Beautiful and unassuming with long, curly blonde hair, wearing a flowery red, summer dress, the actress was about to give birth to her first child, when she sat down for this interview in New York — over tea — and apple pie! What appealed to you about 'Waitress'?
And the director, Adrienne Shelly? The thing about this movie that I loved, when I read the script, was that it was exactly the kind of film that I love to watch. It is not just funny, it's serious, just when you need it to be and true to life in a way.
I just thought that Adrienne wrote a great character. And it really was all on the page. Adrienne had per cent control over this movie as a director. She didn't just write it and direct it and act in it, she was the creative force behind everything, from the jokes, down to the expressions. She would say "How are you going to do that face? Nnnn-nnah, I don't want you to do it like that. This was her movie.
She wrote the songs that I sing in it. She chose the color of our outfits; she designed the set of the diner. She was very, very involved at every level. What is your character, Jenna, going through? This character is a smart woman who gives us her real thoughts in the voiceover narration during the film, but she's in a painful marriage that makes you wonder why she's there at all and why she is staying with this man? Why doesn't she just walk out? You wonder what makes her stay but it is very hard if you have no money like Jenna, when you are really poor.
How realistic do you think her story actually is? I think it is quite common and realistic. There are many stories like this. Her marriage looks really horrible up on the screen, but I think there are a lot of people in bad relationships who wake up and think to themselves: Why am I still here and so unhappy and not satisfied with my life? She has no money and being poor is a big issue for many women.
It's not as though she has any financial power or freedom or a lot of options, if she were to leave him. She doesn't really have anywhere to go and she has no family. I think when you don't have self-esteem, it's hard to see your way out of something bad like the marriage she is in. Your husband played by Jeremy Sisto, could have been a caricature mean guy, but he is a fully rounded character isn't he? We actually feel some sympathy for him?
Yes, I think what Adrienne did really well in this movie was create the character of my husband, the bad guy. My husband is awful, but he's not a complete monster. He is needy and in one scene towards the end of the movie, we see how weak he is, how pathetic he is. Clearly there's something in that pathetic quality that Jenna danced with at some point in her life. She was part of that relationship and that dynamic - as a lot of women are. How realistic do you think Jenna's relationship with the gorgeous doctor is, played by Nathan Fillion?
It is a fantasy in some ways, but I think it's totally realistic. Her affair with the doctor is a catalyst to change her life, which I think is true to life. And I love the fact that the way they get together and have sex is not sexy, it is funny. They are both so awkward and carnal and just embarrassing. Did you learn how to bake great pies?
We shot the movie in 20 days so there was not a lot of time to learn. There wasn't a lot of pie baking going on, at least not by me. But we always had pies while we were filming, we ate two different pies every day for lunch. Did you gain a lot of weight with all that fantastic pastry around? Not really because we were working too hard, we were active all the time and there was not a lot of time to sit around eating. Do you cook yourself though?
A little bit, I can make cookies and do easy stuff. Pies are very specific and hard to do well though. With a pie, the crust is a real delicacy. It is very hard to get it just right, it's got to be cold and just the right consistency. There's a whole art to it and I have not learned how to do it because I spend so much time on the road, being on location, in different cities and hotel rooms, there's not a lot of time for cooking, especially when you;re shooting nights or working until 11 o'clock at night.
I tend to come home and eat a bowl of cereal. I am not thinking about baking a pie when I am off work. But now I will be home a little bit more with my baby, so maybe I will do some more baking and cooking. Can you talk about your obvious rapport with Cheryl and Adrienne? I love Cheryl so much and had so much fun with her.
Off set we got on so well and would tell stories. We would be chatting and then they'd say: And all three of us got along so well.
We would sit around discussing motherhood and babies and relationships. So I love them both. Enlarge How true to life is the friendship between the three waitresses do you think? I think that's the part of the film that is very real, the relationship with the women. It's something that I have in my life. Specifically I think friendships between women are something southern women do really well.
That is very important to them, even if their life at home isn't so great; they really have in-depth, almost romantic relationships with these women in their lives. The women often provide more of an emotional connection and bond than they have at home with their husbands. What do you think Waitress says about women? It's uplifting and funny amidst everything else? That's interesting that you say that, because watching it for the first time at Sundance was fascinating - it was so different from the experience of making it.
I wouldn't say that my experience making it was necessarily uplifting, but watching it with an audience, I was surprised at how hopeful it was at the end. And really it was a story about believing in yourself ultimately, and caring enough about yourself to change your life, so that you say: So, yeah, I do think it speaks in a positive way for women, and it was surprising for me to see it for the first time as a movie all put together with music.
I really liked it a lot. What was it like working with Andy Griffith who is quite legendary in America? He's just a dream. He's a beautiful man and so professional. I think he had more to say, script-wise, than anyone else, and when you're older it's not easy to memorize lines. He talked about that. He said, "It's really hard to memorize everything now. I have to really work on it. This is a unique situation with the release of this film, because it is a lovely movie that has also become a tribute to Adrienne Shelly?
How difficult is that for you? It's definitely a unique situation that we're in. And, yeah, it is difficult not having our ringleader here with us to talk about the film, not having our main person here.
People are also asking in relation to the film: But I don't know. I don't know what she would say. Cheryl and I sat through two screenings at the Sundance Film Festival and during the second one, we said to each other: Let's try to enjoy this.
Let's just watch it. It's a happy movie. It is just like, "Jeez. Like your character, you are a new mother, but obviously in totally different — happy circumstances. Have you enjoyed pregnancy? Of course my experience was very different and I have really enjoyed my pregnancy, it has been thrilling and so exciting, changing every day, it is like a daily science experiment and I am so lucky that I haven't been sick.
I've had an easy pregnancy compared to many of my girlfriends. Can you say something about 'August Rush', which is your new film with Freddie Highmore?