It’s 10 a.m. on a Wednesday in September, and no space in Manhattan holds more energy, laughter and love than the "Addicted to Fresno" press room at the Loews Regency Hotel. Instead of my two originally planned back-to-back interviews, one with director Jamie Babbit, and a subsequent one with stars Natasha Lyonne and Judy Greer, I’m thrust into an impromptu four-on-one with all three women plus the screenwriter and Babbit’s wife, Karey Dornetto (“Portlandia”).
As Greer and Babbit discuss the actress’ A.L.C. dress and her “Gay Academy Award" -- referring to the Outfest Best Actress award Greer won for the film earlier this year -- Lyonne walks in last, wearing sunglasses and amped as ever. "Hi guys! Good morninggg," Lyonne says gleefully. "Is this too far away?" Lyonne shouts from across the room as she plops down on one of the awkwardly spaced-out chairs in the hotel suite. "I’m just gonna talk at this volume, seems totally normal," she yells. "What if I was just pretending to be funny, but in fact I was losing my hearing?"
After more giggles about the chairs, chatter surrounding Lyonne’s Prada boots and reminiscing about the “But I’m a Cheerleader” anniversary feature for which I talked to Babbit and Lyonne last summer, we get into “Addicted to Fresno.” The dark comedy stars Lyonne and Greer as sisters, but in roles opposite of what you’d expect. Lyonne is Martha, a lesbian living a content life as a homeowner who works as a hotel maid in the Central California city. Greer plays Shannon, Martha’s erratic, impulsive, sex addict sister, who arrives to incite much unexpected chaos. When Shannon accidentally kills a hotel guest, the sisters attempt to get rid of the body with one plan that includes robbing a sex shop, followed by a hilarious dildo montage.
The Huffington Post caught up with the four women to talk about the female-centric film and Lyonne and Greer swapping their usual archetypes, only to sit back and overhear many sarcastic jokes, tangents, and the oral history (no pun intended) of how Adam Goldberg’s dick divided, and then brought together, Lyonne and Greer. (For clarity: the actor Adam Goldberg, not the other one.)
It’s rare to see so many comedic actresses in a film made by women about women. How did "Fresno" come about?
Babbit: I’ll tell you the genesis of the movie, which is basically, Karey and I are wives. Karey is a television writer and she had never done a movie before. She said, "I want to write a movie for you," and I said, "Pitch me some ideas and I’ll see if I like them or not." So she pitched me like three ideas, and I chose this idea. It was very general. It was just like, sisters, one is a lesbian and one is her sister.
Dornetto: It was based on me and my sister.
Babbit: And I knew that was very bright fodder because she has an extremely complicated relationship with her sister. Case in point, at the premiere of our movie she made her cry.
Lyonne: But it was allergy-related. [Laughs.]
Greer: Yeah, she threw hot sauce in her eyes.
Babbit: I knew there was a lot there. So we developed the script for two years. And then we texted Natasha and said, “Hey, can we send you a script?"
Lyonne: I was obviously over the moon at working together again. And I’m a big major fan of Karey, as a human being and a writer -- against the advice of many friends, mind you. But it was a no-brainer. If they had sent it to me and it was one scene, which I always assume because of my self-esteem, I would’ve been like, "Oh, yeah sure." So I was really shocked and surprised. I knew, obviously, Jamie personally, but I was so surprised that such a good movie was coming to me as a first-choice person, to be totally honest.
Babbit: I can’t remember if you said, "Do you really want me to play Martha?"
Yeah, the roles are very reversed.
Babbit: But it was very similar to the part she played in "Cheerleader," so in my creative mind, I know she’s really good at that part.
Lyonne: I loved the idea that only Jamie seems to me as so specifically and so successfully based on "Cheerleader" as that kind of a person, which I think --
Babbit: Is so different from who you are.
Lyonne: It’s so different from who I am and yet in other ways, there are a lot of aspects of Martha that probably are closer to me. Out there in the real world where there’s real tough people who are really sexually addicted, the real darkness that Judy gets into, I am definitely friendlier than that, certainly in my healthy life.
Babbit: And you can relate to the shiny, happy enabler in all of us.
Lyonne: But I guess only for like an hour a day. Like, I spend 23 hours being really sick in the head. And for one hour a day I’m like super-Martha.
Greer: I feel like your hour for Martha per day, though, is cut up into 10 minute increments.
Lyonne: That’s an excellent observation.
Greer: I don’t get an hour of that version of you. "Greer, Greer, I love you!" "Greer, Greer don’t touch me, I’m too hot." "Why aren’t you talking to me?!" "OK, I need to just go smoke a cigarette."
Lyonne: [Laughs.] This is a fair assesment!
Greer: I really love those 10 minutes so much.
