I'm Totally Fine: Kyle Newacheck on Jillian Bell & Comedians in Dramas

There's something to be said about when comedians excel in dramatic roles. Classic examples are Robin Williams, Sacha Baron Cohen, Ben Stiller, Melissa McCarthy, and Will Ferrell. In the case of Decal's I'm Totally Fine, Jillian Bell plays Vanessa, a woman mourning over the loss of her best friend and business partner, Jennifer (Natalie Morales). While processing her grief, Vanessa decides to take a holiday but encounters an unlikely extraterrestrial visitor that takes Jennifer's form. Actor, director, and writer Kyle Newacheck spoke with Bleeding Cool about how he recruited Bell to the project and why comedians work so well in dramas. If there's any assistance, he provided to director Brandon Dermer and writer Alisha Ketry on their first feature.

I'm Totally Fine: Kyle Newacheck on Jillian Bell, Comedians in Dramas
Kyle Newacheck in "I'm Totally Fine" (2022). Image courtesy of Decal

How I'm Totally Fine Became an Opportunity at Something Great

Bleeding Cool: What interested you in 'I'm Totally Fine?'
Newacheck: I was there when Brandon Dermer said the sentence that inspired us to write the script. What inspired me was the subject matter and how we would tackle it through the lens of this "absurdity of an alien coming out and inhabiting your dead best friend." That alone was enough for me.

Brandon and Alisha told me you recruited Jillian for the project. Anything you tell me what the pitch was?
Jillian and I have been friends for 15 years now. We always talk, catch up with one another, and see where each other at. It was a heavy time during the pandemic, and I know she wanted to do something a little more dramatic. We talked about that a lot, and when Brannon pitched the idea to me and talked to his friend, Alisha Ketry, getting their story together. I went to Jillian, and I said, "Look, this is a fantastic vehicle to get in and do something dramatic while also playing to your strengths, the comedy and being able to be the ones that can laugh at stuff and make those jokes. She had a scene in 'Brittany Runs a Marathon' where she had a big dramatic moment. I was like, "Let's do some more of that and lean into it. You've got it." I've always been a fan of Jillian Bell, and this was a no-brainer, and we got to do this together.

I'm Totally Fine: Jillian Bell & Natalie Morales Talk Sci-Fi Comedy
Natalie Morales and Jillian Bell in "I'm Totally Fine" (2022). Image courtesy of Decal

Is there something to be said about how comedians could put in more grounded performances of dramatic work? On the flip side, I've heard it's harder for dramatic actors to go into the comedy. Can you speak about that, or is it a myth?
It takes longer to become good at comedy, possibly because there's so much nuance to it. When people are attracted to the humor and want to put the fun out there, there might be some real dramatic stuff going on inside behind closed doors. When a comedic personality can tap into something with substance and genuine emotion, those real emotions aren't showcased all the time, but they do have them. Everybody has those feelings. Maybe there's something to that.

I'm Totally Fine: Jillian Bell & Natalie Morales Talk Sci-Fi Comedy

What guidance did you help provide Brandon and Alisha in their first feature as a director and writer, if any?
The entire team was small on this project, so we were all hands-on all the time. I worked with them from the early stages in the creation process of the script, the two characters, and the arcs. They had it figured out while making the film. I helped them get places, challenge certain things, or try and develop new storylines and threads, seeing where we could go conceptually before they would need to kind of figure out how to get that in the film.

I'm Totally Fine, which also stars Harvey Guillén, Blake Anderson, Cyrina Fiallo, and Karen Maruyama is in theaters, digital, and on demand.

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Tom ChangAbout Tom Chang

I'm a follower of pop culture from gaming, comics, sci-fi, fantasy, film, and TV for over 30 years. I grew up reading magazines like Starlog, Mad, and Fangoria. As a writer for over 10 years, Star Wars was the first sci-fi franchise I fell in love with. I'm a nerd-of-all-trades.
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