Seth Rogen’s An American Pickle is officially available to stream on HBO Max! The film is about a man who accidentally time travels a hundred years from the 20th century to the 21st (after he falls into a pickle vat and becomes perfectly preserved by the brine, as you do), and it is truly a delight. (The hijinks, you guys!)
Molly Evensen plays a quirky, overzealous intern in the movie, so I recently got caught up with her over the phone to discuss what the filming experience was like. We also talked about totally normal stuff, like time traveling great grandparents, childhood memories of drinking pickle juice through a straw and more; feel free to internet-eavesdrop on our full conversation below, and then make sure to watch An American Pickle, duh!
So this is a weird summer! Where have you been riding everything out? (I’m in Brooklyn and it’s kind of a nightmare re: social distancing.)
I spent most of quarantine back in Colorado with my family, actually. Even coming back to LA feels like there’s so much less space for people to social distance. I’m sure it’s ten times worse in Brooklyn, though.
Yeah, I have a few friends who drive and have cars here, but most of us don’t; I’ve seen a couple of places doing drive-in movies, and I’m just like, FOR WHOMST?! But I did see that that was how An American Pickle premiered out in LA, which makes sense since there’s much more of a vehicular culture there. What was that experience like?
They’re doing a virtual premiere too, but this one was for Tribeca Film Festival I think. (That was the technical reason for it.) But yeah, it was neat! More people have cars here, so it worked out. [Laughs]
Exactly! Well yeah, congrats on the role! I’m sure it must be a very exciting thing. What was it like when you got the news?
Oh man, it took a little while to sink it. It also happened very quickly; I got the part on a Thursday afternoon, and they flew me out the next day at 4am. So I didn’t really have time to think about any of it. I pretty much giggled with my family, and then I had to pack and go to Pittsburgh.
That’s incredible! As an actor, was that helpful not to have the time to over-analyze the situation? Like, how’d you prepare?
I think in this instance it was absolutely a good thing not to have time to overthink. I was able to prepare in my hotel room, but other than that, that was about it. I mean, it wasn’t like a ton of prep work that was really necessary, and also my director was wonderful in his approach and guiding me through everything, but definitely not having time to overthink was beneficial in this instance.
Was there anything specific they wanted you to bring to the role? Or did you have any wiggle room to play around with the development of the character we see on screen?
Yeah, when I got there I’d never met anybody before; I didn’t have any callbacks, I just booked straight from my audition. So my director came over and basically said I should just do exactly what I did at my audition, because that’s why they chose me. They didn’t want me to change anything, so I very much got to do it my way. And then he’d give me notes if there ended up being anything he wanted changed. We’d do several scripted takes, and then Seth would improvise. And we’d go from there.
Cool. And it was shot in the fall, right?
So it’ll be two years in October, but then they also did re-shoots about a year ago. I wasn’t there for that, but Seth had to go out and redo some things.
Yeah, I was wondering about that! I mean, I think things have obviously progressed technologically since, say, The Parent Trap, but having him playing two roles side by side seemed like it might get complicated in the editing room. I can’t even imagine.
Oh, me either.
[Laughs] Alright, so are you a pickle person? Does this movie resonate with you on that level? I used to hate pickles growing up, but I love them as an adult, and watching this made me really annoyed not to have a jar in the fridge.
Oh yeah, I’ve actually always loved pickles. I was a really strange child, I think. [Laughs] My grandma, who’s Polish (not Jewish like in the movie, but Polish) used to get large jars of dill pickles, and I’d drink the pickle juice with a straw. Which is so weird, but I did it all the time! I was really little and thought it was this really fun thing. So yeah, I do love pickles, and it was really funny when I booked this; like, he’s an old man from Poland, and my family is Polish on my dad’s side. My grandma’s no longer with us, but she was always very supportive of everything and very excited, so it almost kind of felt like a funny inside joke between us.
Well yeah, the whole concept is just so funny, too! Not even just the pickle brine preservation vibes, but having a great grandparent coming back…I was just thinking like, what would my very stern, Irish Catholic people think about my life now? They’d probably be so pissed.
Yeah, my grandmother was Polish Catholic, so I hear you there! But that’s what I think makes this story so special; it’s about where you come from, or where your family comes from, and are you honoring all of the sacrifices that they made to get you to where you are today? And also, what would those generational divides look like? I can’t even imagine coming from that time and waking up in the modern day, seeing the way the world is now. I think that’d be quite jarring.
100%. And it’s also funny, because it’s obviously a parody of Brooklyn (and hipster) culture, but at the same time, all of it is so true. And you look around at what people around you are doing, and it’s just like, “How are we impacting the planet?” It’s crazy. But alright, for you, what was the most difficult part of your job with this movie? What was the biggest challenge, if any?
Hmm…honestly I think the biggest challenge has been the waiting. [Laughs] This is my first big thing, and it’s been almost two years (which I know is completely standard), and I’ve been so excited, so I think the anticipation building up has been the hardest part. Shooting wasn’t difficult; I felt very at home on set and I wasn’t nervous, which is a great affirmation that I’m doing what I’m supposed to be doing, but I’d definitely say the waiting has been tough.
Oh, totally. It must also be such a weird experience to have it coming out now, of all times. How do you feel optimism-wise in terms of the industry? Do you have any predictions about what the next year or beyond might hold for film and TV? It seems like people are doing some really interesting pivots, but it’s crazy to even speculate.
Yeah, it’s a very interesting time, absolutely. I don’t know, I still think there’s a lot of hope. I think there’s so much that can be done social distancing-wise. Even with the film coming out now, two years ago I’d never have thought this is the way the world would be when it was released, but I think now more than ever it’s important to bring joy and entertainment to people. In a way, I’m very honored that it’s coming out now and it can go straight to people’s homes, and that they can spend time with their families and enjoy it. Even though the entertainment industry is being hit very hard, I do think it’s very important for us to figure out a way to make it work; people need that escape more than ever right now. And there’s so much that can be done; I’m working on a couple of scripts with friends that can be largely socially distanced, so it’s definitely forced us to think outside of the box, and also think outside of what normal human connection looks like on screen. Maybe it’s not necessarily physical connections. How can you convey deeper relationships when people can’t touch? I think that’s forced us to be more creative lately.
Absolutely. And aside from the script writing, what else have you been doing to keep busy?
A lot of writing. I have a couple of friends I write with a lot. And then obviously I was home with my family in Colorado for a couple of months during quarantine, so that was definitely a blessing in terms of getting to spend so much time with them. We spent a lot of time camping and hiking (we’re a very outdoorsy family), and it’s not hard to social distance on the trails if you go out far enough. So there was a lot of that. I also really love music, and my parents have a piano, so I played that a lot. That was really nice.
Yeah, I came back to LA to do some press things the last two or three weeks, but I’m actually gonna go back to Colorado for a little while.
Cool, that’s probably a good little break from the family, but that’ll be so great to get back out there and be able to resume outdoor activities! Alright, I’m gonna let you off the hook here in a minute, but I want to say that I think it’s a great film (I teared up a couple of times which I wasn’t expecting; I don’t know if that’s just because I’ve been in a heightened emotional state for months, but either way) and it’s very exciting that this is your big debut, so congrats! I will leave you with one final question, which is not at all a brain buster, but since it ties in with the seltzer vibes in the movie, what is your personal favorite seltzer variety?
That’s a great question! I mean, probably because I was drinking it last night, but I had this watermelon seltzer which was really delightful. So I’ll say that.