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Jenny Slate on Making ‘Landline’ While Going Through a Divorce

The actress talks about how her real-life experiences influenced one of her most recent projects

(Getty Images/Ringer illustration)
(Getty Images/Ringer illustration)

Jenny Slate has been busy in 2017. So far, she’s had roles in six films this year. Her most recent project, Landline, out July 21, is the story of two sisters and their mother living and reexamining their worlds in mid-’90s Manhattan. On the latest episode of The Big Picture, Slate spoke with Sean Fennessey about how her divorce and real-life experiences influenced the making of a movie about tumult and self-discovery.

Listen to the full podcast here. This transcript has been edited and condensed.

Slate: I was getting divorced while we were making this movie, so it was just really hard. It was really hard to make a movie about a woman who is questioning her own belief system within her partnership and isn’t sure of what her voice can be. … Dana, my character, is really suffering because her truth is really starting to bloom within her, and she doesn’t know if she’s allowed to acknowledge it. And I think, personally, I was coming into this film being like, "Uhh, everything just fell apart for me." The only truth that I know in my life is that I don’t know what’s going on.

Fennessey: Do you say that to Liz [Holm] and Gillian [Robespierre], and when you guys are writing the script, do those things collide in any meaningful way?

Slate: Well, when they wrote the movie, I was still married, and, honestly, had a lot of faith in working through it. And so I didn’t know I would be coming in and being without that relationship anymore. But when they were writing this script, we had a lot of talks about making sure that Dana’s story, in the end, has basically nothing to do with who she ends up with, but, in fact, where she lands and whether or not she seems like a person who has learned that it’s her right to grow and change, and that if she’s in a partnership where she feels that she can’t ask the question she needs to ask, then that’s when she should move on. But a partnership is worth it if your partner will grow with you.

Jay Duplass plays Ben, my boyfriend. … And what I love about their partnership is that it’s disappointment on equal sides. It’s not like he was weak and boring and she’s needy and horny, or something. They’re actually just two people who have done the thing that a lot of long-term relationships do, which is, you bond, you’re delighted by that bond, you spend years together, you build a life, and then suddenly you confuse stasis for stability and you feel grossed out, scared. And a lot of times, another person can come in and make you feel fresh and you’re just running toward that breeze. And that’s not sustainable.