Cheryl Hines Interview – WAITRESS

     May 2, 2007

Opening in very select release is “Waitress”, the final film from writer/director Adrienne Shelly. While the film has an uplifting message about a woman who finally gains the courage to pursue her dreams, the film is marked by sadness as its Adrienne Shelly’s final film. There is no way to write about the movie without mentioning the tragedy of Adrienne’s murder.

While the filmmakers were waiting to find out if they would get into Sundance last year, Adrienne was murdered in her NYC apartment. While I won’t cover the grizzly details, know that a woman with a unique voice was silenced and rather than this being another happy tale from Sundance, “Waitress” will end up being what she is remembered for.

And it’s a tragedy for all involved. The reason is “Waitress” is a quirky character driven movie that’s made with the same love that Keri Russell (the main character) puts into her delicious pies.

The film is about Keri Russell’s character Jenna. She makes these amazing pies at the southern diner she works at and while her work life is great, she’s in a loveless marriage to a controlling husband. When she hears about a pie baking contest she starts to dream about winning and with the money, escape and start a new life.

Her plans take a turn when she finds out she’s pregnant and when a new doctor arrives in town (Nathan Fillion) she finds love in the most unexpected place. Also her fellow co-workers (who are played by Adrienne Shelly and Cheryl Hines) are big parts of the film and help her along the way.

“Waitress” was a Sundance hit and it’s great that it’ll be seen by many people.

To help promote the film Cheryl Hines did some press last week and you can either read the transcript below or listen to the interview here. It’s an MP3 and easily placed on a portable player.

Question: How did you come to this project?

Cheryl Hines: One of my representatives read the script and saw the role of Becky and thought I would be right for it and I read the script and just loved it. I loved this world that Adrienne created. And it was a true passion project for everybody that was working on it. It was a low budget independent film and we shot it in 20 days and anybody that was involved with it was there because they loved the script and they loved Adrienne.

So how did you guys come to having your character obsess about the symmetry of her breasts?

That was already in the script when I read it. Adrienne, I don’t know how she came up with that, but it made me laugh when I read it so…but I guess people have odd things they obsess about, especially with their looks. And they feel that if that one thing was different my life would be perfect or my life would be better. No, it wouldn’t.

Did you speculate on the town it was?

We talked about it and Adrienne was very specific about it being Anytown, USA. She didn’t want it to be one specific place. And I think that was a great choice because when you watch the film you are not distracted by wondering what town it is and where it is. In every state there is a town like that, I think.

Have you waitressed?

My first job was as a waitress, and I waitressed for a long, long time. I was a very bad waitress. I didn’t care if people had ketchup or if they were allergic to fish. It really didn’t bother me either way. I didn’t care. I was bad, but it was a good way to make money. And it’s a fun job if you are working with fun people. I remember that being the saving grace of that job.

The new season of Curb? And how has Larry changed?

I don’t know if Larry has changed! He’s still the same cranky guy. Yes, there will be another season. I can’t really talk about it too much because Larry is very secretive about storylines, but you’ll see things you haven’t seen before on Curb Your Enthusiasm this season and he would be mad at me for saying this, but he seems to be able to enjoy it all a little more.

Will this be the last season?

If you ask Larry he would say that it’s the end, but if you ask me I would hope there would be another one. I don’t know. Nothing is definite with him. He says he’s 99% sure that it’s over, but I cling to that 1%.

Did you think it was ending after last season?

When he told me he was going to die, I asked if it was over. And then he tells me that he just stays dead for a few minutes and then he comes back. But he doesn’t die again, if that’s your question. I can’t tell you if it will end in a way that it could come back for another season.

Can you talk about your experience after Adrienne was killed?

Well, it’s interesting because Adrienne and I were the same age and we had a daughter the same age and we really connected immediately. She was a very funny, intelligent, passionate person. And when we were shooting the film we all had a really great time shooting. Looking back, how could you possibly know that this is the last time you are going to see this person? And you can’t know how much you should be drinking this person in because you don’t know that they are not going to be there tomorrow so it’s quite a life lesson. When we went to Sundance, Keri Russell and I had not seen the film before so we sat there and watched it for the first time with an audience with 1200 people and it was an overwhelmingly emotional experience because there was an excitement to it because the film was beautiful. And it was so well received and people laughed and they cried. And a lot of people didn’t know Adrienne and they didn’t know the story of Adrienne and yet were still so touched by this movie because independent from what’s happened, it’s a great movie. So there was a sense of joy. There was a huge sense of sadness and there was also a sense of anger because it’s not fair that she’s not here with us and it makes you very angry to think that this could happen. And her family was at Sundance. So on one hand everyone was so happy and excited about the success of the movie and on the other hand it’s impossibly tragic.

