As halves of two Los Angeles couples in the new film “The Overnight,” Taylor Schilling and Jason Schwartzman embody the distinctive tones that director Patrick Brice achieves via his dark sex comedy narrative. Schilling plays Emily, a recent transplant to LA with her husband Alex (Adam Scott), who finds it difficult to work up the courage to meet new friends. Fate intervenes when Kurt (Schwartzman) and his wife Charlotte (Judith Godrèche) strike up conversation with Emily and Alex in a Silverlake park, and a pizza dinner date at Kurt and Charlotte’s is planned for later that night.
What transpires over the course of that evening is exactly what you might expect, and yet Brice finds laughs within surprising areas. A lot of that is down to the performances, as Schwartzman’s heightened approach plays off Schilling’s subtler perspective (it’s a turn that’s many shades different than her work on “Orange is the New Black”). We sat down recently in LA with Schwartzman and Schilling to talk about the project, starting with Schilling’s thoughts on the film’s unique tone.
Taylor Schilling: When Patrick and I were talking about the film, he was really clear about wanting to take that baudy, raunchy thing and pair it up with his own sensibility, which is really kind, honest and authentic. And I thought that dichotomy was so interesting. But there was also the ethos that developed on-set —a lot of kindness.
Jason Schwartzman: It was in the script for sure —it had this strange cocktail that felt like it was swirling in a nice way. And I was about to read the script the day I met Taylor, and she was so nice. I thought to myself, “I’m going to be a part of this just because of that.” I read the script and I loved it, but the coincidence of seeing her was a big reason why I wanted to be a part of the movie. Because I don’t do well with people who aren’t nice —I crumble if someone’s a dick.
Especially on a lower-budget project like this, doing twenty-something days…
Schwartzman: More like twenty-something hours. It was eleven days.
When you say “days,” you mean night shoots, right? How was it doing two weeks of sleeping during the day and doing this kind of material at night?
Schwartzman: Anytime your work is out of town, people call it camp, and it brings people together so quickly. We were in LA in the Hollywood Hills, but because it was night, it was like going away. Everyone we knew wasn’t there.
Schilling: Yeah, you weren’t getting notifications on your phone every two minutes. Another thing that I found interesting was that we all shared a room. There were no dressing rooms —we just had a room this size that we just hung out in. So it just felt like a big hangout.
In the run-up to filming, how did each of you cement your dynamic with Adam Scott and Judith Godrèche, respectively?
Schilling: Adam and I had lunch once. We had kale [laughs].
Schwartzman: So it was like a real marriage.
Schilling: Exactly! No, but something that I find happens when I’m working is that chemistry is very nebulous. Certainly, there are things to do to work on it. But the more I do this, the more I feel there’s some energy that galvanizes from the beginning, and things just feel easy. Sometimes it’s not there, and that alone lends for something interesting onscreen. Chemistry doesn’t necessarily need to be like “feeling good”; it can also be like two opposite magnets. That’s fun to watch too.
Schwartzman: There was a kind of “feet don’t fail us now” hope to everything, because so much of it was about the work, and also this nebulous chemistry. And even for the crew —in a way, we were all the crew. It’s such a small group of people that there’s no hiding. So the chemistry has to be great between the actors, and it has to feel good with everyone there. I’ve worked on things where you don’t get along with people, and sometimes it can work and sometimes it doesn’t.
Schilling: We didn’t really have the time to prepare because it was so quick. It just emerged as something that worked.
Schwartzman: There’s a thing that we discovered just now though, because [Taylor and I] haven’t really talked about the movie together. All the things you’re asking are what typically happens on most work experiences. But the thing that had to be embraced here was a sense that “there’s probably not time to get together, there’s not time to watch all the references.” That’s the thing.
Schilling: That itself became our preparation.
So when you got to a setpiece like the pool scene with the prosthetics, was that a similar sort of “feet don’t fail me now” feeling? If those single prosthetics got waterlogged beyond repair, was that it?
Schilling: Oh, they did get waterlogged.
Schwartzman: They kept expanding and got heavier. I don’t know how many there were. I think there was a backup, but we had the main…
Schilling: The hero penis.
Schwartzman: [laughs] The hero. I think there was a moment where [the crew] said “I think you should get out of the pool,” because they were in danger. But it’s funny —if I see an invitation that says “Pool Party BBQ,” I’m not the kind of guy who’s going to that, because a lot of people are gonna end up swimming. I love the water but I’m not into it with all those people. But there was just something about being naked with this prosthetic that was so beyond a normal BBQ party that it was more relaxing. I would’ve been way more nervous —honestly— if we had done this movie and I was just supposed to be in a bathing suit. I can’t describe it.
Schilling: I’ve had that same experience with “Orange is the New Black.” You just jump into it —otherwise it’s very difficult to wade in knee-deep.
Schwartzman: When I put on the penis, I was trying to do a thing to not have other people think that it was weird for me. So I tried to just have it be a thing, you know, to let people touch it if they’d like. It was like Cyrano de Bergerac or the Steve Martin movie “Roxanne.” You have to make friends with it, because it’s not mine. That’s the thing, too —all of a sudden, everyone started thinking that it was my penis. I was like, “No! It’s like I’m wearing a shirt. It’s a costume penis.”
Taylor, your character takes much more of a backseat when it comes to the more shocking elements of the film, with much more of a different personality than the other characters.
Schwartzman: Actually, can I speak for her for a moment? I think this entire movie hinges on her. And I think I might’ve had it the easiest, because my character is this gregarious host, but her character is the one who’s really taking the situation in and grounding it. I’ve worked on things where someone else gets to be this crazy character, and it’s hard because everyone’s having fun and people are laughing, and you’re thinking “am I boring?” You want to join in.
Schilling: Yeah, it’s hard to keep yourself from matching their energy in that way.
Schwartzman: It takes an incredible amount of restraint not to have your energy pulled that way. [To Schilling] I admired your performance because of that. It’s like sleight of hand magic. I’m David Copperfield showing off, but you just made the Eiffel Tower disappear without anyone noticing.
“The Overnight” hits theaters on June 19th.