The last place you’d expect to find a meet-cute is in the hallway between a sex addiction support group and a cancer support group. That’s where the paths of Darla (Brittany Snow) and Bailey (Sam Richardson) cross in the recently released rom-com Hooking Up. What ensues can be loosely defined as a sex comedy, but one that doesn’t rely on raunchy gimmicks.
Both Snow (Pitch Perfect), who also served as a producer on the film, and Richardson (VEEP, Detroiters) recently spoke with Den of Geek about making a sex positive comedy that also dives into the nuances and grey areas of sex addiction, and touches on themes of companionship and coping with hardships.
Read on below for the full Q&A!
DEN OF GEEK: How did this project come together and what appealed to you about starring alongside Sam?
Brittany Snow: This was actually a script that I got a number of years ago, and I really loved the character of Darla, specifically because it was so against type for me, but I found a lot of facets of my own personality in her character. And I felt like that was going to be cool for me to be a part of because not many people would see me in that light, but I knew that this was a part of myself that I wanted to explore.
She has a really good juxtaposition of taking things very lightly and in a comedic way, and being very dry and cynical. But also at the same time she has a real problem with connection and intimacy, and not understanding that world. Then I became a producer on it and worked really closely with my other producers and the director to shape the movie, the script, and build a cast. Sam was at the top of our list because we needed somebody who you fall in love with and isn’t the type of person that you suspect of having so many difficulties with his own self-confidence, in terms of sexuality and intimacy, and is still really likable and not a doormat. And so that’s a really hard thing to find in somebody, and Sam really used all those qualities.
At the start of the film, Sam’s character is in group therapy to cope with his cancer diagnosis and your character is reluctantly at a meeting for sex addiction. How did you look to balance the comedy and heavier themes in the film?
Snow: We wanted to make sure that we did the right research and really made sure that we were authentic in a person’s struggle and journey with cancer and also with sex addiction because we definitely didn’t want it to be made fun of or lighthearted in the way it looks at it. We wanted to be sincere and make sure that we put our heart into these struggles that people go through.
So I went to a lot of classes, and I went to meetings, so did Nico Raineau, the director. I think Sam and Nico went to cancer support groups, and we did our due diligence of making sure that we were really focusing on the aspects that people are going through and not just poking fun at any of this. I think that’s what’s really great about the movie. There’s levity in serious situations, and there’s serious situations in comedy. And so I hope that we’ve pulled that off, where you really can see that life is both, and these characters really play off of each other because they’re going through hard times.
The film really takes a hard look at the grey area between being sex positive and falling into a sex addiction.
Snow: That’s why I really liked this movie, and I like the tone of it as well, because a lot of times when it’s dealing with sex positivity or having confidence in your sexuality, it’s seen as a negative thing, and it is seen as something that you can poke fun of, or it’s a sex comedy in a way. I really liked how seriously this was taken, and that there’s a couple of times when Sam’s character, Bailey, tries to make fun of her for it or tries to shame her for it, and it’s completely knocked down because this shouldn’t be something that’s shameful, and she shouldn’t be labeled as a slut or called any of these names. But at the same time, it’s her own journey of finding that she has a problem, and that’s her own self-realization, not because somebody else has shamed her into thinking that there’s something wrong with her. It’s actually her own observation and her wanting to get better.
I think there’s both sides of that coin. It’s like you can be sex positive and confident, but also at the same time know your limitations and where you need help. And I think Bailey goes through the same journey as well, in an opposite way, of not having to be ashamed of how not confident he is with his body and the struggle that he’s going through, but at the same time knowing that he needs to grow and learn how to be more of a man.
It takes some time before Darla and Bailey become comfortable with each other both physically and emotionally. When you’re starring in a rom com that really hinges on its leads building chemistry, how do you approach that process? And how was it different this time from previous experiences?
Snow: It was different this time around for two reasons. One because I was a producer on this movie, so I had to do my due diligence to make sure that Sam was a gentleman. We had a lot of friends in common, so I knew that he was a really great guy.
