Mad Men's Alison Brie on Sleeping With Other People
Mad Men's Alison Brie stars as a woman who winds up in sex addicts' therapy in new comedy Sleeping With Other People. Susan Griffin catches up with the star to find out why there's nothing better than frank discussion
DESPITE the title of her latest movie, Alison Brie only realised quite how sexual Sleeping With Other People is when she found herself surrounded by loved ones at the movie's premiere.
"My whole family, including my father, was with me. I made sure not to sit right next to him! In almost every scene, they're discussing sex," says the 33-year-old, laughing.
"But my family is very open and my parents were hippies. They were around during the sexual revolution. What are they going to say to me?"
The film is written and directed by Leslye Headland – the 30-something film-maker who also wrote and helmed Bachelorette, starring Isla Fisher and Kirsten Dunst – and sees Brie play Lainey, a serial cheater from New York.
At a sex addicts' therapy session, she bumps into the womanising Jake, played by We're The Millers' Jason Sudeikis, with whom she had a college one-night stand with 12 years earlier. The film explores how they influence one another moving forward.
"I was really excited to play a character who's so multi-dimensional and complex. And to be able to do comedic scenes in the same project that I'm doing dramatic and sexual scenes," says Brie, who only met Sudeikis for the first time at a chemistry read through, where they hit it off immediately.
"A lot of the rehearsals were about reading through the script, but also open discussions about our own relationship history," adds the actress. "That was probably the most helpful thing in terms of establishing immediate intimacy with someone who is meant to be your best friend in the movie, really – the romantic stuff aside."
Brie's previous roles include the naive student Annie Edison in TV comedy Community, and Trudy, the moral wife of advertising executive Pete Campbell in seven series of the 50s and 60s-set Mad Men, but it's Lainey she feels most similar to.
"She's going through similar things that I've gone through in relationships, that my friends have gone through, [and] who's talking openly about sex the way I do with my friends," she explains.
She believes the movie "very much plugs into" the contemporary dating scene and how "confusing" it can be.
"We're no longer living in a time where someone just calls you on the phone, asks you out on a date, picks you up and takes you to a restaurant. Something like that is so rare today. My single girlfriends will say, 'He called me on the phone – that's so weird! Why did he do that?'
"I feel lucky that I've been in a relationship long enough not have to do that kind of weird thing. I've had bad dating experiences, but I haven't had to do Tinder," reveals the actress, who is engaged to James Franco's younger brother, Dave.
Brie explores this subject matter further in the ensemble comedy How To Be Single, which also stars Fifty Shades' Dakota Johnson, Pitch Perfect star Rebel Wilson and This Is 40's Leslie Mann, due for release next month.
"It's looking at a lot of different characters, and all of their journeys, being single. They're sort of all connected, some more than others. My character's a very intelligent woman, who has spent her time really focused on her education and her work, and now really wants to find a husband immediately, so she's on 10 different dating websites," California-born Brie explains.
"She really thinks she's going to find 'Mr Right' online. But she learns to loosen up over the course of the film."
She will also star in ITV's upcoming Victorian-set series Doctor Thorne, Julian Fellowes's first big project since Downton Abbey.
Brie plays the only American – "who comes to town and the central family wants me to marry their son, because I'm quite wealthy and they're in a bit of a predicament".
"But I'm a little old for him," she teases. "He's also already in love with someone else, who everyone thinks is quite poor. So that's the main crux of it.
"I think the whole family will like it, and it was a lot of fun for me too," she continues. "It was very different, doing something of that period. The whole experience was quite an adventure."
Brie graduated from the California Institute of Arts in 2005 and her early movie credits include Scream 4 and The Five-Year Engagement. More recently, she starred as Will Ferrell's gold-digging fiancee in Get Hard.
Her father is an entertainment reporter but she doesn't think that inspired her to embark on a career in showbiz.
"My father's also a musician and a singer-songwriter, and has been my whole life. He made a living just doing that when I was very young, until my parents got divorced when I was five years old, and then he took over the family business of journalism with my grandfather," she says.
"It's funny, I didn't even think of the journalist side at all until very recently, and more so since I got engaged. It just became more prevalent, with people asking him personal questions about me at the office, which had never happened before."
She might be getting recognised more these days, but Brie reasons: "I would like to think it has more to do with my work thus far, than what parties I've attended.
"With things like Netflix now, series [like Mad Men and Community] have a life beyond themselves. People are still discovering things all the time, so it's exciting to me that even though I worked on these shows for the past seven years, just now people are starting to connect the dots."
While the end of those shows has been "a big transitional moment for me", it's also beckoned a thrilling new phase.
"It's bitter-sweet, of course, to finish things, such a sense of pride and accomplishment," says Brie. "But also it's exciting to look forward to new things and different characters."
:: Sleeping With Other People is in cinemas now and available on demand.