Babbit: I can say the opposite about Judy. I worked with her on "Married" and I was blown away by what a talented actress she was. I came to her and offered her the part that was litterally the opposite of who she is.
Greer: I’m a 23-and-a-half-hours-a-day enabler, and 30 minutes of "Fuck you!" I started reading this script and I couldn’t believe the same thing. There’s a cover letter that comes when you get the script that said, "Please take a look at the role of Shannon." And I said, "No, that’s wrong. So wrong."
Babbit: You also made a career of playing the Martha.
Greer: The doormat. Yeah, I’m really good at that, so that was crazy to read it.
Lyonne: I am presently, in real-time, obsessed with Judy Greer. I was so blown away at the idea of being able to work with you, especially in this capacity of us getting real parts under the direction of a real person. [...] It’s so rare that you get to have a major role with somebody heavy like Judy to play opposite, under somebody like Jamie who’s a director I can trust. And I’m just a big fan of Judy’s from a distance.
Greer: I also changed your life. Do you remember what I told you?
Lyonne: Are we talking about the boyfriend situation?
Greer: So for 10-plus years, she thought --
Lyonne: So we all have ex-boyfriends, some of us more than others. [Babbit and Dornetto laugh.] I obviously was aware of Judy Greer. [In a mocking tone] She’s a funny, amazing actress. "Oh my god, everybody loves Judy Greer. Judy Greer can do no wrong." And I’m like yeah, Judy Greer’s great, except that she fucked my ex-boyfriend after we broke up. [Everyone laughs.] So I always liked Judy Greer, but I remember Chloe [Sevigny], who’s my best friend, did a movie with Judy Greer. Comes home from the movie, won’t shut up about Judy Greer. "Oh my god, Judy Greer is so fucking amazing! I love her. I’ve never liked working with somebody so much in my life." I’m like, "Thanks buddy, I’ve worked with you a bunch." Just on and on, it’s like "The Judy Greer Show." And that's great. So when I get this call and on the first day I’m like, "Hey, buddy," because in my mind, for about 15 years, I’m like, "Judy Greer’s that wonderful actress. Didn’t she … ?" Long story short: it never happened, but in my mind --
Greer: We never hooked up!
Lyonne: Finally I just told her, "Judy, isn’t it great we have that specific penis in common?" And Judy was like, "Which one?" And I was like, "Ya know the one, buddy."
Did you know, Judy?
Greer: No, I had no idea that she thought that … because we never really met.
Lyonne: The guy in question is Adam Goldberg because they’d done "The Hebrew Hammer" together. And I remember right after Adam and I, who was a real boyfriend of mine, we went out for like two years --
Greer: He was f**ked up over you when we shot that movie.
Lyonne: Thank you!
Greer: You're welcome!
Lyonne: Uh, so you know, that was where I left it with him. I thought I really solidified that destruction. And in my mind, they went off and did a movie together and he was just in love with Judy Greer. I don’t know why in my alcoholic warped mind I decided that that was reality, but I never checked in with anyone about it and I just sort of carried it with me for like, the better part of a decade. Until finally being face-to-face with Judy Greer and being like, "Hey, you like f**king Adam Goldberg too, huh?!"
Greer: I had a boyfriend at the time!
Lyonne: Apparently. I still only like, 85 percent believe her.
Greer: Did I tell you about when Adam called me?
Lyonne: No, what happened?
Greer: Adam called me not too long ago, it was maybe before we shot the movie. But he called, and I’m like, "Hey what’s going on?" And he goes, "Ugh. I dialed the wrong Judy." And I was like, "Alright, um … "
Lyonne: They’re still f**king! How much more evidence does a person need?
Greer: You were so tripped out over it. For like, many days after, "So you really didn’t f**k Adam Goldberg? Swear to god?" She couldn’t.
Lyonne: Because every time I would see Judy Greer’s name in a movie, which is like on a daily basis, I was like, "Oh, that’s the girl who f**ked my boyfriend!"
Greer: Yeah, it’s like walking through a glass door. I just recently walked through a glass door. It was terrifying. And now I feel like, how do I know there’s not a glass door in front of me all the time?
Last question. So, uh, is there gonna a be a sequel?
Greer: Yeah. We’re going to do a sequel, we might be writing it ourselves.
Lyonne: Sorry, Karey.
Greer: Yeah, we’re definitely gonna do a sequel.
Lyonne: It’s actually just called "Addicted 2 Fresno" so it’s going to be very confusing. But whatever, we’re gonna stick with it. We’ve given it a lot of thought, we know what we’re doing.
This interview has been edited and condensed, even though there were many more wonderful interjections, courtesy of Lyonne and Greer.
"Addicted to Fresno" is now available on VOD and hits theaters on Oct 2.
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