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Interview: Lauren Lapkus Talked to Us About Improvising the Whole Movie in Between Two Ferns

Lauren Lapkus at the premiere of Between Two Ferns: The Movie

It isn’t easy to improvise, especially when it is meant to get to a specific ending for a film but Lauren Lapkus has mastered that art with her work in Between Two Ferns: The Movie. Directed by Scott Aukerman, the film, according to Lapkus, is very improv-based. The production knew the arc of any given scene, where they needed to go, and then had fun amongst the cast.

That certainly fits when you know Lauren Lapkus and her history with the art. Performing with her team Wild Horses at the Upright Citizens Brigade, she is exceptionally good at carrying a scene and giving the audience the information they need while bringing unique and fun characters to life, which is what she did with Carol in Between Two Ferns: The Movie.

Speaking with her about the film, we primarily talked about the improv aspect because, as an improviser myself, it is fascinating to see how these scenes somehow flowed together in a way that didn’t feel as if they were stunted or being forced to reach an end unnaturally.

Carol (who Lapkus plays in the film) is Zach Galifianakis’ producer, determined to help him in whatever way she can, and that means trekking across the country with him to get the celebrity interviews he needs for his show to be successful.

Talking about the importance of Carol, I wanted to know if Lapkus made a conscious decision to make her a fully formed character with ideals all her own, rather than just being the kind of character who was there to facilitate jokes. She told me,

I think Scott and I both wanted this character to feel like a real person and not just have it be the kind of story where she’s secretly in love with Zach [Galifianakis] the whole time, and that’s the whole point, or something. She has her own motivation and her desires and she really wants to make a good product, and she cares about that. But, she also has morals, so she’s a fun character to play because she can go in a bunch of different directions, but she’s grounded in reality.

Going on to creating her character, Lapkus talked about how the movie was improvised:

One thing that was really cool was that we improvised the whole movie. So, having that freedom really allowed us to take it to really strange places and we were able to improvise scenes for an hour long that ended up being a minute long in the movie. And what I think is really cool about that is we built this entire world out that was very lived in and real because these characters have full backstories and lives that we did explore through improv. So when it’s cut together, it ends up feeling like there are more layers to it than you would normally have.

That being said, improvising isn’t easy to do, especially when you have an end goal in mind. But it seems as if Aukerman opened it up to adding, creatively, to the movie, and the actors got to explore their characters and the comedy behind them in exciting ways:

Depending on where we were on the location, we knew what had to get out. So like we’d know we’d have to book a couple of celebrities in this scene and also have filler conversation but then map out where we were going next so that we had some plot being spoken out loud. But what was pretty neat about it was that anything that was improvised, we could then shoot and we were building it on the fly. There’s a part in the film where I’m talking about my job and all the things I do for Zach, which were all improvised things, but then we could shoot the actual activities so we could see when I draw a map of what he has to do each day.

You can see Lauren Lapkus as Carol in Between Two Ferns: The Movie available on Netflix now. She’s wonderful it in, and it is definitely a must see! You can read our review for the film here!

(image: David Livingston/Getty Images)

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Rachel Leishman (She/Her) is an Assistant Editor at the Mary Sue. A writer her whole life but professionally starting back in 2016 who loves all things movies, TV, and classic rock. Resident Spider-Man expert, official Leslie Knope, actually Yelena Belova. Wanda Maximoff has never done anything wrong in her life. Star Wars makes her very happy. New York writer with a passion for all things nerdy. Yes, she has a Pedro Pascal podcast. And also a Harrison Ford one.