Dating is complicated enough. But, getting answers about your love life today from your older, wiser self, 10 years in the future, would certainly make you stop and re-evaluate. In the new web series Dating Rules From My Future Self , Lucy Lambert (Shiri Appleby) has a secure job, great friends and a longtime boyfriend who has just popped the question. The trouble is, deep down, she knows he’s not the one. So, with her future self using an app to send her helpful little texts, Lucy could finally be headed towards the future of her dreams.
During this recent exclusive phone interview with Collider, actress Shiri Appleby (Life Unexpected, Roswell) talked about how this web series came about, how she ended up signing on for her first gig as producer, how she can’t wait to try her hand at directing, assembling such an amazing cast (including Taylor Kinney, Bryce Johnson, Mircea Monroe and Martin Starr), and shooting the entire series in 10 days, with exactly the same approach as a regular TV show. She also talked about her role in White Trash Christmas, starring Taryn Manning, and said that she’d love to do more comedies, take on some darker indie roles, and get the chance to play Natalie Wood. Check out what she had to say after the jump.
Shiri Appleyby: I think the show is really about the moment when a girl starts listening to the voice in her head, and listens to her subconscious to make decisions. That’s what the future Lucy and the entire space travel is all about. My character, Lucy, is this 27-year-old app designer who is about to marry the wrong guy, and starts getting text messages from herself, 10 years in the future, telling her not to do it. It’s really a story about friendship – she’s got her girlfriends there – and listening to yourself, figuring out who the right person is to settle down with, and creating the life that you want to be living in 10 years, so you don’t have so much regret about the person that you’ve become.
It’s definitely different. I feel like it has a message and it’s really fun. It’s the show that I’ve always wanted to make, in a way. We got really lucky because Sallie Patrick was one of the writers on Life Unexpected, and she came on and rewrote this entire script for us. She knew me really well, so we sat together, for over a month, with Liz Allen, the director, and really talked about a lot of things. We said, “What would you say to yourself, 10 years ago? What would somebody say to you, that would prove that this person is real? What would your deepest, darkest secret be?” She really was able to craft a story that really resonated. We really made it real, and really gave each girl strong personalities. We really wanted it to speak to girls and be honest about it. Alloy was great and really gave us the opportunity to take it over and rework it.
Appleby: I’ve been working on this since the end of August and, thankfully, because I was a producer, they let me be a part of everything, which included bringing on Liz Allen to direct it, bringing on Sallie Patrick to write it, and hiring our D.P. I literally did all of the casting process, and I picked the colors of every wall and the wallpaper, and I’ve been sitting in editing. I’ve just been a part of it, from the beginning, so it feels like the most me of any project I’ve put out there. I’m really proud of it.
Was producing something you had been actively pursuing?
Appleby: Yes, I’ve been wanting to produce for a long time. During Life Unexpected, Liz Tigelaar really included me in the process, but the one thing that was different was that I didn’t really have the power. I didn’t have a title, other than actor. But after that, I was like, “I’m really ready to do more. I’m really ready to have a larger voice in the creative process.” I had been talking to people, trying to pitch ideas for shows, and I’d been really going in that direction, so when Alloy came to me with this idea, my agents were like, “She really wants to produce. This would be a great first opportunity for her.”
Everyone was really on board, and it’s really taken off. It’s been on the Internet for two weeks now. We have over half a million views on the first episode, and over a million total. It’s doing well. People are responding to it, so it feels really good, in a way that’s different then when you’re just acting. This is the first time that I’ve watched something really come alive, from the very beginning, and that’s a really creative experience. As an actor, you’re just brought on to fill one role, so it’s nice to see what the entire journey is like. As much as I’d be allowed to do it, I would do it. I love it.
Appleby: I was like, “A web series?!” But then, you think about it and everything is on the internet. You can watch every TV show and every feature film on your computer. So, if you get past the ego of the fact that you’re doing a web series, it’s not like you’re doing anything different. I brought on everybody that I’d been working with [on TV]. Even the D.P., Jas Shelton, works with the Duplass brothers on all of their films. The quality of people that we were working with were television and film level, and we were shooting on Alexa cameras. It was the exact same thing as making a television show.
