Last week we got to take a look at the new Bendavid Grabinski film Happily starring Joel McHale, Natalie Zea, Paul Scheer, and Stephen Root(who we geek out over in the interview) and also the Twilight Zone meets Air BNB feel of the film and how he came up with the story. Enjoy the interview!!!
AJ: Hey Bendavid , thank you so much for joining me today.
Bendavid: Hey man, no problem. I love talking about the movie and I’m excited to sit here and eat a burrito and talk about it.
AJ: All right. So how was the casting process like, because you have a lot of great, a lot comedic actors in this and they aren’t turning in performance and it’s like me, haven’t seen from them before, especially Paul Scheer and Natalie Zea is what stood out to me. So how was it like working with her on this? Because this seemed so natural. So he’s done both. She’s done justified. And so she’s done a little bit of comedy. So how was it like working with those two set?
I mean, it was great. Paul and I got along and immediately and Natalie has a really tough part because, performed incorrectly. Her character could seem possibly unlikable, but I wanted to cast someone who was like, could be a really fun, like funny feeme fatale type. And I’ve always felt like she had really good instincts in that regard. Paul just felt like a really fun person to cast against type as a kind of pseudo celebrity chef who might have shady things going on. Uh, but yeah, like in general, it’s like, I was very lucky across the board with everybody and I was trying to cast everybody in ways that felt interesting or fresh, as opposed to like what they’re usually used for. And it kind of worked out. I mean, the lucky thing for me was that the people liked the script.
It felt to me like they understood the sensibility of the movie and that ended up being accurate. Yeah. And let’s talk about how the story came about because I got a vibe of a story like a BNB meets as Twilight Zone episode almost. And uh, just like they just made, these were made a lot in the nineties where it was like wealthy people getting together for really just for sexbut this wasn’t that type of movie, but they were still on a group of wealthy people getting together and just trying to find out more about themselves. So did any of those play into the script?
Bendavid: Well, I mean, a hundred percent I wanted it to feel like a 90 minutes zone episode in terms of sensibility, but then I wanted it to also be darkly comedic and romantic and all those elements added up to me to feel like something new, but also something that I could be really excited about making, because it captures a lot of different genres.
I love in a way that I think does add up to like a cohesive thing. Um, you know, I don’t know if you said it was like Twilight zone meets Airbnb, but that’s, uh, that is a funny way of putting it. Um, I was, you know, I w I was always described it as like a dark, a dark romantic comedy in the Twilight zone. Um, but it just felt to me, like a lot of the emotional stuff is kind of timeless and I was just trying to make something that I knew I’d want to watch, um, that, and that’s just the simplest way of putting it.
AJ: Yeah. And one guy who stood out to me was Breckin Meyer, II couldn’t recognize him and was blown away looking at the credits and seeing that name pop up and you saw his name come up, like, wait a minute. That was Breckin Meyer.
So how was it like having him in that part? Because he is unrecognizable in this movie. Charlyne Yi is so darn good. In her part too.
Bendavid: I love Breckin Um, Breckin read it on his own. I think his agents gave it to him and they asked if I would meet them for coffee. And I think he wanted to be in kind of a cooler, weirder, unique sort of indie and really committed to playing that role. And I was so grateful for it because he brings so much to the table, to a guy who is kind of mysterious and not in the forefront, but he has that real kind of the older he gets, the more he looks like, uh, a guy who could play like a cool shady character actor kind of thing. And I love that some people haven’t recognized him in, uh, because you know, we all know his stuff, so well, I mean, I’ve seen, you know, you know, everything from like clueless to Josie and the Pussycats a million times, but, you know, he just really wanted to do it and committed to it.
And it’s the most important thing you have an ensemble is if any of your people don’t pop or don’t hold the screen, then the whole thing can fall apart and you have scenes with 10 people and everybody needs to be good. So if he wants to play one of those people, you should probably just say, yes, that’s my feeling.
AJ: And speaking of character actors, you’ve got one of my all time, favorite character actors in this Stephen Root. Now, how was it like having him in this cast is he added a whole lot of gravitas to this feature and he’s not in it a whole lot, but when he’s in it and he’s got that intensity in every frame. So how was it like having Stephen Root?
Bendavid: I mean, Steven root is Hollywood royalty. Um, today’s probably not the best day to bring up royalty because he’s a great person, really nice.
Stephen Root, I was so happy to get him for the part because it’s such an important character and you need someone with a ton of presence and credibility, um, and he can do anything amazing dramatic actor, amazing comedic actor. Uh, you know, you go over his filmography and he’s never played the same thing twice. Like his character on Barry is so different from his character and office space, from his character and Dodgeball from his character and happily, uh, anything I can do to make the world love. Stephen Root is an honor on my part, but he was the best. We, he totally understood what I wanted to make and he was way too flattering. And in between takes, it was really funny because Joel and I were very like geeking out about working with him. And Kerry caught us one day and she thought it was really cute, but I was kind of embarrassed, but Joel and I were like the Chris Farley show on SNL where it’s like, Oh, Mr root, do you remember the time when you played this thing?
It was awesome, but it was a great guy. And I, the, I only wish he was a more of the movie knocked as he should be in more of the movie. The movie as is, is exactly what I wanted to make, but I just would’ve liked to hang out with him more. And he’s very good at writing emails. He’s never written an email to me that didn’t make me feel happy. So thanks for that, Stephen Root.
AJ: Well, that’s really cool. So in all in the conclusion, happily, how was it like just, you know, doing the story board, not necessarily the storyboard, but just having it all come together and the end and just ending blowing people away. So how was it like coming up with that ending scene that you haven’t tackled?
Bendavid: You know, it’s interesting. The ending was the thing I felt the strongest about. And some people who read it, thought different things had happen and I’m not really gonna get into it because of spoilers. I just felt very much like everything went where it needed to go. And I’m just mostly grateful that I got to make it as is. It’s like a very personal movie for me and I didn’t, it wasn’t made by committee. I really got to like fall my creative instincts all the way to the end. And it’s just really nice to have made something that I don’t feel like I compromised. I mean, like you have to compromise every day. You run out of time, you run out of light, like something might not work, but the real important elements to me are all kind of there and rock solid. And I’m happy that you can’t put it into one genre or kind of, or that it’s a movie that’s not super easy to explain. You know, uh, even though right now my whole job is to explain the movie. Um, but, but yeah, I’m happy if anybody likes it because I’m really proud of the work everybody did.
AJ: Well, Bendavid, thank you so much for joining us today. It’s been really fun talking to you and congratulations on happily.