Anne Heche opens the new all-female comedy “That's What She Said” by smoking and brushing her teeth at the same time, then her character, Dee Dee, spends the rest of her eventful day in a cloud of enthusiastic intoxication. And Heche, who will star in the NBC comedy “Save Me” later this season, has Alec Baldwin to thank for it.
“I always like getting a call from Alec, but I don't think I'm on his speed dial,” Heche said in a recent phone interview.
“He's like, ‘Heche, I gotta talk to you,'” she said, affecting a distinctly Baldwin-esque gravelly monotone. “‘There's a movie you gotta do, it's a friend of ours, Kellie Overbey, we were in ‘Twentieth Century' with her, she's a cute blond, she wrote something that only you can pull off.' Never in a million years would I say no to Alec Baldwin.”
Since Overbey appeared with Baldwin and Heche in the 2004 Broadway revival of the 1930s screwball comedy “Twentieth Century,” the actress and writer wrote the off-Broadway play “Girl Talk,” which evolved into the screenplay for “That's What She Said.”
The story begins with BeBe (Marcia De Bonis) freaking out before a first date, and calling on Dee Dee to bolster her confidence. Unfortunately for BeBe, Dee Dee is not the person to lean on, considering she can barely stand up most of the time.
When the two friends try to help weepy young woman Clementine (Alia Shawkat), who is smarting from a breakup, Clementine's compulsive tendencies spur a daylong adventure in bad behavior.
Heche said that portraying her character's chemically altered existence takes genuine skill, and it's not something to be undertaken while under the influence.
“I've learned the hard way that acting drunk and being drunk on camera are two things that definitely do not go together,” she said. “You think, ‘Wow, I thought I was really good being drunk in that drunk scene,' and it's the worst scene ever.
“Comedy is about perspective,” Heche said. “I think — not that I'm the wisdom behind comedy — but it definitely makes it funny if you have a point of view.”
Heche spent much of her early career splitting time evenly between comedy and drama, but in recent years, her comedy leanings have received more attention, most recently in her role as convention partyer Joan Ostrowski-Fox in the 2011 independent comedy “Cedar Rapids.” She said that her positive reviews for the performance caused more producers to consider her for comedies, but in her experience, no single role can create a sea change in a career.
“Other actors say, ‘I need that one thing,' and it's never ‘one thing,'” Heche said. “That's why they call it a ‘body of work' — it's about the accumulation of everything you've done.
“I remember being on stage at Sundance, and somebody from the audience said, ‘Have you always wanted to do comedy? This is your first one,'” she said, laughing. “Now, all of a sudden, I'm in a new generation, because this person, this sweet young person, had only seen me in dramatic roles and had no idea that I'd been doing comedies forever. It's funny what the perspective is, and I think ‘Cedar Rapids' was a reminder to people, and I really appreciated that reminder.”