What was the process of making this like?
Appleby: We had 10 days to shoot it. It was the exact same process as making a television show or a film. We even had a table read at my house, and everyone was taking notes. It was a really, really collaborative experience, from start to finish. We gave the D.P. a ton of images about the look and feel, and I went with him and picked out the right lenses and filters. We really established a look of how we wanted the house to look. We wanted the girls to feel really romantic. We had a really strong color palette that we were working with. When we were doing all the interiors of the house and all of the wardrobe, everything stuck with that color palette, so the show feels really cohesive.
Appleby: It spoils you, but then you’re also like, “Okay, I can take a step back and see the role of an actor even more now.” I shot a part in this new indie feature, called White Trash Christmas, and it’s just a different experience. I was there to service there story and process. The lead actress is like the host of the party, but when you’re the lead actress and you’re a producer, you’re really throwing the party. You have so much control in making sure everyone is having a really good time and everyone is heard. For me, it was great. At the same time, if Steven Spielberg calls and wants me to come act, I’m happy to do it.
What sort of journey does Lucy go on, over the course of these episodes, and what do you think the biggest things are, that she discovers about herself?
Appleby: I think she really learns to listen to herself and trust herself, and believe that she’s good enough to get a guy that she thinks is out of her league. She really is good enough, just the way she is. It’s really important to just accept who we are, and find somebody who accepts us for who we are.
In figuring out who this character is, are there ways you found that you most identify with her?
Appleby: Yeah, feeling unsure of what to do and asking a million people’s decision was definitely me, more so in my 20′s. Once you start to listen to your voice, you start to feel the power in that, and I definitely feel like I’m going through that now.
Appleby: We worked together a ton on Life Unexpected and she was one of my favorite directors. She’s really great because I like to try a million different things. When I’m acting, I love direction, and she’ll just work beats and give you tons of different notes, keeping the camera on and really exploring moments in scenes. She really pushes you to get out of your comfort zone and expect more from yourself than you would have wanted to. She really is a perfectionist, and I really respond to that. As an actor, I love being pushed. I love the feeling of, “Oh my god, I have to keep trying. What else is there to do?” And, that’s the way she works. I started bombarding her with emails, convincing her to do this with me. When she agreed to come on and do it, I knew I had a shot. She wasn’t going to let us be something random. I knew she was going to make it special.
When someone like that inspires your own work so much, does that give you the desire to want to direct yourself?
Appleby: Yeah, I can’t wait! She was just like, “Get a TV show and start directing.” Getting someone to let me produce was a huge step forward. Getting the first person to let me direct will also be a huge accomplishment. Once I do, I’d love to be a huge television director. I definitely want to do that. I could imagine me going more and more into that, as I age.
Did the friendship between you, Alison Becker and Mircea Monroe come really easily?
Appleby: We got super-lucky because nobody auditioned. With Alison Becker, we were looking for an actress who was really funny, so I was browsing through the Parks & Recreation IMDb page and thought, “Oh, she looks like my age.” And then, we looked her up on YouTube and watched a bunch of things that she had hosted. I called her manager and we randomly started Skyping with her. Then, we asked her to do it and her dates worked out, and we got lucky that she was cool.
And, Liz [Allen] had emailed some of the showrunners she knew and asked them if they knew any blonde, funny girls, and every single one of them came back with Mircea Monroe. She came over and she agreed to do it. And then, me, Mircea, Alison and Liz went out to dinner one night and hung out and got along. We were like, “Whoa, these girls are cool. I can’t believe this is working.”
