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Interview: Krysten Ritter and Kat Coiro Talk L!fe Happens

In comedies like “Confessions of a Shopaholic” and “She’s Out of My League,” Krysten Ritter showcased her skill with quick-witted dialogue and a bitchy quip. In her new film “L!fe Happens,” however, she gets to inhabit a much more fully developed and no less endearing and amusing character, as a single mom living under the same roof with two friends. Co-written by Ritter and her good friend, the movie’s director, Kat Coiro, over three-and-a-half years, and then shot in Los Angeles in 17 days with a pulled-together cast populated with loads of known faces (including Kate Bosworth, Rachel Bilson, Geoff Stults and Justin Kirk in prominent roles, plus Jason Biggs and Kristen Johnston in great supporting turns), it’s a fun, robust flick honestly rooted in characterizations instead of merely sitcom contrivance. ShockYa recently had a chance to chat with Ritter and Coiro, about the long road traveled in getting the movie to the screen, their pool skills, and the solicitation of Chamillionaire’s “Ridin’ Dirty” for the soundtrack. The conversation is excerpted below:

ShockYa: One of the interesting things the movie gets into is this idea of overlapping friendships, latent competitiveness, and how bringing together friends from different arenas or spheres can bring about a certain anxiety — that girls [can] go through break-ups with other girls, really.

Krysten Ritter: I guess I do this with men, too, but you can stop talking to them. I’ve heard of some girlfriends of mine who’ve kind of broken up with other friends, and had a talk, like, “I can’t be around you anymore, we can’t be friends.” It’s so crazy.

Kat Coiro: There’s something about women where they love to talk, and get intimate and share secrets from their souls. And so when a rift comes there’s this great depth of emotion, [because] you know all of these things about me that [I] don’t want anyone to know. So it becomes very tenuous and dangerous in a way. From my experience, and I don’t want to make a blanket statement, but men sit around and don’t talk, they watch sports —

Ritter: And they grunt!

Coiro: My husband will go out with his friends and I’ll ask him what he did and he’ll say nothing. And it’s true.

Ritter: I know people who’ve gone out with your husband, and that’s true, they don’t speak to each other!

Coiro: I can’t imagine it. But I think that level of intimacy and constant talking and getting to know one another makes it that much more fraught when something goes wrong. And so I think that the thing you’re latching onto in the script is genuine, because Krysten and I wrote the script together over many years, and we’re very good friends, but as you create things together and your careers go in different directions I think there are tensions that ebb and flow. I think we put a lot of that — not just our relationship, but other relationships we’ve seen, especially in Hollywood — into that script, where one girl is going one way and the other is going the other direction, and so how do you continue to grow together, if you can at all. Sometimes it takes a break, and coming back and appreciating that person because you haven’t been with them.

ShockYa: Another heartening thing is that the movie doesn’t fall victim to some of the more tired cliches of [movies about young parents].

Ritter: It’s weird. I’m the same age and Kat has two babies now, my other best friend in New York has an almost-two-year-old, and it really does change things. Everything is different. You can’t just fly off for the weekend. But I still don’t feel at all ready to have kids. I still feel like I’m 19 years old.

Coiro: There are so many vast, different portrayals of womanhood. You have Fallon (Goodson’s) character, who is described as a “pop-tard,” because she just likes to go to concerts and hang out. And then there’s Kate (Bosworth’s) character, who is very career-driven. There’s Rachel (Bilson’s) character, who’s kind of marching to her own drummer. And there’s Andrea (Savage’s) character, who is the stay-at-home “sancti-mommy” who lives for her child. And then with Krysten’s character, what I find very interesting is that she doesn’t know where she fits, and it’s about that journey of finding where you fit. We always talked about the fact that we’ve seen the prototype of the guy who doesn’t know how to take care of a kid, or a dad that’s fainting in the delivery room — totally accepted and fine. But we’ve never really seen much of the mother who’s struggling to figure out how to do this. You either see the awful drug addict mom or the really good mom with the perfect house. So we wanted to explore that place (in between). Yeah, they live like boys — there are pizza boxes and beer bottles, and she doesn’t know yet how to reconcile meeting guys and saying, “Yeah, I’m a mother — do you want to date me?” There’s a lot of taboo subjects couched in this fluffy, fun romantic comedy that we’re really happy to have brought to light.

ShockYa: In co-writing the screenplay, was it delving into some of your own (past and shared) relationships or more observation of others?

Ritter: It’s a little bit of both. You start from a place of truth and then it all gets embellished. With Kat, there was some stuff that I watched her do — like, we’d be going to some sample sale and she’d be carrying this and this and this {wildly gesticulating}, and we’d get her a fancy purse so she doesn’t have to have this dorky diaper bag. And she’d have toothpaste in her hair and not even notice. So that sort of frazzled-and-hands-full [demeanor] was definitely real, and based on her.

Coiro: And small details [like] where she changes the baby in the backseat of the car — those are the details that I look at and say, “Oh, that comes directly from that time in my life.” The characters take on a life of their own, especially when you [hire] the actors. …But going back and watching, I can’t tell or remember if Krysten wrote [this certain bit] or I did; I don’t even remember where it came from because it’s taken on this life of its own.

ShockYa: How was the working with children?

Ritter: We didn’t want the parents from “Borat,” … or, no, the German one, “Bruno,” where (in audition scenes for a fake Hollywood movie) they’re like, “We’ll have to drop your baby from a two-story building,” and they’re like, “OK!”

