Stereotypically You is a NYC dating comedy that follows Charlie Carroll (Aaron Tveit), who quits his job and his girlfriend on the same day, seemingly finding his freedom, but also wondering if he’s made a mistake. Not equipped for single life or even life in general, Charlie is forced to go on a journey of self-discovery so intense that he begins to suffer from surreal hallucinations, flashbacks, and sex fantasies, and his journey to find “the one.”
While at the Santa Barbara International Film Festival (SBIFF), actor Aaron Tveit sat down with Collider during a break between screenings of his film, Stereotypically You, for this exclusive interview about what drew him to the project, just how close the finished product is to the script he read, the appeal of telling an unconventionally structured story, and funny sex scenes. He also talked about his upcoming CBS summer series, BrainDead, a one-hour comic-thriller from Robert and Michelle King (The Good Wife) about alien spawn who have come to earth and eaten the brains of a growing number of Congressmen and Hill staffers, and the experience of playing Danny Zuko in the recent three-hour Grease: Live! televised production (available on DVD on March 8th).
Collider: This is a movie that seems like it was so much fun to make and that you guys had a lot of fun with each other?
AARON TVEIT: We had a great time. We shot in New York, two summers ago, and anytime you get to shoot anything in New York, it’s very fun, especially a film. There’s a pace to it that helps, especially a film like this where you don’t have that many days. The cast was all great and we all got along really well. We really just had a blast. I’ve worked on stuff where you try to hide where you’re pointing the camera, but in New York, anywhere you point, it’s just production value. It was really cool.
How did this come about for you?
TVEIT: It came to me when my agents called and said they’d gotten the script. I think (writer/director) Ben [Cox] contacted them about me. I had a Skype session with Ben and we talked. I read the script, which I loved. I thought it was really interesting. This kind of story from a guy’s perspective isn’t necessarily the norm, which I thought was cool. It was a really heartfelt story from a guy’s perspective, and I just thought that was very different from a lot of stuff I’d read. And then, I loved all the sequences that lifted out of reality. I thought they were really, really interesting, the way they were construction. And when we had a Skype session, we really hit it off and he asked me if I wanted to do it, so I jumped on board.
There is a very conversational feel to many of these scenes. Was that all in the script, or did you improvise any of that?
TVEIT: It was really well written. There wasn’t too much improv. A lot of times, when you get that conversational feel, it’s the actors making changes to what’s on the page. But, that’s what Ben wrote. He wrote it really, really well, and how people talk to each other.
Is the finished film pretty close to that original script that you read, or did it go through an evolution?
TVEIT: I think Ben had been working on it for awhile before I got involved. The script that we had and read and worked on is pretty much intact. It was great working with Ben because he has an editing background, so there’s an efficiency to his directing. It’s even apparent in the script. There were so many scenes, but it was almost like he already had it edited while he was shooting it, so we were able to work through them in a very fast way.
This film has an unconventional structure for a romantic comedy. Was that part of the appeal for you?
TVEIT: Yeah. It’s totally out of order and non-linear. It wasn’t just a paint by numbers romantic comedy. It had all of these creative elements on top of it that I thought were really interesting. That was a big part of what drew me to it. So many romantic comedies are trying to be Annie Hall or When Harry Met Sally, but you can’t. It’s interesting when they find a new way to tell a story. This was the first one that I’ve ever done, so the fact that it’s told in a very different way is exciting.
Did you guys get any time to hang out and get to know each other?
TVEIT: Abby [Elliott] and I spent some time beforehand. We got together a few times. Especially because of the way that relationship plays out, where you’re dropped right into the aftermath of it, we wanted to have some common ground between us about what the relationship was. We talked a lot about the months before this movie, with the two of them, so that we at least had some commonality. And I met Shane [McRae] a few times before this and knew him a little bit. Shane, Lauren [Miller Rogen] and I hit it off immediately. You have to make it look like these relationships are years long, and a lot of times, you’ve only known the people for a few days. Sometimes chemistry does the trick, and other times, you have to forge that with the people.
The sex scene montage in this is very funny. Is it easier to do those scenes when there is some humor to them and you can laugh about it?
