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With The Flight Attendant, Girls star Zosia Mamet returns to the female-led comedy genre as Annie, the lawyer best friend to Kaley Cuoco’s Cassie who has her own dark secrets behind her buttoned-up exterior. The HBO Max series sees Mamet breaking out of the comedic, neurotic persona that first made her a star, instead diving into a thriller laced with Annie’s dry humor. Mamet recently spoke with The Hollywood Reporter about forming her on- and offscreen friendship with Cuoco, shooting amid COVID-19 pandemic interruptions and making her own move into producing.
What did you think when you first read the script?
I immediately loved it. It was unlike anything I’d read before. I definitely hadn’t auditioned or been up for a lot of thrillers, for lack of a better word. That was what I loved so much about the script when I read it — it’s sort of all of these things in one. It’s a love story but also a murder mystery but also really fucking funny. And I was like, “How is it all of these things at once?”
How did you and Kaley develop the friendship dynamic?
Michiel [Huisman] and Kaley’s relationship, totally that’s a love story, but the real love story of the show is Annie and Cassie. When I heard they wanted me to [do a] chemistry read with Kaley, I was like, “Oh, they see how important this relationship is”; you need a chemistry read between two female best friends who have been best friends since they were kids. And I walked into that room, and they were like, “Feel free to play.” I was pretending to be on my phone in the audition room, and Kaley walked up and bopped me on the nose, which wasn’t in the script, and I immediately swatted her hand away like, “Don’t do that.” I always say that, in that moment, Annie and Cassie were born. It was this immediate spark of chemistry between the two of us. … We both just have this great sense of play and we adore working together. I think that we were the bane of our first AD’s existence because they literally had to be like, “OK, stop. Stop, we said cut!” We just had so much fun together, we could just go.
Your shoot was affected by the pandemic and was one of the first to restart with the new precautions. Was it a challenge to come back to it in the middle after months away?
It actually wasn’t. We’d been shooting since October, and we’d all spent a lot of time together up until that point. We shot five episodes out of eight, and so you develop that working, creative, personal relationship with people. I was really worried I was going to show up on set and it was going to feel really clinical and that all of that was going to be taken away because of the COVID protocols. I think everyone just felt so exceptionally grateful to be back at work.
How did playing Shoshanna on Girls and feeling stuck in that neurotic niche inform this role?
I always search in my next jobs for something that is drastically different to the one I’ve done before. I adored playing that part and certainly find myself missing it at times because it was so much fun. But especially when you do something for six years, I think at least for me, the desire as an actor is always to find something that scares me a little bit because then I know that I haven’t done it before, and it’s going to challenge me to use a muscle I maybe haven’t used before and grow as an actor. I really loved when I read this part, I was like, “Oh, she’s really funny, but it’s a totally different kind of comedy.” It’s super subtle and under the radar, and having gone from playing a super zany, loud character for so long to playing someone who’s still so sardonic and really dry, I was like, this is going to be a really, really fun challenge.
After watching Kaley develop this, do you have any interest in getting into producing?
My husband [actor Evan Jonigkeit] and I have produced stuff in the past, and I currently have some things in development. There’s something really rewarding about watching something grow from a total seedling into a full tree. That’s a very sappy analogy. I have no desire to direct — that does not live in me, that is too much responsibility. No thank you. But producing and developing is something that certainly piqued my interest. It just adds to the creative involvement in what you’re doing. You get to help grow something beyond just getting in front of a camera and being the vessel for its words.
Interview edited for length and clarity.
This story first appeared in a June stand-alone issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.
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