Shiri Appleby on ‘Lemon,’ Working with Rhea… by Uinterview

Lemon, a new film from writer and director Janicza Bravo, is a dark comedy about a man named Isaac Lachmann in free fall. As an actor, his career seems to be headed nowhere. As a lover, he has recently been dumped. And his family seems to be just as crazy as he is.

Lemon stars Brett Gelman – he co-wrote the film with Bravo, his wife. It also stars Judy GreerMichael CeraGillian JacobsMegan MullallyRhea Perlman, Nia Long, and Shiri Appleby as Isaac’s sister.

Appleby recently sat down with uInterview to discuss Lemon, Bravo, her co-stars, and what she has planned for the future.

Unlike many of the actors in Lemon, Appleby had not worked previously with Gelman and Bravo. Nonetheless, she quickly became close with her co-stars on set.

“Brett and I became close right off the bat,” Appleby told uInterview. “We’re very much both actors who are like, ‘We play siblings, just tell me your whole life as quickly as possible.'”

The same goes for Rhea Perlman, who plays Appleby’s mother in the film.

“[Rhea] has just been very lovely and very supportive. We’ve continued to email and she’s like, ‘If you every need me for anything, I’m always here for you.’ Very maternal,” said Appleby.

“I think that as an actress, coming up in this industry, any time a woman that has achieved so much is reaching out to you it feels so comforting and makes you feel really good about what you’re doing.”

In the end, the whole experience has turned Appleby on to the idea of pursuing more comedic roles.

Said the actress, “I want to do more comedy, I want to go in that direction because it’s a side of me that seems really untapped and I was really grateful that Janicza thought of me for this role and included me.”

“When I saw it, I was like, ‘I can’t believe I’m a part of this movie.’ It’s way cooler than anything I’ve ever been in.”

Watch the trailer for Lemon below, in available for streaming on Amazon Prime and iTunes now and in theaters in New York and L.A.


Q: What attracted you to this role? -

I just thought it was a slice of life of this really sad, lonely guy and the characters in the entire film were really well written. The role of Ruthie, which I was being offered, was this sparkly girl who was self-centered, who has this African-American son but is rude to her hispanic nanny, and is rude to the brother. There is just so many character traits and she goes on this wild emotional journey in a really short time. The next thing I did was watch Janicza's shorts and she just had such a strong point of view and her filmmaking was exquisite so I was thrilled to be a part of it. I had no idea what movie we were actually making until I saw it. And when I saw it, I was like, "I can't believe I'm a part of this movie." It's way cooler than anything I've ever been in.

Q: What was it like to watch the film? -

The movie is kind of broken up into three different parts of Isaac's world. It's like his work world on the stage and the theatre – I didn't see one frame of that so that was all new and exciting. It was really twisted and odd and it had this great theatrical element that I loved. And then there was the part with the family that I knew but I read even the little log line for the singing of the song, it felt like nothing on the page. It was fun when we were shooting it but still, I had no idea what it was. When I saw it, I was like, 'Wow, this thing really explodes on screen.' And then again, with his romance with Nia Long's character, I had no idea what this world was. So it was almost like being let into three separate worlds of your brother and you're like, 'This is who my brother is? What a crazy guy!'

Q: What was it like working with this cast? -

It was one of those movies where anytime you're sitting next to somebody off-camera, I'm going to take this moment to bond with them and see what they have to say. There's always something to learn. I became really close with Rhea. I ended up doing a short a few months later and she came and did a part for me in it and I had worked with David Paymer in 'Life Unexpected' and Martin Starr in 'Roswell' so there was a lot of familiarity. And Brett and I became close right off the bat. We're very much both actors who are like, 'We play siblings, just tell me your whole life as quickly as possible.' It was just one of those things that when we were shooting everything, you know, we are also playing a Jewish family and Jewish families are sort of known for being boisterous and loud and arguing and fighting and then two seconds later you're hugging and kissing and everything has sort of been forgotten. I think that this movie, and that little setting, really captured that.

Q: What's your relationship with Rhea Perlman like? -

Rhea is really, she's really specific. She was really sweet, I just wanted to kind of be in her world and talk to her. She's very grounded. She's very meticulous, she knows her lines, she's very prepared. She's an actor and she takes direction but she's really taking it all in. She's just been very lovely and very supportive. We've continued to email and she's like, 'If you every need me for anything, I'm always here for you,' like very maternal. I think that as an actress, coming up in this industry, any time a woman that has achieved so much is reaching out to you it feels so comforting and makes you feel really good about what you're doing. You know, Brett and Janicza, I didn't know them and I was one of the few actors that they hadn't worked with before. I was just really impressed with how much they care, how hard they were working on it and the level of excellence that they were really striving for. When you work with people that go in with that level of quality and commitment, it's so exciting because it's sadly sort of rare, and it makes you want to up your game a bit to give them everything you have. So I really responded to working with them and I hope to continue to in the future.

Q: How do you think you've grown through this project? -

Michael and I were outside talking a lot about how far we've come and what we're trying to do now with work. I think there was just a lot of joy, actually, that was happening when we were all sitting around the piano singing 'A Million Matzah Balls.' I mostly do a lot of heavy work normally so it was really fun for me to be doing something so joyful and to be free and see the energy of that and then to see it on screen. I want to do more comedy, I want to go in that direction because it's a side of me that seems really untapped and I was really grateful that Janicza thought of me for this role and included me.

Q: What's next for you this year? -

I'm going back to 'UnREAL.' We start shooting the fourth season in October, the third season will air sometime early 2018 and I'm looking to direct. I've got a handful of shows in various stages of development and I'm just working as hard as I can right now.