Jonathan Silverman, who has made a name for himself on sitcoms such as as The Single Guy and In Case of Emergency, is now trying to prove his passionate side as Peter in the new British romantic comedy Swinging with the Finkels. The movie tells the story of how Peter and his wife, Janet’s (Melissa George), best friends, Ellie and Alvin Finkel (Mandy Moore and Martin Freeman), have lost their chemistry and lust for each other. In an effort to save their marriage, Peter suggests that Ellie and Alvin spice up their relationship.
Silverman graciously took the time to answer some of our questions about Swinging with the Finkels, which is set to have a limited North American theatrical release on August 26th. The actor discusses with us what attracted him to the role of Peter, and why people feel the need to give their friends advice in the same aspects of life they’re having trouble with.
We Got This Covered: You play Peter in Swinging with the Finkels, which chronicles the struggles Ellie and Alvin Finkel are facing in their marriage. Being married in real life yourself, is there anything about the story that you can relate to?
Jonathan Silverman: Yeah, sure. I think anyone who is in a marriage or in a long-term relationship can relate to a lot in this movie. The film is a very sweet romantic comedy that focuses on how difficult it is to keep what was once magic alive. This particular couple, played by Martin Freeman and Mandy Moore, have been doing just about everything they can. They’re kind of at that seven-year period, that seven-year itch. They’ve tried all sorts of things, the last-ditch effort.
The last possible thing they think of doing is perhaps bringing in another couple. Of course, this being a comedy, we look at it in a very comedic way. It’s not a very funny thing, to sort of wife swap. It’s pretty heavy. This comedy turns into a bit of a tragedy, in that sense. I play the lead character’s best friend, who we think is in a very happy, healthy marriage, with two kids. But we slowly realize that it’s gone sour, and my character admits to an affair.
He’s fallen in love with one of his patients in his dental practice. He leaves his wife because (the patient) has absolutely beautiful teeth. He realizes only after this tragic turn of events in the relationship that he’s made a horrible mistake. He wants to do everything he can to win his wife back. This being a movie, a romantic comedy, hopefully happy endings do come true.
WGTC: Like you said, Peter’s having his own marital problems. Even though he’s having those troubles, he still suggests to Ellie and Alvin that they do something to spice up their marriage. So what attracted you to the role of Peter?
JS: He’s a pretty wild, out-there character. Speaking to the writer-director Jonathan Newman over the phone, across the pond, him being in London, and me being in Los Angeles at the time, we didn’t have a lot of pre-production rehearsal. One of the things that Jonathan asked me to bring with me to the U.K. was this character’s inner idiot. So that basically gave me the freedom to play, that’s all I needed to hear.
He wanted me to be as crazy, but grounded, as crazy as I wanted to make him. I just love playing this character. Luckily, he’s American, so I didn’t have to deal with a British accent, which I was bit worried about. Originally, in the script, he was written as a Brit, but we all decided to make him an American who went over to England for his practice, and fell in love with a British girl, and had a family.
But the character was great fun. Actually, everything about this film was great fun. It was a great cast. I know I mentioned Mandy Moore and Martin Freeman, who I worship. He’s a very talented actor. The actress who played by wife, Melissa George, is so lovely, so talented. Also Jerry Stiller. It was a lovely group.
WGTC: Was filming in London different than filming in America?
JS: I’ve had the pleasure of working in the U.K. a few times before. I’ve shot a few movies there before. One of them was Neil Simon’s London Suite, which was based on his play. I also shot a film in Dublin, a little film with Bernadette Peters, called Bobbie’s Girl. It’s a different, and very exciting, environment to work in. It’s still a film, you still have a camera crew, there are a lot of similarities. But they seem to take it, I want to say a bit more seriously.
We certainly take it seriously in the States. In a shooting day in the U.K., every few hours, everyone takes a bit of a tea break, not coffee, but a tea break. They bring out these little finger sandwiches with the crust cut off. Everyone sits around for a few minutes, with their pinkies in the air, drinking. It’s so cultured. (laughs) It’s a really sweet and powerful community out there, and I would work there again in a second, in a heartbeat. Another funny thing is that they don’t call the actors’ dressing rooms their trailers. Here in the States, the actors call them trailers. In the U.K., they’re not called trailers, they’re called “caravans.” (In a British accent) “Will you be waiting in your caravan, Mr. Silverman?” “Yes.”
WGTC: What was your working relationship like with Melissa, given the problems Peter and Janet are experiencing?
JS: We had such a good time working together. We had never met. We have many mutual friends, and a slew of great stories that have been told about one another, great stories that we have heard about one another, and of course great friends that we have worked with. We had that in common. But we became fast friends. In a situation like that, where you meet someone, and 20 minutes later, you’re filming a heavy scene, based on your alleged comfort level, supposedly being with this person for eight, nine, ten years, is always a bit taunting.
But we got along fast, immediate. She, too, was told by the director to bring her inner clown, her inner idiot. We came ready to play, to make fools of ourselves, we had a blast. She’s a very brave actress. The very first time we see her in the film, she’s a new mom, and she’s breast-feeding, and she’s using an electric, motorized pump, so she has these contraptions around her breasts.
She has a line that she feels like a cow. (laughs) She’s a gorgeous, gorgeous actress, and the character was supposed to be a bit frumpy, a woman who’s lost her sex appeal that she may have had a few years earlier. The problem is that Melissa’s so beautiful, so she had a terrific time, trying to make herself look frumpy. She gave herself a really wild, crazy hairdo. She dressed in these 1970s, 1980s Xanadu outfits (laughs). So anytime we had scenes one-on-one, or in a group scene, a dinner scene, poor Martin and Mandy were looking at us like, “Oh God, what are these people doing?”
WGTC: Despite his own marital problems with Janet, Peter stills as though he should be giving advice to Alvin and Ellie. Why do you think people feel the need to give their friends advice on their relationships, even though their own aren’t working out?
JS: Yeah, definitely, everyone’s a philosopher, everyone’s a psychiatrist. He’s just one of those people who can’t shut up, who always has an opinion on something. But he does bring up the question to analyze and discuss, in the very beginning of the movie, with his pal, is the grass greener on the other side?What we learn throughout the course of the film is that it probably isn’t any greener. The grass where you live is pretty spectacular, and you need to make the best of it. That’s the best advice that I, myself, can give. I think when watching the movie, the audience learns that too, the grass really isn’t greener on the other side at all.
WGTC: Swinging with the Finkels is unique in the fact that Ellie is the one who pushes to try swinging, while Alvin is apprehensive of experimenting outside of their marriage. Do you feel that men and women are changing their views on monogamy and relationships?
JS: That’s a very good question. I would like to think so. I would like to think that monogamy works, that once you make that vow, that decision in your life to stay committed, you actually get to keep that promise, you get to keep that commitment. I think that once you start to lose that, once you start to wonder, even emotionally, especially emotionally, your relationship is bound to get lost. I don’t want to make any judgments, and I don’t want to preach, but I’m hoping that marriage can work, that when people do fall in love, when people do find their soul mate, everyone sticks to it. It has the potential to be a very powerful thing, marriage.
That concludes our interview but we’d like to thank Jonathan Silverman for talking to us. Make sure you check out our review of Swinging with the Finkels. You can catch the film in theatres on August 26th.