I recently got the chance to talk to Eileen Grubba about her role in ‘The Five-Year Engagement’. Here, Eileen talks about how she got involved in the project in the first place and which three guests she would invite to dinner…
Hey Eileen. Thanks for taking the time out to talk to me about your new film, ‘The Five-Year Engagement’.
Thank you, Matt!
What’s the general plotline surrounding the film?
‘The Five-Year Engagement’ is about a happy couple who get engaged only to find it takes them FIVE YEARS to get past all the obstacles that threaten their relationship and keep them from the altar. So, it’s about all the things that can go wrong and keep people from taking the leap into matrimony.
Tell us a bit about the character you play in the movie…
I am the manager of a Botanical Gardens location that Emily Blunt’s character is considering for her wedding. I try to talk her into having her wedding on September 11th, because it is the only date available in the next three years. We goofed around a lot of set and they let us try many things. The director tells me that all our improvising is in the DVD, so I can’t wait to see that.
How did you get involved in the project in the first place?
The director, Nicholas Stoller, came to see a play I was in with a friend of his, Dayton Knoll. Then I was called in a few months later for an audition and Dayton reminded him that he saw us in this play. Dayton and I both got roles in the film.
How would you say this film is different and unique?
It’s a very funny film. At the cast and crew screening, we were laughing until our stomachs hurt. The cast is very, very strong, just hysterical. The leads are endearing. The writer/director, Nicholas Stoller, takes a lot of risks and has a great sense of humor.
The film stars Jason Segel, Emily Blunt, Chris Pratt, Alison Brie, Lauren Weedman, Mimi Kennedy, David Paymer and Jacki Weaver – with Nicholas Stoller onboard as director – what was it like working with the cast and crew on-set? Any good anecdotes?
Emily is the only one I worked with directly. She was as easy-going, friendly, and fun as anyone can possibly be. We had a lot of laughs improving through our scene. I wish I had been around to work with the other actors!
Let’s talk a bit about you Eileen. What made you want to get into the industry in the first place?
Oh gosh, I don’t remember! When I was very young, this industry really came to me. I was getting approached to do modeling and acting in Atlanta, and so I decided to start studying acting at The Alliance Theater School in Atlanta. I did a lot of musicals and films and commercials in Atlanta. I also worked in casting to learn the industry inside and out. Then I moved to NYC, studied at HB Studios and my career took off from there. After going through the audition process, I was awarded a Lifetime Membership in The Actors Studio, and have trained there ever since.
What advice would you give to anyone wanting to pursue a career in the industry?
Honestly, this has to be the strongest desire in your heart. If there is anything else you can be happy doing, then I would suggest that you go do that instead. They say it is cruel to encourage anyone to become an actor, and after 22 years of fighting the good fight, I certainly understand why. Every pretty person in the entire WORLD comes to Los Angeles to be an actor, but pretty is simply not enough. It takes an incredible amount of talent, drive, determination, hard work and risk taking. You have to have rhinoceros skin to endure the many years of rejection, and the insensitive ways it is often delivered in this industry. There is no real rhyme or reason to it. The industry is inundated with new faces every single year. You have to be the VERY BEST at what you do, be relentless in your pursuit, be willing to sacrifice many things in life to survive in this industry, and then you still have to get LUCKY! Most people fail out in about 2 years. The ones who work, endure, or they got lucky early on in life, or they were born into the industry. The best actors TRAIN, constantly. They continue to train 10, 20, 30, even 40 years into the careers, always honing their craft. It is not an industry for the faint of heart. I am a Lifetime Member of The Actors Studio, where some of the most skilled actors in the industry train. Many of them have put 40 – 50 years into this industry and are still working hard to keep their skills sharp for the next opportunity.
You’ve been in a number of different film and TV projects – which actors/actresses have been your favourites to work with and why? Any good stories?
My favourite actors to work with…a few years ago, I worked opposite Russell Crowe in ‘State Of Play’. My scenes did not make the final cut, but Russell certainly did make an impression on me that I will never forget. He was kind, open, interested in others, and extremely professional. When I saw him go to work: his laser focus and attention to detail within a scene, his ability to affect another actor in seconds, then it was clear why this man is a superstar. He is very talented and an extremely subtle, efficient, effective actor. Emily Blunt was an absolute joy to work with on ‘The Five-Year Engagement’. She was just REAL, very cool, nice and fun. Ron Perlman is one of my favourite actors also. We worked together for a few weeks in another country on a film called ‘Rats’. We used to go to the gym and work out there. We became friends, and then ended up both working on ‘Sons Of Anarchy’. He is a good man, honest, strong, kind and welcoming. I keep hoping my “recurring” character, “Precious Ryan” will come back and get to work with Ron’s character “Clay” directly one day soon. We always have a lot of fun together.
