Bodies Bodies Bodies Star Rachel Sennott On Anxiety And Toxic Friendships [Interview]

In "Bodies Bodies Bodies," Rachel Sennott plays Alice, who just wants to have a good time with Greg (Lee Pace). She does not get her wish in Halina Reijn's A24 horror-comedy, in which no one is safe. Characters drink, ingest drugs, and all their inner fears begin to tear everyone to pieces. Even before bodies start dropping, anxiety runs high in the film.

One of the drunkest characters, as Rachel Sennott confirmed to us in an interview, is Alice. The movie walks right up to the line of poking fun at its intoxicated characters, but every once in a while, there's a moment where Reijn reminds audiences, "Hey, these are people, too." Those moments often result in laughter, and recently, the star of the great "Shiva Baby" spoke to us about bringing her character to life with authenticity and humor.

'The words become weapons'

Halina said she had you and the rest of the cast watch "Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?" How did that influence you?

Well, that movie is really about these characters delving into madness and all of the action is verbal, so in the same way, it's kind of words as weapons. For me, that was a big clue of how this movie would play out, because the paranoia and the things that we're suppressing about each other and our feelings all come out, and there are actual weapons in this movie, but the words become weapons as well.

All heightened by the booze and the drugs. 

I think my character is definitely one of the drunkest and the highest. It just amped up the intensity of everything, where I was like, "Everything is already scary, everything's already loud and dark." So I think all of that kind of peaking at certain points, like the scene where I accused Bee of things — I don't want to give away spoilers, but you know what I'm talking about. At that point, I think I can look and say, "These things have happened, this is how I feel, and I'm still high, I'm going to tweak out," without ever playing into it too much where it seems not real or comical to a point that's almost not funny. You know what I mean? Always keeping it grounded.

Was it a fine line between that and broad comedy? 

Yeah. Halina is so amazing and I think she just directed us to always be 100%, dropped in, be committed, be real, always be on the side of your character. Never be making a joke about them, never be in on the joke. I think that really helped nail the tone of the comedy.

Is it true that at times you and some of the actors had no idea where the camera was in the dark?

You never knew where the camera was going to be, and at a certain point, you forgot about it. Jasper Wolf, the DP, he really gets in there, and he's on you, and then he is on you, and then he's on the glass on the floor, and he is moving around. So it becomes very active. He almost becomes a character in the scene, and then it all starts to feel very real and you can just move in the space. There a lot of scenes where they're having an argument over here, I'm having a little bit of White Claw — it feels very natural and very real.

And very funny. As a stand-up comedian, how does timing jokes in front of a camera compare to on a stage? 

I think the similarity is that comedy comes from truth. I don't think I'll ever be as funny as I was when I was deeply devastated going through a break-up. My stand-up will never be as good: I was so broken and it was all very raw. I think that the same thing is true for acting and film, where the comedy comes from the truth. You are playing the character, you're not playing the joke. I think the difference is, sometimes for comedy on stage, you polish it to a point where you hit the same rhythm every time. For film, I think the rhythm has to come out different for it to feel fresh, and there's different ways that a line can be funny depending on how you read it. You just want to read it so that it feels real.

What read as truthful to you when you read "Bodies Bodies Bodies?"

I think the dynamic of when Bee shows up and she's the outsider of this friend group, I think you just know that feeling when you feel like the outsider, or you're in the clique — and when you're in the clique, you know your role in the click. I see Alice instantly, early on, she's like, "Are you guys talking about me?" Because she's worried that people are talking about her and guess what? It turns out they are. So I think that is very true. Everyone's been a part of a toxic friend group or friend dynamic before. So I think that's something that people will really relate to and I definitely connected with.

'It's not a lie. It was very real'

"Bodies Bodies Bodies" and "Shiva Baby" have two characters experience extreme anxiety. How do you want to portray anxiety?

I think that it all comes from knowing what your character's track is, what their job is, their objective, everything. I think the difference between Danielle [from "Shiva Baby"] and Alice, Danielle's anxiety is all internal, it's almost like everyone else is causing the anxiety to me, and all I have to do is feel it and react. I think Alice is anxious, but she projects her anxiety outward and definitely makes other people feel anxious. I just had to think, from her mind she's starts to get paranoid — "Who is it? Who is it?" And she's always blaming, "It's you. It's you? No, maybe it's him. It's her." Really, that is her driving thing. At the end of the day, she just wants to figure out what the f*** is going on, but her insecurities and anxieties and the way she expresses them cause other people to feel nervous.

By the way, Lee gave you and the rest of the cast a nice compliment that, unlike a lot of movies about young people, everyone has their own voice. How did you find Alice's voice? Was it that anxiety?

I think Lee so right on that, and I feel like it starts in the script. Sarah DeLappe wrote these very distinct characters. I've read scripts so many times where it's like, these three characters could be one person because they're all the same. This was not that at all. Every character was so distinct. I think that everyone took the tools that they were given in the script. I also think as actors, we're all very different people, and that was so fun because it's like everyone's bringing a little bit of themselves to the character and playing in that.

If I ever was lost on how to react, I could look to any of the actors and they would give me something, because each character has a different relationship with another character. So it's like, I'm looking at Greg — "That's the guy that I want to be my boyfriend, I really love him." I'm looking at Sophie — "I'm so happy she's here, but why didn't she tell us she was coming?" Now, I'm looking at Jordan — "She scares me a little, but she's strong and she's my friend." You can look to each person and you find the thing. That so helpful being surrounded by so many unique, amazing actors.

What bit of yourself did you want to bring to Alice? 

Well, Halina allowed us a lot to improv and bring pieces of ourselves. The body dysmorphia line was initially ... I have anxiety, but the weekend before we shot that scene, we all went out to dinner, we dressed cute, we went to dinner for Maria's birthday and I'm drunk at the table and I'm like, "I saw a frame of myself in the pants, and I feel weird, and I have body dysmorphia." Halina was like, "Say that on Monday." And that was something where we were very directly taking from something that we would say and putting it right in the movie. 

Because it comes from a place of truth, and at that moment, I was feeling weird about my body and I was saying it to my friends. It's not a lie. It was very real. If that's how I was expressing it, then it doesn't come off as insincere or poking fun, because it comes from a place of truth. I think we tried to make that work with all the lines — even the Libra moon thing.

"Bodies Bodies Bodies" is now playing in theaters.