Zoe Kazan at the New York premiere of The Big Sick. Image by: Getty
We have a very Canadian conversation with the star of The Big Sick.
Zoe Kazan is on a bit of a Margaret Atwood kick. The actress read The Blind Assassin recently and promised herself she’d finish The Handmaid’s Tale before watching the TV series. It’s not the, um, frothiest summer read we can imagine, but Kazan couldn't be more into it. (It’s one of the greats!” she says.) Besides, she always likes to have a novel when she’s zipping through her home base NYC on the subway.
That’s where we’ve reached her today to talk about her new movie, The Big Sick. Part romantic comedy, part drama (rom-dramedy?), the movie is written by and based on the real-life romance of actor Kumail Nanjiani of Silicon Valley fame and his wife Emily V. Gordon. Emily fell into a coma while they were on-again, off-again and he has to deal with her protective parents (Holly Hunter and Ray Romano). Zoe – who we must point out is the granddaughter of Hollywood legend Elia Kazan – plays Emily, a role she says she knew she couldn't pass up…
What attracted you to this role? When I read the script, I felt like I had never seen this story before – it was new and so funny and it felt so real. And then obviously everybody involved I have so much admiration for, so it was kind of a no-brainer.
The romcom has definitely come a long way. They used to get such a bad rap… I do think romantic comedies get a bad rap; part of that I think has to do with the “chick flick” designation. But there are bad movies in every genre. Second of all, so many of my favourite films you could put under that rubric – movies like It Happened One Night, Bringing up Baby, Roman Holiday, The Palm Beach Story, When Harry Met Sally, Working Girl, the list goes on. I think [a rom com] is actually sometimes a coded way of saying a movie with a female lead that’s funny. It’s a maligned genre, but I really don’t think it has to do with the movies inside of it.
What’s been one of the biggest challenges of your career? I’m a very sensitive person, so learning how to kind of weather the storms of an acting career has been a process for me.
So no reading things about yourself online? Oh I definitely don’t read things online. I mean that’s like…
Survival? I think it’s also just filling up your life with other things to give you a source of self-esteem. That may just be part of the maturation process for all people – not putting all of your stock in either your relationship or your work or whatever is the greatest ego gratification for you. So finding ways of reminding myself that it’s not the only thing that is important in my life.
On a lighter note, you’ve worked a lot in Toronto, what were your fave haunts? Gosh there were so many things! I really liked eating at Fresh – love that place. And I was staying near Trinity Bellwoods Park. My favourite thing about living in New York that it’s a walking city and that was also my favourite thing about Toronto.
Finally, your red carpet style game is on point. How do you stay true to yourself while also making a fashion statement? Honestly I think it’s very hard to dress for the red carpet in a way that’s authentic to your actual style. You’re dependent on what is available to you – whether it’s loaned or what you can afford to buy. It’s also based on you being a sample size or having access to the right size for you to wear and that can be very complicated for a lot of people. I think that’s why sometimes red carpet style can get a little cookie-cutter. And so I just want to say – this is all within the privilege of being very naturally someone who is a sample size – it would be a lot more difficult for me if I weren’t and that, that’s a problem in the industry in general. I think for me one of the things I love about working with [her stylist] Leith Clark is that she really knows me as a person. We’re really close friends and so she knows my values and she knows my body and she’s seen me like wearing pyjamas, she’s seen me hungover in jeans. So, when she pulls things for me, there’s a baseline of self-knowledge that were already starting out – a lot of that kudos goes to her!