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Zoe Kazan’s Exploding Career

Zoe Kazan’s Exploding Career (photo)

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“Revolutionary Road” actress Zoe Kazan understands why people still bring up her being the granddaughter of filmmaker Elia Kazan, but the Brooklyn-based beauty should be taken on her own terms, having quietly banked an impressive résumé of stage and screen credits (including “Me and Orson Welles,” “Fracture” and “It’s Complicated”). Currently, she co-stars on Broadway with Christopher Walken, Anthony Mackie and Sam Rockwell in Martin McDonagh’s oddball comic thriller “A Behanding in Spokane,” which isn’t a shabby gig for someone who only graduated from college in 2005.

On the movie screen, Kazan headlines the introspective indie drama “The Exploding Girl,” written and directed by Bradley Rust Gray (co-writer of “In Between Days”). Stricken with epilepsy, college freshman Ivy (Kazan) ventures home to Manhattan, hangs out with her gawky best friend Al (Mark Rendall) and occasionally fields uncomfortable phone calls from her long-distance boyfriend. A downbeat psychological portrait of a vulnerable girl’s tricky transition into womanhood, “The Exploding Girl” is an unassuming vehicle for Kazan, whose subtle body language brings gravitas and palpable compassion to a seemingly slender day-in-the-life narrative. As I sat down with her at the Oscilloscope Labs offices, we briefly discussed the mutual Facebook friend who once introduced us, although she claims she’ll soon be done with social networking.

Why are you quitting Facebook?

I get so many friend requests every day now, all from people I don’t know. The truth is, I am in touch with the people that I love, and I don’t really need to be with the guy I went to preschool with. It’s not worth it to me, especially getting weird messages from people who feel like they can reach out to you because you’re on Facebook. I’ve been on it since I was in college because Yale was the second or third school that Facebook went to, so I’ve had my account forever. I just don’t use it. It’s a waste, getting 17,000 emails on my BlackBerry every day. [laughs]

03102010_ExplodingGirl2.jpgBradley Rust Gray wrote “The Exploding Girl” specifically for you. I’m a bit confused by that because the character of Ivy doesn’t seem anything like you.

Yeah, she’s not. I auditioned for Brad in the spring of 2006 for a movie that he still hasn’t made. He didn’t cast me, and I thought that was it. But somewhere, I stuck in his head and he definitely stuck in mine. I had seen “Salt” and “In Between Days” and loved them. Then in January 2008, he called up my agent, arranged a meeting with me, and said, “I’ve been thinking about you, and I want to make a movie. Do you want to make a movie with me?” I was like, “What’s it about? What is the character like?” He said, “I don’t know. I can’t tell you.” Okay, sure, let’s make a movie.

For the next few months, we would take these epic eight-hour walks in the cold all around Park Slope or [Tribeca] or the east side of Manhattan, up and down the South Street Seaport. I got bronchitis walking in the cold. Totally his fault. In that process, we became friends, but we didn’t ever really talk about the movie. Sometimes he would ask a question like, “Do you know anything about epilepsy?”

I went off to shoot “Me and Orson Welles” in London, and when I got back a month later, he had a script. Because we had talked so personally for months, I had assumed that there would be something of me in it, and I was actually thrilled there wasn’t because Brad’s mostly worked with non-actors and wrote things very close to the people themselves so they could act it. I took it as a great leap of faith on his part to write something so different from me for me, given that he had only worked in the opposite way before.

Since Gray usually collaborates with non-professionals, did you find anything idiosyncratic about his directorial approach with you?

03102010_ExplodingGirl6.jpgYeah, he took for granted that I would get to the places I needed to without a lot of help. He’s not a hand-holder. Sometimes he’d come over and be like, “The way you’re breathing, that’s not right, that’s not Ivy.” He was always right, that’s the thing. So a lot of the prep was just talking and nudging closer to Ivy. We rehearsed for two days with Mark [Rendall] when he came down from Canada to audition. That was as close as we got to having any rehearsal period, and that’s where Ivy started to be born: “What you’re doing, that’s not it.”

Often when I’m building a role, I talk about it being me plus other things. Like, when I was Masha [in the Broadway revival of “The Seagull”], it was me plus she lives in the late 1800s, so she dresses a certain way. It’s me plus she’s an addict, plus her heart is broken. On this, we talked about stripping things away. Like, it’s me minus my flirtation, minus my confidence, minus my independence as an adult in the world. That was a helpful way of talking about it. By the time we’d shot, Brad and I had known each other for eight months. We were already close friends, so he could run over to me, [make unintelligible sounds] and I’d be like, “Oh, I get it. No worries.” Shorthand, total shorthand. I had so much time to live with the character just in thinking about her that it felt effortless on set.

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Hacked In

Funny or Die Is Taking Over

FOD TV comes to IFC every Saturday night.

