Life Happens, from director/co-writer Kat Coiro, is a comedy centered on three young women – Kim (Krysten Ritter), Deena (Kate Bosworth) and Laura (Rachel Bilson) – who all live under the same roof in Los Angeles. When one of Kim’s one-night-stands results in an unexpected pregnancy, she turns to her girlfriends for help while she attempts to cope with single motherhood and jumping back into the dating scene amid the fear that having a child could put a quick end to any potential relationship. The movie also stars Jason Biggs, Justin Kirk, Kristen Johnston and Geoff Stults.
During this recent exclusive phone interview with Collider, the film’s star and co-writer Krysten Ritter talked about how this movie came together, the changes it went through in nearly four years of development, how happy she was with the final outcome of the film, and what she learned from this entire process and experience. She also talked about her role in the upcoming vampire comedy Vamps, from writer/director Amy Heckerling, playing the lead in the new ABC comedy series Don’t Trust the B in Apt. 23 (airing Wednesday nights, starting April 11th), and the pilot she’s producing for MTV, adapted from the novel Cassandra French’s Finishing School for Boys. Check out what she had to say after the jump.
Krysten Ritter: Kat and I have been longtime friends. We’re both very psychotically driven, hard-working young women, and we always had this plan to dominate the world, like the two characters in the movie. We started writing and she had a baby, and we had this eureka moment where we just realized that’s the story we wanted to tell, about young girls, figuring out who they are and trying to have it all, but also when you throw a baby in the mix, it creates a whole other set of challenges.
You approached this with the desire to create a female buddy comedy, but how much did the story evolve while you worked on it for nearly four years?
Ritter: Quite a bit. We wrote an early draft when we were both starting out and we had different connections and we were getting different notes from people. And then, we got the script to this place where it got out there. After I did She’s Out of My League, I had gotten friendly with some of the execs at DreamWorks and they slipped it somewhere. The next thing you know, Kat and I were getting calls for fancy meetings and big agents were calling us, and it changed the landscape of both of our careers. And then, producers wanted to buy it.
It was just going through those processes and putting together ideas of who would be in it and who greenlights movies. We tried to do it the studio way, but that didn’t get made. It’s really hard to sell a script, and it’s even harder to get a movie made. It just almost never happens. Then, we were doing it as a TV, and that didn’t get made, which I think was right and for the best. We were like, “Why don’t we just make the original version of the script that everybody liked so much?” We decided just to take matters into our own hands. If you really want something, you’ve gotta just do it and not wait for other people to hand it to you. So, we just put it together in a cute little package, we called actors and got them to attach themselves, and we called in every favor you could possible imagine.
Ritter: I think it’s such a huge deal. I’ve sold a couple of scripts now and this is the only thing, so far, that’s gotten made. I’m producing an MTV show right now, as well, that the pilot just got greenlit for, so we will be shooting that. There is such a huge sense of accomplishment when anything gets a yes, at any stage. There are so many hurdles, every day. It’s like, “Okay, they said yes to this draft.” “Okay, they said yes, they’re going to buy the script. We can relax.” “Okay, they said we’re good on our polishes. We can relax.” There are just so many hurdles and steps to go through that it is amazing that we made the original version of this script, but it also isn’t. With everything that we went through and the development it went through, it’s almost like everything happened the way it was supposed to happen and when it was supposed to happen. Originally, I wasn’t going to play Kim and Kat wasn’t going to direct. We were just like, “We’ll do whatever we can to get it made. Let’s just do this!” And, I’m happy with the way things went.
What did you learn from this entire process and experience that will help you, in the future?
Ritter: Oh, god, so much, you have no idea. You learn a lot. I’ve been on this side of the camera for a long time, and it’s good to apply what you’ve learned to the other side. What was the most eye-opening experience was how much goes into this. There are 100 or 150 people, all working towards making this one thing. Sometimes, as an actor – and I’ve witnessed this with other actors that I’ve worked with – you don’t realize that it’s not all about the actor. You do a lot of work for a very long time, and then you hire actors. Sure, the actors are huge and so important. They’re the ones putting their ass on the line, and no one knows that better than me. But, I have so much respect for every single person working on my set because we’re all there to move things forward. I wish that all of my colleagues and all of my actor friends could have this experience as well.
How did you come to be involved with the ABC comedy series, Don’t Trust the B in Apt. 23?
Ritter: I was really content, at the time, making independent films, like Life Happens and Vamps. I found this book, over the summer, called Cassandra French’s Finishing School for Boys, and I was like, “I really like development. If I’m going to do a TV show, I want to develop it from the ground up.” So, I developed this show and we set it up at MTV. And then, when pilot season came around, people wanted me to star in their TV shows. I had no idea that was going to happen. I wasn’t planning on it. I was ready to go do an independent film in Southampton. And, my friend read about Don’t Trust the B in Apt. 23 on Deadline Hollywood, when the script was greenlit, and she was like, “Krysten, I know you don’t want to do TV, but this show sounds awesome and you could play the bitch. She is described as a New York party girl with the morals of a pirate and high self-esteem. You would kill in that. That sounds so funny.” I was like, “You’re right!”
So, I called my agents and I was like, “Hey, do you know about this project?,” and he was like, “Actually, they would love for you to do the show and they want to meet you tomorrow.” I met them on a Saturday, and I read the script immediately and thought it was the freshest, most fun pilot script I had ever read. I thought, “If I’m going to do it, go big or go home.” I felt like this show was not in the middle. It was either going to work or it was going to go away. I didn’t want to be on a show that didn’t excite me. It’s a long commitment. I’m like Peter Pan. I didn’t want to commit to anything for a few years. But, with this show, I felt like I could really stay excited and entertained, as long as she stays a bitch. It just works. They found a way to have a character like this on TV, and it’s through the eyes of this naive, small town girl. That’s the way into this heightened, psychotic world.
Ritter: That was amazing! It was huge! That is one of my idols. People even know what she looks like, which is weird. I had met her a couple of times. I remember the first time I had a general meeting with her, I parked my car in Beverly Hills at some meter where I could only park for 45 minutes. It’s Beverly Hills, mind you. If you stay longer, you’ll get towed. So, I was having lunch with Amy Heckerling and it was going on three hours, and I was sitting there like, “Oh, my god, my car will probably not be there when I go back. But, I can’t leave. I can’t say anything. I’m here with Amy Heckerling.” That’s how much I love her. But luckily, I went back and my car was still there. I think with Priuses, they let you off the hook. But, yeah, it was huge and amazing and, when I got the call that she wanted to offer me the lead role in her movie, I nearly had a heart attack. Nobody else was cast yet. I think I even said to my agents, “Shut up! You’re kidding me! Don’t mess with me!” And then, it happened.
Ritter: It’s Amy Heckerling, doing vampires. It’s adorable and girlie. My character is dead, but the girls are really trying to keep up appearances and keep up with the times, and then she meets a mortal boy. It’s Clueless with vampires.
Do you have a dream role that you’d love to do, if given the opportunity?
Ritter: Honestly, I just hope to continue what I’m doing. I love variety. I feel really fortunate that I’ve been given a lot of roles that were very different from each other. For me, variety is the key. I don’t want to play the same thing, over and over again. I just hope to continue having this luxury of working in the business. That’s all I hope to do. Sure, I’d like to play a bad-ass, but I don’t think it’s ever going to happen. I’m a little too quirky and weird. I can’t imagine me, kicking ass with a gun in an action film. I just think it would be too awkward.
Life Happens opens in theaters on April 13th. Don’t Trust the B in Apt. 23 premieres on ABC on April 11th.