Lauren Lapkus on ‘The Wrong Missy,’ Working With David Spade, and Staying Connected During Lockdown
After a busy few years that has included roles on shows like “The Big Bang Theory” and “Good Girls,” and in films such as “Holmes and Watson” and “The Unicorn,” gifted actress-comedian Lauren Lapkus is now going head-to-head with David Spade in Happy Madison’s uproarious Netflix rom-com “The Wrong Missy.” Lapkus plays the title character, a freewheeling, possibly mentally unstable, extreme extrovert who finds herself on a dream vacation with Tim (Spade), a tightly wound, button-up guy with whom she previously went on a blind date.
Tim, meanwhile, is going through different emotions, as he actually meant to invite another woman, Melissa (Molly Sims), to his company’s corporate retreat to Hawaii, but accidentally texted Missy. Missy does not know this, and she has the time of her life on the trip, even though she does almost get the both of them killed at different points and almost breaks up his boss’ marriage. However outrageous her behavior is, Missy’s heart is always in the right place, and eventually Tim (and the viewer) cannot help but be won over by her.
Lapkus spoke with Entertainment Voice about the role, working with Spade, creating the illusion of falling off a cliff, and how she is keeping busy and staying connected during lockdown.
What attracted you to the role of Missy?
Initially, I got the audition and this character was just so crazy, and that seemed like so much fun to me, but the main thing that made me want to audition was that David was already signed on to be in it. I really have always admired him and thought he was so funny, so that was the main thing that got me to go in and audition, and then the character herself being so fun was just icing on the cake.
Did you relate to Missy at all? Or would you say you related more to Tim?
I think that’s a pretty broad spectrum, so hopefully I’m in the middle. Tim’s a bit uptight, but I’m not as crazy as Missy, but I lean more towards Missy than Tim, I guess, on that spectrum.
What was it like working with David and developing the fun chemistry you two had in the film?
It was really great. He’s so nice, and he’s really so easy to work with. One thing that was really cool was the Happy Madison crew that’s all been working together for so many years. I think there’s some tendency when people know each other, and have worked together a lot in the past, to possibly be cliquey and not let people in as easily, or not be as warm to other people, but that really wasn’t the case here. Everyone in every single department was super nice and warm and excited about any new addition to the cast. It was really fun working with David, he made it so easy, just laughing a lot and letting me go nuts in the scenes.
I was speaking with director Tyler Spindel, and he was telling me how the writers would often give you jokes on the spot and that he was so impressed with how you took the material and just ran with it. What was that like, having to sort of improv right there on set?
I really loved it, because I have been doing improv for about 15 years now, and I do a lot of live comedy, so, for me, that’s such a fun thing to get to do in a movie, and it’s not everyday that they let you run as much as Tyler did. The writers being on set was so great because they were always coming up with new ideas. Even the other cast members were punching up jokes for each other. Nick Swardson’s so funny and would often throw out new lines. David also had ideas. It was great getting to work in that kind of environment.
Let’s talk about Missy’s alter ego Hell Star. Was that something that you came up with?
I think that was actually added by Adam Sandler at some point. When he read the script, he added that in, which was so funny to me, because it definitely feels like an Adam type of joke. At first, I didn’t know how to play it and I wasn’t sure what kind of voice to do, so we kind of worked on that a little bit. That was a fun challenge to me, constantly being dunked under water and coming up talking like that, it was just nuts. I had leaves taped to my face at one point.
Have you ever been on a blind date similar to the one Missy and Tim go on in the beginning, one where you’ve found yourself blindsided by someone?
No, I feel like I’m actually lucky that I have never been on any crazy date like that. I’m more of a serial monogamist, so I never really had a period in my life where I was going out with a ton of different people. I guess I missed that window.
I really loved the blind date scene, because that was the first scene we shot and it’s fun to watch now for me, because David and I really didn’t know each other yet, and my character goes completely nuts, so it’s fun to see that play out.
We see this whole ordeal unfold in which Tim finds himself competing with a co-worker for a promotion, and it gets messy and kind of becomes an unfair fight at points. Have you ever found yourself in a fierce competition like that in your own career?
I don’t think I really have, beyond auditioning. I don’t know that I’ve had a competitive feeling like that in my life. Even with auditioning, you know that it’s out of the other person’s hands as much as it’s out of your hands. So, it’s hard to feel fiercely competitive with another actor when they have as much of a chance as you do. That’s just all it is.
A funny scene is when Missy falls into the sinkhole. Tell us how that pulled off.
It was a really challenging scene. There were two giant holes with rubber bins inside of them, basically, that were carved out. I had a stunt double who fell into the hole, and then I popped out of the other hole so that it could happen in real time. I walked out into the jungle and then they cut to her falling in, which was very hard for her to do, to fall into there and not hurt herself. I was very impressed with all my stunt doubles that I had throughout the film.
Take us inside the scene in which Missy does a backflip off of the cliff.
There were very many pieces to putting that scene together. Basically, I ran as close as I could to the edge of the cliff, and then we saw a stunt double who was running and fell onto the dirt, which was basically a mat made to look like dirt. And then, they had a stunt double suspended with wires flipping over and over the face of this cliff. Then, they had me in a circular machine in which my head was going over my feet, flipping forward to capture my face so they could CGI it onto the falling woman’s body. It was a very complicated scene.
There’s also a funny scene on the boat with Rob Schneider where you’re throwing up.
Working with him was great. He was super easy to work with. I think the only complaint I had was that we were on a boat all day, so I was getting seasick for real. Then they threw real fish guts on me for that scene, so I had fish guts on me and then I had to put cold soup in my mouth for when I threw up over the side of the boat over and over again. It was my hardest day, physically, because I was just feeling so sick the whole time.
I loved the kiss in the final scene. There’s the typical romantic music, the camera zooms out, and then the music cuts out and you see the reality of it, how it would look in real life. What did you make of that?
I really liked that choice, I thought that was really interesting. You really don’t see that much, and I think romantic comedies tend to end with that super flowery moment, and these characters are more real, even though Missy is such a wild character. They’re not like a man and woman in a typical rom-com. The characters are strange, flawed people who end up together, so I think that it’s cool that they chose to end it like that.
How have you been dealing with the whole lockdown and all the uncertainty right now?
You know, it’s such a rollercoaster. I think the first few weeks I was really scared and depressed, and I still feel [some of that]. But at the same time, we’ve been in lockdown for months now, so you find a rhythm and you start to adapt and accept the reality that you’re in, so I think that on some level, I’m trying to just find positivity wherever I can hope and that this kind of goes away soon. I know that’s not really going to happen, so it’s kind of hard to think about the future. I just try to do it one day, one moment at a time.
Are you still keeping busy with podcasts during this time?
Yeah, thankfully I’ve been able to do that from home. I have my show, “Newcomers,” with Nicole Byer where we watch “Star Wars” for the first time. It’s been nice to be able to connect with people that way and still perform from home, because it feels like some sort of social life.
Do you have anything coming up that you completed pre-lockdown that you can talk about?
In a couple weeks, I’m going to be on “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?” competing for the Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation of America. That was so much fun, getting to be on that show.
Was it nerve-racking at all?
Oh my god, yes. I was sweating and freaking out the entire time.
“The Wrong Missy” begins streaming May 13 on Netflix.