Lauren Graham Interview – EVAN ALMIGHTY

     June 19, 2007

Opening this Friday is “Evan Almighty” – the sequel to the hit comedy “Bruce Almighty” from a few years ago. While “Bruce Almighty” had Jim Carrey, the new one has Steve Carell as the one that God (Morgan Freeman) speaks to.

By now most of you know have seen the commercials or at least know about the movie….but if you haven’t, here is the synopsis:

Steve Carell (The 40-Year-Old Virgin), reprising his role as the polished, preening newscaster Evan Baxter of Bruce Almighty, is the next one anointed by God to accomplish a holy mission in the hilarious new comedy Evan Almighty. Blockbuster comedy director Tom Shadyac (The Nutty Professor, Liar Liar, Bruce Almighty) returns behind the camera for this next episode of divine intervention. This time, however, his cast grows two-by-two.

Newly elected to Congress, Evan leaves Buffalo behind and shepherds his family to suburban northern Virginia. Once there, his life gets turned upside-down when God (Morgan Freeman) appears and mysteriously commands him to build an ark.But his befuddled familyjust can’t decide whether Evan is having an extraordinary mid-life crisis or is truly onto something of Biblical proportions…

To help promote the movie most of the cast did some interviews on the Universal lot in Hollywood about a week or so ago. All the interviews were done via press conference – meaning about twenty something journalists each took turns asking questions. That’s why some of the questions are a little off topic as each journalist had an agenda and needed to ask certain things.

Anyway, the interview below is with Lorelai Gilmore Lauren Graham. In the movie she plays Steve Carell’s wife and it’s her job to try and keep the family together when it looks like Steve has lost his mind.

During the press conference all the usual questions were asked as well as a ton of “Gilmore Girls” questions. For a show that’s off the air I was really surprised how many people kept asking about it.

As always, if you’d like to listen to the interview you can click here to download the MP3.

And before getting to the interview, if you’d like to see some clips from “Evan Almighty” click here.

“Evan Almighty” opens this Friday.

What were the biggest challenges in being cast as the wife in a movie like this? What do you bring to the table in trying to make this character more interesting and comedic and colorful?

Lauren Graham: Well, I don’t try to think about it that way because that’s not my job, kind of, in this. I love movies like this and I think somebody has to be the straight man. And also to me, one of the things I liked about this movie was the heart of it, and the sort of emotional, real story of this man who seems to be going crazy, no one believes him, and I think that’s an important part of the story. I have had years and years of talking fast and being sassy, and I’m as happy to do something simpler. [laughs] So it’s not about trying to turn it into something else, it’s just trying to do a good job with what this is. So that’s what I tried to do.

Gilmore Girls has created you as a cult…

I’m a cult? Wait… [laughs] “Cult status,” would you say? I’m a cult figure?

What do you want to do with your career now that Gilmore Girls is over? Did you catch the Joan of Arc reference?

[laughs] No, it didn’t occur to me until somebody said it to me. And then of course, my grandmother, who knows every book of the Bible, was like, “Well, her name was Sarah, so I don’t know why they called her Joan.” Wait, what was the first thing? “I’m a cult.” I think what my hope is is that the only downside of having a steady job on television is, I think for all actors, there’s a piece, there’s some adrenaline, and part of the love of the job is not knowing what’s coming next, and the variety. And I remember having this a couple years into the show, I was like, “There’s some feeling that I miss. What is it?” And it was kind of the unexpected, and not knowing what the next thing might be, or if I would get it or not get it. And so kind of to begin to get back to that unknown is…I’m sure after a while, it will drive me crazy, but for now, it feels really nice, and I’m doing a movie now, and I’m going to do something else in like a month, so I know what my next couple things are, and I’m just really excited to have different experiences. And I feel I’ve kind of earned that, you know? [laughs] It’s sort of like I feel like I’ve put in a lot of time in medical school. Because Gilmore Girls is kind of like medical school, you know what I mean? [laughs] And now I’m going to go do my residency. Can anyone help me with this analogy? And I’ll try to be a doctor in one area… [laughs] I just am going to really enjoy the variety.

How is Gilmore Girls like medical school?

[laughs] Did you not get my joke? [laughs] I just mean I put in a lot of time at one thing, and now I sort of get to reap the benefits, is how I think about it. But if you think about it this way, I could be a doctor by now, had I gone to medical school instead of going to Gilmore Girls. Seven years. That would be about right. [laughs] “Graham Thinks She’s a Doctor: Confused?” I’m writing your article for you.

If someone you cared about in your life went this nuts, how would you deal with it? Would you stick with them or bail?

