From Michael Gallagher, the LGBTQ dramedy Funny Story follows what happens when Walter Campbell (Matthew Glave), an aging heartthrob trying to reconnect with his estranged adult daughter Nic (Jana Winternitz), gives her friend Kim (Emily Bett Rickards) a ride to their vacation in Big Sur that he decides to crash. While these two complicated individuals bond in unexpected ways, Walter’s own narcissism and need for forgiveness threatens to ruin what’s intended to be a beautiful trip.
During this 1-on-1 phone interview with Collider, actress Emily Bett Rickards talked about why this script appealed to her, what drew her to the character, always searching to discover more about who Kim was, the very quick shoot, and her favorite scene to shoot. She also talked about whether she’d want to return for the last season of The CW series Arrow, where she played Felicity Smoak for seven seasons, if she’d continue returning to TV, her desire to do more theater, and which TV series she’d like to do a guest spot on.
Collider: You were so great in this, and this is such an interesting and fun character. Was that the appeal, when you read this script?
EMILY BETT RICKARDS: Oh, yeah. The script was close to 100% of what we see on screen, just brought to life. That is what attracted to me this movie. It was so honestly written and so raw, that it was just a no-brainer.
These are all characters who clearly are flawed and they make mistakes, so it would be easy to find yourself judging any of them. When you first read this, what was your initial impression of the character? Did she feel like someone that you could identify with, or did you find yourself judging her behavior?
RICKARDS: Fortunately, I was already identifying with her, due to just reading the script. What I think most people take away from watching this is that the characters are so easily relatable because of their imperfections, not because of pristine qualities. I think that Kim is someone who’s trying to be better, but can’t seem to figure that out now. I think that we see that in Walter, as well. We see what kind of destruction it can cause when you can’t accept the reflection in the mirror.
Were you involved, at all, with the development of the character prior to shooting? Were there things that you wanted to add or suggest with her?
RICKARDS: We just continually talked about the character, all the time, just trying to understand who she was and how we could bring her to life. But Kim was quite well-rounded on the page, which is just so rare to find. What (writer/director) Michael [Gallagher] had done with Kim, before the words were even lifted off the page, was honest and incredible, and he took the time to collaborate and talk to me about her, sort of limitlessly. We would just talk about her, all the time, because she was so interesting. She is that person who hasn’t been able to understand herself, so we just tried to understand her.
Because she is so obviously such a different character from Felicity Smoak on Arrow, how did you find the experience of actually getting on set and playing as somebody like Kim, especially when you were juggling it with playing Felicity?
RICKARDS: I did this between Seasons 4 and 5, and playing Felicity was continually going at such a rapid pace. It was just different type of vibration. This character is just a completely different person. Kim and Felicity are so different. I think that it’d be really interesting if they met, but I don’t feel like their worlds would collide. I’m not sure I found it difficult. I think I just found Kim so different. I haven’t thought about that, interestingly enough. My brain, when I was playing Felicity, we would get to the end of 23 episodes, and there was time apart from her, but I’d always get to see her again. I think now it’ll be different because I won’t get to play Felicity again. It might be a little different, and that will be a question, down the road, where the answer will surprise me.
It seems like, if you hadn’t been playing Felicity and needed to keep looking like her, at the time that you did this movie, that this is the kind of character where you could have really played with your look. Had you ever thought about doing anything more than the nose piercing, like doing something crazy with your hair, if you could have?
RICKARDS: We had died my hair this gray-purple color and it didn’t stick, and that was the only thing we tried to do with Kim. I do think that Kim knows who she is. Now, it’s a little bit harder because I do feel like she is who she is and that’s what she looks like. She wants to fly under the radar, regardless. I wonder if she would have changed a lot more. I don’t know. She would never have been blonde. It’s so funny, I can’t picture her different now.
There are so many moments in this that seem like they would be fun to shoot, like the big group scenes. Did you have a favorite scene to shoot?
RICKARDS: The dinner scene was lots of fun. It was nighttime and we were at this beautiful place. It was lit impeccably, and our whole small, intimate film crew was incredibly talented. Everybody had grown to know each other by then, too, which was really cool. It was just very fun. We sat down for dinner, and it was like we were really sitting down for dinner.
