‘Mack & Rita’: Elizabeth Lail, Taylour Paige and Dustin Milligan Talk Connecting to the Story

From director Katie Aselton, the dramedy Mack & Rita follows 30-year-old self-proclaimed homebody Mack Martin (Elizabeth Lail), who finds herself coming out of a regression pod during the bachelorette weekend for her best friend Carla (Taylour Paige), having suddenly transformed into her 70-year-old future self (Academy Award winner Diane Keaton). Going by Aunt Rita, so as not to attract too much confused attention, the old soul learns to free herself from other people’s expectations and realizes that maybe she wasn’t being as authentically true to herself as she previously thought.

During this interview with Collider, co-stars Lail, Paige and Dustin Milligan (who plays next-door neighbor Jack, a 30-something who finds himself drawn to both Mack and Rita, without knowing the truth about what’s going on) talked about what they most connected to with this project, how perceptions don’t often match reality, what embodying Keaton was like for Lail, the importance of trust and respect in friendships, and what it was like for Milligan to share a kiss with Keaton for a scene.

Collider: I tremendously enjoyed this movie and found it completely delightful. When you read the script, what most stood out for you? Was there a scene you were most excited about doing?

ELIZABETH LAIL: For me, it was thematically really resonant. I felt very connected to Mack and her feeling of not wanting to express herself fully, or hide parts of herself, and be not certain about how the world would accept that. And then, of course, Diane Keaton is in the movie.

DUSTIN MILLIGAN: And so are you.

LAIL: Amazingly enough.

TAYLOUR PAIGE: It’s a beautiful, lighthearted, feel-good movie and I was happy to be a part of contributing something like that right now. And I really value my friendships, in real life. I don’t know where I’d be without my friends. They’ve gotten me through some ghetto times.

Collider: I tremendously enjoyed this movie and found it completely delightful. When you read the script, what most stood out for you? Was there a scene you were most excited about doing?

ELIZABETH LAIL: For me, it was thematically really resonant. I felt very connected to Mack and her feeling of not wanting to express herself fully, or hide parts of herself, and be not certain about how the world would accept that. And then, of course, Diane Keaton is in the movie.

DUSTIN MILLIGAN: And so are you.

LAIL: Amazingly enough.

TAYLOUR PAIGE: It’s a beautiful, lighthearted, feel-good movie and I was happy to be a part of contributing something like that right now. And I really value my friendships, in real life. I don’t know where I’d be without my friends. They’ve gotten me through some ghetto times.

Elizabeth, would you say it was more challenging to figure out how to embody Anna from Frozen for Once Upon A Time, or Diane Keaton for this film? Is it harder to embody an animated character in human form, or an actual human being, like Diane Keaton?

LAIL: I think that the pressure of embodying Diane is a little higher. Although, at the time, it felt like the pressure to embody Anna was extremely high because it was important to all 12-year-olds everywhere.

PAIGE: Not just 12-year-olds.

LAIL: It’s so funny, it’s such a joy to get to do that. I love that aspect of the homework, to get to study someone and take on a rhythm, or a hand gesture, or whatever it is. That’s really fun for me. I love doing it. I didn’t even think about that. I watched Frozen maybe a hundred times, and I watched all of Diane’s movies. It was maybe a tad more entertaining to watch Diane’s movies, but I love Frozen, don’t get me wrong.

Taylour, I love that your character knows and trusts her friend enough that she believes her when she tells her this crazy thing has happened. What do you most enjoy about that friendship dynamic?

PAIGE: What do we have, if we don’t have trust and respect in our relationships. I just value how sincere it is. They’re sincere, true friends who see each other and understand their speed, and I just thought that was really sweet. That’s a love story, in and of itself. Accepting people for where they are and who they are, and then doing that in the embodiment of both Elizabeth and Diane was a treat. It’s sweet. It’s colorful. It’s fun. They’re just incredible talents, so lucky me.

MILLIGAN: I think about that too. I get this weird, “So, that wasn’t my aunt,” and some off screen conversation had to happen. I don’t know. I feel like I just was kinda like, “All right.” It would feel a little bit like, “Was I cheating?” There’s an element of, “How much was I interested in Mack before I fell for her aunt?”

PAIGE: It’s the spirit.

MILLIGAN: I’m just talking about technicalities because that’s important to me, for some reason, in this moment. I do think that, ultimately, there was a chat.

LAIL: She writes the story of it.

PAIGE: And he loved who she really was inside.

MILLIGAN: I can see that and I can trust that is that same connection, and that never goes away, no matter whose eyes I’m looking at. It’s the same thing, the same love.

When you have a kissing scene like that, with Diane Keaton, do you have a conversation? Do you just go for it? How does that work?

MILLIGAN: Usually, these things are somewhat technical. You have to figure out who’s gonna tilt on one side or the other, and how far you lean in. Those kinds of technical conversations always happen. And then, there’s this awkward thing where you have 40 to 50 people watching you do it, making sure you do it right, and judging whether or not you’re doing a good job. And then, you know that there’s an entire audience, in multiple theaters, that are gonna also be doing the exact same thing. That’s a lot of pressure sometimes. This was good though because Diane was very kind and gracious about it, and she was acting as though she was as nervous as I was. I don’t know if she actually was, but she was giving off that vibe, which made it more relaxing for both of us.

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