The wonderful new comedy Waitress has already won rave reviews across the United States. With an original style, smart script and compelling story, it is set in a southern town and focuses on a charming young woman (Keri Russell) who bakes delectable pies, hates her husband, gets pregnant by him. – then falls head over heels for her doctor: her obstetrician. The handsome doctor is portrayed with wit and humor by rising star, Nathan Fillion. His on screen chemistry with Russell, together with his charisma and comedic skills help to make the film so enjoyable. Waitress, directed by the late Adrienne Shelly, also stars Shelly herself, Cheryl Hines and Jeremy Sisto.
Nathan Fillion plays the handsome doctor who becomes embroiled in an illicit affair with his own patient – a beautiful, pregnant waitress with a gift for baking pies and quiches that melt in the mouth and linger in the imagination.
By Elaine Lipworth
What is the film about from your perspective?
it is a great film about people looking for fulfillment in life. Even though it deals with pregnancy and motherhood, I don’t see this as a women’s movie. I don’t see this as being about motherhood either or about being pregnant. It is about people trying to be happy. It is the same thing that we are all doing in our everyday lives, just trying to make choices. It looks at what kind of choices people make and whether we make easy choices or more challenging ones, that might be more rewarding in the long term.
Can you talk about who this guy is, on the face of it, it is outrageous what he does, having an affair with his pregnant patient, how did you perceive him?
He’s hardly a dog, he is not a bad guy at all. We have two people here and they are both being unfaithful to their partners, yet we forgive them. We forgive Jenna very easily, because she’s obviously in an abusive relationship, although it is harder to forgive my character, it is true. From what we see of Dr Pommater’s relationship, his wife is beautiful, she’s a doctor, she’s affectionate, they seem affectionate together too. But we all know couples like that don’t we? You can never really tell what is going on behind closed doors. Couples may seem really happy on the surface, then we find out: Oh my god they’re getting a divorce and we cannot understand why because they seem so perfect, so what could possibly be the problem, what went wrong, we wonder? But really, who are we to say how hearts communicate and what might either draw people together or pull them apart. It is all about people who are obviously searching for something to fill a void within themselves and make choices to try to be happy. These two people came together because they see a chance of happiness and love.
What was the appeal of this film for you?
Well first of all I thought it was a very pretty little story, I thought it was a very cute little slice of life tale. I had no idea how emotional it might be when I started the project; I didn’t have the vision that Adrienne obviously had about what these characters have to say. In some ways, the story seems to be larger than life, yet it is really just a simple, tiny little story. I love it because it speaks to me so clearly I think about my own daily choices every day in terms of how to find happiness.
What are your memories of Adrienne, of working with her and knowing her?
My most vivid memory about Adrienne is the first time I ever met her, which was in a little diner on the lower east side of New York. I can’t even remember the name of it, I remember how tiny she was sitting in a little booth and how she had an easy smile and was so friendly. And even in times of stress or pressure when we were filming, she always had that energy that drew people towards her. She was wonderful. She always wore hats – which is an excellent metaphor, because she wore a lot of hats in this movie as an actor, director, and writer. She was very talented. I was, in a scene with Adrienne and Cheryl Hines, right at the end of the movie so I did get to act with her, which was wonderful.
Can you talk about your co-stars?
One reason I wanted to do the movie so badly was that I wanted to work with Keri Russell and Cheryl Hines. Andy Griffith was a latecomer to the movie and that was exciting too. I couldn’t believe I got to work with him. I had known Jeremy Sisto before; we used to play beach volleyball, together. I’d seen his work but I’d never actually had the chance to work with him. So that was a thrilling prospect for me too.
How much medical research did you do to play the gynecologist?
Zero, if you notice when you see the film, I never had to do anything technical or complicated at all, or anything difficult. I moved around a sonogram at one point and that is about it. Really, all I had to do was to put on a white coat and be awkward and embarrassed, which is how my character feels a lot of the time.
What was it like working with Keri?
Great, I’m very proud of the job we did. What we wanted to do was communicate an attraction, a passionate feeling. These are two people who need and long for something grand and passionate in their lives and obviously they can’t express that in their current relationships, which is why they come together. Together they have some magnetic chemistry that is romantic and intense and passionate. Keri is absolutely wonderful and we just had a great collaboration. The sex scenes can be difficult and embarrassing, it was supposed to be awkward, because our characters are relative strangers, but she’s just so wonderful and easy to be with. All you want to do in those passionate scenes is be comfortable, in what can be a very awkward situation.
Do you have especially emotional feelings about the film? Audiences and critics are really enjoying it in the States?
I think that judging by the screenings and by how well the show is doing and how it seems to affect people, it is obviously having a great impact as a film in itself, and the critics obviously are just loving it. It seems to be hitting people in just the right spot. What makes it hard for me is that Adrienne not able to see just how much people love her film. I think she knew she was doing a good project, she was putting her heart into it obviously and it meant something to her. But I don’t think she could ever imagine how much it would affect people so deeply.
When you were making it, did you have any idea of the kind of impact it was going to have? Was there a special atmosphere?
A: “You know when I read it, I thought it was a sweet story, about motherhood, But I actually missed the point. It was not until I actually got to see it for the first time at the Sundance Film Festival that I was really able to see the vision that Adrienne had. This movie affected me and so many other people. It really touched me and I identified with it in many ways, because of the areas of life I have been thinking about myself, looking at my own choices.
