Zoe Kazan Interview: ‘The Big Sick’
“I’d never experienced anything like it before, and I don’t expect to again,” says Zoe Kazan about her role in the critically acclaimed romantic comedy “The Big Sick.” She plays Emily, a character based on co-screenwriter Emily V. Gordon based on her real-life experience falling in love with comedian Kumail Nanjiani and then suddenly becoming so ill that she had to be put into a medically induced coma. Watch our exclusive video interview with Kazan above.
“At some point Emily and I sort of joked around that it was like we were two parents to this character, both trying to raise her,” Kazan explained about developing the character on the page and on the screen. “When I couldn’t be in the room Emily was an advocate for ‘Emily,’ and when Emily couldn’t be there I was the advocate. And I think the person on-screen is somewhere between us.” Advocating for the character included the crucial third act after Emily wakes from her coma. How would she feel? How would she react having not gotten the “hero’s journey” the other characters in the film had? “Kumail always said this can’t be a movie in which a girl goes into a coma so a guy can change,” Kazan says.
Like Gordon and Nanjiani, Kazan is also a writer of plays and screenplays, so she could relate to their experience on this film in that way. But even more so she could relate to the experience of working with her partner, actor and filmmaker Paul Dano. They worked together on “Ruby Sparks” (2012), which Kazan wrote, and they co-wrote the film “Wildlife,” which Dano directed this year.
“It was very hard for Paul and I to figure out how to separate church and state,” says Kazan. “I feel like we’re much better now at working together than we were five or six years ago when we made [‘Ruby Sparks’], but it’s still a challenge. And watching Kumail and Emily, I recognized some of the challenges of it, and also thought, that’s what it looks like when you’ve been together much longer … so maybe some of it is age and experience.”