Big Sick: Interview with Actress Zoe Kazan

The Big Sick, a timely interracial comedy that was a hit at the 2017 Sundance Film Fest, will be released by Amazon in late June.

Growing Up Creative

Zoe Kazan:  We grew up in a household where creativity was encouraged, and we were given the room to be creative and when I had a story to tell, they listened, and I don’t take that for granted.  And I recruited my sister into many, many plays and I think about once a week putting on a play that I wrote on our living room futon and I usually made her faint because I found it funny.  So if I am at all to blame for her wanting to be an actor, I will take responsibility for it.  But I think we are really different people.  And I just try not to get in her way I guess.  Sometimes I put her on tape for auditions and it’s really fun for me actually.  I think when you see a lot of creative people in a family, you might think that there must be something in the water or something, but I think that we both came to it on our own path.


Role Models

ZK:  Jane Fonda is a big one.  And obviously Gena Rowlands, and I think, I always admire character actors like Robert Duvall or John Cazale.  Those are the actors that I grew up really admiring.  Colleen Dewhurst and Jason Robards and obviously people like, I think Denzel Washington is one of the greatest actors of all time and Tom Hanks.  I grew up in the 80s and 90s and had a preponderance of beautiful actors to look up to.  It was a pretty special time.


Response to the film

ZK:  We have been overwhelmed with love for the movie.  I kind of had a special experience with Sundance, because I left before our premiere so that I could go to the Women’s March in DC and all the women in my family were going out there.  I was on the airplane on Wi-Fi checking Twitter to see the reaction to the movie, and by the time I landed, reviews were coming in and that was actually a really cool way to experience that for me, than for the next morning to go with all of my cousins and my aunts and like go and march and think that oh we put something good into the world especially since our movie premiered on Inauguration Day.  And I have personally just really noticed that people from all backgrounds seem to be responding to the film and that feels really gratifying.  And personally I hope that my Trump voting relatives will go and see the movie because I think the movie has again, it’s arms open really to everyone, I don’t think it seeks to exclude anyone.  And, I think that that’s a very special thing, and I hope that people who feel like the movie might not speak to them, also take a chance on it.

Upending Expectations

ZK:  It’s a complicated thing to assume that you can know any one person’s story based on how they look or what you assume their background to be.  I am a very white looking girl, but my grandfather’s family left Turkey because they were persecuted for being ethnic minorities.  And that is not very far back, that is not even 100 years back.  I just think that there is a way that the movie upends expectations, the expectations of who Holly and Ray are going to be and the expectations of who your parents are going to be and the expectations of what the movie is going to be.  I hope people are willing to take a chance on it.


Playing Real-Life Woman

ZK:  It was pleasure to play Emily, it was really an extraordinary experience and once I came onto the film, we went through this long sort of rehearsal and brainstorming process while this script was still under development and those conversations got folded into the next draft of the film and I felt, because Emily couldn’t always be there for the rehearsal sessions because she was writing for a TV show at the time, I felt a kind of responsibility to make sure that her voice or that female voice was represented in the room.  And these guys were fantastic collaborators.  I think when I first met Emily, she was like oh, she’s someone that I already know and I am already friends with.  I didn’t feel like I had to make a big mental stretch to get into her perspective.  But having her around was so wonderful.  It did mean that if I ever did have a question about how a scene should be played, I had an expert right there, but it was also just that I felt that we were on a team together or something, like a two person volley ball team. Like she had my back and I would spike the ball and she would score.


Mannerisms of Real Person

ZK:  When I first got the part I was like I am going to study her, I am going to copy her mannerisms and I am going to transform myself. And truly when I met her, I was like, we are already too much alike.  She was wearing a shirt that I owned and I was like, oh God. And it made me feel like oh I am actually really free to be very relaxed and bring the qualities of myself that are like myself to there and I don’t think I told you this, but before I went in, I was like, I am going to think about this like a John Cassavetes movie.   I am going to think about this in the most naturalistic, relaxed way possible, and I am not going to worry about making anyone laugh and I am not going to worry about getting something right, I am just going to show up every day available and ready to play, and it was a really wonderful way to set myself up to work.


Watching the film with Emily

ZK:  I watched it with Emily for the first time two days ago.  I saw it for the first time with Holly Hunter in Brooklyn before we premiered it at Sundance.  The cut is slightly different and they did more work on it after Sundance.  It was fun to see it with Holly first of all.  It was just the two of us and our managers in this room and it’s in a movie theater right by my house and I had gotten a hot tea beforehand, and I literally spat out my tea watching the movie, it made me laugh so hard, so I thought that was a good sign.  And then Holly was so happy afterwards.  And I think she can be self-critical, so to see her be so pleased, I was like oh this is a really good sign, and I got really excited for people to see it.  But I didn’t get to see it in Sundance with everyone.


Director’s Contribution

ZK:  Mike is incredibly relaxed, he is very laid back director.  And it’s because he is prepared.  But he creates a sense of relaxation on set, which is invaluable for comedy, but any work.  The other thing that I watch in the movie and I am like that is such a Mike touch, is when Kumail and Ray are having your conversation in bed and he is starting to get emotional with you about love, like he has this sort of sad, sweet sentimental music come up, but then Ray is failing to make the moment happen, but the music is still telling you that the moment is happening.  And to me that is like pure Mike, his sense of humor is so ersatz, he is so off-kilter, but his heart is so like sentimental and mainstream and earnest and full.  And that combination is really rare.  I don’t know anybody else that has it, and I saw it in “Hello, My Name is Doris” too.  You are feeling for this woman, you are also laughing at her, but you are also laughing with her.  Mike is a very emotional and open person, but he comes from this very specific old comedy background.  He did “The State” and then “Stella,” which is really a groundbreaking, specific, weird comedy.  That mix, I don’t think anybody else in the world has that.















Share this:
Share this page via Email Share this page via Stumble Upon Share this page via Digg this Share this page via Facebook Share this page via Twitter

Speak Your Mind