The elevator pitch for Brittany Snow and Sam Richardson’s new film, Hooking Up (which is available on VOD), reads like an ’80s sex comedy. “A romance columnist meets a sad sack near virgin and they bone across the country on an epic road trip!” But while that’s a true representation of the film’s basic plot, it doesn’t touch on the level of damage both Snow and Richardson’s characters are working through, bringing depth to the story in a way that allows Hooking Up to feel like a unique (and, it should be said, good) entry in the rom-com genre. And as Richardson told Uproxx during a recent interview, that was part of the appeal to taking on a role that might, not break his on-screen nice guy streak, but add dimension to it.
Connecting more than a week ago when things were still on the precipice of whatever the hell this week has been, Richardson reflected on his character, Bailey’s, rough ride through life, offering an increasingly useful view of how people cope by searching for levity in dark times. But the interview isn’t all so serious. We also discussed why it’s creepy when people laugh during sex, Detroiters (his and Tim Robinson’s sadly departed Comedy Central show), his possibly cursed directorial aspirations, and how Veep changed his view of politics (okay, that last part is a little depressing).
You inadvertently altered the course of my life last time we spoke. I asked you about the great Coney dog debate. I was on a trip from Cleveland to Chicago two weeks later and basically made my wife turn off so I could visit Detroit to see for myself.
I tried both. Side by side in front of Lafayette and American. Loved them both. But yeah, the Lafayette definitely has the edge. Then I zipped past the massive abandoned train station from Justice League, Motown, and where Tigers Stadium used to be before heading down the road to eat my bodyweight in deep dish pizza.
[Laughs] I’m so glad. It’s my job as an ambassador for Detroit to make sure you do all the right things when you go there.
Honestly, I hated that I had to zip through. Honestly, I would have liked some more time there.
You should go back.
I will! So, this is a really interesting film. It’s got some depth to it. Tell me a little bit about why it appealed to you?
Well, I was excited to play against type in this because usually, I play like bland, kind, sweet people. I think Bailey is still very sweet. But he’s also very cynical and I was curious and I wanted to kind of do that and play a bit of a cynical character who’s going through a hard time but is still trying. Just trying to make it in life and that was one of the things I wanted to bring to the character. This is a character who’s going through testicular cancer for the second time. I think it’s easy to get into the game of, “Oh, well I’m sad so I’m going to be sad the whole time.” But people don’t do that. People who are going through a trauma or hard times, they find refuge in levity. Nobody wants to be sad all of the time. Even in your worst time, you want to find something to alleviate that. And comedy and levity and whatever is that. Not, you know, a laugh or a joke a minute laugh riot. But those moments where he can connect to somebody, he wants to take that opportunity. I appreciate the opportunity to do that with this character.
You have great chemistry with Brittany Snow [the film’s co-lead and producer] that obviously improves over the course of the film. How did you build that?
Well, Brittany and I had never met before we started this project. So, then it was up to us to kind of find the chemistry. That’s easy to do because Brittany is such a nice, caring, warm, sweet person and a generous actor. We did some rehearsals and kind of talked through the characters and the process of what the story was. It wasn’t hard for us to become friends. Part of the benefit of… to make it easier for the movie is that these are characters that don’t know each other.
Are you a fan of rom-coms?
I am, I am. I wouldn’t say that I’m a romcom maniac. I really do like the genre and I was excited to get a chance to do it. Typically, I’m not someone you look at for a rom-com kind of part.
Thank you. I’m just looking for compliments and you gave it to me. Thank you!
[Laughs] But you know, typically, I’m com-com.
[Laughs] So, like any rom-com there are certain boxes that get checked, but for the most part, you guys do a really good job of avoiding some rom-com cliches. Was being able to approach this from a different angle also part of the appeal?
Yes, I think so. I think it’s not your typical rom-com. I found it to be atypical and that’s what interested me most about it.
I’m curious, have you had love scenes before?
Not things that weren’t heavily comedic. I’ve done Detroiters’ love scenes, and Champaign, ILL I had love scenes, even in Office Christmas Party there was kind of a love scene. But it’s always been for the joke.
How does your preparation for that change if it goes from being a comedic thing to more of a serious thing?
Honestly, I feel the pressure is off a little bit. You can just be real without trying to find… like, how does this work in the gag? You know what I mean? But then, at the same time, when people have sex they laugh. They really do. And then I find that to be the creepy part. [Laughs] You know?
Of course, intimacy when filming is anything but. There’s cameras and a thousand people there. Also, it’s not real intimate and you have to try and make it look real. But then, it’s a very weird position to be in. Please, no pun intended. [Laughs] It’s an interesting thing with that [sex] being kind of the reason for the season — the movie is about two people who are intimate a lot, physically, and then they get intimate emotionally as the movie goes on. So it’s kind of a fun dynamic to play.
I was such a huge fan of Detroiters and obviously there was a lot of support for you guys when that ended. It definitely felt like something that was taken from people too soon. How does that response impact you? Does it turn something sour into something somewhat bittersweet?
It’s certainly a confidence booster to know that people care about something you do and worked on and cared about so much. Sometimes you feel when you make something like that, there’s so much stuff in the world that it feels like maybe nobody sees it, or nobody gets it. Like, maybe I just wrote this because it makes me laugh. But then having people kind of get attached to it was a really sweet thing. I appreciated it. It kind of gives you confidence knowing that people are receptive to what you do.
It looks like you’re focusing a bit on acting right now but are there things in development that are more behind the camera? Writing or even directing?
Oh, yeah. I’m always trying to develop things for myself. You want to be able to mold something from all aspects. I was going to direct some episodes during season three of Detroiters, but then we didn’t do a season three. Then, I was going to try to direct season two of Champaign ILL, but we didn’t do a season two. So I worry that my aspiration to direct is killing these projects. [Laughs]
I think this definitely showcases some dramatic chops here and you’ve done other things before that showcase that. Not to put the pressure on, but we’ve seen so many comics that are turning in these dramatic turns. When you look at a project to develop, are you sticking within that comedy space or are you keeping it more open?
Well, you know, I’m trying to keep it in the realm of comedy because I just love and appreciate comedy. I think there’s no better truth than that. You have to understand the real world in order to understand comedy. Comedy just based on comedy with no other stakes is just silly.
Veep was something that obviously had a connection to a specific element of the real world with politics. Obviously it’s not based on the real world… I don’t think, I don’t know — at this point, it’s hard to tell. But I’m curious how your involvement with that show changed your relationship to politics.
My relationship with politics changed in that everybody who saw and appreciated Veep… anyone who was from Washington and like knew Veep and watched it and loved it and it was like, “Oh, cool.” But anybody who watched that show would say it was the most real depiction of what DC is like and I was like, “Whoa, that’s frightening.” [Laughs].
The way the characters are, they’ll say West Wing is such an ideal, House of Cards is melodrama, but Veep is what it really is. People who are selfish… all that sort of thing. Everybody’s kind of just power-grabbing. So like knowing that, looking at politics in general and politics on the show, what we would do on the show would be happening in real life so often.
It’s funny, I grew up loving West Wing and really was romanticized by it. Now I get mad at West Wing. It just feels like I got tricked into thinking people actually gave a shit.
I wish… I wish we could have President Bartlet. I watch West Wing still. I go back and re-watch and I’m like, “Ah!”, and I just sit there and I get depressed about how hopeful [it is].
That’s why I don’t watch it. Like, distractions are good. Finding ways to hide from the pain is good. But something like that, man, it just makes me feel real down if I think about that.
Yeah. Yep. (Laughs) It’s depressing.
‘Hooking Up’ is available to stream March 20th via VOD.