The indie romantic dramedy Life Partners highlights the co-dependent friendship of Sasha (Leighton Meester) and Paige (Gillian Jacobs), who spend more time hanging out with each other and watching reality TV than they do venturing out into the dating world. But when Paige meets Tim (Adam Brody), they start getting serious and Sasha starts to feel cast aside by her best friend.
At the film’s press day, actress Leighton Meester spoke to Collider for this exclusive interview about how great it was to be a part of something with so much positive energy, why she loves comedy, how she related to her character, the major change to one of the film’s plot points, how being matched up for a film is like going on a blind date, and being attracted to imperfect and flawed characters. She also talked about her latest album, Heartstrings, her experience performing Of Mice and Men on Broadway (with Chris O’Dowd and James Franco), that she never wants to do the same thing twice, and that she would definitely be interested in doing a limited-run TV series. Check out what she had to say after the jump.
Collider: There are quite a few more of them now, but still not nearly enough, so what’s it like to be a part of a female-driven comedy and have so many women behind it?
LEIGHTON MEESTER: It’s great! I have really realized the importance, since doing it, as well. Being on set and being around not just female energy, but positive energy, in general. Productive, positive, empowering energy is really, really important. I think it’s really cool to say that we did this movie that’s directed, written, starring and about women, and people should go see it. I hope to just keep doing that exact thing.
Have you always been interested in comedy? Is it something you’ve always felt drawn to and felt like you had a natural ability for?
MEESTER: I think I’m really hilarious, but that doesn’t always translate. I think it’s just your brand of humor and finding out where you fit in and what you think is funny. It just depends. The funniest joke in the world might not be that funny to you. It’s great when you can find out what your brand of humor is and work with people that are like-minded and have a grounded, real character. What’s great about this is that it’s based in real life, but they just use humor in ways that real people do, which is to deflect serious issues and as a way to be sarcastic and human, rather than this larger-than-life comedic thing. It’s really fun. There’s nothing better. It feels amazing to get a laugh.
Do you feel like you found your brand of humor pretty quickly, or are you still finding it?
MEESTER: I think I’m still growing. I don’t know. A lot of different types of movies that I see can be funny for different reasons. I like broad, funny, weird comedies, but then I like a movie like this, that is grounded and based mostly in reality. There are some larger-than-life elements. For me, taking a joke a little too far or being a little dark is kind of good, as are funny moments leading to sad moments, or vice versa.
How did you come to this film?
Was Sasha always the role that you were interested in, or did you ever consider Paige?
MEESTER: Pretty much, from the first page, I related to Sasha. She’s different from what I’ve played, and she’s also so much like me. It’s funny ‘cause a lot of my friends who have seen it are like, “Man, this is the most like you that I’ve ever seen you play.” That was fun.
Did the finished product of this film stay pretty close to the original script that you read, or were there any major changes?
MEESTER: A little bit. Before I started, we had a lot of rehearsals and we’d go through things that needed tiny tweaking. After that, I just went through it and found some alternate things to say that were a little bit more true to me, to make jokes more personal. It’s pretty much the same standard structure, except that it had a totally different plot point. Now, it’s all about friendship and the changes in friendship, which I think is actually much more poignant and timeless than the original concept. Paige originally said that she wasn’t going to get married until gay people could get married. That was cool, but that’s such a timely thing, and this is timeless. I think it’s so much more special that it’s not about the fact that Sasha is gay, or that Paige is straight. It’s just part of a color of her personality. It’s part of what makes her who she is, but you could interchange anything she says about girls that she’s dating with a guy and it would be exactly the same. I like that.
So much of the success of this film relies on the chemistry between the actresses playing Paige and Sasha. Were you nervous about who you’d be playing opposite with, in this film?
MEESTER: Yeah. You can end up, as if it’s a blind date where your friends go, “You’ll really like this person!,” and you’re like, “No, you’re a dude.” But in this case, if I can say this, I think we both really lucked out. I think we were both really game to just bring ourselves to it and give anything we could. You get a lot of time to spend on set with people on a small movie where there aren’t big trailers and everyone is going their separate ways. We were all very much together. The crew and the cast was all very close. (Writers) Susanna [Fogel] and Joni [Lefkowitz], having met me and then having met Gillian [Jacobs], were like, “Here’s a blind date of people we think will like each other.” They really read the signs very well, and we supported each other, throughout it.
When you play a character like this, who is so close to your real age and who you are, does it make you a bit more reflective with your own life?
MEESTER: Yeah, definitely. It’s age, it’s the material, it’s the writing, it’s the character and who’s playing it. I’m 28. I may not be a totally typical person because I’ve been working on the career that I have now for my entire life, more than not working, so I just have a different view of my goals. But, I’m much more interested in playing characters like this. She’s imperfect and completely flawed, and that’s human, but a lot of the time, you don’t see women who are flawed. Maybe that comes with the territory of older characters and this age that I’m moving into, but I like that. You see a lot of male characters, as leads of shows and movies, who are these flawed heroes, but you still love them and you love to hate them. I just don’t think that those exist as much on the female side of things. I think we have to move into a new way of thinking to break that mold. Maybe my ears are pricked a little bit more to it, but I see it so much more now, in movies I grew up with and in movies that are out. It’s the type-A woman and she’s got this amazing house that’s decorated really well and she’s really stylish and she has good friends, but she really needs a guy. And then, at the end of the movie, she gets married and that’s it, but what happened to all of those other things. I think it is important to have emphasis on marriage and relationships, but only if it’s equal. So much of the time, it’s uneven.
