Interview: Rachel McAdams Embraces Physical Comedy For Morning Glory

Regardless of how you feel about the fluffy and sunny new romantic comedy Morning Glory-- I, for one, loved it-- everyone agrees that Rachel McAdams is terrific in it, playing the goofy and determined and utterly endearing Becky Fuller, a TV producer given the break of a lifetime when she's hired for the national morning show Daybreak. The movie is about her tackling the challenges of her job and growing up a little in the process, but it's also something of a romantic comedy between her and Harrison Ford's character, a veteran newsman who challenges her at every time when she hires him as the show's co-host.

Morning Glory marks the first time McAdams has starred in a comedy, but she's been showing her chops all the way from her iconic Mean Girls character Regina George up to last year's Sherlock Holmes, where she more than held her own against the boys. I've admired her work so much that I was almost anxious to meet her for our interview last Saturday-- what if she wasn't as relaxed, friendly and funny as she came across onscreen? Of course, I was foolish to worry-- within 30 seconds we were gabbing about shoes, and the transcript of the interview is frequently broke up by giggles. But you know, the very professional kind.

Read below as we talk about the gorgeous but slightly impractical dress she wears in the film's last scene, her comedic influences, the first job she had that stressed her out, and why she and director Roger Michell disagreed over something as simple as walking through a door. Morning Glory is in theaters everywhere today.

I've been discussing with other people who saw the movie if you could really get away with wearing a dress to a job interview like the one you wear at the end of the movie [when her character Becky is given an interview for her dream job at the Today show]. Do you think you could?

Well, no. Roger was like, "I want a flowy dress," because of the running, so that's where the focus was. You would think there would be a million flowy dresses all over New York City, and we spent months looking for the perfect flowy running dress. We were going crazy over it. The reality of it kind of went out the window.

What I like about that is there's a fantasy element, wish fulfillment to it. The movie can be really realistic, but do you see that side too?

Roger was very conscious of that, that office building that goes up forever-- he called it heaven. It was actually an empty building, and they went in and whited out that room. That was his vision. Becky has been invited to heaven, and does she really want to be there?

I really identified with this movie and the way the character is such a workaholic. Do you identify with that part of the character as well?

I definitely related to when you get that first shot at something, and you put so much pressure on it. "If this doesn't work out, I'll never get the chance to do it again." I didn't get my first pilot that I screen-tested for, and I really thought it was the end of the world. But it's fine, you know, you move on to something else. But Becky really feels the weight of the world on her shoulders, and consequently, all this bad behavior comes out of that.

Would Mean Girls have been the one big "don't blow that." or did it come earlier than that?

It definitely came earlier than that. The first thing I was hired for, I was a wreck. It was a three-day job on a kid's TV show, and I was a mess.

Do you do that kind of acting in this where you have to bring yourself back to that stress, to play Becky when she's stressed? I think you can have the sense memory of what it was like without actually having to torture yourself. But I really liked that about this character. Her inside voice is on the outside. She really manifests her feelings, and she's a bit of a goofball and a bit scatterbrained. She's not the one in front of the camera, which is not the role I'm usually playing. It was a nice opportunity to play a girl who's a bit of a mess, who's responsible for keeping everything together.

I know you researched morning shows for the role, but you've also appeared on them to promote other movies. What was that experience like, going behind the camera?

It was totally surreal. I was on the Today show, and they made me cue the show. They got wind I was playing the part and they were like, "Okay, you cue the show!"

You were there to promote something else?

I think I was doing Time Traveler's Wife or State of Play or something like that, and they found out that i was going to come back and do research on the show. They said, "Why don't you start right now?"

You described Becky as kind of a goofball, and there's a physicality to your role that you don't see much for actresses. Do you have any influences for that physical, outward kind of comedy?

Maybe subconsciously I saw the physical comedy when I read it, but Roger really pushed that. Like, I was falling down stairs the first day. And I was like, "Alright, I'm up! I'm good!" We just kicked it off with a bang. [As for influences] Joan Cusack is one of my favorite comedic actresses, and every part she plays is so different. She does the wackiest stuff and somehow it works. I like watching her a lot, and I think you can always go further and pull back. That's something I really have to work on. I think it's better to go big, and then you can back down.

That scene where she goes to Adam's office (Patrick Wilson) and mimes the rowing and that silly stuff, that seems like a moment where you could go bigger and then back off.

That scene Roger and I didn't really see eye-to-eye on-- "Would I really jump into his office? That seems like an invasion of privacy," and he's like, "No! People do it all the time!" I would never, ever jump into someone's office, but she totally would. It was really fun.

It sounds like you and Roger were really partners on putting this together. Did you have those kinds of conversations about a lot of scenes?

Yeah. Roger has a theater background, so we did rehearsals, which is not common in film anymore. We sat down with everybody and worked stuff out. We talked a lot and just hashed things out. He's a very funny man. He's got that dry British sense of humor, and he's got a good sense of comedy, much better than myself.

You start realizing over the course of the movie that it's really kind of a romance between your character and Harrison Ford's. Did you see it that way too?

I thought that was done really well in the movie. That relationship culminated to a really nice point in the end. And it is kind of unexpected, and not the typical relationship you would expect a movie to be centered around. It's so often the straight-up romance, and this is more of a platonic romance and there's mentoring there, and friendship, and it's antagonistic, and I thought it was unique.

This is the first time you've been the lead of a romantic comedy like this. Were you waiting for something like this that was more unique than what you usually see?

Yeah, it was different. And Roger's really great at that. He doesn't just focus on boy-meets-girl. You look at Notting Hill, there's such a great cast of peripheral characters, and I think he did the same thing with this movie. And New York is so full of the best unemployed actors on the planet, and he brought them all into this one.

Katey Rich

Staff Writer at CinemaBlend