‘It’s A Disaster’ Cast Interview: Erinn Hayes & Rachel Boston

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From Left to Right: Erinn Hayes, Blaise Miller, Julia Stiles, David Cross, America Ferrera, and Jeff Grace. Just a sample of the incredible ensemble cast!

Although the Los Angeles Film Festival has wrapped, I was fortunate enough to speak with two of the cast members from the hilarious disaster-comedy film It’s A Disaster that premiered at the yearly venue: Erinn Hayes (Children’s Hospital) and Rachel Boston (500 Days of Summer). The three of us had a great deal to speak about, primarily because we are so passionate about this film — which, by the way, I consider to be the best comedy I’ve seen so far in 2012 — and are crossing our fingers it gets picked up for a U.S. release later this year. Without further ado, here are each of my one-on-one phone interviews with these two hidden gems of comedy, transcribed for you all to read. Enjoy! First up is Erinn Hayes, who plays the character of Emma in It’s A Disaster: Awardscircuit.com: Hi Erinn, nice to meet you! Thanks for talking with us today at The Awards Circuit. I just wanted to say…this film really struck me. It was both funny and it was kind of a character study in itself — I loved it! I’m just curious first off: how did you get approached for this project; how did you get involved with It’s A Disaster? Erinn Hayes: You know, I think it was the casting director who knew me, who saw me in “Hannah Cooper.” I have known her before, and she kind of brought me to the attention of Todd [Berger] (director & writer of It’s A Disaster) and the [It’s A Disaster crew], so they called me to contact me. I didn’t know anybody before, so it was just kind of a more standard way of coming on board, but I was so happy that they did because once I read the script, I was like: wait, this is so wonderful and funny, and it really is a study in characters, and I think it’s so fun that I was really happy and honored to be a part of it! Awardscircuit.com: Yeah, I have to say I’m glad you were a part of it! Correct me if I’m wrong, but I’m pretty sure that — I IMDB’d really quick — this is your first feature length film debut, and so I wanted to talk a little bit about your feelings about that. Did you feel a lot of pressure or excitement; what was going through your head? Erinn Hayes: Well yeah, that’s what I was saying, I’ve done a bunch of TV — let’s go back to there. I’ve worked extensively in television for the most part, not because that’s the only place I’ve wanted to work, just because that’s kind of been where my career has panned out at this point, and so it’s been a little harder to break into the movie world — it’s just a whole different group of people. I was just thrilled to be offered [a role in It’s A Disaster], and to look and be like: wait, I’ve actually got a lot to do, and you’re just offering it to me? That’s so fantastic! It was a pleasant introduction into the movie world, the whole experience with the cast and we hit it off immediately, we all hung out a bunch — onset, after, weekends — and then the onset experience too was so fun. Todd [Berger] was so open and easy to work with that I felt very spoiled for my first [movie-making] experience. Awardscircuit.com: Awesome! Well, speaking about Todd Berger — who’s a pretty talented guy who I don’t think a lot of people know about, and hopefully after this movie they’ll appreciate him a little bit more — I just wanted to know what about his screenplay attracted you to the role of Emma, and were you always going to play her? Erinn Hayes: Yes, I was always going to play Emma. What attracted me to [Todd Berger’s screenplay] was that everyone in the story was so weird and flawed and real that I was really attracted to getting away from some of the stuff I’ve done before where it’s a little bit more like an “understanding girlfriend” type role. [Emma’s] really kind of a force, and she can be kind of an asshole. In this day in particular, it starts off as one of those days where she probably didn’t really want to see anybody, let alone have a huge party and announce [her and husband Pete’s] divorce, and then is stuck in what might be her last day with all these people. I just thought all the characters took such interesting journeys, but [the character of Emma] was like: oh yeah, that’s the part I should play. She’s a little caustic and she just really spoke to me, and it’s always exciting to see that. Awardscircuit.com: Great! I just want to ask this: everyone brings their own blend of comedy — each character has their own comedic flavor to them, you could say — so where did you find inspiration for Emma’s particular humor? Erinn Hayes: Well she’s the person in the script that is constantly looking at the other ones and is like, “Are you f–king kidding me?” She’s very reactionary in that way like [Jeff Grace’s character, Shane] is so convinced that there’s aliens — he’s really on that track. Awardscircuit.com: She’s kind of a realist. Erinn Hayes: Yeah, she’s a realist, and I don’t know where [Emma’s humor] came from but I didn’t think about that too much, because it was all just kind of there in the writing, and when we all got on set it just started to click in a way that — I don’t know if it’s bad to say, but — we didn’t have to think so much or prepare so much. Awardscircuit.com: Yeah, Todd Berger just kind of let you all shine on your own, and see where it went from there. Erinn Hayes: Well yeah, one of the fun things about acting in a big group that are considered to be talented people is that you can kind of take a breath and just react to what they’re doing while still keeping what your character wants in mind on their path, to sit back and let it evolve in a way that you don’t have to constantly be thinking about what you’re doing. Awardscircuit.com: I completely hear you. I just want to know, offhand, how was it like working with big name stars like Julia Stiles and America Ferrera? Were you phased by it, were you calm about it; how did you kind of handle that starstruck experience working with big named actors? Erinn Hayes: Well, I was kind of the most nervous to meet David Cross, because I’ve been such a fan of his for so long and his brand of comedy with “Mr. Show,” “Arrested Development,” standup, and the “The Increasingly Poor Decisions of Todd Margaret.” I was really nervous about meeting him, so I think — I don’t know — I’m the kind of person who has a lot of girl friends, so I thought it’ll be really fun to meet all the girls and we’ll bud up. But with everybody on the first day, it was all so easy and everybody was so nice and down-to-earth. I mean, there’s no attitudes. I don’t think they would have signed on if they had bad attitudes. Awardscircuit.com: That’s nice to hear! One thing I want to go back with Emma is that, while everyone had their own sub-story in the film, Emma went through the biggest, most noticeable character arc. So basically, without spoiling the film for our readers who haven’t seen It’s A Disaster, how does Emma change from when we first meet her to when we last see her in the film? Erinn Hayes: That was very interesting and a fun thing for me to figure out in how I was going to play it, because yeah…she does…she goes through a huge change. [Emma] starts the day in a very guarded and protected, kind of pissed off way. She’s having that day where you don’t want to see anybody, and you’ve already in your mind gone to tomorrow. She really goes through this change where you see that she was probably in this place where she didn’t really like herself very much and couldn’t access the part of herself that was enjoyable to be, and to be in this relationship with Pete. I tried to physically — and we did it with the costumes and a little bit with the makeup — look very put-together in the beginning and guarded, and then she kind of starts to lose steam and go on with the day by kind of taking away some of that so that she can reconnect with Pete and get to a place that she didn’t think she’d be able to get back to. Awardscircuit.com: I totally hear you, and I just loved the way she ended up in the film. I really liked her change and arc — I was really impressed by the character of Emma. Is there one particular scene or moment that stood out in your mind as your favorite or were most proud of, and why was that? Erinn Hayes: I loved the scene down in the basement with me and Kevin Brennan (who plays Buck) where it’s really funny and he’s learning about duct (not “duck”) tape and how it’s actually spelled. That one turned out to be a really great scene, and so I’m proud of that. But I am very proud of the scene that Blaiser [Miller] and I do where we’re in the car and we finally reconnect and are able to talk honestly with each other, because personally, I married my high school sweetheart, so I know what it’s like to be in a relationship for a long time and to have those moments where everything’s good and then kind of everything’s shitty, etc. If you don’t have a view towards the end, you’re not going to be able to get through those low times. Every relationship has low times, and that scene in the car where she at least realizes that and they come back together was a great [scene] to shoot, and we worked really hard on that, so I was proud of it. Awardscircuit.com: I know, I really enjoyed that scene. Erinn Hayes: It’s weird…I have to say, working mostly in comedy, when I watch the screening, I can gauge when an audience is with us when they’re laughing, but I’m not used to being able to tell if they’re with us at the serious moments, so I was so nervous during those scenes. I was like: “Oh God, have we lost them, have we lost them?” Awardscircuit.com: I think it’s because we care so much the characters that even in the serious moments, when things aren’t funny, you’re still totally engaged