Natural Selection is a small but very touching movie about a woman who has spent 25 years locked in a world and a marriage that have kept her from being a full person. Rachael Harris plays Linda a woman who can’t have kids and so according to her religion she can’t have sex with her husband Abe. She lived her life believing that both of them were abstaining and when Abe has a health crisis she finds out that he has been visiting a sperm bank for years. Turns out Abe has a kid and she goes in search of him and on her journey she comes to life and realizes she wants more than what she has. Rachael Harris is great. The film opens in NY and LA today and in other cities soon. Info here.
I was able to speak with Rachael Harris on her lunch break from shooting the pilot executive produced by Melissa McCarthy at CBS. (THERE ARE SOME SPOILERS BELOW)
Women and Hollywood: You are mostly known for your comic performances so how did you get this script?
Rachael Harris: I was given the script by my agents and I read it and I had been saying for a long time that I wanted to branch out and try something different. I started out as a stage actress so I was always seeking things that were a bit different from what I had done. So my agent sent me this script and I read it. I couldn’t put it down. So immediately I wanted to do it and was sure that I wasn’t going to be able to get to do it. It was such a great part so I was sure that they would be able to get other people to do it. There were other people who were interested in it for sure but the budget was so extremely low that any really good agent with sense for these women who normally do these kinds of things would say no. That worked in my favor.
WaH: What challenges did it present to you in your branching out as an actress?
RH: For me I think the challenge was I wanted to do what I knew I was capable of doing. I wasn’t too worried about doing the material I felt it was completely relatable. The biggest challenge was the schedule. Making sure everything lined up.
WaH: How many days did you shoot?
RH: We shot it in 18 days. We did 3 6- day weeks.
WaH: You said that this film is a coming of age story of a 40 year old woman. Can you elaborate on that?
RH: I feel that for Linda she has lived this life solely for her husband and she realizes through her relationship with Raymond and Abe that no one person is going to complete her or be there for her. As much as she loves Raymond and as much as she loves Abe she realizes that they are not necessarily the best people for her and going through these experiences she starts to realize that she doesn’t really know herself. I love that she finally goes to California and goes to the beach which is what she’s dreamed of her entire life. It’s the first thing she has every done that is truly for herself.
WaH: We live in a time when women’s rights seem to be rolling back and you look at this woman thinking how can she exist in our world but then also realize there are probably many women like her. Did you do any research?
RH: Just in my own personal dealings having dealt with my own family. I spent a lot of time with my dad in the Deep South in very small towns with very religious people. You and I read the news every day, we’re online constantly. A lot of people don’t own a computer in this day and age and a lot of people don’t watch TV 24/7. They have different values. Their values are in a different place and a lot of time it is dictated by your faith, and for me I have met people who have never heard of Seinfeld. They are committed to their families and getting their kids through school and I didn’t have a hard time relating to that having had both my parents come from very small towns and my dad grew up in Wheeling, West Virginia and they had an outhouse. I’ve met all his relatives and they’re all sweet people with very simple serene lovely lives.
WaH: It’s usually the women who suffer most in these instances.
RH: My whole thing with Linda is that I don’t think she realized she was suffering. I just feel like her development was arrested because Abe had basically been her father. He was her husband too but she never thought to question him until her world is rocked. For 25 years she has been thinking we are in this together. This is what God wants. And for me it was plausible.
WaH: What was the hardest part of making the film?
RH: It wasn’t that we didn’t have a lot of money or didn’t have great craft service or anything like that. I loved the constraints we had. I loved that we had a deadline. I loved that we couldn’t belabor every minute point of the script and that we had to just go. But I think the hardest thing was my anxiety before we would do a big scene. I was just hoping I could just get to the place I wanted to get to and that was just personal — that’s wasn’t on anybody else. What was great was that Robbie (Pickering, the writer and director) was so good at giving me the space to do that even in the short confines of time we had. It was fantastic.
WaH: The film premiered last year at SXSW where it won several awards and you were nominated for an Indie Spirit award and the film is about to open in NY and LA. Has the positive reception given you more opportunities to do dramatic roles? What has changed for you in the last year?
RH: Well if anything it’s been a slow acknowledgment. The indie spirit nominationswas huge. I feel like I’ve planted some great seeds. People are used to seeing me one way but you don’t really get it unless you see it. So I am really hopeful. I have really good feelings about the kind of things I am going to be doing. I would love to do more features and independent features and more complex and complicated women’s roles. I loved Linda. I love her. I love the whole journey she goes on. I was really lucky to get to do that.
WaH: I know you are on your lunch break for a pilot. Tell us about it.
RH: It’s a straight up comedy. Melissa McCarthy is executive producing for CBS. It’s called the Untitled Larry Dorf/Ben Falcone pilot. We were all in the Groundlings together. It’s about Ben Falcone’s character who loses everything in the real estate market and has to move back in with his parents. I play his sister with a couple of kid and a husband. Andrea Martin and Judd Hirsch play our parents.
Natural Selection opens in limited release today.