'Ride The Eagle' Star D'Arcy Carden Gave Such Helpful Notes, She Was Given A Producer Credit [Interview]

D'Arcy Carden has a deceptively simple role in Ride the Eagle. She plays Audrey, ex-girlfriend to Jake Johnson's Leif. And while the two of them reconnect, they never share a scene together in person – all of Carden's work was done in filmmaker Trent O'Donnell's house, over a phone. Not only did she not have a live-action scene partner, Carden had to play Audrey as something more than a symbol in Leif's journey. Carden's feedback on how to do just that landed her a producer credit on the film.

During a recent interview, Carden told us about the unique but joyful experience of making the film, as well as her time on The Good Place and the upcoming TV series adaptation of A League of Their Own.

What was your night shoot last night?

I'm shooting A League of Their Own. We're doing a TV series of that and we are shooting the hell out of it. We're deep in it right now. We're in Pittsburgh shooting.

I imagine, as someone who also probably loved that movie growing up, how surreal that must be.

It really is. There are some sort of surreal moments. Yeah, for sure. I think the whole cast has had those little moments whether it's the uniforms or the whatever. You know, we're not doing a remake, we're calling it a reimagining. So, it's not the same characters, but it's the same world. It feels very surreal and special and it's fun to be working with the cast that all sort of feel the same way. We shot the pilot of this before the pandemic, so it's been a long journey with this. We've been very excited to shoot for a long time.

How are night shoots for you?

Yeah, they are definitely tough, but I love it when adults get loopy. Everybody's like being a little businessman, doing their job and being really good at it. And then, all of a sudden, people get loopy and it's very fun and it's definitely a way that the cast and crew can get closer, but it's also tough. I mean, I wrapped at six in the morning last night. It's not easy on the brain and we all kind of take care of each other. Everybody knows, "Okay, this is going to be tough, and we're in this together. But also, the truth is, we're playing pretend for a living, so it's not that hard anyway."

I think it's probably ultimately good. It's not taking it too seriously. I mean, not that we shouldn't be taking it seriously, but the overthinking of it all is, I think, definitely the loopiness can absolutely add to... You know what? All you want is for your scene partner to surprise you, right? And then, you do something that you don't expect to do, that's when, I think, the little golden moments happen. So, yeah, as hard as they are, I definitely think they're magical in a way. We have another long one tonight, so I'm mentally preparing.

Best of luck. Like Susan Sarandon, did you get to film your scenes from your own home? 

Jake and Trent wanted to make this as simple and easy as possible, which, of course, I would have traveled to the ends of the earth for them. I am so happy to be working with them, but I shot at Trent's house, which is right down the street from my house, and I got to hang out with his kids who I love. I've known Trent for years. He was a director on The Good Place and we became friends right away and was more than happy to be a part of it. It was a fun day. I got to hang out with my friends. It was a really super small crew. I mean, just a handful of people. In my mind it was like five people. Maybe it was as many as 10, but it was really small.

I think Trent said seven.

There we go, right in between five and 10, right? It felt like really old school and like we're making a student film. I'm just actually remembering this right now, but I was making soup in my first season. And for some reason, Trent decided he would saute onions for me to put in, but he wanted the house to smell like onions, and he wanted the house to smell like soup. So, it's like that type of thing. The writer and director of this movie, when I get to his house that morning, is sauteing red onions in his beautiful kitchen, made me a coffee in a cup. It was a very easy, fun, enjoyable shoot. I loved every minute of it.

Jake said your notes were so helpful, that's why you got the producer credit. What were your notes?

That's really nice. It was really just so collaborative. I had met Jake before, but it was for a nanosecond. And so, I said yes, immediately. The three of us talked in Zoom. We talked about their idea. We talked about the relationship, and then we got off the Zoom and the three of us texted for the next 24 hours, just like nonstop pitch and ideas. And almost in character, we still do this, by the way. We were doing this this morning. We text in character. Not in these movie characters, but mostly it's me and Jake making fun of Trent.

