Dealing with the strain of divorce can be pretty psychologically ravaging territory. Not only for those whose marriage has come to an end, but for the children, friends, and relatives left in its wake. Whether you’re five, fifteen, or thirty-five divorce creates a schism in your foundation, and although those wounds may mend themselves with time, it can certainly be a life-altering experience to undergo. And when it comes to cinematic portrayals of divorce, the relationships shown usually tend to be on the brutal side of things, exposing the heartbreaking and painful aftermath of a family broken apart. But with Stu Zicherman’s directorial debut A.C.O.D. we get an entertaining glimpse at divorce on screen, with a comedy about a man who thinks he’s put his parents strange past behind him and has his life totally in control, only to find himself back in the chaos of it all.
Starring the always enjoyable to watch Adam Scott, the film focuses on Carter an A.C.O.D.—“Adult Child of Divorce”—and seemingly well-adjusted guy with a great job, lovely girlfriend, and his life totally in check. But when his younger brother rushes into a engagement, Carter is forced to reunite his bizarre parents (played by Catherine O’Hara and Richard Jenkins)—after not speaking for 20 years—and set them on an amicable path to appear at the wedding. But upon returning to his childhood therapist (played by Jane Lynch) he soon learns that the sessions the two shared as a child were used as a case study in a book about child of divorced families. From there, Carter is forced to reexamine everything that’s happened since his youth and begins to unravel his controlled exterior and become a child again amidst the whirlwind of his family. Co-starring Mary Elizabeth Winstead as his girlfriend and Amy Poehler as his evil stepmother, A.C.O.D. proves a perfect film for Scott to helm, and a refreshing new comedic voice from Zicherman.
I’ve got to admit, for all the people I’ve interviewed, it’s really bizarre meeting you, consindering I fall asleep to Parks and Rec almost every night. It’s probably the only show I’ve watch more than Frasier.
Oh, I think it’s a good show for that. It’s comforting. I do the same thing with Friday Night Lights.
So do you cry as you fall asleep?
Yeah, that show, man, it kills me. It’s so great.
So how did you first get involved with A.C.O.D and what attracted you to the script?
It was sent to me and I read it and just loved it. It reminded me a little bit of Flirting With Disaster, which is one of my favorite movies. So I said yes right away because I loved it and it was the opportunity to be a lead in a movie; so I kind of just jumped at the chance.
What I enjoyed about it was that it had a similar tone to a lot of really great other comedies but tackled a topic that really hasn’t been explored too much in the comedy.
Yeah, it’s a little unmined. I also liked how the lead character starts as this grownup who feels like he has everything wired and is taking the grownup position—perfect job, perfect girlfriend, has everything in control—and then slowly as things unravel throughout the movie he becomes a kid again and loses control and needs someone to take care of him a little bit. I thought that was interesting because it’s usually the other way around.
Did you find he was an easy person to tap into?
My experience with divorce in my family was completely different, but I understood it. I understood the control thing, because as you get older you want more and more control in your life so you don’t lose your mind.
It was interesting to watch because my parents got divorced when I was 15 and I thought that I was fine and then now I look back and see I was a total mess.
Absolutely. Mine divorced when I was five, but it was so nice, we had a great childhood and there was no animosity whatsoever. So I didn’t relate to that part of it, but I think we’re all curious about our childhood as we get older and it gets more and more interesting to unravel what was going on.
And it’s nice to see a movie about divorce that’s light and enjoyable.
Rather than Kramer vs. Kramer, right?
When I was first starting college, I remember taking film classes and getting really snobby about what I watched, so my roommates made me watch Stepbrothers with them. And of course, I fell in love. So when I first found out about A.C.O.D. I was excited to see you and Richard Jenkins reunited as father and son. How is he to work with?
Yes! Oh, he’s the best. He’s such a lovely guy. It’s so fun doing scenes with him because you have no idea what he’s going to do.
I love seeing him get really worked up.
Yes, it’s hilarious. That dude is the best, he can do everything.
In the comedy world, you tend to work with a lot of the same people frequently—whether it’s Lizzy Caplan or Amy Poehler, etc.—does that create a really easy and trusting atmosphere on set and just make the process that much more enjoyable?
