On "The Office," Jenna Fischer plays the ray of sunshine that brightens up Jim Halpert's otherwise droning existence. But for her new film "A Little Help," the actress was forced to explore her darker side.
“That was kind of a dark period for my life, and so that might've been why I was drawn to this darker film,” Fischer tells PopcornBiz about her decision to play a woman who seems stuck in an unhappy life until the unexpected death of her husband leads to struggle to reinvent her entire existence. “It gave me an outlet for all those emotions and all that confusion and all of that part of my life, that feeling of things being up in the air, your feet not being on the ground.”
Fischer readily admits that the end of her eight-year marriage to writer-director James Gunn in 2008 provided her with the emotional understanding to breathe life into her film character in a way she might not have been able to before.
“My life is an open book, and when I shot this movie I was just coming off of a divorce myself,” says the actress, “so I'd been living a life for eight years and I had imagined my whole life with this partner – what I sort of thought my life was going to be and how it was going to go. Then we ended up separating and getting a divorce, and then I had to rebuild my life as an individual. Suddenly all those things that I thought were going to happen down the line weren't happening because I had changed course.”
Fischer says she feels fortunate that her own experience wasn’t quite as traumatic as her character’s loss, even with her split playing out in the glare of the Hollywood spotlight. “My ex-husband and I parted on such good terms,” she says. “I don't know what it's like to have a bunch of baggage and hatred and resentment. I know divorce is a lot more devastating for other people and that's part of it. That wasn't the case for me.”
Still, she admits it wasn’t easy, and she credits her generally positive, forward-thinking attitude for seeing her through her own darkest days. “I don't know if it's optimism necessarily, but I do believe that we have a certain command over our own happiness in life," she says. "And that if you put in the effort, even if it's uncomfortable or whatever it is, I do believe that I'd rather be doing something about a problem than not doing something about a problem."
Today, Fischer’s moved on to “the rebuilt part of my life.” She’s married to screenwriter Lee Kirk, and the couple recently welcomed a baby boy. “Now the movie is coming out, I have a happy ending and I hope that this movie implies that that's in store for Laura, too. At least I'd like to think so.”
"A Little Help" opens in limited release this Friday