Interview: Jessica Lowe Talks About BLENDED
Blended is the latest Adam Sandler/Drew Barrymore pairing, a reunion of sorts with their "Wedding Singer" director Frank Coraci. It's a Brady Bunch-style tale that includes the regular family shenanigans, exotic trips, and some pretty straightforward plotting.
While most critics at the screening were not enthralled, the audience at the pre-screening loved it, and it's possible this might be another monster hit for these guys.
The film is told with gusto, with the ensemble surrounding the leads providing much of the films colour. Kevin Nealon, Bella Thorne, Terry Crews and newcomer Jessica Lowe provide some great moments that set this apart from being another run-of-the-mill Sandler comedy.
Lowe spent time in Europe honing her improv craft, and brings to screen a broad, bold performance that will hopefully be the first of many.
ScreenAnarchyspoke with the lovely Lowe while she was in Toronto to attend that pre-screening.
Congrats on your first on-screen kiss, and it's with Kevin Nealon! How was that, and were you channeling Jennifer Coolidge through the entire film?
Whenever people are like you're like Jennifer Coolidge I'm like, thank you so much!
As for Kevin, he was the best. He's genuinely a really nice family man. He made me totally at ease. It was not awkward at all. I mean, the first time, it was awkward and then after that it was fine. He's patient and friendly and hilarious so I couldn't have asked for a better [on screen] husband.
Was your, um, signature shake developed during rehearsals or came from the script?[laughs] It was scripted!
The costume designers are geniuses because the role was written for a busty Asian and they opened it up to barrel chested white ladies. They took what little God gave me and then they made this push up bra to the extreme. It was sewn especially and there were all of these extra things in it.
It was ridiculous. It was like a floatation device.
Presumably there was a lot of improv between you and Kevin
Yeah, they kept a lot of our improv.
We had this personal game when we weren't shooting where I would insult him. I would say something about how he looks ugly or it smells like he used a salmon mouthwash or something and then say "I just want to count your teeth with my tongue". Just disgusting
We were the most disgusting love birds in the world, so they kept a couple of things like "you stink, I love it".
He's supposed to hit me with a cupid arrow, but then I improvised taking the arrow out of my boob, stabbing him with it a bunch of times and then he vomits from the pain of the stab wound, and then I eat it up off the table.
How was it working with Sandler and Barrymore?
They made me feel very at ease right from the get-go because they knew I had this sketch comedy background.
Before I got the part, I had two auditions and then got a frantic call from my agent asking if I was close to the Sony lot. I said no, I'm going to a non-paid web series meeting in Burbank, which is the opposite side of L. A.
She said Adam Sandler wants to meet me in the next two hours and it has to be in the next two hours. I had just had a giant breakfast burrito and I was driving in terrible traffic. I almost vomited on myself as I was going home.
I put hairspray in my hair and zipped on over to Sony.
I saw some famous people in the hallway vying for the same position. I called my mom and said "guess who I just saw in the waiting room?" and my mom goes, "oh, she's going to get it because she's famous."
I went and got a $3 bottle of wine and was drinking it and thought, you know what, I'm just going to make a yoga instructional video. I filmed myself drunk, doing yoga (which I don't even practice).
And then five days later, Adam Sandler's complimenting the video.
Are there specific comedians who influenced you as you went on to do improv comedy?
Seeing Tina Fey be the unusual combination of smart yet endearing yet sexy, she's outstanding. When I was in high school, I really loved Cheri Oteri and Molly Shannon.
They say everyone loves SNL most when you're between the ages of 16 and 20, but I've watched every single episode since I was 5 years old.
Your improv core definitely comes from the SNL school as opposed to something like a British style or even a Christopher Guest style?
I love Christopher Guest. "Best in Show" I could watch over and over.
I love seeing live comedy. There's a lot of really great theatres in L. A. that I love, but Second City Chicago is where I really fell in love with sketch and improv.
This is your first film, but it also seems to double as this incredible vacation in South Africa. Had you been there before and how much did you get to do off camera?
In the movie you see this ridiculously amazing hotel, and that's where I stayed for 6 weeks. I was like "Eloise in Africa".
It seems like in an Adam Sandler movie, there's nothing that you could do that at least isn't worth a try.
[Sandler] made me so comfortable. Improv is my bread and butter, we would do things 3-4 times as scripted, make sure we got it, and then we would just let loose.
