Andy Samberg on his twisty Sundance rom-com Palm Springs and delayed Popstar love
Andy Samberg is about to be cool, cool, cool.
The Brooklyn Nine-Nine star is headed west to Park City, Utah, and the 2020 Sundance Film Festival for the premiere of his twisty rom-com Palm Springs. Not only does Samberg star in the wedding-set film alongside Cristin Milioti (How I Met Your Mother, Fargo), but he also serves as a producer with his Lonely Island partners, Jorma Taccone and Akiva Shaffer.
Ahead of Palm Springs’ Sunday debut at Sundance, EW chatted with Samberg about his joking disdain for indie filmmaking, Palm Springs feeling like an I Love You, Man sequel, and the delayed love for Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: What can you tell us about Palm Springs?
ANDY SAMBERG: The best way to describe it is an R-rated rom-com set at a wedding — with a twist. I don’t generally do a lot of stuff that is sort of straightforward genre, and this definitely is a little bit different than a normal wedding rom-com. I hesitate to give away too much because I want people in Sundance to go in a little cold. There are some interesting twists and turns to it, so I feel like it will be more exciting to not say too much.
The only other rom-com you’ve done is Celeste and Jesse Forever, which is unconventional as well. Do you enjoy playing with the expected formula?
I think not in a strategic way, but those are the two that I read where I was like, “Oh, I like this, it feels like something that I would want to watch, and that I also feel like I could pull off from a performance standpoint.” Both have comedy in them that I feel comfortable with and confident with, but also because Palm Springs is similar to Celeste and Jesse in that it’s stretching my performance boundaries a little bit; there’s definitely a little more dramatic acting and playing different shades that I don’t do as much. I’ve gotten to do a tiny bit of it on Brooklyn Nine-Nine over the course of the last few years, but I’ve never gone full drama. [Laughs] But when I see something that has dramatic elements that I feel comfortable with, I go for it. It’s really more just script-based, and this one was similar to Celeste and Jesse in that way, where I read the script and my reaction was like, “Oh, I just really want to make this.”
Considering your busy Brooklyn Nine-Nine schedule, do you feel extra picky when selecting the projects you take on in your free time?
Definitely, and I would say that has only been compounded by having a kid. The time you spend on anything that is away from home becomes a lot more precious. And on top of that, that we produced Palm Springs added a whole ’nother layer of work. For Celeste and Jesse, I was just along for the ride with Rashida [Jones] and Will [McCormack], which was awesome. But this time we were really producing, really making a movie. When you make an indie, it’s a completely different experience as a producer. There’s so much more to be done and to keep tabs on.
Palm Springs is the latest project that you, Jorma, and Akiva are producing together. Has it been a priority for you guys to produce more non-Lonely Island projects?
Part of the beauty of it is that there’s three of us. Then, most importantly, is Becky Sloviter, who runs our production company, and I will say she does the most work of all of us on the producing side. She’s a real workhorse. She and I were running point as producers on Palm Springs, and Akiva was involved too. I Think You Should Leave, Akiva was more involved. PEN15, it’s a lot of Becky, and we championed them. Jorma has stuff going on, he was spearheading Spy Guys, which is a movie we’re producing. We kind of spread it around in a nice way and chime in when the point person deems it necessary, and give feedback and support. So the real group dynamic is really valuable for us to spread and try a lot of different things.
You set up for the movie for us, so now what can you say about your character, Nyle?
He’s a very laid-back character, seemingly. He’s been dragged to this wedding by his girlfriend, and he doesn’t really know anyone and he’s kind of miserable, which is where we kick off. So that was fun to play, someone who is just, like, withdrawn. It didn’t take a lot of energy from me to act of the scenes in the beginning. [Laughs] He’s very chill.
What was it like working with this cast? You’re paired with Cristin, but you’re also reunited with J.K. Simmons, who you were so funny with in I Love You, Man.
Wonderful. Cristin was someone Becky and I had really admired from seeing her in other stuff. About a year ago, my wife and I watched the second season of Fargo and the “USS Callister” episode of Black Mirror almost back-to-back, and we were both like, “Who the f— is this lady, Cristin Milioti?! She’s so good.” Completely different roles and she just killed both of them. So she was really on our radar as a company, and creatively I had so much admiration for her, so when this came up she was someone who I really wanted to approach about it. And J.K. is just the greatest. I mean, if you can get J.K. to do anything, you should consider yourself lucky. He and I were definitely joking a lot about how Palm Springs is the sequel to I Love You, Man. But it’s a very, very different dynamic between our characters this time around.
With the film set at a wedding, I assume there was a lot of hanging around at one location, so what stuck out from filming?
It was a rough shoot. Once again, I can’t speak lowly enough of the indie filmmaking process. [Laughs] A lot of the wedding reception stuff takes place at night, so it was a lot of long nights out near the desert. We were lucky that it was such a great crew, both in front of and behind the camera, because it did require patience and a good attitude and camaraderie, and all those things were in place. You have a tough schedule at the end of a tight schedule, because there’s not a ton of money, so it really took everybody banding together. But luckily everyone felt really positive about the script and gave it the ol’ good go.
What is your relationship to Sundance? Have you been before?
Yeah, our company brought Brigsby Bear, and the last time I went personally was for Celeste and Jesse Forever, with Rashida. And even before I was on SNL. I went a few times just to watch movies. I love Sundance. I was there the year Wet Hot American Summer premiered, which was an absolute brain-explosion, dream-come-true scenario, getting to be in the room with all those people who were involved and seeing what I didn’t realize at the time would be one of my favorite movies ever made. It was such a dream. But I also saw, like, Brick and In the Bedroom and Memento, all these incredible filmmakers sort of starting their careers off, and getting to see that at the ground floor is part of the incredible thing about Sundance. It really does launch brilliant filmmakers and brilliant performers’ careers. It’s an exciting thing to be a part of.
Back in May, I chatted with you and Akiva about your bonkers Lonely Island visual album Bash Brothers. You guys are both busy, but have you started looking at doing any new Lonely Island projects?
We are talking about it, but we haven’t chosen anything yet. It’s definitely a busy time for all of us. We just finished post on Palm Springs and I just wrapped shooting on Brooklyn, and Akiva is working on a Rescue Rangers movie, and Jorma has MacGruber going on, which just got announced today. Who isn’t psyched for more MacGruber?! That’s just the f—ing greatest. We’re producing all of those things, and because of all those things we’ve been waiting on the intersection of all our schedules clearing to be like, “Now! We do Lonely Island now! We have to seize this moment.” And we all have kids on top of that, which, anyone with kids knows, is the most important thing by a long shot. So it’s really tricky to schedule, but obviously our intention is just to keep making stuff together forever.
Speaking of Lonely Island, have you noticed the internet’s recent lovefest with Popstar? I remember being obsessed with it when it came out, but it’s really established a major cult following.
Very pleasantly surprised. But yes, we have caught that. I think seeing it on a lot of “best of the decade” lists, and people doing sing-alongs at the Drafthouse screenings, and them wanting to do that special-edition DVD, we were just thinking, “Hey, this is really nice, people are talking about Popstar again.” It’s similar to how it went with Hot Rod, which was also really nice. It would be even nicer if one time we put out a movie that did well in the theater when it came out. [Laughs] But we’ll definitely take it. From my perspective, the type of stuff we make, the dream for us is always for it to become the way that comedies were for us when we were growing up, where when something is special, you feel real ownership over it and quote it to your friends, and you feel like you’re the only ones who really get it. So at any point in the process for something we made to be talked about that way is really, really gratifying.