As actress Ari Graynor recently told The East Valley Tribune, one of her primary goals in life is to do “a little bit of everything.” Her blossoming career is certainly reflective of this ambition and includes an array of roles in motion pictures, television series and stage plays.
She has portrayed everyone from a rowdy roller-derby girl in “Whip It”, to an unexpected bride in Woody Allen’s one-act play “Honeymoon Motel,” to a manic-depressive, suicidal college student on HBO’s “The Sopranos”.
This month, Graynor can be seen in not one, but three movies – “Celeste and Jesse Forever”, “For A Good Time, Call…” and her latest film, director Jamie Linden’s “10 Years”. Here, Graynor plays Sam, an uptight mother who accompanies her husband (Chris Pratt) to their 10-year class reunion. In her recent interview with the Tribune, Graynor discussed what she was like in high school, the boisterous atmosphere on-set and what she’s currently obsessed with in pop culture.
How did you initially get involved with “10 Years” and what drew you to the character of Sam?
Well, it’s funny, the way it came about…God. My initial memory of starting those conversations is, I ran into Jamie Linden, the writer and director, at the “Easy A” premiere. We started talking about it then because she had – I think she asked Brian Garrity if I was available and Brian thought I was busy working on something else, and Jamie was telling me about the project, and I thought it sounded so amazing. I loved this idea of an ensemble group and he was saying how so much of it was going to be improvised and I knew some of the people that were doing it or looking to be involved.
It’s such a spectacular group of actors and I love that idea of creating something as a group, where there’s a lot of freedom to play around. At that point, there were a few different roles available so he sent it to me and I read it. We talked about a few different characters but at the same time, some of the characters were written specifically for people and those that weren’t were tailored specifically to the actors playing them.
At the time, Sam wasn’t Sam – I forget what her name was – and she was kind of broadly drawn, but we kind of reworked her and created this idea of her being, you know, sort of the caretaker of the Chris Pratt character but also, sort of of the group and someone who’s trying to manage everybody and is friends with everybody and trying to manage her own excitement and expectations for this night, you know, in the face of where her life actually is. It was fun to kind of work with Jamie and come up with who she was and what her story was for that night.
With comedians like “Parks and Recreation”-alums Aubrey Plaza and Chris Pratt involved with project, what was the experience like coming to work everyday? Any funny stories or tidbits you have about being on-set?
It was a very unique set; I think we’re all shocked that this is a real movie that’s being released because it felt like movie camp. You got that incredible group of people together and many of us were already friends before or at least knew each other. I don’t think there was anyone that came to that group that didn’t know somebody, and it all came about through friends. This was not your traditional process where there’s a casting director and people auditioned, I don’t even think there was a casting director. This was just different people coming on-board kind of through personal relationships.
We were all staying at the same hotel in Albuquerque that we were shooting at, so everyone would just come down to set in their robes, when people were busy shooting a scene, everybody else would just be hanging out at the bar. This was by no means a traditional work environment.
Did you attend your 10-year high school reunion? Why or why not?
I didn’t go to my official 10-year reunion because I was working at the time, but I’ve gone to a few alumni events in previous years so I felt like I got a taste of it. You know, I still keep in touch with some of my close friends from high school and then I got the opportunity to see a lot more of the random people from school to have the quick, 5-minute conversation and then you’re done of, “Oh, what’re you doing now?”, “Oh, that’s so great!”, “Where do you live?”, “Cool!” and then you have nothing left to say, but it’s still nice to see people.
Looking back, how would you describe high school-age Ari?
I was a lot like I am now, but I was more insecure, maybe even more boy-crazy, if that’s possible. I was friends with everybody, I was close with my teachers, I never wanted to get in trouble but I wasn’t a goody-two-shoes, either. I had a group of friends and we would party on the weekends, but at the same time, I was in the a capella singing group, I managed boys’ lacrosse, I did the plays, I sort of did a little bit of everything.
With three films out now and “The Guilt Trip” on its way this Christmas, 2012 really seems to be a breakout year for you. How would you say this experience has been, especially having to juggle multiple movies opening within a month?
Well that’s the funny thing about filmmaking, it’s just chance that they’re all coming out at the same time. “For A Good Time, Call…”, “Celeste and Jesse Forever” and “10 Years” were all made independently, and when you make these very small, independent movies, you don’t know if they’ll ever see the light of day, let alone all come out in the same month. That was just a crazy coincidence, and, you know, the thing about being an actor is you just hope you keep working and work with great people and have different experiences, so I just hope I keep getting to do that.
Ten years from now, where do you see yourself ideally? Roles you’d like to be playing, where you’d like to be living or any other aspirations?
God, it’s nearly impossible for me to think 6 months ahead, never mind 10 years ahead. It’s tough to say, but in the next 10 years I’d like to have done a little bit of everything: drama, comedy, musicals, period pieces, action movies. I’d like to have written a book, produce a movie, I’d like to direct a movie, I’d like to have an art studio. I don’t know if I’d be technically married, but I’d like to have a life partnership – maybe we’d be married with kids or maybe we’d just be like a Goldie Hawn and Kurt Russell-kind of couple: being together for years and never marrying, living all over the world.
Why do you encourage people to come check out “10 Years” and what do you hope they walk away with after seeing the film?
I think it’s a really remarkable cast, first and foremost. I think it’s such an exciting group of actors to watch and I think there’s a little bit of everything in there for people: it’s heartbreaking, it’s funny, it’s romantic, it’s sad and I think people will enjoy themselves and yeah, I think it’s a really beautiful, sweet, little piece of entertainment.
And just out of curiosity, any recent bits of pop culture that you’re particularly fond of right now?
Well, I’m really obsessed with Lena Dunham and “Girls”. I’m really obsessed with Nicholas Jaar. I just saw him in concert the other night along with M83; that’s another album that I’ve been obsessed with this year. I don’t have a TV, so I’m not so on top of the new, fall lineup. I’m trying to think of other timely obsessions… Oh! Uber! The Uber app, it’s an app where it scans your credit card and you put in your information and you just hit a button and it’s like a car service. It will pick you up anywhere but it’s different from calling a cab and exchanging money. You don’t have to hand over any money because it’s all taken care of on the app and tip is included, and you get a nice, black car to come pick you up, so I’m pretty into that.