It's tricky. On a movie like this there's not a lot of research to do. It was more about, for me, thinking about where I'm from and what would have happened if I left and came back -- and what my life would be. I really like that Alice [DeWitt's character in the film] introduced the idea of stewardship in the movie, like when Steve [Matt Damon's character] says "You're teaching the kids how to farm?" and she says, "No, I'm teaching them how to take care of something." I feel lucky to be an actor because you always learn something from each part you play. It was nice for me to take the tint my own life. You think you know what that means and then you get to embody it. Then you feel differently as you plant trees or renovate your kitchen. You do it with a different degree of consciousness.
Taking a break from what the film's really about -- what was it like being the object of affection for both Matt and John? I'm guessing the job must have come easy.
Yeah, it was easy (laughs). There was one day toward the end of shooting where we did the classroom scene where Dustin [Krasinski's character] comes to talk to the kids. Gus does sometimes get like a mischievous kid on set. He comes over and he says to John (Matt was there 'cause they're the writers and producers), "Just give her a kiss on the lips at the end of the scene and see if Matt notices." But of course when we're going play a joke on someone I get a giddy -- like I almost can't do the take. Matt is such a team player and he's so egoless. We did it about four times and Matt didn't say, "Why is his character kissing her? That's not in the script!" Finally Gus comes over and asks Matt, "So what did you think about the kiss?" And he's like, "I don't know! I thought that's one way you could try it, but I trust you." That's kind of the way the whole thing was. You could try anything and see what the movie should be.
That's great to hear, because in my mind acting opposite the film's two writers sounds nerve-racking.
A teeny bit. The very first day I felt: I don't want to screw up their words. But no, they just wanted it to be good. I think they valued what everything brought to it.
Moving on briefly to "Touchy Feely," your second film with Lynn Shelton following "Your Sister's Sister." How do the two films differ?
It's really about healers and what happens when people are in need of healing. It's very subtle. With "Your Sister's Sister" and "Humpday," it was all based on this wild, wacky premise that people all found our way through. This is way more subtle about the ways in which we heal and where we find healing. Alison [Janney] is just so good in it (laughs). I saw it. You know, you've seen her play some really strong women like on "The West Wing," and she's just Earth Mother in this.