Back in 2003, writer/director Sophie Goodhart’s short film, “My Blind Brother,” made the rounds at film festivals, and was eventually nominated for the short film Palme d’Or at Cannes. Thirteen years later, she’s revisited the story, turning it into a feature-length film starring Nick Kroll, Jenny Slate, and Adam Scott as the movie’s titular blind brother, Robbie. Blinded from a childhood accident, Robbie is something of a small-town celebrity, participating in numerous athletic events for charity, while his brother, Bill (Nick Kroll), is tethered haplessly to his side. Their rivalry escalates dramatically when both of them end up falling for the same woman, Rose (Jenny Slate).
The film comes out in limited release this weekend, and we recently got the chance to talk to Adam Scott about what goes into playing a character who’s blind, but not all that empathetic.
When you were first approached for this movie, were you familiar with director Sophie Goodhart’s 2003 short film that this movie was based on?
No, but I loved it when I saw it. Sophie and I talked a couple years before we ended up making it, so I’d been attached to the movie for quite a bit. I really loved it, I thought it was really funny and sweet, really smart writing. So, I saw it a couple years prior and loved it, I thought it was just great, so adapting it for a full-length feature was a no-brainer.
You’ve had a lot of time in front of the camera with co-stars Nick Kroll and Jenny Slate. Was there any improv that went on when you guys were filming?
Jenny and Nick are both incredible improvisers, obviously, but it was a small movie, so we had a very tight schedule. So with a schedule like that, there’s not a ton of time to sit around and improvise and see where a scene goes. But, within the confines of the 20-day schedule — I think it was 19 or 20 days — Sophie encouraged us to mess around a bit. But the movie is pretty much word-for-word her script, but she was open to messing around a bit, which is always fun. It keeps things fresh.
You all lived in pretty close quarters while filming in Cleveland, correct?
Yeah, it’s funny, I’m filming another movie in Cleveland now, and I’m actually staying in the same building we were in. I was actually just about to take a picture of it and send it to Jenny and Nick. It’s really weird being back exactly where we were a year ago.
Did you do any kind of special prep work before playing a blind character?
I was on a job in New Zealand leading up to My Blind Brother, so I didn’t have the time or the facilities over there to really find the blind community and be able to do the research that I figured I needed. So whenever I had time I’d go on YouTube where I found this guy Tommy Edison’s channel. He’s blind and has tons of videos. There must be at least 100 of them about what it’s like not to be sighted, with everything from ‘This is what it’s like to make breakfast’ to ‘This is what it’s like crossing the street,’ to how the cane comes in handy, what he uses it for, all kind of his personal experience. Just his personal relationship with being blind and how it’s actually kind of cool sometimes, [how] it’s scary sometimes. Just a really honest and funny guy. That was really my main source of research.
What was it like to play a character who’s blind, but who’s also not the nicest guy, but really kind of a manipulative bully.
Yeah, I thought it was really interesting. He’s a guy who’s built this whole mythology about himself, and insulated himself with this mythology, and this small town. It kind of keeps the dark truth that he’s blind at bay for him, I just thought that was really interesting, you know?
You’ve got a pretty solid resumé playing both really likable nice guys, and smug, unlikable types. As an actor is there one you prefer over the other?
I think it’s really case by case. It all depends on the material on the whole, whether it’s a TV show or a movie, and really what surrounds it, what the character’s like, and who’s involved. But I like doing both. I don’t play a character like Robbie in My Blind Brother like he’s an asshole. I don’t judge the character as an asshole before I do it. He’s that way because he’s been dealt a tough hand, and he’s got a bit of a chip on his shoulder. His brother kind of fucked him up, and he feels like he owes him, and the movie is him coming to terms with the fact that that’s unfair, but you can’t orchestrate a relationship, especially a brother relationship, like that.
Finally, I have to ask, what are the chances of reviving The Greatest Event In Television History?
You know, that would be really fun, but those were so hard to make, but so fun. We made them on a shoestring, and Adult Swim was awesome because they let us do whatever we wanted. Just kind of gave us a budget and told us just to do whatever, which never happens, but it’s so great when it does. It was really fun, but it was hard. Just really, really meticulous work, and I would love to do more. Paul Scheer and I wrote them and I feel like we were sort of scraping the bottom of the barrel by the end. But Paul’s a really smart guy and I feel like he could come up with something. But we did four of them and I kind of feel like that’s enough, but I love them. I love that they’re there.