But, we’d still never seen anybody act. Because there was a level of trust from hanging out, and we were putting what they wrote in emails into their dialogue, they felt a sense of, “Okay, they’re making us a part of it.” When we got on set, there was a bond between us that filtered from that respect. And then, when you get three cool girls in a room, you can talk about things that you wouldn’t talk to other actresses about. We ended up having a blast and, thankfully, that friendship translated to film.
How did you get Martin Starr (Freaks and Geeks) involved?
Appleby: He’s awesome! He’s amazing. He worked on Roswell, so I knew him. And, he was the star of Liz Allen’s very first short, 10 years ago. So, we sent him a script, emailed him and called him, and we told him that it would be super-short. He really liked the material and totally got what we were thinking for the role of Vincent, and he was awesome. He showed up and nailed it. He’s just incredible, and he also gives the whole project a level of clout and respect that we needed and love.
What was it like to work with both Bryce Johnson (MTV’s Death Valley) and Taylor Kinney (The Vampire Diaries)?
Appleby: I’ve actually known Bryce since the Roswell days because he was on Popular. He’s a really, really nice, genuinely good guy. He’ll try anything. He knew the character, and it just felt really natural. Taylor really thinks things out and is really thoughtful about things. He’s very respectful and humble. With him, it was a really gentle performance. I really like him. I think he’s just a sweet guy. We wanted to just find the right actors, and then have them be those roles. You find the actors, and then you create the roles around them, especially because we weren’t auditioning anybody.
Do you feel like you really can learn a lot of things about yourself from the whole dating experience?
Appleby: For sure! I think dating is all about role playing, and figuring out what you want and don’t want. You figure out more about yourself by meeting people. You’re like, “I’m not right for that person, but why am I not?” I think dating is a really interesting journey.
Appleby: I would flip out, but then I’d also be like, “Tell me what happens. I want to know everything, right now. Will this all pan out?” That’s crazy because when I read my horoscope, I get pissed, if I don’t like what it says. I don’t know. I think so much of the beauty is in the journey, which sounds super-cliche, but it’s the not knowing and working towards something that feels really good. I don’t know if it would make me less motivated or not. But, at the same time, I feel like I’m just working so hard that I hope it all pans out.
If you had to text yourself 10 years ago, what would you say to that version of you, and if your future self were to text you, what advice would you want from her?
Appleby: I’d want the same advice that I’d give myself then, which is, “Just relax!” I feel like I get really stressed out sometimes. I just want someone to tell me, “Relax, it’s all going to be okay.” I think that’s all we really need, anyways.
Is this a character you’d love to get to explore some more?
Appleby: Yeah, for sure. I’d love to do this for awhile, if I could. We didn’t even get to get into Kelcy’s journey or Amanda’s journey, or find out how Lucy actually creates the app and how all that happens. As the story goes on, we learn more about future Lucy, and we see Lucy go on an entire dating journey and learn more about herself from all the crazy guys she encounters. I think there are a lot of stories that could be told.
Appleby: Yes. I’m actually taking a book out to editors at the end of the month, that I’ve been writing for the past year. It’s based on this. I had started writing it, and then I was getting done with it when I was offered this. It was all pretty serendipitous. It’s really crazy! It felt like fate.
What is White Trash Christmas and who are you playing in that?
Appleby: Taryn Manning is the star of that, and she gets visited by these different ghosts of Christmas past, to learn about all of her mistakes. And, I play her friend that she wrongs. My lesson is showing her that you can’t treat friends like that, and you can’t treat people like that. It’s really cute. But, it’s definitely Taryn Manning’s film.
Are these really human stories what really appeals to you?
Appleby: Totally. I audition for that other stuff, but I just don’t get it because I don’t connect to it. I just need a story that I can connect to and latch onto, and then I’m able to go for it. I want to do work where I have something to say.
Is there a dream role that you’d love to get the chance to do?
Appleby: I want to play Natalie Wood. I really want to do that. And, I want to continue doing more comedy like this, but I also want to do darker indies. I feel like I have all that stuff that I haven’t really put to use, in a long time. For awhile though, comedy and this kind of stuff is pretty awesome.