Kristen Bell and Ben Platt are brothers – but definitely not their best selves – in their new comedy The people we hate in marriage.
They have relationship issues (she’s having an affair with the married architect she works for; he’s having an affair with a guy who just wants a threesome), they have family issues (they resent both their widowed mother and their well-to-do half-sister). They are bitter, salty and constantly making bad choices.
They are easily some of the messiest characters any actor has ever played.
“I’ve played a lot of hot shit,” admits Bell, o Good place and Bad moms the actress admitted. “But Alice is up there. And there’s something incredibly interesting about watching someone make bad decisions. Entertainment is cathartic on some level everywhere. And when you watch these characters, what Ben and I did is best try to make them likable, but you watch them make these terrible decisions, it’s like, “No! No! Why do this?’ So I think it’s appealing to the audience to see the level of dysfunction that they’re starting from and it also gives them a wonderful open path to bring them to a better place in all of their family relationships.”
“In terms of the surface level of ‘messy,’ he’s definitely the messiest character I’ve played,” says Platt, the Pitch Perfect alum last seen in the musical Dear Evan Hansen. “I’ve played characters who do a lot more messed up things than he does, but they’re more together on the surface. Paul is a little more confused. But he also shoots from the hip. He’s very witty and an obviously smart guy, and he’s guarded and still looking for ways to love himself… but like Kristen said it was a lot of fun reading the script and finding someone who’s so clearly in the place that we hope they’ll be when we meet them for the first time, and then we root for them to get there.”
At their points, flawless characters can also be boring. And messy characters can be really funny, which gave Bell and Platt plenty of room The People We Hate — which finds them venturing to London with their mother (Allison Janney) for their half-sister’s (Cynthia Addai-Robinson) wedding — to comically let loose.
This was a highlight for Dustin Milligan (Schitt’s Creek), who plays Mr. Right-type Bell’s Alice meets on the flight to London — and then constantly sabotages their relationship.
“I’m such a huge fan of hers, and have been for such a long time,” Milligan says of Bell. “But actually experiencing the person, it’s always different. I’ve been fortunate in my career to work with really big, well-known, iconic actors. And you never know what the difference will be between how you perceive them on camera and who they are in real life. And she’s so warm and engaged and ready to play and very funny and witty that it made it so easy to jump in and start and build that relationship right away. … Everyone, like Ben and Alison, are just incredible.”
Addai-Robinson (The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power) had the challenge of playing the straight woman to Bell and Platt’s misbehaving brothers.
“You have to recognize that part of it is giving the other actors that space to just riff,” he says. “Sometimes you just literally slip away and let it happen. And also, as funny as the movie is, there are definitely a lot more serious aspects to what some of these characters are navigating. So it’s great because it’s still grounded and grounded in things that feel heartfelt and relatable, especially when it comes to family dynamics and those hurt feelings and unspoken things. But I think when you laugh, you’re laughing because you’re recognizing some kind of true element of how outrageous family can be sometimes.”
So why are family relationships so messy?
“I think it’s because we’re social creatures and we’re desperate to be accepted by a group,” says Bell. “And the first group you introduce yourself to is your family. I mean, it’s like it’s proven: air, water, food, acceptance are what we apes want most. So once you get your basic needs met, you just struggle to feel like you’re good enough in your first group, your family dynamic. And luckily, everyone can grow and discover who they are. But reuniting that, when you go back to your family as an adult, that sometimes presents a lot of problems because people may have been separated. And I think the ultimate lesson for me, which is like a huge lightbulb of life, is that you can disagree with every opinion that someone in your family has, but you’re still allowed to love them.”
The people we hate in marriage premieres Friday on Prime Video.
Watch the trailer: