ComingSoon spoke to Hypochondriac star Paget Brewster about Addison Heimann’s thriller, which is out August 4 on demand and digital. Brewster spoke about her role, what attracted her to the film, and her breakthrough appearance on Friends.
“Will, a young Hispanic gay potter, is one gregarious guy. His boss is terrible, but he’s got a great boyfriend and a great job,” says the synopsis. “Unfortunately, behind that veneer is a dark past of violence and mental illness that he is desperate to keep hidden. When his bipolar mother comes out of the woodwork after ten years of silence, he begins exhibiting unexplainable symptoms and spirals into an obsession, determined to solve this mystery of his own.”
Tyler Treese: What about the script of Hypochondriac really sold you on this project?
Paget Brewster: I had never read anything like it before, and I just thought immediately, the dialogue to me, sounded really honest and it wasn’t like a, laying exposition or trying to be cute or, it just felt very grounded and honest and human to me. I thought that this sort of journey, dissent, into Will’s mental illness was really compelling, and I hadn’t seen anything like that before. So I was really happy that they asked me to play Dr. Sampson. At first, I didn’t want to, it was right in the middle of Covid, and it was… I didn’t know the other people involved. I just knew the producer Bay Dariz, who I shot a movie with before, but once I read the script, it was so good. I had to do it. So I left the safety of my couch and ventured out into the world to shoot a psychological horror film.
You’ve actually played a few doctors in the past. What about the role of Dr. Sampson really excited you?
Whatever part they offered me I was going to do it once I read the script. It was just that good. So I don’t necessarily go “Yay. I’m the doctor again.” I just, anything that’s well-written, if I think I can do a service to the whole project you know, I would’ve played any part that they wanted me to play, because I just thought it was that good. And I talked to the director, who also wrote the script. I had already said I would do it, but talking to him, he just, he’s just a really smart and thoughtful guy. And any fear I had of working with a first-time director was gone pretty quickly because he just was so excited to get his movie made and to get his story told. He didn’t seem to have any narcissism or ego problems or, you know, he just seemed like a happy, excited guy who happened to really compellingly write a script that detailed his personal nervous breakdown and turned it into what I think is a really extraordinary piece of fiction.
I was really impressed when I found out it was his debut because it’s so confidently shot.
Right?! I didn’t even think it was going to be that good when I finally saw the movie, you know? When you shoot something, you don’t know if it’s going to be any good. Is the music good? Was it lit well? Was it filmed well? We never know. We can’t really tell. We’re not seeing behind the lens, we’re in front of the camera. So you never know until a movie is finished if it’s going to succeed or not. I thought he did an even better job than what I visualized in reading it or acting it or even being on set. I think the guy is going to go on and make other really interesting, beautiful films.
You’ve had such a successful career and your big breakout role was on the fourth season of Friends. What was it like entering, not just a popular show at a time, but it was like a genuine phenomenon, and for that to be so early in your career, how was it like navigating that?
It was pretty scary, to tell the truth. Because they were so famous, and they were really close friends. Like they were really, you know, a tight group of people. And so I just sort of tried to keep to myself and keep quiet, but they were really welcoming and would say, “Hey, come on, let’s go have lunch.” And we ran into the, the lady who played Janice while we were at the commissary. Like, they were really nice and I was stunned because I thought, you know, their lives are under a microscope. And I didn’t know how they were navigating it so well. And I think it’s because they really genuinely were and still are very, very close friends. So, they were very kind to me. And that’s an awfully good, big, first break, you know? To be on Friends when it was so huge.
I thought I was going to get fired though, at one point, because we had been rehearsing and then I went in to have my hair done and the hairdresser…I had a black bob, like, you know, bangs. I had black hair, short bob with black bangs and the hairdresser cut my hair shorter and stripped it for about six hours and then dyed it red. When the producers came down to the stage to watch one of our later rehearsals, the producer, Kevin Bright, said “Stop, what did you do? Who did that to your hair?” And I was like, you know, “The…your hairdresser did it.” And he started yelling and he said, “I hired her because of her black hair!” And so I just walked upstairs and went into my little tiny dressing room and put my magazines in my bag and waited, because I thought, “Oh, I’m fired because the guy died my hair red.” And then I hear these footsteps like bam, bam, bam, bam, coming up towards the door, and Kevin Bright jumped in the door and he was like, “I didn’t hire you because of your black hair. I just can’t have people making unilateral decisions without my input. And I think you look great and I hope you’re okay with it being red.” And I was like, “Yes, am I fired?” And he was like, “No, no, no, you’re great. I think you’re funny. Come on, let’s go back down and rehearse. I just needed that guy to know he just can’t make decisions without talking to me.” But it turns out the next person that Chandler fell for was Monica. So there was a little bit of…and the hairdresser had changed my hair because he…my hairstyle was the same as Monica. So he thought he was doing the right thing. But I think there was a little bit of Kevin Bright and [Marta Kauffman] and [David Crane] thinking, “Oh, we know Chandler’s going towards Monica and this girl has short dark hair too.” I don’t know. You know, I don’t know what they were thinking, but that was a bad few minutes when I thought I was going to get fired from Friends.
Thankfully it all worked out.
I know! [laughs]
I’m a huge fan of your work in Harvey Birdman: Attorney at Law, and then you’ve come back for Birdgirl, which is also so much fun. There was the animated special in 2018, but how was it like returning to that character after a decade away from it?
It was super exciting. I was so surprised when Michael Ouweleen and Erik Richter had said, “Hey, we’re pitching Birdgirl as its own series.” I was like, “Oh my God, that’s, that’s awesome. Will you let me audition for it?” Erik was like, “What do you mean? You are Birdgirl. What do you mean audition for it?” And I was like, “Oh, well, I thought, you know, they’re going to try and get someone super famous,” and he was like, “No, you’re Birdgirl. We’re going to pitch it, and I’ll let you know if they pick it up.” And they did.
It immediately feels like its own show that works really well, not just sort of like a little spin-off. They did a really great job of creating that whole world of Sebben & Sebben and the company and Judy and Birdgirl, and Mayor and all of the people that she works with, “The Feels” and everybody, Dog with Bucket Hat, Birdcat, like all of it. I love all of those characters and then we got a second season. So our second season, both seasons now, are on Adult Swim, and also on HBO Max, all of the episodes from season one and season two. Fingers crossed that we get a third season. I’m hoping it does well, and I’m trying to get the word out and thank you, Tyler, for asking about it.
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