On that note, ALL the actors I worked with on ‘Sons Of Anarchy’ were incredible people! Mark Boone Jr., Charlie Hunnam, Theo Rossi, Kim Coates. Great guys! All of them. Mark and I had a lot of fun because he is my ex-husband “Bobby” on the show, so I got to punch him in the face. When I first came on set, I think he was concerned that I would be afraid to come right at him in a fight scene. However, he then soon became afraid that I might hurt him! I grew up with six brothers, so I do know how to throw a punch. We had a great time working together.
Jane Adams was really good to me on HBO’s ‘Hung’. We really enjoyed playing off each other in scenes. My character “Missy” was very cruel and threatening to her. She was instrumental in getting my character written in more on the show. I loved working on this show and was SO BUMMED when it was cancelled. The producers, cast and crew were all very good to me. Lennie James played my guy in this show and he and I had a lot of laughs as well as very good conversations about writing and projects.
Right now I am working with a fellow Actors Studio member, Ralph Guzzo on a film called ‘City Of Fools’. We have incredible chemistry together which is needed for this challenging thriller. It is an intense piece, character driven, so the energy that flies between us just lights up the screen. We started this piece on the stage and now it has expanded to a film, which we wrote together, we are producing together and Ralph is directing. He is a talented artist, and yet is very gentle in his approach. It is a pleasure working with him.
Carmen Argenziano – one of my all time favourites! We have worked together on stage and on-screen in multiple projects. He is a dream to work with: easy, fun, talented. We light up each other’s work. We once did ‘After The Fall’ at The Actors Studio, for Ellen Burstyn and the LA studio membership. We both look back fondly on the risks we took on the stage that day and how much fun it was to have a stage partner we could completely trust, no matter what happened. We recently made a festival indie called ‘Sleeping With The Bear’. It is in a few festivals now, and being highly acclaimed by acting veterans like Martin Landau, Sondra Currie and Lou Antonio. Carmen and I work very well together.
What is currently on your I-Pod right now?
Ha ha A THOUSAND songs! Many uplifting songs, I would say. Many ANGEL songs. I love angels, and anything about angels. I love songs that remind you to get back up and keep going. I have every kind of music you can imagine, but most of my choices are inspiring, uplifting, or at least sassy and loaded with spirit.
If you could have dinner with three guests – (living or dead), who would you choose and why?
God! Because I have a lot of questions to ask him about life. I want to ask him what he wants exactly, so we can be sure we’re on the right path and doing what we were meant to do here. I believe we ALL have a great purpose and so many people spend most of their youth trying to figure out the purpose of their life. I think it would be a lot easier if we could just ask him! And I’d like to know why all the worst stuff happens, and why those things often happen to the best people. What was the true reason for each and every challenge. Oh, the many questions I have for God!
And my Mom and my Dad. Because they were some of the best people I ever knew and I miss them. Would love to have dinner with them and see how they are and ask them a lot of questions, too!
On your off-days, how do you like to kick back and relax?
Ha ha ha ha days off??? Kick back and relax??? Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha LOL. As an actor, you never get to relax, since you always have to have ten irons in the fire to make sure something works out. I don’t think I ever kick back and relax unless I leave town! On slower days, I write. I have a bunch of film projects in development, and a few TV series, too. I love writing characters and stories. I also hike and have a gym partner for mornings. Occasionally I go out sailing with some of my friends here. I love to travel! I love going to new places, and seeing new things. It feeds me creatively.
What’s coming up for you in 2012?
Just shot another episode of ‘Enlightened’ opposite Laura Dern. Laura is a dear friend and I always love working with her and hope for more challenging scenes together soon. I’m now shooting ‘City Of Fools’ with Ralph Guzzo, Carmen Argenziano and a few other actors we all know and love. I am in a GE Healthcare commercial that is airing nationwide, and hopefully through the Olympics. I also am finishing writing two features, one of which I am planning to set up to shoot just outside of New Orleans. I have a scripted medical drama we are trying to set up in Houston, Texas, with some of the top innovators in medicine on board. In addition to creating and producing, I will be acting in all of these, by the way! I am working on a staged musical with studio member and opera singer, Marc Cervania, which we hope to set up for early next year. A few of my friends and I are also setting up a deal with an investment fund which would fund a slate of our projects next year. We have a dozen projects in this pool. So, we are busy! AND… episodic season is starting, so I hope to be reporting some new episodes for everyone to watch SOON!
Thanks for the interview!