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Taylor Schilling on her swingers comedy The Overnight: 'The payoff is a lot of sweetness'

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The Overnight is a wild, neon fever of film that hangs somewhere between a dream and a nightmare. Emily (Taylor Schilling) and Alex (Adam Scott) are young parents, new to Los Angeles, and worried about making adult friends. When an amiable Kurt (Jason Schwartzman) approaches them at a park and invites them to dinner with his wife (Judith Godrèche) and son, all goes smoothly—until the kids are put to bed. What results is a crazy, all-night romp, at turns terrifying and tender.

Written and directed by Patrick Brice, and executive produced by Scott and Mark Duplass, The Overnight is both hilarious and unpredictable, and has shocked audiences all across the festival circuit, from Sundance to SXSW.

We chatted with Schilling about the film’s “delirious” 12-day shoot, what Emily has in common with Orange is the New Black‘s Piper, and why she thought the film might be “challenging” for some audiences.

ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: How did you get involved in The Overnight?

TAYLOR SCHILLING: Well I got a call from [executive producer] Mark Duplass, and he was like, “I think you’d be great for this; would you be interested in coming aboard?” And I was like, “Definitely. For sure.” I really appreciated [Emily’s] lightness, and I appreciated her desire to try. She really wanted to make things work, and she’s really in love with her husband. There’s no judgment: She’s not judging the situation, and they’re also not judging her. There’s a really beautiful, kind of freedom. You don’t get that a ton. Everybody’s allowed to live and let live.

What do you think draws you to these characters like Emily and Piper, who seem kind of buttoned-up at first, but then really loosen up?

Well, I think there’s something really interesting about a transformation in that way, and I can relate to that. I guess between Piper and Emily, there’s this sense of, they start to get to know themselves and trust themselves more in the course of the movie [or show], and that results in them loosening up a little bit.

What were your first impressions reading the script, as you saw the story start to veer off in strange directions? What was going through your mind?

Well, there was a part of me that was not sure how it would come together. [But] my fears were assuaged by [writer/director] Patrick [Brice] and Mark. It was really clear to me that Patrick wanted to make this a movie with a real core of kindness, and kind of a theme of self-acceptance. There was a sweetness and a lightness with which he talked about it, and I thought, “Wow, if this guy could pull this off, that combination of the kindness and also the humor and the raunchiness of it, it would be something utterly singular and interesting.”

That’s so true, it definitely doesn’t seem like anybody is being exploited in any way.

Yeah, nobody is being made fun of. Ever.

Part of the power of the movie depends on not knowing what is going to happen, then having some of the audience’s wishes get fulfilled, and some other moments that are totally shocking. How would you describe the movie to someone who hasn’t seen it without giving anything away?

I would say that it’s kind of a mix between some sort of thriller/rom-com extravaganza. It leads you to places you didn’t think you would go, and the payoff is a lot of sweetness.

There’s a lot of nice, fluid sexuality in The Overnight, which is something Orange is the New Black is known for as well. Do you feel like you’re consciously choosing projects that aren’t afraid to go into new sexual territory?

I don’t think it’s something I’m consciously doing. I think it’s just what projects seem most interesting for me right now. They kind of accidentally share that element, but it’s certainly not something I am really seeking out or anything.

That makes sense. It’s kind of where our culture is going.

Yeah, I think it’s just more a testament to where we are collectively, where we are as a culture.

What was it like working with Adam Scott and Jason Schwartzman?

They are hilarious. And kind. Everything you would imagine them to be. I was awed by their ability, their facility as actors. They’re just so capable and so funny, you know. And when people are that good, they make you better. They know how to set it up so that everybody wins, big time.

What scene was the hardest for you to shoot?

There were a lot of scenes that tied because I was laughing so much. When they were dancing in the pool, I didn’t have a chance! I didn’t have a shot. Any scene where the four of us are together, which is most of the movie, they were just cracking everybody up. I remember that scene when we walk in on Jason taking Adam’s portrait for the first time—it was nearly impossible to make that work. I could not stop laughing.

What scene did you find the most memorable?

I really liked shooting the scene in the bathroom [where Emily and Alex have an argument]. That was a good scene to shoot. I felt like it kind of got to the meat of what was happening for Emily and Alex. I really felt like there was a transformation that happened for both of them. They finally were telling the truth, and something changed in their relationship there.

Right. I don’t think the ending could have happened without that scene.

Yeah, they finally were able to come clean with each other, to be honest about where they were in their relationship, and to tell the truth.

Was anything ad-libbed or was it all totally on-script?

There were a bunch of ad-libs. There’s a lot of improv. I think that scene where Jason and Adam are talking about painting and Adam’s like, “Yeah, I’ll be a painter. I’m a painter!” I think they improvised most of that. Almost in every scene we just kind of threw stuff in. There was a freedom to do that.

Did you have any concerns that they audience wouldn’t “get” this movie?

I thought it might be challenging, because it doesn’t make fun of anything. It really is very honest. I think that there’s … the way that Patrick presents it, he really doesn’t make fun of these people, and he cares a lot about his characters. Nobody is let off the hook. There’s no beat of irony that makes fun of everybody and then everybody can laugh. It treats everybody like real people, and I thought that that might be a little bit weird.

Did you feel a difference between working with an all-female cast on Orange, and then working on a movie with such a strong male presence (and jokes about male anatomy)?

The interesting thing that they both share in common is that everybody on both of those projects is so excited to be working together, on Orange, and in this job. There was such goodwill, and everybody was so excited to be with each other. It’s lucky because with both of these projects, it just seems like there’s such passion. Everybody’s thrilled to be there, and that makes all the difference in the world.

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•  ‘The Overnight’: EW Review

•  Watch the extremely NSFW first 7 minutes of ‘The Overnight’

•  Taylor Schilling and Adam Scott pitch ‘The Overnight’ to a hippie farmer, lifeguard and UN interpreter