Kicking off her career with a guest role in the hit HBO comedy Sex and the City in 2000, actor Kat Dennings has been working nonstop over the past 20 years, impressively compiling more than 40 credits in film and television. And while her resume was impressive enough in her first 10 years in the business with roles in such TV series as ER, CSI: Crime Scene Investigation, and CSI: NY, and films including The 40-Year-Old Virgin and The House Bunny, Dennings’ career rocketed into the stratosphere thanks to her infectious character Darcy Lewis in Marvel Studios’ Thor.
Dennings’ role as the political science major and assistant to Natalie Portman’s Jane Foster in Thor not only won the actor acclaim, it earned her a spot in the sequel Thor: The Dark World, and ultimately yet another turn in the Marvel Cinematic Universe with the Disney+ series WandaVision. But Dennings has hardly been biding her time waiting for a re-entry into the MCU; in between, she dazzled TV audiences as one-half of the title characters in the sitcom 2 Broke Girls on CBS from 2011 to 2017, and in 2019 she starred as the winsome lead in the Hulu romantic comedy Dollface, which has been renewed for a second season.
Dennings has remained busy in film as well, starring opposite Malin Akerman, Aisha Tyler, Deon Cole, Christine Taylor, Wanda Sykes, and Jane Seymour in writer-director Nicole Paone’s holiday comedy Friendsgiving, which is now in theaters, and on digital, Blu-ray, and DVD. The film stars Dennings as Abby and Akerman as Molly — longtime best friends who plan on spending a quiet Thanksgiving together along with Molly’s infant son since Abby is still reeling from a bad breakup with her girlfriend a year before and Molly is going through a divorce. Before too long, though, the Thanksgiving dinner turns into a Friendsgiving mess, as Molly reluctantly invites her new fling of two weeks (Jack Donnelly) to the dinner, other friends of Molly invite themselves, and her mother (Seymour) shows up unexpectedly from Sweden. The more in this case, however, doesn’t mean the merrier.
In an exclusive interview with Looper, Dennings set the table for her new Thanksgiving-themed comedy, chatted the return of Darcy to the MCU in WandaVision, and shared some thoughts about working on Thor and the God of Thunder himself, Chris Hemsworth.
Congratulations on Friendsgiving. It has such a wonderful cast, and I’ve been telling people that this is going to be a good movie to see when you gather for Thanksgiving with friends or family. That way they’re going to realize whatever issues they think they have, it doesn’t come close to the kind of crazy that the people have in Friendsgiving.
Exactly. I mean, it’s so much fun to be part of a holiday movie because I don’t think I’ve ever really been a part of one before. Especially Thanksgiving is such a loaded family holiday usually. I don’t know if it’s a holiday that people equate with fun. Maybe I’m just speaking for myself. I love holidays, but it’s kind of an obligated family holiday and it’s always a little bit tense, maybe. So the Friendsgiving idea is something that was kind of new to me and it seemed more like an L.A. thing. I had never heard of it, but it’s huge. I mean, this is like a real thing that people do. So I think this is a really fun celebration, and especially now in this crazy year, like remembering what it’s like to be with a bunch of people inside.
You’re right. I didn’t really know of Friendsgiving or haven’t thought of the concept either. Now I really hope, though, with the Thanksgivings that you’ve had, nothing in your past that approaches to what happens in Friendsgiving. Please tell me no!
Absolutely not! [Smiles] Nothing in my life has ever come close to anything that happens in Friendsgiving, but this is kind of why this is such a fun watch for people, especially right now. I mean, obviously holidays in 2020 are going to be a lot different than we’re used to. So it’s extra fun to watch the kind of mayhem and normalcy that came with holidays before this. Also, it’s actually based on events. Nicole Paone is the director and writer and Malin Akerman produced and stars in the movie, and this is loosely based on their real experience. They’re obviously way more fun than I am [laughs]. They were kind of regaling me with stories in between takes. I was like, “Oh my God, this is real”? They were like, “Um, yeah.”
