Since she first graced the silver screen in the early aughts, Malin Akerman has injected an unwavering goodness into each of her characters. Whether it’s in Couples Retreat or Wanderlust, Akerman seems to effortlessly captivate audiences with her lightheartedness. Even in Children’s Hospital, where she lusts for a bespectacled rabbi played by David Wain, Akerman comes across as warm and inviting. It helps, too, that she can be at once uproarious and sensual within a given scene. Now, her adaptability is taking her into uncharted territory: dramatic films. When we spoke to Akerman, she candidly discussed her fears about putting aside comedy for drama, never being able to live down Harold and Kumar Go to White Castle, and the incalculable delights of her latest film, The Final Girls.
What have you been up to?
I’m shooting a TV show out here actually, for Showtime, it’s called Billions, with Paul Giamatti and Damian Lewis. It’s a fantastic one-hour sort of financial thriller and I’m very excited about it. I’ve been here since July and I’m here until September.
Sounds like you got your life mapped out.
Yeah, up until December! [laughs] And then who knows what will happen? I’ll be unemployed again.
Do you still fear that?
Yeah, of course, there is obviously some sense of security, you know that there are always offers to do some kind of independent film, which I love doing, and most independent ones are really interesting and well written. But of course I have the fear. I also want to put my son through college someday, if he wants to go. When you have responsibilities, there’s always a bit of that, and there’s always a little bit of chance. There’s always new people coming in all the time. This business is filled with really great actors. You can’t sit too comfortably. You gotta continue to work hard and get out there.
Your character in The Final Girls wants to be a movie star. Is that something you desire?
It’s not something I ever really wanted in a big way. I really like my privacy in my personal life and I like to be able to … [pauses for a moment] Listen, I’ll take whatever comes my way, let’s put it that way. In the beginning I took anything just to get rolling and started. Now, it’s more about doing jobs that I want to be a part of — that are challenging, that keep me excited and alive, and that also allow me some quality time with my son. Things shift, so it’s never been, ‘Oh I wanna be a big movie star,’ it’s more just if I can work on great films or TV show, we’ll just deal with it, go with the flow.
Do you think you’re finding those roles?
More so now. It’s interesting, after having a child, I think that it’s sort of shifted, and all of sudden these new emotions became available and this vulnerability, I was very excited about. “Ooh, I have a new toolbox, and I want to explore it,” and I want to delve in a little more into characters and drama. Where to find that when you’re known in the commercial world as a sort of comedy girl.
You think you’re pigeonholed by comedy?
The shift from comedy to drama has been definitely difficult because once you’ve been pigeonholed, that’s how people see you. That’s why Final Girls was, for me, a great in between because of course there’s the comedy aspect to it, but then there’s these peer relationships, mother daughter related, that’s the core of the film, that’s emotional and lovely.
The movie turned out well. I was a bit skeptical going into it.
It’s so hard to explain what it is exactly going into it. What am I going into? Is it a horror film? Is it a comedy? But I guess it’s a little piece of everything, and I think most people are really happily surprised.
You said you’re really uncertain going into drama, so I wanna ask, do you think you can?
It doesn’t come as easily, let’s just put it that way. In society, we don’t go out and cry at the drop of a hat when we see something that probably could make us cry. We just have been so conditioned over the years, or I have, at least, I’ll speak for myself. It’s more so that you go out and you wanna have a good time with friends, and you laugh. And it’s not very often that you sit down and cry with friends. It’s a muscle that we don’t really exercise on a regular basis, so it definitely becomes more of a concentration and a challenge.
I’ve definitely cried in front of my friends.
Yes, well I’ve definitely cried in front of my friends too, but it’s just not as often as you laugh together.
In the film, your character asks herself, “Am I ever going to live this movie down?” You’ve had a varied career, but have you asked yourself the same question?
Not really. That’s usually when you do shitty role; no one really buys it, it never gets released, so you never have to live it down. I mean the one – and this is not a putdown of the film, because it has a cult following, and people love it and I love it – is Harold and Kumar Go to White Castle. So when people are like, “Oh, you’re the girl from Harold and Kumar!” I’m like, “Oh God! Yep, that’s me.” That’s one of my first jobs, but it’s not really like I’m going to live it down, and it’s a pretty vulnerable moment.
Whatever happened to Trophy Wife?
You know how many people come up to me and go, “What happened?” Even Time Magazine wrote a eulogy. Most people didn’t understand it, including myself. I know Lee Weisberg was a producer on it, and we really didn’t have any marketing. I almost feel like we should get on the bandwagon with all the new media and stuff, because the way that they make decisions is based on certain numbers of viewers, and it’s kind of like, if we’re up against The Voice, and 13 million people are tuning into The Voice and want to see that live because it’s one of their shows you need to see live, what are you gonna do? It’s kind of tough shit for us. And people are going to DVR it or watch it on Netflix, so we don’t get the numbers, and they make decisions off of that, which I think is kind of archaic nowadays. If that’s what they’re basing it on, then that’s unfortunate, instead of saying, ‘Audiences are loving it and we’re getting great reviews.’ But I don’t know, your guess is as good as mine.
That’s depressing. Has this profession become easier with time?
I think at every stage of your career as an actor, there are more doors that open up and new challenges arise. All of a sudden, you might have more people on your team you have to manage. I love that every job is new and you feel like you’re starting over again, you get to be excited and nervous and challenged, and all that kind of stuff. The downside is the more you do well the more you get followed by paparazzi, weird stuff like that that’s not my favorite. You kind of just fall into space or are present to what’s going on and get used to it, and enjoy it and learn to love the good and the bad, embrace it all. At the end of the day, I’m pretty lucky, I get to do a dream job. I really do love it. It’s a silver lining.