Comisery is an Asian-American Science Fiction Screwball Comedy that Quentin Lee and I created and made over eight weeks during the lockdown. It stars Bee Vang, Harrison Xu, Amy Hill, Jennifer Field, Nat Ho, Sheetal Sheth, Richard Anderson, and Verton Banks. It's a response to the pandemic and living under lockdown. It premieres on September 1st on Quentin's streaming service AsianAmericanMovies.com and Amazon Video.
Full disclosure: when I'm not working on screenplays and film work, I'm a correspondent for Bleeding Cool. In the week leading up to the premiere, the editors of Bleeding Cool have let me run a series of interviews with the cast and crew to talk about what it was like to make a movie during the lockdown, shot on zoom, without leaving home. It's a new form of narrative filmmaking that the industry is still coming to terms with.
Today, we talk to Amy Hill, who plays Mary Suzuki Miller, Skylar's therapist, and Camila's aunt. Amy has a storied career in both Film and Television, having appeared in Preacher, Mom, Unreal, Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, and many other productions. She currently plays Kumu on Magnum P.I. She filmed her scenes in Comisery from lockdown in Hawaii.
How are you holding up in Hawaii?
I'm very lucky to be in a nice place with a view—an extended "vacation" of a sort.
Has production started up again?
Magnum is scheduled to start up mid-September, but I'm sure it could be pushed back depending on circumstances beyond our control. I'm hoping we can get back. The protocols are extremely strict, with plenty of testing and social distancing. The state of Hawaii could use the boost to the economy.
How did Quentin approach you about Comisery?
He just asked. I enjoy working with him, so I generally trust his judgment.
I remember that we hadn't created your role yet when Quentin said you were on-board. Quentin created your character after we decided she would be Skylar's (Bee Vang) therapist. Quentin made her a recovering alcoholic, and she had a few boundary issues since Skylar was also a friend of her niece's (Jennifer Field). What were your initial thoughts about Mary Suzuki Miller?
See? When he asked me, he didn't even have my character set!! I'm fine with that. Once he knew I was on board, he figured out how best my character would suit the story. I take it from there. He gives me as much information as he decides I need and gives me [the] freedom to "create."
I remembered you'd played a psychiatrist before on Unreal, so I had to make her different and give her an arc. Quentin and I decided she would become infected by the alien virus and start spreading it to other people. It was a throwback to Invasion of the Body Snatchers. Of the entire cast, you were the most still. You know how much you could convey with the most minimum of movement, emotion, or reveal. It made your performance both disquietening and funny. How did you pick your approach for playing Mary as an infected or possessed character?
Because I've played psychiatrists before, I try to be specific and differentiate between them. In Unreal, my character was compromised by her need to further her career, in spite of her knowing she was disclosing private information about the contestants – to their detriment.
Did Mary's story go in the direction you thought it would?
I never like to know where my character is headed. This keeps things fresh. It's sometimes surprising because it goes against a backstory I might have created, but life is "unplanned."
My backstory for Mary was basically her feelings of failure based on a career that she backed into – not one she pursued, then was stuck in, because she felt it was too late to start over again. Life wasn't exciting without alcohol, so she continued to drink. Alcohol was also less fulfilling than it used to be because she had no interaction with anyone other than her clients.
She had never married, only nieces and nephews who barely acknowledged her. Her family was mostly out of her life. Life was simply a matter of survival. The events of the story actually served to help her blossom.
That was actually how we saw Mary as well. Would you be interested in continuing Mary's journey if there's a sequel?
Of course, it would [be] interesting to see how Mary moves forward. It'd be fun to see how EVERYONE evolved.