We’ll forgive you for assuming that Friends With Kids is a pseudo-sequel to Bridesmaids. Four alumni from last summer’s zeitgeist-destroying smash appear in writer and first-time director Jennifer Westfeldt’s heartfelt story about phase two of marital promise—parenthood. Chris O’Dowd and Maya Rudolph play a couple who notice the romantic sparks fading as their parental duties increase, and Kristen Wiig turns up in the surprisingly somber role of a woman whose marriage to the moody Jon Hamm isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. But Westfeldt, who is best known for starring in and co-writing the indie sleeper Kissing Jessica Stein—and for dating Mr. Hamm—wasn’t trying to capitalize on Bridesmaids’ runaway success. She was just trying to make the grueling process of moviemaking a touch easier by casting her unusually talented friends.
Westfeldt, who also stars in the film, saved the crucial role of her onscreen love interest for one of her closest pals, Parks and Recreation’s Adam Scott. Westfeldt and Scott play best friends who, upon the realization that their chances of getting married and having children are slipping away with age, strike up an arrangement to have a kid together by splitting the responsibilities without worrying about how the strain of parenthood will affect their friendship. They learn, of course, that they’re not immune to the emotional complications their married friends display so openly, especially when the pair heads back into the dating pool in search of their own respective mates (played by Ed Burns and Megan Fox).
“Adam was on board from moment one, and was willing to keep putting this somewhere in his schedule as we tried to make it come together,” Westfeldt says. “It would never have been the same without him.” It seemed a natural fit, then, to ask Adam Scott to chat with his costar and director about the stress of directing her first feature, romantic comedies, and finding her inspiration from her best friends. He happily obliged.
Adam Scott: So, Jennifer, I’m going to interview you!
Jennifer Westfeldt: I like it!
AS: It’s been a year since we filmed Friends With Kids. We were fully into shooting by now, right?
JW: I feel like it was about a year and a week ago that we started. We were in the thick of it at this point last year.
AS: You made it look easy, but I would imagine that directing and starring in a movie is insane.
JW: Yeah, I learned as the process went on that it was just a terrible idea. The only way for us to keep our cast was for me to step in and do it.
AS: You know this material better than anyone, don’t you think?
JW: Thank you! I hope that’s how it turns out. At the time it felt so intense. To do any independent film—as an actor, a writer, or as a producer—it’s such an uphill battle.
AS: I don’t remember you sleeping while we were making this movie.
JW: Yeah. We had to go about it day-to-day. There was no way to follow a master plan. The weather would thwart us, or we’d lose a location, or an actor’s schedule would change. Besides you and me, everyone else was sort of in and out within eight days. I think we got Kristen on all of her days off.
AS: Yeah, she was actually doing SNL at the same time.
JW: And she had to go to L.A. a few times to look at cuts for Bridesmaids. It was a crazy time for her. I remember looking at the schedule and thinking, Well, Chris needs to be back here, and Maya’s pregnant. It was tough to get the people we wanted all together at one time.
AS: Do you have a favorite memory of the shoot, or was it too crazy to even have that moment?
JW: I think on the first day of production, you look around at just the number of bodies who are all working for the same goal, and you just think, Oh my God, all of these people are assembled for this one purpose! The fact that everyone showed up was so surprising and sort of took my breath away a little bit. We had this horrible day when we had been shooting a moment with Kristen and Jon. It was freezing—rain and sleet. And there were these crew guys with rubber boots up past their knees with plastic wrap and tarps. They would just yell back at me and say, We’re doing great, we’re both fine! That people are willing to endure such inconveniences for your small project, I mean, they’re certainly not doing it to get rich.
AS: It really was all for one, one for all.
JW: The moment where I was the most excited was watching you and Jon and everybody at that dinner table scene. It was exciting to end with that big group dynamic. It was the only time the eight of us were together.
AS: Well, I was very drunk the whole time.
JW: You do your best work drunk, Adam, that’s the thing about you.
AS: It seems to me that the film does not adhere to any romantic comedy rules. Is that just your taste?
JW: I don’t know if it’s conscious or not, but I’m definitely drawn to those mixed tones in terms of the romantic comedies I respond to, going as far back as the The Apartment, where you have this Hey, buddy boy! kind of energy, but at the same time, you have this woman who’s trying to kill herself. I think of As Good As It Gets or Rushmore as movies that are sort of romantic comedies but have their own tone. Not to say that I’ve created anything in the same league as these films, but it’s something I aspire to do. The third act of this is definitely more dramatic, which is by design. The tone in the movie reflects the premise of these selfish singles who think they’ve got it all figured it out, who think they can game the system.
AS: One of the things that I was moved by the first time I read this script was the understanding you have of how kids affect the lives of their parents. Did you get that from observing your friends who had kids, or from how you feel around kids?
JW: A little of both. There’ve been a lot of moments where I’ve been close to kids and have seen these lives forming and developing before me, and how you and your wife have navigated as parents, which is so impressive and challenging. I remember having a dinner or coffee with your wife, Naomi, early on. Naomi is the most organized, talented, capable, and confident person I know. I remember her saying, “This is the hardest thing I’ve ever done.” I appreciated her candor in that moment.
AS: Our two characters make declarations at the beginning of the movie about how they’re going to do it “the right way.” I don’t want to spoil anything in this interview, but when they come out on the other side, the things that they were going to put up a good fight against are the things that they ultimately choose to embrace, because it fulfills them in ways they didn’t expect.
JW: I think that is a threat I’ve seen all of my friends who have had kids make at some point. Whatever they thought it was going to be, they all say, no matter how hard it gets or how many sleepless nights or how many challenging moments, that they didn’t experience love until they experienced this kind of love. That’s such a powerful declaration. Jon and I can only imagine how that is because of the crazy, over-the-top love we have for our dogs.
AS: Well, we should also make it clear that this movie is not only for parents.
JW: I hope not! It’s for Megan Fox fans, for one thing.
AS: By the way, you wrote me a scene in which I get to make out with Megan Fox.
JW: You’re welcome for that.
AS: And you wrote a scene where you make out with Ed Burns.
JW: Yep. You’re welcome, to me.