TVEIT: Definitely! With this movie, in particular, we were completely laughing our way through it with how ridiculous it was. I think one of the girls slapped me, at one point, because Ben was just yelling out instructions. It was hilarious! That was indicative of that whole process, that day of shooting. It’s much easier when it’s a funny, fun thing. It’s uncomfortable. People want to glorify it and act like it’s something more than it is, but when there are a bunch of crew guys standing around, it’s not the most sexy thing. I think people hope that it is, but it’s really not. It’s definitely more fun when it’s in that vein. And then, the aftermath of that, riding on the bus with those people, was always one of the funniest scenes to me, in the script. Riding home in his nun outfit was just so funny.
You get to do a lot of different things in this film. Was anything particularly challenging?
TVEIT: The time frame made it all challenging, but I think there’s something to that that takes the pressure off, a little bit. You don’t get in your head as much. There’s just no time, so you just have to do it, get it done, move on, and not think about what you did or didn’t want to do different. You just have to prepare, and then let it go. It really is a good exercise in learning how to let that go.
This is not the kind of romantic comedy where everything is wrapped up neatly with a bow. Was that also appealing to you?
TVEIT: Yeah, and I think that’s something Ben also really wanted to convey. Even though the film goes out of reality, the real reality of the movie is realistic. Things don’t always tie up in a nice bow. Even when you make strides with people and relationships, it’s complicated. Life doesn’t move in a linear fashion. Life makes lefts and rights, and it doubles back. What I also really liked about Ben’s script is that Charlie is okay, but he’s not riding off into the sunset with a new girl, which is another way that it doesn’t fall into cliche.
Charlie is a guy who really has to get his own shit together before he can be with someone else. Were you able to identify with him?
TVEIT: Yeah. He’s a little bit more in his head than I am, but in the same way, I feel like I’ve had to do that and I’m always doing that. I’m at a place in my life where I do finally feel, at least most of the time, that I know who I am and I’m comfortable with the person that I am. Because of that, I’m ready and open to meeting the person that hopefully I’ll share my life with. But, it takes a long time to get to that place.
Your upcoming TV series BrainDead, from Robert and Michelle King, is set to air on CBS this summer and sounds really fun. Was the appeal of that the opportunity to work with the Kings, who are known for writing really smart stories and dialogue?
TVEIT: Yeah, absolutely! I did a couple episodes of The Good Wife years ago, so I knew Robert and Michelle and had been a big fan of the show. They’re just really, really smart writers and they’re pros. When Graceland, the show that I’d been working on, got canceled, I had no intention of jumping into a new TV series. It happened really fast. They sent me the script, I read it, and I thought it was such a cool idea. The writing is great and the character wasn’t a kid. I loved my character on Graceland, but he was this kid coming up. This guy is a hard worker who’s done well. I knew Mary Elizabeth Winstead was attached, and I’ve just been a huge fan of hers for so long. And CBS stepping into the genre thing is exciting. Also, the writers’ room is already seven or eight episodes in, and they’re shaping it for the 13 episodes. I couldn’t be more excited to start working with them.
You’ve described the show as The West Wing mixed with Invasion of the Body Snatchers. How does that work?
TVEIT: It’s interesting because it’s this alien invasion thing, but it’s like what the Kings were able to do with The Good Wife, basing it in the reality of this law firm, without that being the primary thing. It’s the relationships that happen within it and outside of it. With this, they’re really trying to root it in this Washington reality. It’s very fast paced and moves, à la The West Wing, but at the same time, there’s this whole other thing happening. I just think it’s a really interesting combination. Also, the comedy that will come from that will be fun. The comedic aspects of it are rooted in politics, but then there’s the fact that we’re speaking about this alien thing. I think it’s really cool.
Grease: Live! was so ridiculously impressive to watch. Did you just have a blast doing that?
TVEIT: Yeah. I watched it the following Monday and I was glad I hadn’t seen much of it beforehand. We had no idea, the size of what we were trying to pull off. For three hours, no technical things went wrong. It was an amazing night! I’m just so happy that the response was so positive. You never know how people are going to react. Of course, that’s not always what it’s about. But with that, people really supported it and enjoyed it. Our director, Tommy Kail (the director of Hamilton on Broadway), was great. Early on, he said, “The more of a party we can have, hopefully the people at home will have the same party.” I think we did.
You can find out more about Stereotypically You at www.stereotypicallyyou.com, Grease: Live! is available on DVD on March 8th, and BrainDead will premiere on CBS this summer.