So it was just so much fun to make. All these actors, these great comedians were all together in one house. Essentially the film takes place in one location. So there was an element of reality to making it where we were all crammed together in one place for a month or however long we filmed it. And it was just a really fun time.
I know Malin and you have done stuff together with Dollface, and there’s somebody who has become a buddy of mine thanks to Ash vs. Evil Dead — Dana DeLorenzo, who I know was with you way back in the day for one episode, she was on 2 Broke Girls.
She’s great. She’s really a standout. I think I know she isn’t in the whole thing, but to me like the family, Abby’s family, my character is really important in the movie to her because she’s always like on the phone with them back home in Jersey. She’s really funny. She’s a good actress.
Yeah. She’s terrific. Natural-born comedian. She is very funny. So, you had done work with Malin before and you’ve done work with Dana. Is there anybody in the cast who you didn’t work with previously that maybe surprised you? Somebody like Christine Taylor, with her Botox-infused attempt at speaking, or maybe that Aisha Tyler’s a good kisser?[Laughs] Well, obviously like this cast is filled with treasures. It’s hard to pick one, but I don’t know, Jane Seymour was kind of an exciting thing for me, for everybody, because she’s such a legend. She’s incredibly down to earth and she’s incredibly willing to share, and you can really ask her anything. I really savored whenever she would talk or tell a story. She’s amazing. I’m such a huge fan of hers, but to hear her talk and like everyone was kind of like, “Jane’s speaking.”
Aisha is amazing. I’ve known of her for so long, but we’d never gotten to work together and maybe we’d met in passing but getting to really spend time with people is really fun. And also the thing about the set was that this house we were shooting was at the top of a hill… and the trailer was at the bottom of the hill, and none of us even bothered going to the trailer [in between scenes]. So the difference making this movie was we actually spent time together. There were so many surprises along the way and [we got] to actually hang with our castmates. That’s not something that always happens.
This was actually made years before Dollface. So this was my first job with Malin. We made this a long time ago. So I met and fell in love with Malin and I was like, “Oh my God, would you like ever come work on this show I am doing?”
She is so terrific in Dollface.
Yeah, She’s great. She’s awesome.
Of course, Ben Stiller is one of the producers on Friendsgiving along with Malin and all the other folks at Red Hour Films. Ben is such of gifted as a writer, director, producer, and actor, and he wears all those hats so incredibly well. Did he have any sort of influence on the production?
Well, I wish he had more for me, personally, but I know that he had a bunch of influence early on in the film putting it together, and Nicky Weinstock — another producer who is Ben’s partner at his company — was there every minute of every day. Nicky is why I was in this movie. He gave me the script early on and I was like, “Oh my God, I must be in this.” So yeah, I think Ben Stiller had a lot of influence, especially in compiling all of these actors. I think he’s the reason why all of these actors were so excited to do this, just because anything Ben Stiller makes is going to be great. Obviously, it’s going to be really funny, but he also has very discerning taste. I think he’s really made a name for himself. I think you can trust something that he makes. That’s how I felt. I think that’s how everybody felt, too.
Ben can act and direct. You have the same situation with Nicole, who has been in some of Ben’s productions. Having worked with Nicole Paone on this film, or maybe even going back to Kenneth Branagh on Thor. I’m wondering how much of advantage you might have as an actor knowing that the filmmaker understands an actor’s sensibilities?
Personally, I think it makes a huge difference. I think I’ve noticed certainly when I’ve worked with actors to have become directors or actors who are also directors or whatever. They really understand your side of things, your side of the camera and it seems that they’re extra sensitive towards the actor. There’s nothing against a director who isn’t also an actor because [directors] are amazing, but [actor-directors] just have a certain intuitiveness working with actors because they’ve been there. They understand. There’s so much anxiety at times as an actor because you’re out there. That’s all there is. It’s just you and your dumb brain.