Well, I think I kind of go through all the colors in this because you want to believe them, you look for a rational explanation, you finally decide you can’t take it anymore, and the Morgan Freeman is your waiter and he tells you what to do. That’s pretty much how I hope it would go. I don’t know. You can’t possibly know. I think the movie raises the question of, “How far will your faith take you? What do you do in the face of doubt? Is the power of love enough to get over what you perceive to be the reality of something?” And I don’t know the answers to all those questions. But we ask them here, in this little PG movie! [laughs] It makes you think!

What was like working opposite Steve Carell, and what did you think of his metrosexual makeover?

I thought that was really funny, because when I saw it…I mean, first of all, I got so used to seeing him in that stuff every day that he would just look weird when you saw him without it. [laughs] And the metrosexual stuff I thought played really well. It was great. I mean, again, we sort of had the more dramatic scenes in the movie, so I wasn’t like holding my sides laughing during them because that wasn’t the tone of the scene. [laughs] But he’s a very funny guy. I really appreciate how he approaches things. He’s a real actor, you know? I liked his work in 40-Year-Old Virgin because I thought, “This is so interesting. It’s so small and subtle, and he’s coming from the character. He’s not coming from like, ‘I’m doing something wacky and big!'” And I just like that. So it was fun.

In this movie and in Gilmore Girls, you’re the sexy mom…


Not skinny at all, but very light…

Mmm…Wow, there’s that. Not at all? You wouldn’t say at all? [laughs]

What do you do to…

To be so not skinny?

Do you work out?

[laughs] Well, thank you for part of that question. I don’t have really any awareness of that. What I knew is that I thought that…You know, we sort of discussed that I didn’t think she worked. And so I wanted her to feel kind of casual and natural, especially in opposition to this guy who’s very buttoned up and has kind of gotten into this more professional time of his life. I felt like this is a girl who’s known him a long time, and knew him before all this stuff happened. And so I just wanted her to be kind of a counterpoint for him. And the other stuff is like, if I did anything I wanted to do, I would be like a lot… [laughs] This is me like running and doing everything I can. I’m sort of fighting a…I could go really far the other way, so this…I work out a lot. I watch what I eat. It’s very hard won even to be this not skinny. [cheers for making it through the question] Yes! Next…

What were your encounters with the animals you worked with?

Well, it’s amazing to me…Like everything in this movie, one thing that was really striking was how every single person in every single department was the best at what they do. And that’s from transpo to props to all the ADs. They work at a level that is so high, so the amazing stuff with the animals was less what was my interaction with them, but watching these trainers get them kindly and very simply to do what they wanted them to do. Because I just thought, “These giraffes have not been training to do Evan Almighty like their whole lives. How do they know to bring him the hammer?” You know, so much of the stuff is real that you see in the movie. So that was really amazing. I mean, we weren’t like sitting around petting the lions or anything, but it was cool to watch them walk by. [laughs] You’re like sitting drinking coffee, and you just got strangely used to it. But I didn’t like sit down and talk to anybody. The animal we dealt the most with was…We’ve all talked about it, so you probably already heard about Toothy the alpaca, who had an underbite? You didn’t hear about Toothy?

The sound of all the reporters saying no.

Well, he’s our favorite! He has this huge underbite, and he was really unattractive. And I think we made the trainers mad because we called him Toothy and that’s not his name. But the little boys got really into Toothy as like a mythical figure, even though he was right there. But they’d be like, “Do you think Toothy knows we’re rolling? Do you think Toothy knows we’re home?” [laughs] And like we’d be at dinner, and they’d like, “What do you think Toothy’s eating for dinner?” So he was the one that somehow, became of his unusual appearance, struck gold in our hearts. [laughs] We loved Toothy!

Have you worked with animals before?

It was totally new. I’ve been on a show where I walk and talk until the cows come home and then suddenly we’re doing, again a lot of it was real enough that it wasn’t like reacting to nothing. It was more that when I see the movie there are thousands of animals. When I did the movie, there were five. When I see the movie, there’s a huge amount of water. When I did the movie, there was a hose. But there was enough that you weren’t just creating something out of nothing, but it was all new to me.

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You said you have another project in a month, can you talk about it?

