Nantucket Film Festival: Molly Shannon on How Motherhood, 'SNL' Informed Dramedy 'Other People'

Getty Images
Molly Shannon

The actress joins Oliver Stone as one of the high-profile honorees at the 21st edition of the island event, which runs through June 27.

Oliver Stone and Molly Shannon are among the stars set to be honored at this year's 21st annual Nantucket Film Festival, which kicks off today and runs through June 27.

The awards for the Oscar-winning director and actress, whose latest film, Other People, is screening at the festival, are among the highlights of the six-day event, which opened with a daytime screening of Finding Dory and an evening showing of Roger Ross Williams' Life, Animated, a documentary about an autistic boy who used Disney animated films to communicate with his family. The centerpiece film is the Norman Lear documentary, Just Another Version of You, directed by Heidi Ewing and Rachel Grady, who will be honored with the Special Achievement in Documentary Storytelling Award. The festival will close with Thor 3 director Taika Waititi's Hunt for the Wilderpeople. The festival will also feature two world premieres and virtual-reality experiences. Both Shannon and Stone will also participate in "In Their Shoes…" conversations with Michael Ian Black and Eugene Jarecki, respectively.

Speaking to The Hollywood Reporter, Shannon expressed her excitement about returning to Nantucket to accept the Compass Rose Acting Award for her performance in Other People, reflecting on how proud she is of the film.

"I've never received anything like that and it just feels so fun and exciting," Shannon says of the honor, which recognizes an actor who has inspired great storytelling in film.

The Saturday Night Live alum previously visited Nantucket with her kids and is looking forward to returning.

Other People, which had its world premiere at Sundance, follows a struggling comedy writer (Jesse Plemons) who returns to Sacramento to care for his dying mother (Shannon). SNL writer Chris Kelly scripted and makes his directorial debut with the film, which he based on personal experience. Shannon, who has two small children, called the script "breathtaking" and says she particularly related to the story as a mother.

"Just how much this mother would do for her family and how much her kids mean to her and how tough she was, that was really the part I related to the most," she says. "Going to the end of the world for your kids and fight as long as you could to be around for your kids."

NFF executive director Mystelle Brabbee adds that with her performance, Shannon demonstrates "that she's a very talented actor with the ability to straddle comedy and drama." The role, Brabbee argues, "has heart and edge and you're laughing out loud one minute and crying the next." THR previously praised Shannon's performance, with critic John DeFore saying in his Sundance review of Other People that she "shoulders a heavy dramatic load gracefully."

Despite having to do both comedic and dramatic scenes, Shannon, who also appeared in the 2015 Sundance sensation Me and Earl and the Dying Girl, says that she always tries "to play the emotional truth of a character."

She also says she tried to honor Kelly's story and feels that his experience on SNL, which she points out began years after her time on the sketch-comedy series, allows him to move gracefully between genres as well.

"There were definitely very heavy moments in the movie, and Chris is able to lift it with a big comedy scene," Shannon says.

Shannon will be honored at a Saturday ceremony, with her Wet Hot American Summer co-star Black presenting her with her award.

As for this year's other honorees, Brabbee indicated it made sense to give the Screenwriters Tribute Award, which "recognizes someone who made a significant impact on American cinema" to Stone, who she argues "has been putting out iconic film after iconic film for 30 years." With Ewing, Grady and New Voices in Screenwriting honoree Sian Heder, the Nantucket Film Festival is honoring people whose work Brabbee says she and the NFF team have admired in the past, pointing out that Heder's film Tallulah was developed at the festival's screenwriters colony, so it's as if "she's come full circle."