You always hope for the best that someone is going to be sweet. But in this instance, he really had to be a gentleman and sweet, because we were in a lot of precarious situations a lot of times and had to move really quickly and I really had to trust him right off the bat. And thankfully, he’s one of the best people and a great friend to me now, and we bonded really quickly. I think when you’re in those situations, you don’t really have a choice. But that was really important to me with casting this, knowing that he had a good reputation and really valued the values that we had in this movie and respected women, and it worked out very well.
DEN OF GEEK: Sam, this is definitely a different type of comedy than we’ve seen you in recently. What was it about Bailey’s journey in the film that caught your attention in the script?
Sam Richardson: I wanted to play against type a little bit. Usually I’m these bland, very nice guys, sometimes with a mean streak like in Detroiters, I suppose, quick mean streaks. But in this one I played Bailey who’s such a downtrodden, cynical person that I wanted to see what I can do with that. And also sex scenes are a different story than I’ve seen before. It was interesting doing it, but the film is something that wasn’t a typical boy meets girl, love cute kind of thing. So I found that interesting, and I’m a fan of Brittany, and so the chance to get to work with her was very appealing to me.
Cancer and sex addiction are two starkly different afflictions. What is it that ties their respective journeys in the support groups together? What’s the commonality there for these characters?
Richardson: Well, I think the commonality between the two characters was this idea of maybe leaning on someone else unexpectedly for help rather than just trying to do it on your own. I feel both of these characters were islands for themselves. Bailey, the only person he was trying to reach out to was his ex-girlfriend and she didn’t really want anything to do with him anymore. And Darla was just leaning on the crutch of sex, and had a true addiction, too. So I felt like the connection there is that they find each other and unknowingly to them they find this one person support group and then that leads them to get help outside of that.
While watching the screener I took a screenshot of your character Bailey holding the giant box of condoms. What were conversations like on set about how to make this film both sex positive and responsible?
Richardson: It was a notion on set to be really responsible and truthful about what real sex is. Condoms shouldn’t be automatically unromantic. I think they get a bad rep in TV and film, but they’re something that we should all be using.
That’s my headline right there. Sam Richardson says to use condoms.
Richardson: [Laughs] Richardson is uncool in the media! Some of those elements are easy to put in. Like in movies and TV, you have to put a seatbelt on when you’re driving, so why not a condom when you’re having sex? It’s real, but why not make it a real target of that dance? There’s nothing more awkward than going to CVS and buying a box of condoms because you’re like, ‘Don’t ask me about it when I get to the counter.’
How was the process of building chemistry as a romantic lead different from your buddy comedy experiences?
Richardson: I hadn’t met Brittany before we started filming or until we did a couple of rehearsals. So I think it hinged on her being such a great person and a great performer that we were able to play off each other very well. She’s such a funny person, and a smart, thoughtful performer that it was really easy to make friends off screen.
And then I think we became fast friends, which was helpful because also in that you’re playing characters who are just meeting for the first time. Unlike with Tim [Robinson] in Detroiters and with Adam [Pally] in Champaign ILL, those are characters who’ve known each other their whole lives. So it’s important that the chemistry is there because you have to make up a shorthand. Like with Adam, I didn’t know Adam very well before we started filming Champaign ILL, but I’ve known Tim forever. So that shorthand is there and you could fake it in Champaign ILL. But with this, these are characters who are getting to know each other to try and discover things about each other. It’s fun to get close to someone and then scale back and act like you don’t know anything about someone personality wise. That was a fun thing to do with Brittany and she was such a cool person and performer and I collaborated with her very well. But I think it shows on screen.
Of the odd spots they have sex in the film, where would be the most awkward in real life?
Richardson: In the real world, I think an airport bathroom probably. Probably the most embarrassing because it’s such a public place. Could you imagine doing that now with coronavirus? In this climate? Yikes. No sanitizer or anything.
Hooking Up is now available on digital and on demand.