses were great!
WGTC: With Neighbors 2 on the horizon, is there anything you hope your character will have the chance to do? I feel like you went all-out in Neighbors…
Rose Byrne: I don’t know what’s left, really! [Laughing]
Ross Katz: They’ll find something.
Rose Byrne: If anyone is going to find that next level, it’ll be those guys. But sequels are challenging. You always want to get better.
That concludes our interview but I’d like to thank Rose Byrne and Ross Katz for taking time out of their South by Southwest schedule. Be sure to catch Adult Beginners when it opens on April 24th!