Jennifer Westfeldt Expects to Deliver Big Laughs
Notes from the Underbelly
Jennifer Westfeldt, Notes from the Underbelly
star Jennifer Westfeldt
may not be a household name, or even a household face, but she stirred up a bunch of indie buzz playing the title role in Kissing Jessica Stein
, a film she cowrote. Now she’s tackling the small screen in this adorable new comedy (based on the chick-lit novel by Risa Green) that landed the plum debut spot post-Grey’s Anatomy
(although next week it moves to Wednesdays at 8:30 pm/ET). TVGuide.com had a chance to have breakfast with the busy star to find out more about the new series and to see what’s next.
TVGuide.com: How would you describe Notes from the Underbelly?
Jennifer Westfeldt: For my character it is the parts of pregnancy that people don’t talk about that much. I don’t think it is that PC for women to talk about how hard it is, how frustrating it is, how insecure they feel about their own skill sets. Lauren is the opposite of the glowing pregnant woman, who feels connected and like Mother Earth. She’s kicking and screaming every step of the way, and she's kind of panicking, not feeling ready for all the changes in her life and in her body. She doesn’t want to be the uncool friend who can’t go out or become the crazy parent that her other friends are becoming. She wants to keep her identity and yet there is this new life looming. I think it is about how she adjusts to that and how your friendships deepen. Lauren is determined to be hip and be cool and not be a crazy person.
TVGuide.com: In the first episode she is drooling over a sexy red dress that she won’t fit in for much long longer.
Westfeldt: Right. She’s kind of a fashionista, she wants to wear her skinny jeans. She is just not ready for all of the changes in store for her: the not drinking, the feet swelling and the forgetfulness.
TVGuide.com: Lauren gets tips from her crazy baby-obsessed friend. Have you gotten any tips or story lines from people who’ve been there?
Westfeldt: I imagine if we do well and people start to watch it that that will start to happen. For me, I don’t have a child but I do have friends who have had babies in the past couple of years. I’ve been watching them go through what I’ve been playing. I had a lot of good people to talk to for research and whatnot. I think it is really difficult for a lot of women, any woman who is just honest about her fears and insecurities. I just think there is a lot of pressure on young mothers and new mothers these days to do everything right, to look at every book, and read every website, and take this class and that class…. It just feels overwhelming to me and I’m not even involved. I don’t know how women can sort through the chaos.
TVGuide.com: People have been having kids for thousands of years.
Westfeldt: Right, while smoking and drinking and completely not watching their kids half of the time. It's just funny. I think about how everything has changed. [My partner and I] don’t have a child, but our dog is like the love of our lives. When I was little we had a dog that would run free all day long and come back when it felt like it. There weren’t all the laws then. It is just so funny, because I think similar things have happened with child care. You have to do everything a specific way and there is a doctor or expert who will tell you you’re making a huge mistake if you don’t do it that way.
TVGuide.com: Any plans to do more theater? [Jennifer was Tony-nominated for her role in Wonderful Town.]
Westfeldt: I would love to. I don’t know when it will be possible, but I would certainly love to come back. I don’t know that I’d love to do a year, but three to five months would be good. A year of that is very hard on your body.
TVGuide.com: Are you writing anything?
Westfeldt: I have a new movie, Ira and Abby, that I wrote and starred in. It's coming out late summer or early fall.
TVGuide.com: What’s it about?
Westfeldt: It is a comedy about marriage and divorce and monogamy and infidelity and dysfunction. It sort of questions the nature of marriage, because of the divorce rate, in a comedic way. The two leads, myself and Chris Messina, we meet and marry very impulsively and then chaos ensues. We marry and divorce a couple of times throughout the course of the movie, and our families get intertwined in crazy ways. We’ve been doing the festival circuit. We just won the HBO comedy festival in Aspen.
TVGuide.com: Back to Underbelly — were you worried when you signed on that you were going to have to wear a pregnancy belly for...
Westfeldt: Ever? It was definitely interesting. When we finished shooting the first 13 episodes, I was at about seven months. I had worn different bumps. I called it the fat suit. It got bigger and bigger each week. It was very strange to look down during a 16-hour day and see this thing. You start to feel like it is part of you, even though it isn't really. People on other sets notice you with it.
TVGuide.com: Did anyone try to touch your fake belly?
Westfeldt: Yeah, definitely. I think it is a Pavlovian response. All of the things that Lauren was going through with her body changes, I felt like I went through them, too, on some level. I would go to these costume fittings knowing that I was getting bigger and bigger. I’d try on all this stuff and I’d be near tears saying, “Everything makes me look pregnant!” Which of course was the point, but I was like, “No, none of this will do.” I was just so upset that there was no cut that would flatter.
Take a peek at Notes from the Underbelly with this video preview.