Although Ari Graynor got her start more than a decade ago in heavier dramatic roles in "The Sopranos" and "Mystic River," more recently the 29-year-old actress has been tickling our funny bones. She played Caroline, Norah's alcoholic best friend, in "Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist" and improvised an entire scene at a bus station where her character talks to a stranger.
Now Graynor stars in the raunchy-sweet R-rated comedy "For a Good Time, Call…," in which her free-spirited Katie reluctantly agrees to share rent with Lauren (Lauren Anne Miller), a girl she fell out with minutes after meeting in college years ago. Lauren discovers that Katie makes good money as a phone-sex operator and soon the odd couple bonds over building a successful business together.
In real life, Graynor is just as effervescent as her "For a Good Time, Call…" character. She chatted us up about phone sex, the revival of female-centric comedies post-"Bridesmaids" and why you shouldn't believe everything you read about her on the Internet.
You received the "For a Good Time, Call…" script along with a personal letter from writers Katie Anne Naylon and Lauren Miller that made you cry. Why?
I have the personality where, although my ego can be healthy, sometimes I also feel like people won't remember me or they won't know who I am. I got this letter where they talked about what fans they were of my work and how they felt like I was one of the only people out there who could be both sexy and vulnerable and funny all at the same time. They said I have an openness to balance the sexy confidence. There was something about the way that they worded that sentiment that I appreciated so much. It was lovely that they saw both of the sides.
To be invited as an executive producer, too, is something I always wanted to do. Here are these smart women who have written this amazing script and they wanted me to be a part of this process in such a close way with them. It was such a deep honor.
Miller co-wrote the movie with Naylon and Miller stars in the movie as your roommate. Did you feel any pressure to try to emulate Naylon?
No, I didn't. I felt like the real Katie in life and in the script has such an infectious spirit and is such a force of nature, and that really came alive to me in the writing. It wasn't the Lauren-and-Katie biopic, so I wanted to integrate that character and bring as much of myself as I could. I wanted to her to come across as dynamic in the movie and to not fall into any cliches.
Is it true you found the director, Jamie Travis, for "For a Good Time, Call…"?
Yes. Originally we were going to shoot in Canada, so we needed a Canadian director. Agents had submitted people, and, when I watched 30 seconds of Jamie's short film, I e-mailed the team and said, "This has to be our director." Everyone we met with was talented in their own right but Jamie truly felt like a visionary. After he left, I stood up and said, "I'm not saying I'm walking off this movie if he doesn't do it, but I'm telling you I'm not going to do this movie if he doesn't do it." And then … he did it!
I wish there was a deeper research story. Really, for us the movie is about friendship first and phone sex second. Because it was a comedy, we wanted to make sure it was always funny and not overly titillating. I needed to crack down on the overly sexualized part of my mind and not have it feel too real. I tried to do the general character work of tapping into Katie's spirit, and, for the calls, I tried to leave myself open and not self-conscious and be open-minded and non-judgmental. It was more about setting the tone for that.
Is it true you, Naylon and Miller had phone sex together to practice?
[Laughs] Well, we joked around. Lauren and I only spoke dirty to each other for a month. We played around, taking different shots and improvising. We probably did more rehearsing that way than we remember. As soon as we showed up on set, we had to lock down because we had to shoot in such a short amount of time.
"For a Good Time, Call…" is a platonic love story about two female friends. Why are there so few movies that celebrate female friendship?
I don't know! That should be a no-brainer and that's why I was so excited to read the script. I was like, finally, here is a script that isn't competitive or about women being jealous or getting the guy. This movie is a little bit of an homage to movies we loved growing up in the '80s with Goldie Hawn, Shelley Long, Bette Midler and Diane Keaton. They were strong, dynamic female characters that were not only about finding Mr. Right.
I guess it's easier to get male audiences because they will drag their girlfriends with them, whereas it's harder for women to drag their men to a female movie. "Bridesmaids" doing so well shed a light on these movies that were being made anyway. We just lucked out in that we happened to go to Sundance the year after it opened. "For a Good Time, Call…" was already on its journey as was "Bachelorette," which was written years ago. People want to see these films, and hopefully people will be willing to see ours, too.
Is it flattering when your style of comedy is compared to Bette Midler and Goldie Hawn?
Oh my God! It's so flattering. I'm huge fans of theirs. As an actor, these kinds of big-comedic-centerpiece characters is just one thing that I love to do. A lot of my work has been more dramatic before this in "The Sopranos" and "Holy Rollers," so I love hearing those comparisons as long as people don't get convinced that that's all I can do.
Wikipedia reports that one thing you did was shave your hair off for a role on "CSI: Miami." Would you really do that for one episode?
No! That is the only job that I ever did that I didn't want to do and sort of regret doing, but I really needed money. But that was just a wig cap. Don't believe anything you read on Wikipedia!
Where can fans see you next after "For a Good Time, Call…"?
I play Rashida Jones' best friend in "Celeste and Jesse Forever." It's a beautiful, sad look at what happens when you love somebody but maybe you're not meant to be together. I'm also in a movie called "10 Years," which was like being in movie camp. It has the most amazing young actors around right now: Channing Tatum, Rosario Dawson, Kate Mara, Oscar Isaac, Anthony Mackie and Aubrey Plaza. We shot it about a year ago, and it feels like our little diary.