Did it change your own life?

That’s a good question. It should, but this is silly, but when I was in high school I was very fascinated by the idea of death and dying. It happens to everybody. And I don’t know why our society doesn’t talk about it more and why we don’t appreciate each other more. And I remember going to see someone speak about it and she said, ‘really pay attention to the people in your life because when you walk out the door you don’t know when you are going to see them again.’ So if you had a fight with your mother or your brother or whomever, don’t walk out the door like that. Make sure they know how you feel about them so I try to lead my life telling the people around me how much they mean to me.

Is getting bad poetry better than getting no poetry at all?

Absolutely! Bad, quirky poetry might be better than some of the good stuff, because it really comes from the heart.

What else will you be in besides Curb?

I made a movie called The Grand, an improvised comedy about a poker tournament that is going to premiere at the Tribeca Film Festival next weekend. And that’s very exciting. It’s Woody Harrelson and Ray Romano and David Cross and Judy Grier and David Kind. There are some very funny people in this and it’s a crazy, funny movie. So that’s going to come out. We’ll see what happens with that movie. And I just wrote a TV show, not to star in, but to produce, about personal assistants. So I want to see what happens with that. It looks like E might be doing it.

Are you a poker player in The Grand?

Yeah, in the Grand it really comes down to the final table of this tournament and I’m the only woman in the tournament. And yes, I do play in real life. We shot in Las Vegas and we stayed at the Golden Nugget and it was a dream. When I wasn’t shooting I was playing poker and they would just page me and tell me when it was time to go back to the set.

Why poker?

Well, where else can you look in someone’s eyes and lie about something and it’s perfectly acceptable? Not only acceptable, it’s expected. I love it!

Was the ending improvised as well?

It’s funny that you ask that, it was! Because Zack Penn, who directed the movie, he wanted to play this out. He gave everybody a certain amount of chips because it was supposed to be a certain time in the tournament and he let us play out the tournament. And Ray Romano was playing my husband and he was getting ready to go out of the country so we had to shoot the ending both ways before he left. So we had to shoot a scene where I won and we had to shoot a scene where I lost.

Did you really try to win?

Everybody at that table wanted to win. We had our own bets going and the crew had their bets going.

Favorite pie and favorite waitress from the TV show Alice?

My favorite would have to be Flo, what is not to like about Flo? And I do love Key Lime pie.

How was the atmosphere shooting this film?

We did become very good friends and the atmosphere is what it looks like in the movie. We had so much fun hanging out with each other and I think everybody had a great deal of respect for each other. The other actors that are in this movie are exceptional. So you are watching people do their scenes and it’s very inspirational.

The TV show you are writing?

My role would be creator and producer and it’s about personal assistants. I was a personal assistant for a while. It’s a scripted show. There will be two celebrities and a director on the show.

So has that experience made you more sympathetic towards assistants?

Yes, terribly, to the point where I am almost apologizing for asking them to go pick up my laundry, because I’ve been there, I know how it feels. And I always tell my assistant, if I ever ask you to do anything that you don’t want to do or feel uncomfortable about, just let me know.

When were you an assistant?

I was performing at the Groundlings and I was an assistant for Rob Reiner and his family.

How about the stereotypes of assistants?

I think it’s about the same as any stereotypes in this town, whether it be a stupid, good looking actor, not all good looking actors are stupid, and not everybody is mean to their assistant. And at the same time the world of assistants is a different world out here because you have people with so much money and influence, and really, as an assistant you can be asked to do the strangest, strangest things. When I was an assistant I remember talking to another assistant and she said she was getting ready to fly to San Francisco to pick up a cake, and fly back, and she bought a seat for the cake. So it’s like, only in LA, you know?

Strangest thing you ever had to do for Rob Reiner?

I signed a confidentiality agreement so I can’t answer that.

Is it harder for you to do a scripted thing than an unscripted thing now?

No, it’s not. I actually have a deep appreciation for writers. And I love a well-written script. It really goes back to my roots as a theater major.

Did you learn show running tips from Larry David?

I learned a lot from Larry David! I wouldn’t be the showrunner, but working with our showrunner, yes. I’ll whisper in his ear.

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