Andy Samberg Gets Romantic in ‘Celeste & Jesse’

Left to Right: Rashida Jones as Celeste and Andy Samberg as Jesse in “Celeste & James Forever.” ©Sony Pictures Classics. CR: David Lanzenberg.


Front Row Features

HOLLYWOOD—Departing “Saturday Night Live” cast member Andy Samberg reveals his romantic side in the comedy “Celeste & Jesse Forever.”

Samberg, 33, is best known for his comical Digital Shorts on the long-running sketch comedy series for seven seasons. He also has ventured into movies in recent years. He starred in the 2007 comedy “Hot Rod” and he played Adam Sandler’s long lost son earlier this year in “That’s My Boy.”

In “Celeste & Jesse Forever” Sandler plays a 30ish man who can’t seem to grow up, much to the distress of his much more accomplished wife, played by Rashida Jones, who co-wrote the script with Will McCormack, who also stars. The comedy, directed by Lee Toland Krieger, follows the couple’s breakup and details how some romances aren’t meant to last.

Samberg, a real life friend of Jones, didn’t set out to be in the bittersweet comedy about the end of a marriage, but became intrigued after he agreed to read it. Jones and her co-writer expanded Samberg’s Jesse as the film took shape.

While the Berkeley, Calif. born actor is known for playing broad comedy, he says it was a nice change of pace to play a more realistic, multi-layered character. He recently sat down with his lovely co-star and story creator to talk about his leading role and what’s ahead now that he’s announced he will not be returning to “SNL” this fall.

Front Row Features: Some of your fans may be expecting a broader comedy from you. This is more of a dramedy. Was it a conscious decision to do something a little more dramatic?

Samberg: It’s more about the script. I’m friends with Rashida and we’re both writers and she asked me to read it and tell her what I thought of it. I loved it and I loved the Jesse character. Of course, I would do something that was completely dramatic and obviously many times I’ve done things that are completely insane and comedic—that’s where I started and come from. But it’s more about whether it’s something I have a take on. It’s not like people are lining up to offer me dramatic roles either. I read the script and thought I could be really good at that and floated that out there to them.

Front Row Features: Did you do a lot of improvisation. For example, the scene where you and Rashida are speaking in German to each other?

Jones: The German was not improvised. The German was written. We did various versions of the opening, but the German ended up being the funniest.

Samberg: All the bits were in the script and then we would improvise those things within the realm.

Front Row Features: Can you talk about how this project came together?

Jones: Will and I had been talking about writing together throughout our 20s. It’s the thing you do in your 20s—you talk about doing something and then you don’t do it. Finally, we hunkered down and decided to write a script and I mentioned this idea, and we both felt there was a lot of terrain to uncover. We thought we’d sit and write it. Nobody has to see it if it sucks. If we can write 95 pages and it’s somewhat decent then we’ll show it to others.

Samberg: That was the game plan while she was writing. Now, everyone has to see it. (He laughs.)

Front Row Features: When Andy came onboard, did you beef up his role to give him more stuff to do?

Jones: Yes. It was more Celeste-oriented at the beginning but it’s a little more even now than it was before because the thing that works about the story is that relationship. That dynamic is interesting and complicated and flawed…

Samberg: …and fun and screwed up.

Front Row Features: Why did you decide to write a romantic comedy?

Jones: I like romantic comedies. I grew up watching them. I love parts of the convention. The idea was to try and create some sort of fresh approach to things we already knew. It was important to us that the pain (of the breakup) felt real. I’ve watched a lot of movies where they almost get it right but it doesn’t quite feel what my pain feels like. We were hoping to make it raw enough that it looks like your life in a way that’s painful and sometimes funny in a way that some studio movies don’t go for.

Samberg: That’s what I loved about the script; it’s so real. In real life, relationships are more complicated than (usually depicted in movies). You have a misunderstanding and then make up and live happily ever after. But in reality a relationship is more complex. It’s right and then it’s totally wrong or one person might think it’s right. Timing has so much to do with relationships succeeding in the real world and I feel that’s one of the important things that this movie does.

Front Row Features: How do you view these characters?

Samberg: Jesse is somebody who hasn’t realized his potential but has a big heart. He’s still holding on to something he had with Celeste that at the start of the movie she doesn’t feel anymore. Celeste is someone who wants to change him, which I think anyone who’s been in a relationship knows never works and it can be destructive. They have so much love and they connect so much. They have so much friendship and chemistry that it doesn’t occur to them that there’s a version of their lives that doesn’t involve them being together all the time. When circumstances intervene, it gets hard and very real. That reminded me of real life.

Jones: I feel like this particular dynamic is culturally endemic right now—the Peter Pan syndrome, man- child and this Type A woman who’s been supported by all the advantages of the feminist movement but unfortunately, the thing that suffers is her relationship.

Front Row Features: Does this story come from personal observation?

Jones: Yes. I see these two types of characters try to make it work all the time. Sometimes you create habits with people that are impossible to break. She’s the breadwinner and he’s the one being told what to do. The theme is that might never be able to be balanced.

Front Row Features: Did you see Jesse as lost as Celeste?

Samberg: I loved playing him because it wasn’t letting that character off the hook. That’s the reason why I love the script so much because relationships are never that cut and dried in real life. You have a breakup. You move on and you feel you’re doing better but you’re still not completely over what happened to you before. You hold onto it sometimes for the rest of your life, in good ways and bad ways. What happens to Jesse is circumstantial. It’s not like he made this great decision.

Front Row Features: Andy, you didn’t get a sendoff like Kristen Wiig did at the end of last season’s “Saturday Night Live?”

Samberg: At the end of the last season, I hadn’t officially announced I was leaving and Kristen had already announced to everyone on the show she was leaving, so her sendoff was appropriate. I sort of knew I was leaving so I had sort of a sendoff in the digital short. The last line of “Lazy Sunday 2” I said goodbye in my way and it was in a digital short where I really existed most on the show. So I felt very much at peace with it. I just wanted to make sure I talked to Lorne (Michaels) and paid my proper respects to him before I made any announcements, and I hadn’t a chance to do that yet (by the last show).

Front Row Features: Will you do any more digital shorts?

Samberg: Hopefully, yeah.  I don’t see why not. We’re hopefully going to make another Lonely Island record and there are videos for that. Hopefully, they’ll still air (on “SNL”).

Front Row Features:  Are you going to take on more dramatic roles such as Shakespeare next?

Samberg: Yeah. Hamlet in the Park. (He laughs.)