Radnor, who also starred in and directed the flick, discussed his project alongside co-stars Zoe Kazan, Kate Mara and Malin Akerman, who play his cousin, his love interest and his best friend, respectively.
WWD: What led you to write a script?
Josh Radnor: I wrote it to give myself a great film role, and as the production developed, I realized I also wanted to direct it. [Directing] has always been something that I wanted to do. I can be pretty dictatorial.
WWD: And what attracted you to the film?
Zoe Kazan: When I met Josh for the first time I really liked him as a person, then I read for him and realized I had to do this. His words bring out so much subtext, and it’s completely written for actors.
Malin Akerman: It was such a departure from anything that I’ve done and really a challenge for me, although I didn’t tell him that. I played the confident card.
Kate Mara: I was actually more drawn to a different character in the script than the one I end up playing, so at first I didn’t think I was going to be in this movie. When Josh called me to offer me a part I thought he was joking.
WWD: Why did you set the film in New York City?
J.R.: I went to grad school at NYU [earning an M.F.A. from Tisch School of the Arts] so I’ve always loved the city. I wanted this to be a below 14th Street movie. I want it to feel Lower East Side and Brooklyn. The characters shop in thrift stores, they wear their favorite T-shirts from college. I wanted the audience to have the feeling that they were voyeurs being granted access to these intimate moments in these people’s lives. And I wanted them to seem real, like you went to college with them.
WWD: How would you describe the film’s theme?
J.R.: There’s this great Carlos Castaneda quote, “We either make ourselves miserable or we make ourselves happy. The amount of work is the same.” We reflexively go, “Oh, I’m a victim, I’m miserable because he said this or this isn’t happening in my life,” but really it’s all perspective. I wanted to write about people who were in a quiet agony in the beginning and, through some subtle shifts in perspective and events, they open up to the option of being happier. I write things that I want to encourage myself to learn, and there’s something about getting it down on paper that says, “OK, I can’t go back on this.”
WWD: What’s next for everyone?
K.M.: I just finished shooting “Ironclad” in Cardiff, Wales, with James Purefoy and Paul Giamatti. It was my first period piece with an English accent. I am also doing more [episodes of] “Entourage.” And I have just been dying to do a movie musical because I am such a Broadway nerd at heart.
M.A.: I just finished “The Romantics,” and I’m starting 13 episodes of a TV show called “Children’s Hospital.” It’s a spoof on all the hospital shows, created by Rob Corddry and co-starring Ed Helms. I play one of the really inappropriate doctors. It’s nice to get paid to be inappropriate.
J.R.: We wrap season five of “How I Met Your Mother” in April, and I just sold a book for which revisions are due May 1, so I might ask for a little extension. It’s sort of a “memoir adjacent” and it’s not adaptable. And it’s not about showbiz at all.