You were talking about how it touches things in your own life, what do you mean by that?
I think however consciously we do it or not, we’re all just trying to be happy, we make decisions so that we are not trapped, we don’t want to box ourselves into a corner where we’re just constantly suffering. I try to make decisions that will keep my life stress free, relaxed and calm and keep love in my life and something real that makes me happy. I don’t need to play uplifting characters though. It’s not about that. Maybe the next role I play will be a villain, someone dark and someone terrible. What makes me happy is telling a story, affecting people and entertaining them.
What was it like on the set, what sort of director was Adrienne?
Here’s what I’ve learned about writer-directors. It often works very well because there is less lost in the translation between what the writer’s trying to say, and what the director’s trying to translate visually. I think with the writer-director, there is far more accuracy, sticking close to the script, to the story, to the spirit of the movie and the intent of the writer, the intent of the story. On top of that, Adrienne was an actress, so now you have a director who can communicate in that language of emotion in the same way that wine tasters live in that realm of sense and smell and taste, and they have those words and that language that they use. Adrienne can communicate extremely well to actors
Do you have an example of that?
I remember there were times when she asked me to do something and I said, “I can do it like that’ but I had no real idea why she wanted it done in a certain specific way. And I didn’t learn until I actually got to Sundance and saw the film and thought, ‘Oh, that’s what she meant. It makes perfect sense, and it’s amazing’.
Did she like to do a lot of takes?
She was one of those directors who was happy once you ‘got it’ and grasped something’ but she didn’t chase it. But also you have to remember that everything was fast. We did not have a lot of time. We had to film it so quickly. It was a real team effort to complete the film. It was very collaborative—the crew, everybody doing their very best to make it work.
How much was acting a dream for you?
I was going to be a high school teacher. I was studying at the University of Alberta in Edmonton, up in Canada. I was also acting in a wonderfully supportive theater community in Edmonton. There’s a lot of support for theater there. So I was having a great time, but I did not consider acting as a serious career initially, because even the most successful actors that I know in Edmonton are not super successful. Acting over there is just not a success-oriented career. Never mind Los Angeles, I was in Edmonton. I’d watch TV and I’d see movies, and I’d think, ‘God, I could do that. I’d love to do that. How do I do that?’ It was a window to a world that seemed so far away, and now I understand that it’s not far away, and it’s just a job, and here I am and I’m having a great time. I’m not a famous celebrity of any kind. I’m a guy from Edmonton who’s got a great job and I am loving it.
You are actually getting comparisons to Harrison Ford?
That might be because I steal from him constantly. People say, “Is that a homage to Harrison Ford?” And I say, “Not so much a homage as it is a direct copy, but thank you. I love his work. I am a fan.
Do you have any kind of philosophy or approach to your work?
Somebody once said that you can never act and be another person; you’re only acting facets of yourself. I think there’s a lot of truth in that. I look at a role, and I think I basically boil it down to: What would I do, had I experienced those things. How would I react? I know what I would say, but how would it make me feel? I lean very heavily on that approach. So I relate to those characters—and any character I play—in as much as I put myself in their positions and feel how I would personally deal with their experiences.
What was it like making WHITE NOISE 2 your next film?
It was great. I’ve been very fortunate, in the past few jobs I have had, because I’ve worked with people that I’ve worked with before. Often there is competition, going to auditions or meetings with directors, but I’ve had a lot of jobs lately which have been great, because they have entailed working with people I know and love, who I also trust a great deal. That makes everything easier. They have called me and said: “I’ve got something good if you are interested and: ‘ I’d love to work with you again: this is what it is. What do you think?’ And I’m only too happy to take those jobs. So with WHITE NOISE 2 it was with director Patrick Lussier, who I knew. I was able to go and have a great time in Vancouver, a town I love and really have an enjoyable experience. The character I play is a man who suffers the loss of his wife and son, and feels that he failed them in that he couldn’t do anything to save them. He attempts suicide, is brought back, and then, after that near-death experience, he comes back with the ability to tell when someone is going to die. And the film is all about what would you do with that ability if you knew that someone is going to die, and it examines the repercussions. It is actually quite cool.
What are your goals in general as an actor?
A:”I have already had such an incredible ride since leaving Edmonton. It’s a rollercoaster for sure, and I don’t know where it’s going, but I’m enjoying it the whole time. I am fortunate enough that every job I do, seems to be, at the very least, teaching me something fantastic. I make new friends. I work with talented people. And each project and experience seems to be better than the last. I seem to be topping myself all the time. I think to myself, ‘It can’t get better, it can’t get better ‘and then something happens that makes me feel like I’m truly richer for the experience.
What are your interests outside acting?
My friends and my family, I like to see movies. I live in Los Angeles and I like to do a lot of hiking. I live a very relaxed life. I think that acting can be a very pressurized existence. So when I am not working, I spend very loose and un-pressurized time and I like to meet people who have a similar attitude. I also have a cat. I’m not a cat-person, but she came with the house that I’m renting. I was told she was 18 when I moved in, so I thought, ‘How long can she possibly last?’ And that was 6 years ago – and I don’t know how many hundreds of dollars worth of bump removals, teeth removals, cleanings and vet fees I have been through since then. But of course I love her and she is worth it.