You recently released a new album of music. Are you at the point in your life where you feel like it most represents who you are and what you want to say in your music, then maybe you were ever able to before?
MEESTER: I don’t know if I was not able to say it. I’ve been working on this music for a long time and I think, to some extent, I’ve always been outspoken, but this is personal and very autobiographical. It’s meaningful for me and it definitely represents being a woman, coming of age, the mistakes that are good and bad, things that you learn, having an open and then a closed heart, and all of it. It’s all of the things that I’ve been through, and I think that most women, if you speak to them, have to.
Since you’ve been working on it for awhile, did you have a goal in mind when you started it, and did it end up anything like you thought it would?
MEESTER: It ended up exactly how I wanted it, and I think that’s because I spent so much time trying and waiting, and trying to do it at the right time. I had written a big bulk of the songs a couple of years ago, but I didn’t have the time to put out a record or promote it. It wasn’t the right timing, and I had not found the right producer. And then, a year and a half ago or so, I met my producer and we made the record, and now it’s out. But, it was a long process and it had to go through a few incarnations. Before that, I was making totally different music that does not, at all, represent what this record is all about. It’s a whole new thing, and I’m really proud of it.
How was the experience of doing Of Mice and Men on Broadway? Is it just the scariest experience to be on a live stage, like that?
MEESTER: It is. It’s the scariest thing, ever. It’s so scary. I know that I’m going to want to do it again. I already, in my mind, want to. But, it’s one of those things that I can’t think about too much. The right project has to come along. I can’t go out searching for it. It’s such a different thing. It was really scary, especially at first. And then, you get used to it and you start being able to have so much fun. It’s the most fun, ever, but it’s also really difficult and scary and exposing. And then, you’re done and you’re like, “What happened?! Half of the year is gone, and it felt like a minute.” Now, when I think about then, I get anxiety. I get nervous now. At the very beginning, I was like, “Oh, it’s normal to be nervous and I’m just going to fight through it.” Now, when I think about it, I’m like, “Oh, god, that’s so scary! I can’t believe that happened!” I still dream about it and think about it, and I’m still very much affected by it. I think it was the power of the actual material, the project itself, the people, and the whole thing. I just really lucked out with that being what I did.
What made you decide to tackle that particular material?
MEESTER: I had lived in New York for years. Towards the last six months or a year that I was living there, I was going on auditions and meeting casting people in different theater companies and was just saying, “Here I am. I want to do it. I want to experience this.” My theater agent in New York was like, “It will be the best thing you can do. It will change you. You’re gonna love it.” And then, I moved out here, and it just so happened that I was in New York filming a movie, and they called me and said, “There’s this play and it’s in a few months. It’s Of Mice and Men with (director) Anna Shapiro, and Chris O’Dowd and James Franco. Would you want to do this?” I was like, “Well, yeah, obviously.” I have such vivid memories of reading the book when I was in middle school, and my teacher who taught us about the book and Steinbeck. Revisiting it, as an adult, is so different and so meaningful. It really is such a perfect piece of writing. I knew that it was going to be such a difficult thing to capture and do it justice, but something like that is actually, in a weird way, easier to tackle when you’re first starting out because you have the major bolstering support of an incredible piece of writing. I don’t think I’ll ever get tired of it.
And what an amazing cast of actors to work with.
MEESTER: Yeah, it was a cool group. Everyone was perfect for their roles, I think.
When you started out on Gossip Girl, you were so young. As you grew up with the show, your own tastes must have grown and changed, too. By the time you finished the show, did you have any sort of plan for the things you did and didn’t want to do with your career, after that?
MEESTER: Yeah. It’s difficult to make plans in this business, especially as an actor, because you have zero control. Sometimes can fall into your lap, like Of Mice and Men and Life Partners, and you’re like, “Yes! Awesome! Let’s do it!” And those are very much in line with my tastes and my growth and what I want to do. It’s the same thing with music, although I have a lot more control in that aspect of things. But if I get a movie tomorrow and I have to travel right away, I might have to cancel something else. So, you don’t necessarily have total control, but I had time to be a little bit more picky. What I like and what I’m into changes all the time, and I don’t ever want to do the same thing again. I like the challenge of doing something different, each time. I would just get bored, and then you get stuck.
Now that TV is so different and there are so many different types of programming, would you consider doing another show, especially if it was something with a shorter run?
MEESTER: Especially if it was a shorter run, yes. I love TV, and I watch TV. I see a lot where I’m like, “Man, this is good. This is better than a lot of movies.” So, I definitely would do it. There are different formats now where you can do something in six weeks. You don’t have to commit ten months of your life to something. Signing six years of your life away, you don’t know what you’ll be into in six years, let alone one year. It would be great to do something that I was super into, for a handful of months, every year. That would be awesome.
Is there a show that you watch that you’d love to do a guest spot on?
MEESTER: I watch Orange is the New Black. I like The Knick. It’s not a show that you could be on, but I watch Cosmos. I love that show. It’s awesome!
Life Partners opens in theaters on December 5th.