Jake did a lot of that when I talked to him.

I'm sure he said he was bald and all that stuff.

[Laughs] He told me he's been gray for years but only found out when they made the movie.

See, we were doing that this morning. I don't know why we do it, but it says if Trent is our dad and we're his mean kids. The three of us have a very similar sense of humor. I think that Trent knew that about me and Jake, which I think why he wanted to put us together in this. I think the truth is the smartest thing is, if Jake needed to have instant chemistry with someone, hire someone that you know, but instead, they hired someone that he didn't know, but I think Trent knew it was going to work and he was right because it really was a very effortless sort of friendship.

The truth is, I didn't even really remember what the notes were. I just remember getting the character and getting this relationship. I think Jake got it, and I got it in a way that it was like, "Oh, this is just so easy." Like, "Let's just come up with a million ideas and some of them will be bad and some of them will be good." We'd shot a lot of it, and that was kind of the fun of it.. He's like, "You can do that because you have the time. It's just a small group of people and no one's like, 'We got to move to the next big set. Your trailer needs to be moved.' There's none of that."

It was just like, "Oh my kids are home now." It was fun and easy and collaborative in a way that was... How do I say this? Like, fills my soul. Especially deep in a pandemic where things were terrible. Terrible and sad and depressing and about every reason, but also just the idea of I miss acting and I miss working with people, and it came at a really perfect moment for me.

I remember telling Trent I was just getting over my first real pandemic down in the dumps moment. I had been really positive for a long time. Like, "Okay, we'll get through this." And then I got low. This was like a nice thing to kind of pull me back.

Jake said he, too, realized how much he missed acting.

Totally. There's different types of acting and different levels of acting and this felt very old school. I love getting to work on big things, like The Good Place, then A League of Their Own, you know, big movies and stuff like that. It's so exciting. Really, it's like the dream. But also, shooting a movie like this reminds me of my old days. It was like coming up in New York, and putting things together with friends and like that. There's a joy in that that is easy to forget about when it becomes about bigger things. It can be collaborative, can be handmade. There was nothing about it that wasn't a joy.

Plus, your role is just you and a phone in a house. That's as small as it gets.

Right. I mean, it's such a weird idea. It's such a weird thing of an actor to have to act alone, or phone acting is notoriously difficult. I actually really lucked out, which I'm so grateful for. Jake was on the other line the whole time. He was just available to me and Trent. He just said, "Whenever you guys are ready to shoot for things, just call me. I'll like step away from pool time with the kids or whatever he was doing." Even though he wasn't in front of me, I did have a scene partner, and it made it so much easier for me.

The difference is, when they were in Yosemite, there was no cell service, so he really did have to do it by himself. I think they maybe used play back of the scene that I had done already, which is a much more technical and hard thing for an actor. So he had the hard job. Mine was easy. The thought of it was scarier than actually doing it. Once we did our first take, I was like, "Oh, this is actually not so different than if he was here." I have someone to play off of it. He's so playful and cool and such a good improviser and so in the moment that it was a great day.

What do you miss most about your days on The Good Place?

I think the easiest answer is just the people. I truly can't explain how pleasurable and wonderful that cast and crew is. Top to bottom, hundreds across the board, no complaints. Everyday I'd wake up bright-eyed and bushy-tailed just being like, "I get to go to work with my friends. This is going to be fun."

I'm such a fan of the show, too, so it's just a dream job. It was incredible. I miss everything about it, but I miss the people a lot. We definitely keep in touch all the time, but there's something different about when you get to meet and part of your job is getting to see them every day was lovely. Now, it's more like you have to make it happen, and then it turns out there's a worldwide pandemic for a year and a half, and you don't get to see them as much. But we've texted and Zoomed and done all that stuff. I just miss my friends.


Ride the Eagle is available on VOD on July 30, 2021.