Lauren Ambrose in "Coma"
It's been a while coming, but "Six Feet Under" star Lauren Ambrose seems to be staging a comeback. We're not saying the actress has been resting on her laurels -- she hasn't -- but since Alan Ball's hit HBO funeral show wrapped its last season in 2005, Ambrose hasn't been in the spotlight as much as she is this month. Credit that to her scene-stealing supporting work in Mike Birbiglia's hit adaptation of his one-man show "Sleepwalk With Me" (it scored one of the best limited debuts of the year
over the weekend) and her upcoming lead turn on A&E's TV mini-series "Coma" (in which she stars opposite Ellen Burstyn, Geena Davis and Richard Dreyfuss).
A very pregant Ambrose called Indiewire from her home in Great Barrington, Massachusetts to discuss her recent wave of projects, closing the book on "Six Feet Under," and the challenges associated with playing Birbiglia's real-life ex in his autobiographical comedy. ("Sleepwalk With Me" is currently in theaters and available and VOD, and "Coma" premieres on A&E on Labor Day at 9pm.)
Congrats on "Sleepwalk With Me." It's a hit!
"Sleepwalk With Me"
I haven't even seen it yet!
No, because during Sundance I was working. Now I live out in the woods and I'm so pregnant. I hear it's really awesome.
READ MORE: FUTURES: 'Sleepwalk With Me' Writer-Director-Star Mike Birbiglia Builds a Career Out of 'Funny With Pathos'
How did Mike come around to casting you as his ex? Had you seen his one-man show off Broadway?
He asked me a long time ago when it was being developed if I would be interested in doing it. It hadn't even become an actual thing yet. There wasn't even a script at that point. He saw a play I was doing, I saw his comedy, and he was just very nice and hilarious. He asked me to be his girlfriend. There was a long period where I would read different iterations of the screenplay -- it changed so drastically over time. Even during the shooting he kept changing it. He was definitely crafting it as we went [laughs]. Yeah, it was a long, long process. There were also many readings and little workshops things that we did.
Were you wary of playing someone so close to him in a story based on his own real-life experiences?
What do you mean?
"I was just there to flesh out his take of the experience. The girlfriend might have a very different take on the story [laughs]."
Well, you're playing his ex girlfriend.
[Laughs] I don't know, you know. It's all so much from his perspective. I mean Mike is really good at knowing what's funny and knowing what he wanted. He knew what kind of comedy he wanted this to be. I didn't go to him going, "Oh, is this real?" That wasn't really the thrust. Really, his comedy is him talking about himself, and his movie is about him talking about himself. It's really just his take on the whole experience. Who knows if it's real or not. I was just there to flesh out his take of the experience. The girlfriend might have a very different take on the story [laughs].
So I'm guessing you never met her.
I did meet her! I think she might be in the movie. She came and did this little moment in the movie I remember, I think near the very end where he leaves me. I don't know if it's still in there. But I did meet her when she came to the set.
How did that meeting go?
Oh, it was fine. I was worried about her and Mike, but they seemed cool. Mike has a really nice life now with happy marriage and a cool wife.