USA Today – We’ve all been to uncomfortable family and community gatherings. But probably not one including your ex-girlfriend, sugar daddy (wife and baby daughter in tow) and your parents, too.
Welcome to “Shiva Baby” (in limited theaters including New York, Miami and Boston and more and on-demand April 2), the story of 20-something Danielle (Rachel Sennott) who tries to keep all her secrets intact as they literally crowd around her during a shiva. Shiva is the period of mourning after a Jewish burial, typically involving (way too much) eating and mingling at the home of a relative of the deceased, in an effort to comfort the bereaved.
Danielle’s parents (Polly Draper and Fred Melamed) parade her around trying to help her find a job post-college graduation while she tries to figure out how to handle conversations with her ex Maya (Molly Gordon), her sugar daddy (Danny Deferrari) and his wife (former “Glee” star Dianna Agron).
With Passover underway, “Shiva Baby” may be the the perfect movie to watch this holiday season – at least if you don’t mind being a little uncomfortable with your relatives.
“I feel like there’s always an uncomfortable moment at a Seder. Why not have it be around this film?” Gordon jokes on a recent Zoom call.
“I think it’s a good movie for different generations to watch together,” adds writer/director Emma Seligman.
Some plot points may require some explaining to older generations – i.e. what a sugar baby is and how there’s an app for that – but others will apply to everyone. Feeling lost and stuck with problems (literally) swirling around you, for instance.
While film lovers of all backgrounds can enjoy the film, some one-liners cater to a Jewish audience (Agron’s character Kim, who isn’t Jewish, pronounces the dessert rugelach as arugula.) Moments like these (in addition to Danielle choking on a bagel with lox) may go over people’s heads but they aren’t dealbreakers in appreciating “Shiva Baby.”
“You don’t have to be a Jewish person to watch this film and understand the dynamics at play and feel that you’ve also experienced very similar things,” says Agron, who is Jewish. The Jewish nature of the film, however, definitely made her family excited. “I had previously played a nun, so they were like, ‘Finally you’re stoking some of our kind of history in your filmmaking,’ “ she says.
Gordon, too, appreciated the chance to connect with her identity. “It was such a treat, to get to be in something that celebrates our culture and to be reminded of so many hilarious moments with my Jewish cousins,” she says. “But also, it’s such a universal movie just about family dynamics. So many of my friends who aren’t Jewish feel so seen and connected to it.”
The movie was filmed in August 2019, and everyone was piled on top of each other filming most scenes inside a single house. It’s an especially harrowing watch given the social distancing measures due to the COVID-19 pandemic that have since taken place. “It was that sweaty, and it was that tight,” Seligman says. “So that didn’t hurt trying to alter the performances to make it seem more claustrophobic.”
Watching characters crammed together in a small space, picking over a buffet of food and getting in each other’s faces may startle some after spending a year in quarantine. Even vaccinated people “will say no to going to group events,” after seeing the tight quarters movie, jokes Agron.
The former “Glee” star plans to watch the virtual GLAAD Awards next month, which will feature a tribute to on her late co-star Naya Rivera’s character Santana. Rivera died last July, which Agron says is something that reconnected Agron and her castmates.
“It’s been incredibly hard as you can imagine. Losing a friend is not something that you ever want to experience and it’s not the first time,” she says. (Rivera’s passing follows the deaths of “Glee” co-stars Cory Monteith and Mark Salling.) “She was so spirited and so it’s really brought a new kind of constant communication with all of us, which is so nice because sometimes as a cast you’re not able to make as much time for each other.” She feels a similar kinship with the “Shiva Baby” cast. “We’ve really created a bond where we’ve been in all different places during this time but we’ve stayed really connected,” she says.
Jason Sheppard recently did an interview with William Nunez, the director of Dianna’s upcoming film The Laureate, in which he shared a lot of interesting information about the project! I’ve included my personal Dianna-related highlight, and below you can read the full interview with Nunez. I’ll have a big The Laureate photo update for you soon!
Source | The Laureate stars Tom Hughes (Victoria), Dianna Agon (Glee), Laura Haddock (Netflix’s White Lines), Fra Fee (Les Misérables) and Julian Glover (Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade) in this romantic drama about British war poet Robert Graves (Hughes) and the women in his life, wife Nancy Nicholson (Haddock) and American writer, Laura Riding (Agron) who served as his muses in London during the 1920s.