by what they’re doing. Erinn Hayes: Yeah, and as an audience member for things I’m not a part of, of course — yes — I love stuff like that, but it’s me just personally, since I work mostly in comedy, laughter tends to be the way I know the audience is hooked. Awardscircuit.com: Yeah, I hear you. It was cool that you guys struck that balance of humor and serious drama. I just want to know…how many takes did you guys do of that establishing scene where the characters are all set up for brunch, because it was an incredibly lengthy one-shot take? Erinn Hayes: You know, I completely forgot — I totally forgot what it was! At the first screening, Todd [Berger] said we did it ten times, but we made it to the end three times. Awardscircuit.com: Did you guys have rehearsals for that scene, or how did you prepare for it? Erinn Hayes: Yeah, we rehearsed it a bunch with just the actors and then we had to rehearse it a number of times with the cameras to make sure they were in the right place, and then we just did it a bunch of times. But yeah, I think we actually made it to the end three times. Awardscircuit.com: I’m trying to think how long that one-shot scene was. It was about a good five minutes, right? Erinn Hayes: Yeah, I don’t know the statistics, but I would say at least five minutes. Awardscircuit.com: Awesome, awesome! I see It’s A Disaster as kind of postmodern, because there’s so many genres blending together, and that’s kind of what I really appreciated about it. Do you think it’s pretty important to have films like these that kind of blend genres? I mean, you don’t really see a lot of that in filmmaking nowadays. Either it’s “sci-fi” or “horror” or “comedy” — you don’t have a lot of genres interweaving like you do in It’s A Disaster. That’s why I really responded to this film. Erinn Hayes: I think it’s very important, and it was another one of those things that really drew me to script, especially stuff like this with “disaster” or “sci-fi” that have elements of [genre-blending] that are so pushed, but it’s not what is real or what would really happen if World War 3 is happening outside your door. Most likely, most of us wouldn’t be the Nicholas Cage’s and Bruce Willis’ of the world. We would be sitting in a house fighting with the people that we’re stuck in the house with. That’s what I liked about [It’s A Disaster], so to have this relationship story that’s got this “disaster” element and is funny and has more serious moments is great. I think it is important — it’s important to explore all of it, not just stay in a genre because that’s the kind of film you’re making. You can use whatever genre you need to tell the story you want to tell. Awardscircuit.com: Excellent! Well, I have one final wrap-up question I want to ask. Basically, I want to know what’s coming up for you, what are some future projects on the horizon? Erinn Hayes: Well, the show that I do for Adult Swim, Children’s Hospital, our fourth season premieres August 9th, so that’s a big one and it’s a great season, really fun, really funny, and fans should be satisfied. Later this summer, I’m shooting a part in the new David Wayne/Michael Showalter movie, They Came Together, and I have some guest starring roles in Suits that should probably be airing soon, and one on a new TBS show called The Wedding Band, which is probably not until November. Awardscircuit.com: Just curious, do you know what the U.S. release date is for It’s A Disaster? Erinn Hayes: That I don’t know. You know, as of [the last festival screening] it wasn’t sold, but I know [the director and crew] are working hard to get it sold. Awardscircuit.com: Yeah, I have full confidence in it — it’s that good. For an “apocalyptic” movie, you see a lot of those right now, but it does something a little different and it’s not so serious — it’s kind of lighthearted, fun, and has a lot of unique characters and great ensemble work. Thanks so much for talking with us at The Awards Circuit — it’s been delightful! Erinn Hayes: No problem, you too, have a good day! Awardscircuit.com: You too, buh-bye! *Please be sure to follow Erinn Hayes on Twitter: @hayeslady* Next up, we have Rachel Boston who plays the character of Lexi, a quirky and carefree spirit who steals every scene she is in: Awardscircuit.com: Hey Rachel, thanks for talking to us today at The Awards Circuit! Basically, the first question — it’s the same one I asked Erinn Hayes — is: how did you become involved with the whole project, with It’s A Disaster? Rachel Boston: I was actually back in Tennessee visiting my family and the script was sent to me, and I just laughed out loud immediately after the second page. I thought it was so funny and such an original concept, and then when I spoke with Todd Berger he had an idea that each character was in one of the stages of grief throughout the entire film, and Lexi was in denial. So Todd and I…I think our first conversation was over an hour just talking