Reid Scott on the ambiguous romantic subtlety of that final Late Night scene
Note: This story contains spoilers from the plot of Late Night.
Mindy Kaling has become something of a rom-com queen, an heir to the legacy of greats like Nora Ephron.
But in her new film Late Night, the central relationship isn’t a romantic one — it’s about the professional and personal evolution of its two heroines, new writer Molly (Kaling) and legendary late night host Katherine Newbury (Emma Thompson). As the two women find their footing, they grow and learn from each other, eventually working their way to a symbiotic professional relationship and begrudging friendship.
Kaling’s Molly does have some romantic travails along the way, flirting with and hooking up with fellow writer Charlie Fain (Hugh Dancy), who betrays her in both epic and mundane fashions. But it leaves the question of her romantic happiness and success more open-ended. As the film progresses, Molly and initially antagonistic monologue writer Tom Campbell (Reid Scott) form a warm friendship with potential romantic chemistry.
They never act on it though, and when the final scene flashes forward a year, the two are very clearly a professional team, still working on Katherine’s revamped show — but there’s also possibly something more at play as Tom leans down to give her an affectionate kiss on the shoulder. It’s a moment that actor Reid Scott says was left purposely up to interpretation.
“I really love that they went for a non-traditional ending,” he tells EW. “It never really dips into romantic comedy, because what they find in the end — it’s all in that kiss on the shoulder…It doesn’t have to be romantic. That doesn’t have to be the happy ending — that the girl finds her guy. I don’t think that’s very interesting any longer. That shouldn’t be what completes a female character. I love that we played it for this softness. Two people who think they don’t have anything in common find that they do, have a genuine affinity for each other, and push each other to be better.”
Scott reveals they did film multiple versions of the scene moving the kiss around from the shoulder to the cheek to the forehead. “They found this closeness as friends and colleagues, and there’s genuine affection there without it spilling over into [something romantic],” he muses. “It’s fun to have that conversation — What’s behind that kiss? Where did that come from? What does that mean? That’s why we shot it multiple ways.”
In the end, they decided to leave it up to the audience. “Ultimately, the slightly more ambiguous [choice] was more interesting because it opened it up to that conversation,” says Scott. “Did something romantic happen? And now this is how they left it — this nice [affectionate] gentle working relationship? Or is it going towards that? I like ending things on a question because it keeps the movie alive even after you’ve left the theater.”
And of course, that leaves the door open for Late Night 2 (we’re just kidding).