Coiro: I looked at a bunch of photos of cute babies and we found these parents who were like, “Well, we have twins and heard that you can get a college savings going if you put them in show business.” And they were amazing. I remember being in the editing room and seeing that moment where the baby says, “Dada!” and I was like, “I take full credit for that direction!” And another one of my favorite behind-the-scenes moments is when baby Max stands up. We were planning an editorial trick, shooting the scene and then (an insert) with the baby standing up… and we turned the camera on her — one of the babies playing Max was actually a girl — and when [Krysten] went to answer the phone she stood up. It was amazing, she took her first step ever on camera. It was such a beautiful real moment.

ShockYa: How did the [opening credits] song from Chamillionaire come about?

Coiro: We always wrote that scene with the idea that they’re listening to mainstream fun hip-hop, but then when we heard some of the lyrics to that song — like, “Just tryin’ to bone, ain’t tryin’ to have no babies” — and the double entendre of “Ridin’ Dirty,” with dirty diapers, we knew it [had to be that]. …I just tracked down his contact information somehow, I think through a web site, and left a random email message or comment. And then my phone rang like two hours later, and he was like, “This is Chamillionaire.” I thought someone was pulling a prank on me! But I just said, “So I think I know exactly what you were thinking about when you wrote this song — two white girls driving around in a Prius.” And he laughed. It was good, and he gave us the song at a big discount.

ShockYa: There have been plenty of female comedic ensembles, but the huge commercial success of “Bridesmaids” has probably changed some of the perceptions you encountered while trying to get your movie made. What was that process like, [scraping together] independent financing?

Coiro: I think you’re right, that “Bridesmaids” is going to be a watershed benchmark, and we were before “Bridesmaids.” A lot of what we came up against was people saying, “We love the dialogue, we love the characters, but we never want to see this mother not being a good mother.” [But] where’s the arc of the character if you take away her struggle with finding her maternal instinct? And we also encountered, “Oh, these girls talk kind of bad, and they’re kind of slutty.” And we wanted to do a female buddy comedy, but how do we make them not slutty? Adding the baby to that helped ground them, because they have something they need to be responsible about.

ShockYa: So, Krysten, a question of detail — are you so good at pool that you can intentionally scratch on the first take every time, or are you so bad that that’s just what happens?

Ritter: Well, to be fair it was a bad rack. That’s actually how Kat and I first bonded; we were serious pool sharks.

Coiro: We hustled some guys at a JiffyLube convention the first time we met. We were (on location) staying in a hotel in Michigan and took on these people.

Ritter: I scratched three times in a row (in the movie), actually. It was insane. But that was just a happy accident. I wish I could take more credit, but…

ShockYa: In regards to casting the film, Krysten, were you always going to be the lead?

Ritter: When we originally set out to do it, we didn’t really have any specific goal. I thought maybe I’d play Kate’s part. We didn’t really know what we were going to do, we just wanted to write something and have fun. And then the script got out there and got some attention and kind of changed the landscape for both Kat and I. And then (after) we went through this horrible development, with pretty much every incarnation of the script that you can imagine, then we decided to just go and make that little script that everyone responded to in the first place. I said I’ll be in it, you’ll direct it — that’s what we were both doing three years later anyway. So Kat was friends with Kate (Bosworth), and I was friends with Geoff (Stults) and Justin Kirk and Kristen Johnston, and Kat was friends with Jason Biggs. Rachel (Bilson) I met through Josh Schwartz, and so we literally called in as many favors as we could, put together a little package and went and found the money. There’s definitely a homespun element to it.

Coiro: And someone like Kate isn’t known as a comedic actress, so there’s this balance of doing something mutually beneficial and fun. I think people love seeing Kate in that different capacity. We kind of hope that everyone walks away with that feeling.

Ritter: As an actor, if you’re going to do an independent film and literally not get paid to do it, I don’t want to do something I’ve done 10 times. So I think it was a nice opportunity for everyone, myself included, to do play something a little different and be seen in a different light — especially Kate, who really wanted to do a comedy.

Coiro: We met doing a Funny or Die! sketch that I wrote and directed… and I remember saying to both Kate and Zoe Saldana, “I can’t believe you guys are doing this for free — thank you, thank you, thank you!” And Zoe said, “Don’t thank me, I’ve never done a scene with a woman.” And I remember thinking — and even texting Krysten at the time — “Holy shit, there’s a void for women, and I think especially pretty women, to be funny and not just play the foil.” It was that moment where I thought we can get this puppy up and running if we capitalize on that idea.

ShockYa: Krysten, in regards to “Don’t Trust the B,” is Chloe as evil as she comes across in the commercials?

Ritter: Oh yes, she’s so the opposite of [my character in this], she’s completely evil — a total psychopath, but in the best possible way. It’s really crazy and fun, I promise. Two episodes are available on and iTunes — they released them as a preview already, so check it out.

“Don’t Trust the B—- In Apartment 23” premieres on ABC Wednesday night, April 11. “L!fe Happens” opens Friday, April 13 in a dozen select markets; for additional information visit

Written by: Brent Simon

Krysten Ritter and Kat Coiro in L!fe Happens

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A graduate of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Brent Simon is a three-term president of LAFCA, a contributor to Screen International and Magill's Cinema Annual, and film editor of H Magazine. He cannot abide a world without U2 and pizza.

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