about how people handle extreme situations. I just really enjoyed talking to him about that, his vision for the movie, and so then I signed on board and a few weeks later we were filming. Awardscircuit.com: Awesome, that’s so cool! And were you always going to play the role of Lexi? That was never a question then, right? Rachel Boston: It wasn’t, no. That was the role they [wanted me to play]. I worked on a movie with a friend of Jeff Grace’s (who plays neurotic Shane in It’s A Disaster) called (500) Days of Summer, and I think he had seen me in a movie called The Pill. I played an eccentric woman, and so *laughs* I think from that they [knew I was right for the Lexi role]. Lexi is pretty far from my own personality, but she was so fun to live in because she embraces anything that comes her way with love and joy. Awardscircuit.com: Yeah, I was going to say…I know you’ve been in a number of films, but this one in particular kind of pushed you to your comedic max, I thought. So besides (500) Days of Summer, have you ever had a role like Lexi that really pushed your comedic talents, and how did you prepare for that? Rachel Boston: Well (500) Days of Summer actually, I played a very conservative person, but just getting to know [Todd Berger], I think he knew I had that in me, that comedy side. When I was working with Todd, because when he said that Lexi is a woman living in denial, it just made it so truthful for her to need to run away because she can’t accept that her life is about to end. It made everything just become a discovery, and working with Kevin Brennan, who played my husband Buck, we had a beautiful dinner one night to get to know each other before the film and talked about where our characters were from and how we met. We went through so much work together that by the time we got to set, it was just fun to play. Awardscircuit.com: Yeah, you guys had a great chemistry together and I enjoyed that. That’s interesting how you talk about Lexi’s denial, because I saw her as somewhat of an enigmatic character. I was was trying to figure her out, her intentions and what was going on underneath. For people who are wondering and want to dig a little deeper into Lexi and the mystery surrounding her, how would you personally describe her as a character? What’s internally going on down there? Rachel Boston: I think [Lexi’s] had a lot of very strange experiences in her life that have opened up her level for compassion and unconditional love. She is so wide awake to the present moment that she doesn’t judge. I think that was one thing that Kevin [Brennan] and I both really talked about, because we wanted these characters to just be embracing — they’re the friends you go to when you want to have acceptance and when you want to feel safe. Knowing that [Kevin and I] might not be the brightest of this group, but we have huge hearts, and we’re there for people in the best of times, in the worst of times. It was just fun to explore that comedically as well.  They were both searching at the fact that at the end of the movie, I’m still asking if the [food] dishes are vegan. I’m committed to a new way of life to the end, so I would say “commitment” is a big aspect of Lexi’s character. Awardscircuit.com: Lexi’s pretty consistent from beginning to end. Even during all the madness that’s ensuing, she stays perky and nothing really phases her. That impressed me a lot actually. Rachel Boston: Well you can laugh or cry. I think if you’ve been through enough experiences [like Lexi], its almost like she’s come to peace in her own world with the fact that she’s going to die before [the apocalyptic disaster] even happens. She’s living every day in a much more peaceful state than her friends who are so dedicated to their work and their relationships, and they’re trying to figure that out. Lexi has that world figured out for herself, so she’s able to just stay in a more present state even through a national disaster, which she finally starts to recognize is real. And she has love! With Buck and Lexi, they have the life that they want, and so it’s almost that they were living the way they wanted to be living, which is living life to the fullest. I think they didn’t have regrets about their lives at the end of the world. Awardscircuit.com: Yeah, they both kind of accept each others’ idiosyncrasies, and so I think they make a good couple in that sense. Rachel Boston: Yeah, that especially — just to have a partner that accepts you for everything you are, and then I accepted him for everything he was. Kevin [Brennan] and I had so much fun working together just exploring those two [characters]. That scene where [Lexi and Buck] are lying in bed, talking about coming back to life as an animal or as a band in heaven, was great. Awardscircuit.com: I thought you were the funniest part of the film, by the way. You and David Cross certainly had me laughing the most. Was there one particular scene in the