Well this movie I’m doing right now is called ‘Laws of Motion.’ It’s an independent film that the playwright Craig Lucas is directing and Hilary Swank is a producer on it and has a supporting part in it just to lend her name to it. And that’s really cool, actually and inspiring to see an actress who has a company who is helping get stuff made because she believes in it. It’s the story of a dysfunctional family and Matthew Perry is my husband and we have sort of a quiet marriage that is in trouble and his brother and sister come to stay with us to disastrous results. And it’s just kind of a dark comedy but it’s a very conservative, preppy shut down character who is just trying to be nice to these people who she thinks are freaks. And so that’s a cool kind of different place to be. And then the next thing is I’m doing a wife world tour. I don’t know if you could tell. I’m playing Greg Kinnear’s wife in a movie about the man who invented the intermittent windshield wiper and it’s based on a true story. It’s a really great story because he felt that his patent was stolen by the car companies and he in real life spent his life not necessarily fighting for money, which he ended up getting quite a bit of, but fighting for the rights of inventors. And he’s a real figure among inventors as someone who really stood up for their rights and it’s like an amazing part for Greg. And in that one I have five kids.

Do you find that people really know you from Gilmore Girls?

I don’t know. I really don’t know. What a lot of directors like still is ‘Bad Santa.’ And I had a small part in that weird movie, but…

A great line

A great line that my father still is like, ‘ah.’ But I’m not really sure. I think this movie even though it wasn’t out yet helped. And I do think the reputation of the show, of course, has been a huge help and I’m just glad that the projects don’t resemble each other very much, either in tone or I mean they’re adjoined by being somebody’s wife but at this age that’s what you’re…there are stories about relationships and that’s the kind of movie I like anyway. So I feel really lucky. I seriously thought I was going to be planting like an herb garden and be sitting at this junket like, you guys, at three o’clock in the afternoon ‘Judge Judy’ comes on and she is so great. So I’m happy to be just kind of floating around doing stuff. Though ‘Judge Judy’ is great.

Can you talk about working with Morgan Freeman and that great scene in the restaurant?

I love that scene. And that was the scene in the movie that really struck me as kind of a new way to say something really simple. And I just loved the message of that scene, which is just because you believe in something and ask for help doesn’t mean you get it handed to you. It’s still your job as a person to figure things out for yourself. And he’s really, he’s an impressive person to be around so you have no problem, because that was a tricky scene in that I’m like ‘hi, can I get some more fries or whatever?’ And he’s like, ‘are you all right?’ And then I just thought who would you open up to in this circumstance? But with him it’s actually very easy. He is, I have found with the best people that I have worked with that it’s the simplest work in a way because you’re just connected and it all feels as truthful as it possibly can and so you just want to keep doing it to try different things or something. But he’s just really cool.

He likes to mess with us. Does he mess with you?

Yeah. I forget what he said to me, but I had been warned. And so he sassed me and I kind of sassed him back and he was like, he was kind of like, ‘this one can stay.’ And I was like ‘cool. I got him.’ But I was like shaking, shaking, shaking. Because you know you don’t want to be sassy to someone you respect unless you know that’s the only way that they will respect you. He’s funny. He’s just funny and he’s really comfortable in his skin so he’s not, he just likes to play around.

Now that you are doing movies, is there a pet project that you’d like to do?

No. Now that I’m doing more movies, what I really want to do is a musical. But no. I’m still just kind of riding this wave. I haven’t had time. I had like two weeks off the show and I haven’t had time to really think about even in terms of the TV show what I would like to do next. So that will take a little time I think.

A musical?

Yeah. A musical would great.

You’re done with television?

No. I love television. I would go back for sure. But again it’s like not until I know because let’s face it the next thing will be a disaster. It’ll last three episodes and that’s just the odds. That’s just what happens.

And there’s the reunion movie of the Gilmore Girls.

And there’s the reunion movie of the ‘Gilmore Girls.’ Yeah.

What’s your favorite musical?

It was, well, it’s probably ‘Anything Goes’ but I can’t sing that. So I have to find something that I can actually do.

What were your emotions when the show ended?

You know it was really mixed because I felt that the show was telling it was over. I mean from the beginning of this year having nothing to do with David Rosenthal who took it over, I felt then it’s really, I don’t know what else there is to do here. And we all were feeling restless. But also you feel so attached. It’s like a project like that becomes a person. You want to leave the person in the right place or something. And so it was really struggle and I think we felt like to do that show just cost a certain amount of time and dedication. It never got easier. You know usually in years five, six, seven on a show like that you get into a routine. The days become normal. And that never really happened there. It’s the nature of how much language, of just the big long scenes, the long shots and the fact that it was really mainly the two of us. So we discussed all kind of different options for is there a way to do this but let us have a more regular kind of work day and they tried and we tried and at the end of the day there wasn’t a way to do any differently and I think they felt it was going to cost them a whole lot to try to renegotiate with everybody. So it felt right. It felt like the right thing. And all those discussions and kind of angst about it also felt right because it should, it was one of the best jobs I ever had and so of course it was hard. It was hard to leave. But then it was done I thought oh, all right.

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