Sarah Silverman is best known as a comedian, but she recently reaped a Best Actress bid at the SAG Awards for her dramatic turn in “I Smile Back” as Laney, a woman struggling with depression and drug abuse. Discussing that awards recognition during our recent webcam chat (watch it below), she admits, “I know people always say this, but it’s because it’s true: If I could pick one award to be nominated for, it would be by my peers, by actors. That is just the coolest.”
This isn’t Silverman’s first foray into dramatic acting. She previously appeared in “the great Sarah Polley‘s movie ‘Take This Waltz.'” “Seth Rogen and I were both in it,” she remembers, and the two actors often fielded questions about making the shift to drama. “Our answer was always that it’s the same. You say the words honestly as if they’re real. But this was different for me because it was so bleak and tapped into such a dark place.”
Ironically, she was able to turn to the comedy world to better understand the experience of depression. “To a degree I had myself as a resource. I’m familiar with the basic bones of depression,” she explains, “and I was able to use comedians as a source because so many of my peers in comedy suffer deep, dark depression. I had a lot of giving, generous friends who were able to take me through a detailed account of their own personal experience.”
Tapping into the emotions required to play the role did take a toll on Silverman. “I’m so happy I did it, and so satiated by it, and so fortified by it,” she says, but she admits that “the experience was bleak and heavy. I’m not an experienced enough actor to be able to access my emotions and put them neatly back in-between scenes. I’d like to become that one day.”
However, making and promoting “I Smile Back” has also been edifying for her: “I have a hunger for understanding people and what makes them tick,” she says, and as she has worked to bring attention to the low-budget indie, “I’ve learned so much and reassessed my own thoughts on the movie. I love gaining new perspective. Every degree my perspective changes, the whole world seems different. I love that about art and life, and I embrace it.”
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“I Smile Back” photo credit: Broad Green Pictures