film that you were most proud of or that really clicked for you in a sort of comedic sense? Rachel Boston: I loved the dinner scene with the whole cast around a table. Working with an ensemble cast like this, with such incredible actors, I loved watching everyone together and each character was so specific, and everyone was bringing so much to the table that my eyes were just wide open the whole scene. I was just so hyper-aware of what everyone was doing to bring to this movie. It was really nice to have the entire group in so many scenes altogether. And then I loved playing the glockenspiel *laughs*… Awardscircuit.com: So random, but so funny! Rachel Boston: If you’re going to go out [dying], you may as well go out with a glockenspiel *laughs*. Awardscircuit.com: *Laughs* I hear you! I wanted to ask you, personally, how would you react to this apocalyptic situation that the characters are in? Whose line of thinking, of all the different characters, would you personally have in this crazy situation? Rachel Boston: Well that was something that I was truly showing up every day exploring — we shot It’s A Disaster in three weeks — thinking: if this is the last day I drive to work, which route should I take? Do I go the scenic route to work? I mean you’re so conscious of [the prospect of “the end of the world”]. Having experienced this, I think to go out with a smile and to have love, and the lessons I learned from Lexi of embracing unconditional love and embracing everyone around you, that’s the way I want to go out — with a smile…and a glockenspiel! I’d buy another one of those *laughs*! Awardscircuit.com: So basically, you wouldn’t change anything about Lexi’s behavior. You’d want to mirror her or try to transcend what she’s feeling. Rachel Boston: Maybe I’m a little bit more sensitive to everyone around me *laughs*. I mean, I think I relate more to Julia [Stiles’] character. I love the scene with her and David [Cross] when she was sitting there thinking about the things she hadn’t done. Awardscircuit.com: Yeah, that was a great scene! Rachel Boston: Such a great scene! Julia brought such truth and heart to it when she says, ” I never went to Europe…I never went to Montreal (which is very European)…and I never watched The Wire.” Awardscircuit.com: I haven’t watched The Wire either! As soon as I heard that line, I’m like: God, I have HBO GO®, I’ve got to just run and watch that show…in case something happens, you know?! Rachel Boston: I haven’t watched [The Wire] either! Maybe we both need to do that before the end of the world *laughs*. Awardscircuit.com: Exactly *laughs*! Your scenes with David Cross were extremely funny, and you both had a lot of genuine chemistry together. How was it like working with David Cross, considering he’s pretty big in the comedy world? Rachel Boston: Well he’s an amazing person and incredible honest, one of the most honest human beings I’ve ever met in my life. I had so much respect for him as an actor, and then working with him…he’s incredibly grounded, and when you ask him a question, he answers from such a place of [experience]. He’s had so many experiences throughout his upbringing, and then his comedic journey through all the roles that he’s played, that he brings so much to the table that you just show up and listen to him. It’s hard not to laugh during takes because he’s so funny. Awardscircuit.com: Yeah, what’s great about this role for him is that he’s so restrained until the end, so that when he finally does go off the rails, it’s even more hysterical knowing that his character was so introverted beforehand. Rachel Boston: [David Cross] played the straight guy so well. He’s honest as his character as well until the end, and then you see once again what Tracy (Julia Stiles’ character) has attracted [for boyfriend material]. I think Glen (David Cross’ character) was the eyes for the audience as well, because he was meeting this group of people as everyone [in the audience] met this group. It was just fun to watch everyone’s scenes that I didn’t get to see when we were filming. I read them and heard them at the table read, but I was just so proud of everyone’s performance in the film. Awardscircuit.com: Yeah, I was talking about that to Erinn Hayes. Every actor was funny, but the way they interpreted comedy and being funny was very unique to each of the individual characters they portrayed. I credit that to both the performers and Todd Berger’s writing, and that was really impressive to me. Rachel Boston: And that’s the way [Todd] Berger operates also. He’s a very embracing director. We were filming five-day weeks, and then on the weekends we would go to the Hollywood Bowl and all see concerts together, so we became very close while making this movie…probably because we were living in this mindset that the world was ending and we wanted to spend as much time as we could together. But Todd really let everyone find their voice, and he