There are definitely some emotionally intense moments in the film, too. Did you have a most difficult scene or day, during the shoot?
RICKARDS: No, not really. There wasn’t a most difficult, other than probably the end scene where we exposed all of Kim’s emotions. Because we had been talking it, it wasn’t actually the most difficult. We just wanted it to feel fluid. I feel like we didn’t have much time left. I would wait outside in the tiny little hallway. That house was artistically stunning, in its kitschy-ness, and I remember just running in and wanting to create this moment, and you feel that. I felt wonderment afterwards, about Kim and where she was going after that. That’s the emotion I had around it. I was like, where does Kim go from here? That was something that surprised me.
When you played Kim, were there things that you grew to appreciate about her, by the end of shooting the film, that you didn’t necessarily see in her, in the beginning?
RICKARDS: Yeah. We shot the film in about 15 days, so it was so short, but at the same time, the answer is yes because I had more time with her. But if we had all had more time with these characters, we would have gotten to learn even more. Kim grew on me, as she hopefully grows on audience members through the movie. But when I had read her, for the first time, I already did feel like she’s with me now. That’s why I’m glad this film came to fruition the way it did.
Even with the mistakes that she makes, Kim just feels like such a real person. She feels like somebody that anybody could know or come across.
RICKARDS: Yes, I think she is. With all of her imperfections and all of the walls that she has built up, we have lens inside of who she actually is. Even with all of these walls that she’s promoting to all of these other characters and who’s presenting herself to be, we get to see the truth. We actually get to see what Kim is facing, through the whole movie, because we know all of her secrets. Besides Kim, we’re the only people that know all of her secrets.
Now that we know that the next season of Arrow is the last season, even though it feels like Felicity’s story came to a satisfying conclusion, would you like to return, in some capacity, with it being the last season of the show?
RICKARDS: I feel like Felicity has done her time. I don’t know if anybody is going to like what I’m saying, but I feel like Felicity has done her time. We knew this was coming for awhile – for over a year – so the whole thing is exactly what we wanted to happen. I trust the writers, and that’s in their hands.
When you have a goodbye like Felicity had, at the end of the season, you also don’t want to mess that up by coming back and taking away from that.
RICKARDS: Yes, exactly.
Would you consider going back to TV and signing on for another potentially long-running series, or is that something that you think you’ll take a break from for awhile?
RICKARDS: I think I’m going to take a break for awhile, and do a little bit of theater, coming up in New York (Reborning at the SoHo Playhouse from July 5th through August 3rd). And then, after that, I’m hoping to continue doing theater for a little bit longer. My friends are a bunch of creative geniuses, so no matter what, that’s the way I’m going right now. I’ll never say no to doing TV again. For now, life has changed dramatically, already.
What do you enjoy about theater, that is different from film and TV?
RICKARDS: I feel like my experience with TV and my experience with indie film, is that it’s not until you walk away that you’re like, “Oh, that’s what that was about.” And I feel like with theater, the discovery is never-ending. There’s time for rehearsal and I feel like there’s a deeper exploration of what the characters are. I’m really looking forward to doing theater again. It just comes down to rehearsal time. If you’re gonna offer me rehearsal time, in other mediums, I feel like maybe I would grow from that, as well. My experience with that is just a little bit more limited.
What was it about this particular character that made you want to play her on stage?
RICKARDS: She’s dark, she’s fast, she’s witty, she’s incredibly smart, and she’s also incredibly damaged. She’s someone who is a full person. I don’t think many people have the lifestyle that she has. Coming up, I hope I can discover more about why she’s in it and what’s she doing, and get deeper into her brain, for lack of a better word.
Is there a current TV show that you’d love to do a fun guest spot or guest arc on?
RICKARDS: Oh, yeah. I’m a fan of Schitt’s Creek, since Season 1. There’s a lot of comedy content on TV. I dive into comedy more naturally than I dive into other things, and that’s just because I’d like to learn more, professionally.
Funny Story is in theaters and on VOD.