William Nunez, a graduate of NYU film school and a former TV news director, wanted to film this story for many years. As an admirer of Grave’s written works, Nunez was equally interested in exploring the topics of desire fuelling creativity and how PTSD affected individuals after the war. With his background in news and passion for history to aid Nunez in authenticity and getting straight to the heart of his characters, and with the cooperation of members of Graves’ family, Nunez has now made his literary ménages à trois, The Laureate. He spoke to us about the long journey to bring the movie to screens.
Jason: Can you tell me a bit about how you got involved with The Laureate and what appealed to you about the story of Robert Graves?
William Nunez: The Laureate has been a long gestating project of mine. The genesis of it started back in the ’90s. Robert Graves was always my favorite writer, mainly because as a kid I would watch I, Claudius, which was shown on public television once a year. My mother had a book of his and as I learned more about Grave’s work, I loved it. In the ’90s, I read a biography of his and knew he lived in Majorca, Spain, but that was about it. I read about his partnership with Laura Riding and thought it might make an interesting movie, but I was just out of university and was young, and didn’t think I was authoritative enough to write and direct something with these adult themes and relationships. So I put it away for a while and over a decade later, I came back to it.
Jason: What was it about Robert Graves that compelled you so much to want to bring his story to the screen?
William Nunez: I’m always fascinated by creativity and whether it’s a painting, piece of music, or a book, the struggles and the internal conflicts and inspirations that artists go through interest me. That’s what drew me to Robert. He needed a muse, in order to create his expressions and his first wife, Nancy, was one and then Laura Riding became his next one. And even after he broke up with Laura, he continued with that practice. It fascinated me how we need conflict, which I guess most artists do in a way to create and The Laureate has a lot of conflict in it, which is a kind of outrageous, but that is how he transitioned himself from the well-known war poet to author which is what he became known for in poetry circles, aside from Goodbye To All That and I, Claudius.
Jason: Can you describe the methods of research you underwent in order to depict the 1920s on film?
William Nunez: The history I already kind of knew, but since I knew what my budget would be, I needed to be contained. I mainly researched production design and the fashions of the time, the mannerisms, even to how the light switches looked like. I try to get it as accurate as possible. In terms of the history, I knew what it was anyway, because history has always been my other passion. And I just went into my research trying to get all the minor details right so that people can go, ‘okay, these guys got these little bits right, and they got the era right, in the language of everything correctly.’ So that’s where my research mainly laid for this project. (more…)
Dianna kicks of her two-week long residency at the Café Carlyle TONIGHT, and for the occasion, Nylon Magazine have shared a great new article on our girl. Read it below or at the source, and get ready for plenty of updates here and on twitter, as we get ready to cover her run at the Café Carlyle!
NYLON – She’s not going to choose a creative lane, because why should she? Dianna Agron doesn’t want to choose between acting and music or acting and anything else; she’ll have it all, thank you. And just like Agron isn’t keeping herself restricted to one career path, she also doesn’t feel like restricting herself to only the biggest projects, and keeps an eye out for engaging, smaller-scale things as well. Agron knows better than anyone else that different moments in time require different creative outlets.
Agron entered the public eye during a very specific moment in time with a very specific project: She became a household name because of her role on the television series Glee (which, if you’re like me, you watched religiously every Tuesday, then every Thursday, then every Tuesday again—until the plot got too complex). She tells me on the phone that the show was everything that she wanted when she first came out to Los Angeles to pursue an acting career, because it was something that let her sing, and dance, and act. “When I was a kid, I was watching musicals, so I actually thought that that’s what becoming an actress meant,” she said. Fitting.
As of now, Agron has found out how to quench all of her creative thirsts at once: by diversifying her projects, and often. Tomorrow, she begins a two-week long residency at the Café Carlyle, where she will be singing to a small room of people. After starting her career in a recording studio every week for Glee, and then performing at huge Glee: Live concerts for the show’s fans, she’s just as, if not more, comfortable on a smaller scale. “I forget that there’s ways like this in which I can engage on such a personal level and share this deep, deep love I have for music in an intimate space,” she says. “I know for other people, playing on a big stage in a big arena gives them that big adrenaline rush, but I do find that in a small room.” (more…)