encouraged us to spend as much time together since we were all living together in this movie. He was a blessing to work with, and I thought he was brilliant in his scene with the hazmat suit; he was absolutely perfect. Awardscircuit.com: Absolutely! I always like to ask this question to a lot of comedians, but do you revere any comedic talents — and this could be past or present — that kind of inspire your work and what you bring to the screen with your comedy? Rachel Boston: Well, my first introduction to television was through I Love Lucy. Lucille Ball, who is an incredibly kind soul who gets put in extreme situations and takes it to the most [funniest of places], is the woman that I’ve been watching and admiring that kind of brought me into this industry, and she’s very truthful — she’s such a big heart in the show that you root for her even though she keeps falling down along the way. I still watch [I Love Lucy]. Anytime I can’t sleep, that’s what’s on. Awardscircuit.com: You have a lot of one-liners in It’s A Disaster that are pretty out there. Did they all come from the screenplay and if not, how much of it was spontaneous? Rachel Boston: Well, we improvised a lot around scenes, but once we start filming we stuck pretty much to the script. What was not in the script was the glockenspiel. That was an instrument that I, in real life, had just started playing, and Kevin [Brennan] and I started talking about how he and Lexi could start a band. We talked to Todd [Berger] about what if Lexi and Buck had a band, and Lexi’s just started playing the glockenspiel, so we added that element into the storyline. But dialogue-wise, Todd had written such a solid and hilarious script that we stuck to it. Awardscircuit.com: That’s a credit to Todd Berger’s writing abilities, because the dialogue sounds so spontaneous and improvised. It doesn’t sound like somebody just line-reading. The dialogue sounds so real, something that anyone would just blurt out as a reaction; it was great! Rachel Boston: In all those scenes where we’re talking over each other, I think that just set a dynamic of just this group of people that love each other so much, and we all accept each other for who we are. [Todd Berger] created eight characters — and I think it was also because of those stages of grief — that he was able to keep the tone of each character throughout the film [consistent]. We just had a blast. It truly was one of the most joyful work experiences. I couldn’t wait to get to set every day; it was so much fun! Awardscircuit.com: Yes, I could see that you guys had a lot of fun together from your ensemble chemistry. I want to ask one more question, and it’s an obvious one, but what’s coming up for you? What’s next; do you have any projects in the pipeline? Rachel Boston: This is actually my first day to be awake. I’ve been shooting nights on a Christmas movie that I wrapped two days ago, which I’ve been filming for the past month. That will be out this December, I believe. I got to sing and dance, and it was a wonderful group as well. Awardscircuit.com: Who’s involved in the project? Rachel Boston: A dear friend of mine actually plays my best friend. His name is Jonathan Bennett (Mean Girls). We have Jonathan Bennett, Harry Hamlin (Clash of the Titans), and Sunny Mabrey (Snakes on a Plane). It’s a great group, and we all play best friends in high school reuniting again for the holidays. It’s a really fun comedy, but it has the Christmas message as well. Awardscircuit.com: Well, that’s great to hear! Thanks again for talking with us at The Awards Circuit. I look forward to seeing what else you do, because you really blew me away. I was shocked at the level of comedic talent you brought, and how funny Lexi’s character was and how great your acting was in the film. Rachel Boston: Oh Joseph, thank you so much! That’s so sweet! Thank you, thank you! I just had a blast playing her, and I’m just so excited that the movie is out there now. I’m really looking forward to seeing it with the whole group at these festivals. Awardscircuit.com: Are you guys working toward getting It’s A Disaster picked up? What’s the status of that so far? Rachel Boston: I believe so. It premiered at L.A. Film Festival, and they had to add so many screenings, so if you know anyone…send them our way! Awardscircuit.com: I wish you guys all the best! Thanks again for the interview, and have a nice day! Rachel Boston: You too — have a lovely Saturday! Good bye! *Please be sure to follow Rachel Boston on her Twitter account: @RACHELBOSTON* That is a wrap for my interviews with these two great actresses of comedy. Let’s cross our fingers that It’s A Disaster will be picked up and debut later this year, as…you know…it is the year when the world is supposed to end and all! While there is no trailer available, here is a clip of It’s A Disaster for everyone to check out: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=F0G8NvjBmQo