In Hollywood, there is a terrible habit of casting archetypal ‘sidekicks’ as B- characters to the squeaky clean and unrelatable lead A-characters.
However, Brittany Runs a Marathon takes this old school Hollywood trope and turns it on its head- embracing and highlighting the very thing that makes us all human and distinct- flaws. The feel-good film mixes the perfect cocktail of emotions- laughter, tears, and comradery- bring it to the big screen-and straight into audience member’s heart, as Brittany (Jillian) finds the courage to work past her own personal body image issues by way of running the New York City marathon. With a star-studded cast and a story that is based on true events- it is hard not to fall in love with the film. The Knockturnal caught up with Jillian Bell, Utkarsh Ambudkar, and Lil Rell, to go in-depth on the behind the scenes of the making of hit Sundance Acclaimed film. You can catch the full interview below:
The Knockturnal: Thank you guys for joining us. Congratulations on the film. It was wonderful. Jillian, was it like for you to take these real-life events and play a character whose story is still going on in real-time?
Jillian Bell: Paul had sent me a video of Brittany trying to raise money to run the marathon and I sort of got her vibe, her essence through that. And because there were so many added elements to this script, it was definitely inspired by her life. But, you know, this character was not (Rell) and this man’s character was not (Utkarsh.) So, Paul and I worked together to sort of figure out how this character would interact and just go deeper with that. So, I met her actually for the first time while we were shooting. She came on a day that was a pretty emotional scene and I just was very cautious about how she felt about how it was going and I know throughout the whole process Paul would show her every draft of the script. So she was very involved, but we did not meet before.
The Knockturnal: And did you find it more challenging or actually easier to, you know, play a character who you can directly communicate with and learn her mannerisms?
Jillian Bell: Well I didn’t end up learning her mannerisms. It was so different. The inspiration was just this woman and her real-life struggle and what it’s like to go from, you know, a place where you feel sort of stuck in your life to eventually training for the New York City Marathon. Um, it’s a big change and I think that was the inspiration he took from Brittany. And then from there we sorta just created a character together.
The Knockturnal: It definitely translates really well on screen.
Utkarsh Ambudkar: And it’s so clear how deeply connected Jillian herself was to the material?
Jillian Bell: I loved her. I was so protective of her.
The Knockturnal: Rel your characters, kind of like the guiding voice throughout all of this. With so many Demetriu-sisms, was there a favorite laptop moment or advice that you would give Brittany within the film?
Lil Rel: The scene in the kitchen. That’s a very important scene. Where he just sits down and talks even at the party he knows when to check her and she listens to that. I thought it was very important, you know, just to be a father. I like father figures. I’ve been wanting to play a dad on stuff. So it was cool to do it in this particular movie just because of how honest and how beautiful that conversation is. That kitchen conversation is a very cool scene and uh, hopefully, it gives me a soul train award [laughs.]
The Knockturnal: You also played kind of like the voice of reason in ‘Get Out’ as well.
Lil Rel: I am kind of that guy. I enjoy getting my gray hairs. I like looking wise but I feel like I’m transitioning into that, in my real family where I’ve become the wise guy. I mean cause I got money now too [laughs.]
The Knockturnal: Utkarsh, you play Brittany’s love interest and also kind of like the archetypal NYU Grad, which is also my alma mater.
Utkarsh Ambudkar: Me Too. And Paul who directed the movie and Brittany, real life. Brittany and I went to college together.
The Knockturnal: Oh, okay. So what was that like kind of coming from that background?
Utkarsh Ambudkar: Yeah, I went to acting school, which is like a whole different weird, weird thing. You just roll on each other. You basically just smoke weed and do contact Improv, yeah, so very much actually I did all the life experience that Jared had. [laughs] I mean my job was really simple and super pleasant and really was just to connect with Jillian and listened to her. She was so open and vulnerable. She was going through a lot emotionally while we were shooting to play this character and as an actor, I was there to support her as a scene partner and as a character, I was just reacting off of this wellspring of emotion and vulnerability that she was providing. And it was, it was super simple. We got very lucky. We connect and we have a really nice natural, easy chemistry with one another. We have good chemistry. We watched the movie and I hit her up. I was like, hey man. Did you remember us being so good? It’s really nice and it’s rare and it’s something to be appreciated and to have a lot of gratitude for, which I do. It’s cool.
The film hits theaters this Friday.