Patti Harrison on Why Working With Ed Helms in ‘Together Together’ Was ‘Intimidating’
The worst thing actor and comedian Patti Harrison has ever done dates back to when she was 5 years old and attempted to get a kid into trouble at school so that she could go home early to read a book that had just arrived. “If it would have worked, I would truly have become a sociopath,” she jokes. “Thankfully, I wasn’t able to do the sell.” The question “What’s the worst thing you’ve ever done?” is posed in Harrison’s new movie, “Together Together,” written and directed by Nikole Beckwith. In the film, which bows in theaters April 23, Harrison plays Anna, who applies to be the surrogate to carry Ed Helms’ Matt’s baby. The role is a rare opportunity for trans actor Harrison to play a cisgender character. She also voiced “Tail Chief” in “Raya and the Last Dragon,” the first time a trans performer was cast in an animated Disney film. She hopes this is just the beginning of blind casting.
What was it about the “Together Together” script that jumped out at you? Was there a specific moment that made you say, “Yes, I need to do this”?
When I first read the script, I hadn’t met Nikole. I read the logline, and it said, “A girl in her 20s becomes a surrogate for a guy who is single-dadding it.” I thought it was going to be about the young girl who gets with the guy, and it’s the age-gap romance, a rom-com scenario that we’ve seen 3 billion times. But the movie subverts a lot of those expectations. Nikole’s writing is very much an extension of who she is, and getting to know her was like getting to know the character.
There’s a brilliant scene in a restaurant where Anna wants to order potatoes and Matt is judging her. What was it like working with Ed Helms?
That was famously shot at Cafe Birdie. It’s a great restaurant in L.A., and we will flock there when we open back up. I believe that was one of the first scenes I shot with Ed. Or was it the interview scene? [The movie] wasn’t necessarily shot chronologically; I’m an unreliable narrator. But it was really nice. He’s such a big figure in my brain as a comedic actor and a comedian. He’s super polite, very funny and jokey. He’s been in so many things that I loved in my formative years, so it was a bit intimidating.
Did you get to do much improv in the film?
Nikole definitely left room for it. She was so game for happy accidents and discovering things together. I left [Aidy Bryant starrer] “Shrill,” and the next day I was in L.A., shooting [“Together Together”]. I was in this nasty, sexually disturbing joke space, and a lot of my improvs reflected that. Nikole would say, “That was funny, but I don’t know if we can work that joke into this movie.” I had to calm myself. It was a new muscle to exercise.
There’s an inappropriate cut out there?
Yes, way nastier. [Think] “Bad Grandpa” vibes.
How was your experience on “Raya and the Last Dragon”?
Voiceover stuff is always so fun. It’s very easy to do. You can glide in and say the line that they give you. The prompts are always really fun. I worked with [screenwriter] Qui Nguyen on “Dispatches From Elsewhere” in the writers’ room. So it was nice to work with him again. My character was in “Raya and the Last Dragon” for a second, but that’s a win for all trans-kind. I hope there are bigger opportunities in our future. But it still feels cool and nice to check it off.
Things you didn’t know about Patti Harrison:
Hometown: Orient, Ohio
Dream collaborator: Musician and composer Susumu Hirasawa
Passenger personality: She has never had a driver’s license. “I shouldn’t tell anyone that I can’t drive or cook. I should just say my teeth just grew in yesterday, and I just learned how to poop in the toilet.”
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