On Monday night, The Knockturnal attended the red carpet screening for “PAINT IT BLACK” at MoMA. We got to talk with Amber Tamblyn, the director and co-writer of the film. We also spoke with the film’s stars, Alia Shawkat (Josie) and Janet McTeer (Meredith).
The Knockturnal: Can you tell us a bit about your character (Meredith)?
Janet McTeer: I play the mother. I’m a concert pianist, and I’m sort of in full grief mode. I try to find Alia’s character because, I suppose, it’s a way of feeling close to my son. That starts the complicated relationship between her and me.
What kind of dynamic do your characters have going forward? It’s been described as very tumultuous, and that you two are bonded by grief together.
McTeer: Yeah, I think they’re both destructive, self destructive, and trying to find solace in each other. All at the same time. It’s very complicated, but it was good fun. We had a lot of fun exploring that, and we got on very well.
What drew you to the role in the first place?
McTeer: I loved meeting Amber. I enjoyed the notion of the script, and everything behind the script. The story, and the themes behind it. When I met [Amber] she was so well-prepared, and she had a great visual idea. I thought “this is someone who really wants to be a director.” She knows what she wants, while at the same time, she was incredibly open to conversation and collaboration. All of which I thought was just fabulous.
The Knockturnal: Can you tell us a bit about your character (Josie) and her dynamic with Meredith?
Alia Shawkat: I’m dating her son, but I’ve never met her. And he commits suicide in the beginning of the film. So it’s about how we deal with the pain, and we’re mourning very differently. Yet, we think we need each other. It becomes unhealthy.
What was specifically exciting about the role to you?
Shawkat: I really liked the script. It was definitely a role I hadn’t done before. She’s a very fierce character who doesn’t hold back or second guess things. If anything, that’s her folly – she just goes for things without thinking. That was attractive to play. And there was Amber’s passion for the project. How much she knew the script, the story, and how long she stuck with it to get it made the way she wanted to get it made. Her passion. Sadly, not a lot of people have as much passion as she has for something. So I kinda was like, “I’ll follow you anywhere.”
How do you think the film approaches depicting grief and loss in a new way?
Shawkat: Well… it’s not that it’s not realistic, but there’s a tone of mental illness, which a lot of the film’s about, that seeps through the style of the movie. My character Josie becomes paranoid, and you can feel it through the style and the way it’s told. Real fear. It creates this amazing feeling without it being so subtle. And Amber’s a poet, and writes amazing poetry. Without knowing exactly how to describe it, it’s like… IN there. Her poetry totally fills the film, in the cuts she decided to do, the edits, the music, all of it. It has a unique style. That’s why I think she’s such a great director, and will make many more films. You can tell it’s an Amber Tamblyn film, which is hard to do.
The Knockturnal: You’re one of the co-writers, but you were originally slated to be the star before you became the director. What was it like to be involved with the project for so long, and then change roles?
Amber Tamblyn: I wanted to find somebody that would be a really strong actress, that I felt could really do the multiple dimensions of this movie. The humor of it, but also the dark sadness of it. I had also gotten too old to be in it. So when I met Alia Shawkat, I was like, “she’s the living embodiment of this character. She’s absolutely perfect.”
How did you try to approach the topic of grief, in a way that still had these comedic moments?
Tamblyn: I wanted to do a really original thing that felt like it was showing violent, vicious, scary women in their most raw stages of grief.
Additional guests included Blake Lively, Amy Schumer, America Ferrera, Amy Poehler, Ilana Glazer, Abbi Jacobson, Jon Glaser, Alexis Bledel, David Cross, Steve Buscemi, Griffin Dunne, H. Jon Benjamin, Sandra Bernhard, Mae Whitman, François Arnaud, Russ Tamblyn, Frank Wood, Terry Kinney, Sebastián Silva, Benjamin Dickinson, Chloe Wise, Sarah Sophie Flicker, Bosco Delrey, Jenna Lyons, and Rachel Antonoff. The evening was presented by SVEDKA Vodka and a fun party followed at Fishbowl in the Dream Midtown.
THE FILM OPENS THIS FRIDAY, MAY 19th, IN SELECT THEATERS!