When you think of the legendary Angela Bassett and the incredible Patricia Arquette, it's easy to assume that these talented, acclaimed actresses aren't scared of a damn thing. They're powerful and iconic — Hollywood symbols of strength and drive. But it turns out, there is one thing that terrifies both of them: Comedy.
The duo star alongside Felicity Huffman in Otherhood, Netflix's new rom-com (or as some have referred to it, mom-com) about three mothers whose sons don't visit them on Mother's Day. Putting aside how wild it is that three young men can't get their lives together long enough to at least send flowers to the women who bore them, the story goes that the trio of empty-nesters decide to take matters into their own hands and swoop into their sons' New York City apartments for the week. The sons freak out, the moms get drunk on a wild night out, and hilarity ensues. But the goofier, slapstick moments were pretty new territory for Bassett and Arquette.
"I think the line between comedy and drama, in life, is very thin. There's so much drama in comedy and comedy in drama, but to have actresses like [Angela, Patricia] and Felicity that have that gravitas and depth and everything to draw on to make it real, but who can play the comedy too, I just felt so lucky," the film's director and co-writer Cindy Chupack tells Refinery29.
"You really stepped out on faith with that one," adds Bassett, with a laugh. "We're two drama queens."
Being in it for 30 years, you want something new and fresh, something that just scares you a little bit, gets you awake, gives you a little chill every morning.
"[We're] not your go-to thought," offers Arquette, with a soft chuckle. "I'm aware that I'm kind of green in comedy. I've done Flirting With Disaster, some little comedies here and there, and 'The Last Fuckable Day' but it is a challenge."
And while Arquette is known most widely for roles like her Oscar-winning turn in Boyhood and Bassett's storied career includes an Oscar nomination for playing Tina Turner in What's Love Got To Do With It, the new Netflix movie finds them day drinking on an impromptu jaunt to Manhattan, dancing the night away at a club, and dealing with the inevitable (and quite literal) hangover of it all. The script called for a lot of slapstick and pitch-perfect comedic timing, something that legitimately scared both actors — in a good way.
"Being in it for 30 years, you want something new and fresh, something that just scares you a little bit, gets you awake, gives you a little chill every morning," says Bassett, pantomiming that feeling with a shimmy and a proud smile.
Luckily, the two actors were joined by Huffman, who's had a bit more experience with the level of comedy needed for the new movie.
"[Felicity] had more experience with this. We were talking about the comedic timing and looking at how she looked at the jokes or the breakdown of a scene," says Arquette. "It was cool to see her process because comedy is different and it is a little scary. It only works if it seems real."
It would seem, however, that neither Bassett nor Arquette had all that much to be afraid of. Both deliver hilarious performances and Arquette even created one of the best visual gags in the movie herself. The scene in question has the moms all hungover, stumbling around their hotel room. Arquette decided to put her character's shirt on inside out and backwards and while it's simple, it's a pretty funny touch to the scene, one Arquette says came very naturally to her.
"The reason I did that was because when I was working on [the TV show] Medium, I'd have to get up at five in the morning all the time and I was so exhausted, I went to work once and I had my underwear on inside out and sideways, so the crotch part was on my side," she says, clutching her hand to her forehead. "And I was like, 'How is your underwear inside out and sideways? That's beyond.'"
Apparently, using that very, uh, personal memory for Otherwood was worth it though — at least according to Chupack: "It gets a laugh every time," she says.
Otherhood is available to stream on Netflix now.