Improvising with Kevin Nealon is a treat. We just ended up being super gross all of the time. There's a scene in the safari camp where he takes a sip of his mixed cocktail and spits it on my clavicle and then licks it off. There's just a lot of things where I do a lot of dancing, just so stupid but so fun. If there was no improv, I would have been a lot more intimidated, but because I've done so much of it, it made things easier.
There's an alarming amount of dancing in the film.
One of my improv instructors said once that no one wants to see Baryshnikov dance badly but they do want to see some 5 year old really try to do a fantastic ballet dance.
Putting your heart and soul into it, and not trying to be dumb, but really trying to get things going, that's what funny.
When your character first comes out she's completely ditzy but we see by the end that she has an incredible heart and quite a bit of intelligence behind the jiggly facade...
...Given that, how do you attenuate the role through the course of the film, or is it just a matter of following the script?
I think her heart's always in the right place, and I think that she's just a well-meaning dum-dum. She doesn't understand that she's dressed inappropriately. I mean, I would never dress like that, but that's just who she is and she's not going to apologize for it, and I think her heart never changes, it's just when Jake smiles at her like she's a chocolate covered candy bar.
I think that some people will look at her and judge her simply by the cover, not realizing that there's a lot going on underneath, have you found that in your own comedy sometimes?
At Boom Chicago [in Amsterdam], I went through a big transformation. I showed up and I was very tanned because I had numerous jobs, one of which was that I was a Red Bull girl at extreme motorcross events. I was really tanned and really blonde and I just fit the stereotype of the American idiot.
But the British people aren't as familiar with improv, so they would just heckle. I had to get really good at receiving the heckle and then bouncing it right back because it hurt my feelings when people were like "yeah, take it off!", and there's a guy dressed as a baby sitting in the front row screaming at me.
I couldn't deal with it, so by the end, I dyed my hair dark brown and cut it and started dressing more masculine, trying to hide that I was a woman.
By the end I was able to own it and then just shove it in their faces. I am a funny woman, hear my roar!
One of the best zings I had was when a guy kept on whistling whenever I would talk and I'd stop the scene and I'd say "hey, it sounds like you want my number" and he says "yeah!", and I said "ok, it's 949-fuck-you". That was a crowning achievement when I was able to handle the heckler.
How did you gauge how far to go when improvising on set?
Whenever I'd look at the kids they'd be like a tabula rasa. They haven't been taught yet to not show disgust, so often the little girl would just be shocked. One of the kids asked "how do you have no shame?" I said "it's a lot of years, a lot of experience."
They're in the phase where they definitely care what people think and at this point I'm going to do what I think is funniest.
What do you watch that makes you laugh?
There's so much good TV out there right now. I think Comedy Central in America is killing it with sketch comedy specifically. Key and Peele just nails it every time. There's this theatre called UCB in L. A. that teaches heightening where you take an unusual thing and just make it more and more unusual and you heighten it within a world and I think Key and Peele do that outstandingly.I love Bob's Burgers. Ideally, I want to write for Bob's Burgers and do 5 of the voices. That would be the ultimate dream.
I appreciate all comedy. I'm very omnivorous that way. It doesn't matter. I like it all.
Has getting this part opened any other doors?
I think I skipped a bunch of steps because they took a frickin' chance on an unknown kid.
I really want to be creating my own stuff, and so I just finished creating my first pilot. It's 40 pages at this point. It just flowed out of me and I couldn't believe it.
The best thing was that I'm now repped by Kevin's managers because they saw clips from the dailies and they were "who is this chick, she doesn't have a manager, aaahhh!"
That made me so excited to work with them because they seemed to be such fans.
What surprised you the most, and what did you learn from guys who have been doing it forever like Sandler and Barrymore?
Barrymore - She's a goddess. There's that scene in the tent where she breaks my heart and Sandler had to say "Ah, gorillas!" because everyone's on the verge of tears watching it.
I learned from her it takes a drop more than a bucket sometimes. Film captures everything, but I was used to sketch comedy and it was important to just be as subtle and as natural as possible.
Sandler's specific in that he can give you three of the exact same line in the most radically different ways and then it makes it easier for the editor to say that's the funniest one.
Would Terry Crews wake you up in the morning?
Crews, oh my gosh. He's a comedy machine. He's also a caloric furnace. He needs to constantly eat or he'll die because he has so many muscles. He gets a key to the gym on all of his shoots. I was fascinated by his fitness regime.
He broke the lat pull down machine. I was tying to use it, but they were like "yeah, Terry broke it."
He's so good and he just nails it. He's got that athletic disposition that makes him attack comedy in such a cool way. You can just see his eyes, he was crazy intense.
He was crushing comedy.