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We’ve been fans of Funny or Die since we first met The Landlord. That enduring love makes it more than logical, then, that IFC is totally cool with FOD hijacking the airwaves every Saturday night. Yes, that’s happening.

The appropriately titled FOD TV looks like something pulled from public access television in the nineties. Like lo-fi broken-antenna reception and warped VHS tapes. Equal parts WTF and UHF.

Get ready for characters including The Shirtless Painter, Long-Haired Businessmen, and Pigeon Man. They’re aptly named, but for a better sense of what’s in store, here’s a taste of ASMR with Kelly Whispers:

Watch FOD TV every Saturday night during IFC’s regularly scheduled movies.

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Wicked Good

See More Evil

Stan Against Evil Season 1 is on Hulu.

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Okay, so you missed the entire first season of Stan Against Evil. There’s no shame in that, per se. But here’s the thing: Season 2 is just around the corner and you don’t want to lag behind. After all, Season 1 had some critical character development, not to mention countless plot twists, and a breathless finale cliffhanger that’s been begging for resolution since last fall. It also had this:

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The good news is that you can catch up right now on Hulu. Phew. But if you aren’t streaming yet, here’s a basic primer…

Willards Mill Is Evil

Stan spent his whole career as sheriff oblivious to the fact that his town has a nasty curse. Mostly because his recently-deceased wife was secretly killing demons and keeping Stan alive.

Demons Really Want To Kill Stan

The curse on Willards Mill stipulates that damned souls must hunt and kill each and every town sheriff, or “constable.” Oh, and these demons are shockingly creative.

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They Also Want To Kill Evie

Why? Because Evie’s a sheriff too, and the curse on Willard’s Mill doesn’t have a “one at a time” clause. Bummer, Evie.

Stan and Evie Must Work Together

Beating the curse will take two, baby, but that’s easier said than done because Stan doesn’t always seem to give a damn. Damn!

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Beware of Goats

It goes without saying for anyone who’s seen the show: If you know that ancient evil wants to kill you, be wary of anything that has cloven feet.

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Season 2 Is Lurking

Scary new things are slouching towards Willards Mill. An impending darkness descending on Stan, Evie and their cohort – eviler evil, more demony demons, and whatnot. And if Stan wants to survive, he’ll have to get even Stanlier.

Stan Against Evil Season 1 is now streaming right now on Hulu.

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SO EXCITED!!!

Reminders that the ’90s were a thing

"The Place We Live" is available for a Jessie Spano-level binge on Comedy Crib.

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Unless you stopped paying attention to the world at large in 1989, you are of course aware that the ’90s are having their pop cultural second coming. Nobody is more acutely aware of this than Dara Katz and Betsy Kenney, two comedians who met doing improv comedy and have just made their Comedy Crib debut with the hilarious ’90s TV throwback series, The Place We Live.

IFC: How would you describe “The Place We Live” to a fancy network executive you just met in an elevator?

Dara: It’s everything you loved–or loved to hate—from Melrose Place and 90210 but condensed to five minutes, funny (on purpose) and totally absurd.

IFC: How would you describe “The Place We Live” to a drunk friend of a friend you met in a bar?

Betsy: “Hey Todd, why don’t you have a sip of water. Also, I think you’ll love The Place We Live because everyone has issues…just like you, Todd.”

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IFC: When you were living through the ’90s, did you think it was television’s golden age or the pop culture apocalypse?


Betsy: I wasn’t sure I knew what it was, I just knew I loved it!


Dara: Same. Was just happy that my parents let me watch. But looking back, the ’90s honored The Teen. And for that, it’s the golden age of pop culture. 

IFC: Which ’90s shows did you mine for the series, and why?

Betsy: Melrose and 90210 for the most part. If you watch an episode of either of those shows you’ll see they’re a comedic gold mine. In one single episode, they cover serious crimes, drug problems, sex and working in a law firm and/or gallery, all while being young, hot and skinny.


Dara: And almost any series we were watching in the ’90s, Full House, Saved By the Bell, My So Called Life has very similar themes, archetypes and really stupid-intense drama. We took from a lot of places. 

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IFC: How would you describe each of the show’s characters in terms of their ’90s TV stereotype?

Dara: Autumn (Sunita Mani) is the femme fatale. Robin (Dara Katz) is the book worm (because she wears glasses). Candace (Betsy Kenney) is Corey’s twin and gives great advice and has really great hair. Corey (Casey Jost) is the boy next door/popular guy. Candace and Corey’s parents decided to live in a car so the gang can live in their house. 
Lee (Jonathan Braylock) is the jock.

IFC: Why do you think the world is ready for this series?

Dara: Because everyone’s feeling major ’90s nostalgia right now, and this is that, on steroids while also being a totally new, silly thing.

Delight in the whole season of The Place We Live right now on IFC’s Comedy Crib. It’ll take you back in all the right ways.