Zach Braff talks about working with Florence Pugh on new movie
It's been six years since Zach Braff's last directorial effort, Going in Style, and nearly a decade since his last movie as writer-director, Wish I Was Here, so it's about time he made his feature comeback.
Sky Original movie A Good Person stars Florence Pugh as Allison, a young woman whose world falls apart when she survives a car accident that kills her future sister-in-law.
In recovery for an opioid addiction, Allison forms an unlikely friendship with her would-be father-in-law Daniel (Morgan Freeman) that gives her a chance to put her life back together and move forward from her grief.
Writing the movie during the pandemic allowed Braff to work through his own grief for the people he lost, and releasing the movie has continued to help.
"I think in sharing the film and seeing people relate to it and respond to it, that's been really a good feeling. Seeing people see themselves in the film and empathise with the way I felt. The community of that feels really cathartic and wonderful," he told Digital Spy.
Ahead of A Good Person's release in cinemas on March 24, Digital Spy sat down with Braff to talk about working with Pugh as a producer, reuniting with Morgan Freeman and the movie's mini Scrubs reunion.
This is your third time writing a feature film, do you think the Zach of Garden State could have written A Good Person?
Zach Braff: No, because I was so young when I wrote Garden State. I was 25 years old and I was writing about what I felt at the time then as a young man, feelings of [being] lost and not knowing what to do with my life.
This is about a very different time in my life. It's about grief and standing up after tragedy, so it was inspired by things that I lived through that I had yet to really experience as a young man.
You've spoken about how you wrote this movie for Florence and she came on board as a producer. Did that change the film at all in surprising ways for you?
Oh yeah, because Florence had really, really smart script notes. She wrote two songs that the character performs in the movie. She's a savant actress. She really was helpful in casting.
When I was deciding between two or three people, she would come in and go: 'It's so clearly that person' because she has such a great eye for acting talent. In so many ways, Florence, the producer, was extraordinarily helpful.
You've worked before with Morgan Freeman, did that help? Was it a case of just phoning him up and going: 'Hey Morgan, do you want to do another film?'
[laughs] No, it wasn't like that. But I didn't think he'd say yes because the first thing we made was a big studio comedy and this was a tiny little indie movie and Morgan doesn't do a ton of those, so I didn't know that he would say yes.
It did help direct him because we already had a friendship, we already had a banter. He's intimidating, I mean, he's Morgan Freeman. So, I think that I had a comfort level with him that I wouldn't have had.
We already had a relationship. He already trusted me from the previous film, so I think it enabled me to push him further in a way I might not have had the courage to do so if it was our first project.
He does a voiceover in the film, so was that already in the script or were you like: 'I've got Morgan on board, I need a voiceover'?
[laughs] It actually was in the script, but it's funny when Morgan comes on, the voiceover takes a whole other level on.
There's a mini Scrubs reunion because you've got Molly Shannon playing Florence's mother who was in 'My Last Chance', who you didn't work with directly…
I directed that episode though. Molly is mostly known as a comedic actress. She was one of the best SNL stars ever.
It's actually the first episode of Scrubs I ever directed. She was the guest star and as the guest star, she only did comedy but she had a dramatic arc. I knew when I cast her that not only is Molly hilarious, but she has quite amazing dramatic chops.
It's an innately human thing to find humour even in darkest moments and like Scrubs did very often, this film also has the humour in between the darker moments. Is it tricky to find that balance?
It's all in the script. I think it's crucial because otherwise I find, just as a movie lover myself, if it's too maudlin, you kind of zone out. It's too much to digest. Whereas if you pepper humour throughout, the audience has a relief and I think that that's really important.
Just like in life, when you're going through really hard times and a friend or a family member says something funny and you just are so grateful for the belly laugh and you really needed it.
I think that's an important thing to do in writing about material this way as well.
We've touched on it a bit, but what are you hoping audiences get from A Good Person?
I hope they see something from their own lives in it. This is about a particularly intense tragedy. Hopefully, most people won't have experienced something like this, but I hope that they see something from their own life, standing back up after a really tricky time.
I mean, even something as universal as COVID, going through this horrible time and standing back up and starting a new chapter. I hope that people see themselves in that.
A Good Person is released in cinemas on March 24 and is available to watch on Sky Cinema from April 28.
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