Set to be the hit comedy of the summer, new rom-com The Big Sick comes from producer Judd Apatow and stars the brilliant Zoe Kazan as graduation student Emily, alongside Silicon Valley star Kumail Nanjiani as aspiring comedian Kumail. The pair connect after one of Kumail’s comedy sets, but what they think would be a simple one-night-stand turns into something much bigger, further complicating the life expected of Kumail by his traditional Muslim parents.
Today, we can bring to you a brilliant, exclusive chat with Zoe Kazan as she opens up about her character, why she joined the cast of The Big Sick and more. Find out what she has to say below…
Who is Emily in your own words?
Emily is a woman in her late 20s who is a grad student at the University of Chicago studying psychology. She is recently divorced — she got married young. And while she's not really looking for a boyfriend, she meets this wonderful guy, Kumail, and they start to fall in love despite their best intentions...
What was it about the material that attracted you to this project?
I had never seen this story told before, and that sounds like a line but it's true — I'd never seen this on film and I wanted to be part of putting that into the world. Then then when I met everybody, and I auditioned for it, I felt a special kind of chemistry happen in the room. I really felt it was the right match.
You're one of the leads, but you're in a coma for the entire second act. Was this a challenge for you?
Part of what that meant was telling the whole story of the relationship between Kumail and Emily in many fewer scenes — essentially, we don't get a second act, we have a first act and a third act, and so it meant that every scene had to do as much work as possible. We had a long improvisatory rehearsal process, and some of those improvs became folded into the script. But during that process, I kept asking myself What is this scene doing? Is it doing all the work that it can in terms of showing their closeness, their sense of humor? I just kept asking those kinds of questions and Kumail and Emily, as writers, really rose to meet them.
You're telling a story based on truth. While Kumail was obviously present during the shoot, how did you rely on (co-writer) Emily Gordon to help tell this story?
Emily was on set almost every day. I had already been cast when I first met her, and I realized immediately that we're a lot alike. I felt very (comfortable) with her, she was someone I could have already been friends with. It simplified things because it made me feel like I didn't have to do an imitation, I could just be myself and bring myself to the material. Emily also has the most beautiful, infectious laugh, and she laughs very easily. One of her charms is that easy laugh, and I wanted to bring that into the movie.
You create terrific chemistry with Kumail Nanjiani in this movie — were you familiar with his work prior to filming?
I knew his work — I'd seen him on Silicon Valley and I watched some of his stand-up online. I didn't know him personally. But I felt good chemistry happening in the room with him (during rehearsals).
What do you think Kumail's gifts are as a performer?
He feels things really deeply and he's fiercely intelligent. He's not sentimental or gentle in his comedy but his comedy is not hard either, there's something empathic and loving in it, even tender. I think that's really unusual, it's a very potent combination.
Talk about working with Ray Romano and Holly Hunter, who play your parents in the movie. There's so much openness and warmth in this close-knit relationship...
They're wonderful to work with. One of the nice things about this movie is that we're all in our thirties or older, there's nobody in the cast who is completely green to performing. We've all been working at this for a long time. Even though Ray has done less dramatic work and Holly has done less comedic work, we all know how to work. So there was this roll-up-your-sleeves enthusiasm on set, with everybody being gung-ho for whatever a given day's challenge was going to be. Holly is one of my great heroes, and to work with her was an extraordinary privilege. I'll never forget it. Ray is someone I grew up watching on T.V. so there's something so surreal about getting to be in the room with people like that. They're also people who don't carry around a tremendous amount of ego with them, I think that helps.
You're a writer yourself — what about the script resonated with you?
The individual nature of the story felt so potent — again, I had never read anything like it before. I loved, and continue to love, the difference in tones and the characters’ balance. It's a very serious situation they're in, but it's this light comedy. It's not a dark comedy at all, it's very loving and light. That just felt unique to me, and it was all there in the writing. I also loved this window into a Pakistani-American family, the way that family loved each other, and the way they tried to come to a new understanding of each other. I found it deeply moving, and I find it moving now to hear people respond to it and feel a sense of identification.
The Big Sick hits cinemas across the nation on July 28, 2017.