It’s really fun because you’re just making stuff with your friends, and that’s the best—I love that. It makes everything really easy and fun. But that being said, I had never worked with Catherine O’Hara before. It was always a dream to, so that was really great to be able to do that and now, I’m not going to call her a friend because that would be a little presumptious, but we have worked together since and I hope to work with her many, many times.
How was it working with Amy in this film where you two have such a contentious relationship and aren’t the perfect couple we’ve come to know and love as Ben and Leslie.
It was really fun—and really easy because we really do hate each other in real life. But it’s super fun doing anything with Amy, so it was great.
When you first started on Parks and Rec, did you know you were going to be there long-term?
I knew I was going to be on the show permanently, but I didn’t know that we would get married. I knew there was going to be some sort of romance down the road, but it was not formed just because they didn’t know how we would get along or how our chemistry would be or whatever. But I never would have guessed we would get married; it’s really great. I remember when we were making A.C.O.D. Amy and I were talking on set and I said I thought they should get married, we liked that idea. And so we were theoretically talking about it, and then six months later we were shooting the wedding episode.
Have you seen any of the fan-made Ben and Leslie videos online? They’re pretty ridiculous.
I saw one. Yeah, it was pretty intense. They’re all very sweet though.
As someone that navigates between television and film, how do you go about choosing projects?
I have a finite amount of time when the show isn’t shooting, so I just try to find something interesting to fit in there. I got lucky the summer before last, I got to do A.C.O.D. and Walter Mitty during hiatus—which was really great. Sometimes the timing works out and then sometimes it just doesn’t and you miss out on stuff because the show’s happening, but I wouldn’t trade it for anything. The show is so fun and everyone is great and everyone is friends. It’s the best.
I’m seeing Walter Mitty this Saturday.
Oh, me too!
For the first time?
Yeah, I haven’t seen it yet.
Can you tell me a little bit about the experience of working on that?
It was really fun and just fascinating. It’s such a big, epic movie. Watching Stiller direct was just amazing. We did a bunch of stunts and stuff with wires and all that, which I hadn’t done before. So that was a blast. I loved every second of it. It was just an experience.
Are you always looking for things you haven’t done before?
Yeah, and Mitty was definitely one of those experiences. It was lots of stuff I hadn’t done before.
And with A.C.O.D., how was the task of taking on the lead role?
It was fun, but the two times I’d done it before I at least had a day off here and there. But with this one, it was just like all day everyday on camera, which was really, really a blast and exhausting but in a good way. We shot it in 24 days, which was really quick, so by the end I was super tired, but you have eat breakfast and get plenty of sleep or you will crater in on yourself. Halfway through shooting I freaked out a little bit, just because the pressure of, if I suck in this the movie will suck kind of got to me. But Stu talked me down and it was fine.
I’d imagine with the people in the cast there was a lot of improv going on? Or was it a really tight script?
A little bit here and there. We were moving so fast that there wasn’t a whole lot of time and the script was in such good shape that we didn’t really need it.
You’ve been working on writing and producing for yourself, what’s next for you with that?
I’m not totally sure. We’re still working on The Greatest Event in Television History. We have one that airs November 7th and another one coming up. Those are really fun to do and hopefully we’ll do more of those down the road. We’re looking to make a movie sometime in the next couple years. It just feels really great to create something from the ground up and just make something, again, through friends— it’s really satisfying.
Are there any favorite roles you’ve played or experiences that you’ve enjoyed the most working?
Party Down will always have a special place in my heart. Stepbrothers too. And Parks. Those are the three things that really kind of always just stick with me. I miss the Party Down folks, but Parks is just such a perfect, perfect job; I hope it never ends. I love it. But I loved Vicious Kind too.
Between TV and film you really do seem to pop up everywhere. Do you enjoy that constant state or working and being in motion taking on different projects?
Yeah, I like to stay busy. But I have two kids, so I like to stay busy but I also like to have time to let them get to know me a little bit. So I try to work and be with them and other than that I don’t really do anything. I just like to work and then hang out with my wife and my kids.
Well that sounds nice.
Yeah! I mean, it’s plenty, right?
Do you enjoy the dramatic roles just as much as the comedy?
Yeah. I haven’t done that in a while, but I’m hoping to find something else dramatic to do soon.