I'm Totally Fine Stars Natalie Morales And Jillian Bell Went To A Papa Roach Concert Together [Exclusive Interview]

"I'm Totally Fine" is not your average alien invasion movie. In this story, an extraterrestrial (Natalie Morales) swings by Earth to study a human being (Jillian Bell) who recently lost her best friend and business partner. The alien takes the form of her friend, which forces Bell's character to look deeply into her friendship, to both question and cherish it. Director Brandon Dermer's sci-fi movie is a lovely and grounded buddy comedy that gets real with its high concept. 

And for all the Papa Roach fans out there, the California rock band plays a pivotal role in the story, too. No, the band doesn't magically show up, but their music actually adds some depth to "I'm Totally Fine." Whether for research or fun, Bell and Morales went to a Papa Roach concert. It was an experience they told us about in a brief but wide-ranging conversation about their latest film. 

'I always thought it was like if you cloned your dog'

Even given the situation, for you both, what made the friendship believable?

Morales: I think for your character [to Jillian], did it switch for you between, "This is my dead best friend's face and her memories" to "This is their own person who I actually like?"

Bell: Yeah, it takes a while. I think it would take someone a while, because if you're seeing someone that you love so much and now they're suddenly back, but they're giving some crazy explanation about being an alien, you'd be like, "I'm very confused, emotionally." I mean, not only is she mourning the loss of this person, but now they're back and have this wild story attached. I don't know when it turns over. I have a couple of moments where I'm like, it's starting to peel away and it's starting to become more a love for your character.

Morales: I could see that. I always thought it was like if you cloned your dog and then you were like, "Oh, I love you, because you're just my old dog." And then they started to behave differently 'cause they're a different thing. At what point would you be like, "Oh, you're your own thing."

Bell: Yeah. "I like you too, but..."

Morales: You just look like that other dog, yeah.

Natalie, playing an alien, how did you want to play it as someone getting used to being human?

Morales: Thank God for Jillian, because we were really counting on each other. I mean, we shot it mostly in order. With the voice that I'm doing, I was trying to make it more like something that she got more used to speaking towards the end, and charting that. More used to being in her body, and more used to her, and growing with emotion throughout the movie.

Bell: I think that's so much harder than what my character's arc had to be. I mean, I definitely have a tough one, but because it's very emotional. But I feel like the words are all guiding me there, whereas with yours, you have to make sure that it's not as high as this one and not as low as where it's going to. Not as connected as to being a human and using your mouth suckers. So, it's a really beautiful thing you did.

'That's bleeping crazy'

Jillian, to your credit, you had to portray grief. 

Bell: Yeah. I was just saying it's been 10 years since my dad passed and when I read it, I was originally reading it, sort of being like, "Okay, this alien..." and then every line that was supposed to –

Morales: Yeah, because we were going to play the opposite roles. We both called each other in the middle of reading it and being like, "Do you want to switch?"

Bell: "Do you want to switch?" I was only saying your part. I was not saying any of the alien lines out loud. I just kept stopping and then saying, "How would I say that as Vanessa?" And then it turned out we totally wanted to play the other roles. 

Morales: I wonder what that movie would've been like. That's the sequel.

Bell: Well, the same movie, roles reversed.

Morales: That's actually a really cool thing. Has anyone ever done this?

Danny Boyle filmed a stage version of "Frankenstein" where Benedict Cumberbatch and Johnny Lee Miller would swap roles.

Morales: Oh, like in a play?

Bell: In a play.

Morales: How about a movie?

Not that I can think of, but maybe for a "I'm Totally Fine" director's cut one day?

Bell: That sounds f***ing crazy! Oh, sorry. I can't curse probably?

No, you can.

Bell: Okay, we're great. That's bleeping crazy. I like those ideas.

[Laughs] What are the advantages of shooting in limited locations and co-stars like in this movie?

Morales: I think it lets you concentrate more, right? It lets you focus on the other actor and the relationship and really nail the details of that. There's not as many distractions.

Bell: Yeah. It's really nice when you can look in the eyes of your partner and you're like, "You've got me 100%." There's no part of me that's like, "You're thinking, but you're miles away." And honestly, where you were in your life at that moment, she had just finished "Plan B" and I was like, you could have been miles away.

Morales: I was exhausted. I was truly — my body and brain were exhausted, but I wanted to be there.

Bell: Yeah, you were there, you were there, though. You were present. And if one of us wasn't, it wouldn't work. It just wouldn't.

'We probably have to get out of here soon'

Natalie, how have you approached acting differently now that you direct?

Morales: I approach auditioning very differently.

Bell: Oh, really?

Morales: Yeah, because I've seen so many auditions now that I know that the person who's hiring really wants to find the right person. They are rooting for you. They want you to be the person. And so, that sort of changed my perspective on any fear that I had auditioning.

Bell: That's good to know.

Morales: I think acting — unfortunately, the thing that has changed about acting is that I'm directing in my head and I have to keep quiet. [laughs] I have to be like, "Mm-hmm, yeah, that's a good choice. Sure, let's do that. That's the most efficient thing that can happen right now..."

Bell: Oh my God.

Morales: I can let go in artistic pursuits, when someone has a vision for something. That's not what I'm trying to be controlling about. It's more efficiency and how I think something could be easier or done quicker or something. That's what I'm like, "Why don't you just do this?"

Bell: That must drive you crazy.

Morales: Yeah. But I have to keep it to myself. That has changed for me on set a little bit.

So no moments where you say to a director, "Hey, just a heads up..."

Morales: It's frowned upon. I have walked by an AD and whispered an idea.

Bell: I've done that, too. I've had this terrible habit lately of walking by and just being like, "We probably have to get out of here soon, huh? I wonder if I could just go there ... you know, I could exit earlier in the scene and then you won't have to turn around."

Morales: Yeah!

'She drank a random backstage water at a Papa Roach concert!'

One of the morals of "I'm Totally Fine" is Papa Roach can bring an extra terrestrial and a person together. It's funny in the movie, but truthful, too, with how music can define certain friendships. Any music that brings you both back to the past?

Morales: I mean, Papa Roach will forever remind me of you, now.

Bell: Yeah, forever!

Morales: We went and saw Papa Roach not that long ago.

How was it?

Morales: So fun!

Bell: Oh my God. We had the time of our lives! Except for when we were backstage and there was water sitting here by me and I opened it and I drank it and I go, "Is this my water?" And everyone goes, "No." And I'm like, "I have Covid, I think." But I didn't get it.

Morales: She drank a random backstage water at a Papa Roach concert!

Jillian: You know what's crazy, though? My friend Vanessa — I do have a friend named Vanessa, and we actually at the beginning did not get along at all and became best friends over listening to a song by a band called Nickel Creek, which is a country band. And we're like, "Have you heard this song? It's pretty great." And then we were both sitting there tapping our feet and then we're like, "You want to play another song that means a lot to you?" And we just spent the entire night hanging out.

Morales: Oh, that's nice.

Bell: It really did form our friendship and we never talk about it, but I'm like, "That's 100% how our friendship started."

Morales: My cousin and I — my cousin is my best friend. We did not get along as kids until Hanson came out and we were both like, "Do you like Hanson?" She was like, "Yeah." I was like, "Which one do you like?" She was like, "Zac." And I was like, "Good, I'm Taylor. We can make this work."

Bell: "We can be friends." Which one's Taylor? The middle one?

Morales: Yeah.

Bell: Okay. Okay. Okay.

"I'm Totally Fine" is now playing in theaters and on VOD.