Seven questions for Rid of Me's Katie O'Grady. O'Grady, who plays Meris in the film, has received critical acclaim as a socially anxious woman who's forced into a divorce shortly after moving with her husband back to his hometown.
I don’t know if you’re aware of this, but you’ve been receiving a lot of high praise for your performance as Meris is Ride of Me. What’s your reaction to all of this?
Katie O’Grady: I’ll have to be honest with you, because I’ve read all of them. I’m really excited that people have been relating to Meris’s character, and particularly, a couple of people have said that I remind them of Kristen Wiig who is one of my biggest heroes on the planet along with Tina Fey. I don’t think you could say anything nicer to me than that. You try to take those moments with you and remember them when you come across something that somebody else might write that’s not as pleasant. I haven’t been doing this long enough to know better, so I have been reading all of the reviews, and I feel really grateful that so many people are relating to the character for sure.
What has it been like to have the opportunity to communicate with other filmgoers at the festival.
O’Grady: Well, we test-screened the film a couple of times before we brought it to Tribeca. I had more time [then] to meet people face to face. It’s been a little overwhelming because of the type of film that it is, and the type of role that I play. I think if it speaks to you it speaks really loud, and so the people who are taking the time to meet with me have had a pretty strong reaction and strong feelings. I’m trying to just be a good listener in those times and take it all in, rather than deflect it or push it aside or ignore it. I want to be present for the people who wants to relate and talk about the character, because I find that every time I watch it, it’s a different experience for me as well. Even though it’s a comedy, the film has stuff in it that speaks to people in their own lives, so it’s been really unique to get that face to face time at Tribeca.
Was the synopsis purely [director] James Westby’s idea or more of a collaboration?
O’Grady: James had already written the script seven years before I had ever read it. Actually, it’s almost exactly the same as the draft that I’d originally read. He added some things later and we did a few improv moments during the filming of it, but that was definitely his idea and his character development. Luckily for me as an actress he’s a very supportive director who embraces you taking on the part and taking over, and he just sits back and watches, and finds moments where you can expand it. I was lucky enough to read it and I begged him to produce it, but he’s already got the financing; that work was done by the time I got there.
Would you have gone up to sing that karaoke song in the bar with your ex-husband and his new girlfriend watching?
O’Grady: Oh my gosh, I would never go up and sing karaoke!
How much of you would you say is in Meris’s character?
O’Grady: A lot of Meris is not based on me. Having said that, every actor puts everything of themselves into the part. I think I related to her more in that I’ve been in situations in my life where I was on the wrong path, and I feel that I’m on the wrong path, and I just suffocate everyone around me and myself until I get going on the right one again. In that sense I related to her, but as far as her social anxiety and the way that she obsesses over her husband’s friends and what she’s doing wrong or what she should be doing better or how she should look, none of that is anything that I share in common with Meris. That said, a lot of it was based on James and his personal life. I know him very well, and at the time I was a very dear friend of his, so I did base a lot of my movement and body language and responses based on the director who wrote it, because it was all right there to use. Meris and I are very different, and that’s one of the reasons I lost so much weight and dyed my hair brown; it was to feel what she experienced physically. Even with things like not being able to make eye contact and not being able to think of what to say, but at the same time wanting the right answers, I learned a lot about myself by playing her.
What’s the most important message that a person should take away from Rid of Me?
O’Grady: Ah, you’re making me think here! There’s a lot of things I would want someone to take away from the film, but I had to pick just one thing that I feel shouts the loudest it’s do the right work to get on the right path. Meris was forced to have to find her own path. I don’t think she would’ve chosen to fight it out; she was forced to by getting a divorce. My message as a performer and producer and as a woman living my life, I would tell people to do the hard work, make the hard choices, walk away from the easy, and when you do you’ll really have the peace that Meris did by the end of the film. Because you literally are living the life that you were meant to live.
O’Grady: Producing-wise, I produced a short film called Hot in the Zipper which I also am in and it’s totally the opposite of the Meris. I play a very boisterous, sexy, loud-mouthed blonde who’s got lots of boyfriends. It was set in the 1940s. We’re now going to be turning that into a feature film because the short has gone over so well. That should be going into pre-production soon!