Get ready to see Schmidt in a whole new way—and not just because he’s sporting a beard and a flannel shirt! When we caught up with New Girl star Max Greenfield at the Tribeca Film Festival to chat about his new movie About Alex, he opened up about some deep feelings that were brought up for him while filming the movie.
The film is about a group of college friends who reconnect after one of them tries to commit suicide (Alex, played by Jason Ritter), and while they might all follow each other on Twitter and be friends on Facebook and like each other’s Instagram pics, they realize they might not know or be as connected to each other as they originally thought. So there’s a lot of reconnecting the friends go through while spending time at a cabin in upstate New York. A lot of bonding also went down for the cast which includes Maggie Grace, Nate Parker, Aubrey Plaza and Max Minghella.
Max Greenfield recalled a moment very early on in shooting the movie where he was shaken by the subject matter of the movie. “We shot this scene on maybe the first or second day and it’s when Jason’s character first enters the house after coming back from the hospital and it was the first time in a scene seeing the bandages and I went, ‘I misjudged the movie, I didn’t realize it was going to be this heavy, I can’t do this for the next 30 days.’ It was terrifying. My immediate reaction was, I’m fucking terrified, how am I going to sit through this. But it was a real moment and I’m glad I had the day off the next day because there was a full day of, ‘Oh you need to adjust to this pal.’
So how exactly did he adjust and get ready to step back into the character? “I came down to the city and saw a buddy of mine and I was like, ‘I don’t know if I could go back.’ It was one thing to read it, it was another to be in it and see it. It was a very shocking moment. I was so used to being on the New Girl set for two years and doing the same thing and being in that environment which is very safe and fun and nothing like this. But it was good, it was such a healthy fear.”
His co-star Maggie Grace even said, “Max Greenfield is nothing like (his character) Josh”, with Nate Parker agreeing, “Nothing at all. I think he had the task because he’s the funny, quick, quick, quick guy and now he’s the lumberjack.”
Oh, and Max wasn’t the only one who had such a real experience while shooting. Jason Ritter describes a scene with Aubrey Plaza that got really real. “You read a script and then you have an idea of all the characters, and then people get cast so you read it again and imagine everyone but then they’re actually there and they’re living through it and we got to such a point where we all did legitimately care about each other. The scene where Aubrey’s in the bed with me and she keeps asking me, ‘Are you ok, is there anything I can get you?’ and at a certain point I say ‘You have to stop asking me that’ and she’s just supposed to go, ‘Ok, well I really care about you.’ But when I said it, I saw these tears spring to her eyes and all of a sudden I felt so loved and cared about and that she worried about me. There was nothing in the script about that but everyone was very connected and we all bought into the reality that something like this (could) happen to you or one of your friends, and it really helped.”
Jason also revealed the way he got into character as Alex. “Even though we did spend a lot of time together, I also spent a lot of time alone. A lot of people would go back into the city on the weekend and I would stay there even when no one else was there, and I would stay up really late at night when it would be really quiet and I would just sort of sit with my solitude and my loneliness. So when I was around people I loved it and by the time everyone came back into town I was so excited. That was one of the things I was going for with this character. He’s thirstier for human connection than maybe people who are around more people are.”
Maggie elaborated on the bare-bones shoot and how it lent to the bonding amongst the cast. “We didn’t have trailers, it was very much like rainstorms, night shoots, we’re all huddled in one room dozing off or playing cards in between scenes. It felt like a team and it felt like a really close group of friends that spent a lot of time together and had no cell service.”
Although there a little bit of cast bonding before the group headed upstate that occurred for Maggie and Nate, who plays her longtime boyfriend in the movie. He explained, “We actually met once and sat with each other and had coffee, talked about life, talked about the characters and that was a really, really thoughtful conversation. Those conversations can sometimes go wrong. But for someone who has really thought about it and has ideas about what this character needs and what they’re willing to do to get there, it was a really a breath of fresh air to be able to work with someone you knew was going to bring something more than what was on the page.”
But perhaps Maggie put it best by saying, “I’ve heard directors say that when they are casting a movie they think, who’s right for the character but also, who would I want to go camping with which I’ve started to think a lot about in life and in friendships. If you’re gonna go backpacking in Europe, is she going to pack a curling iron? Probably not going to remain a close friend! So you start to think about life in terms of that and in a movie like this that really comes into play. Because you’re actually camping together!”
One thing is for sure, we totally want to go camping with this cast. Look for About Alex, coming soon!
Are you excited to see About Alex? Tell us in the comments below or on Twitter @OKMagazine.