Also, having Nicole there, being so tuned in [was important since] I’m also playing Nicole. This is Nicole’s story, which is also why I was so honored that she asked me to do it. This is a very personal story for Nicole. I mean, she came out late in her 30s, which I think is a more relatable story than people might expect. I think it was such an important time in her life, and she was still really close to that time, the events of the breakup and the heartbreak that is something we’ve all dealt with before. So for me, it’s easy to access. It was a really special relationship. She did such a great job. This is her first movie that she’s directing and it’s a huge deal… sometimes with a first-time director, you can kind of tell they haven’t done it before, but with her, it seemed very natural.
I have to bring up Thor because you brought so many beams of light to that movie as Darcy Lewis. I thought the film showed yes, while Thor is literally the center of the universe, there is room in the Marvel Cinematic Universe for interesting characters like Darcy, too. I think that attributes to the MCU’s overall success because every character, whether you are a superhero — or a scientist, in your case — brings something to the movies.
Everyone who works with Marvel is a fan of the comics. This is their passion and that really shows. And there’s definitely no character that’s a small character to them and their projects. If you’re there, you need to be there. There’s nobody in there that doesn’t need to add to the story. They’re so deliberate with the people and characters they put in and often, they have a big payoff later, which is kind of the case with me. I’m so lucky that they actually brought Darcy back for WandaVision, which is coming out this coming year on Disney+. Obviously, it’s like a huge secret thing, like they always are. But anyone who liked Darcy in those Thor movies will be like, “Oh my God, this is it.” I mean, for me, I just couldn’t believe they were giving me this gift because being in any of Marvel’s work is a huge honor.
I know Marvel keeps a tight lid on things, but what can you tell me about WandaVision? I know people are asking you again and again about it, and I’m not looking for the scoop here since I respect the nondisclosure stuff, but is there anything about Darcy’s involvement that you can tell me at this point?
Well, I certainly can’t say anything exciting or overly descriptive, but I will say that I was surprised by what they do with Darcy. It’s very exciting. It was exciting for me. I mean, anyone who’s a fan of Darcy will be very happy. It was, it was like… yeah, I can’t say any more, or Marvel will come take me out! [Laughs]
Oh, believe me, I don’t want you to stumble and tell me because I don’t like spoilers. But again, as you say, it’s an honor. What an honor it is when you’re thinking, “Well, maybe my work as Darcy is done” and all of a sudden you in another Marvel project, which is so cool.
I know. It’s been almost 10 years. Once you’re in the Marvel Universe, you never know what could happen, really.
So is a question about Thor: Love and Thunder completely off the table? We do have Natalie Portman in it, So let’s hope Darcy shows up, too.
I’ve been asked about this and I don’t think I’m in it if I’m being honest. I think I would have heard by now. [Laughs] The truth is I don’t know, but I’m guessing it’s probably not going to happen. They could CGI me into it, though, without my knowledge!
Back when the first Thor came out in 2011, Chris Hemsworth, for all intents and purposes here in the U.S., was an unknown. But with the movie, you were in the interesting position of seeing up close whether this guy was actually the right guy to play Thor. It had to have been a heck of a deal to step into the shoes of an iconic character and carry the weight of expectations on his shoulders. That must have been an amazing time for you seeing an actor like Chris, no matter how many credits he had before that, really come into his own in a role like Thor.
Oh, yeah. There’s no question that he was the guy. He’s a tall strapping guy just naturally anyway, but he just has this [thing about him]. There was no question that he was the perfect guy to play Thor. I think I came in for the table read or something at the studio and they were doing a fight rehearsal off to the side, and I just saw him like swinging a thing around, like doing a flip, and I was like, “Oh, okay!” [Laughs] He has such a special star quality. You know, he reminds me of the old movie stars. He’s so handsome and he’s so sweet, and he’s so funny. He’s really, really funny. I think people know that by now. We were super close and super tight during that movie and we spent a lot of time together; we were buds and he’s one of the funniest people I’ve ever met.
Well, if you’re still tight, give him a call about getting into Thor: Love and Thunder, okay?
I’ll see who I can call [laughs].
Dennings’ latest film is the comedy Friendsgiving, which is now playing in theaters and is available on digital, Blu-ray, and DVD.
Written by Tim Lammers for Looper.