Lili Taylor and Janeane Garofalo had similar career beginnings — each inspired a slew of Gen-X crushes and had a star turn playing a cool best friend, in the cult-classic films Say Anything and Reality Bites, respectively. In the ensuing decades, each worked steadily but with different trajectories: Taylor starred in TV shows (Six Feet Under, American Crime), plays (The Three Sisters, Mourning Becomes Electra), and movies (High Fidelity, The Notorious Bettie Page) and became active in bird conservation, while Garofalo, primarily a comic, went on to star in Romy & Michele's High School Reunion and Wet Hot American Summer before hosting a radio show on the short-lived progressive station Air America.
Now they are first-time costars, in the play Marvin's Room, playing long-estranged sisters grappling with each other, their troubled family, and a life-threatening illness. Marvin's Room debuted in Chicago in 1990 and was produced in theaters around the country and London's West End before being made into a 1996 film starring a young Leonardo DiCaprio; Meryl Streep as Lee, currently portrayed by Garofalo; and Diane Keaton as Bessie, Taylor's role. Keaton was nominated for an Oscar for her performance.
The current production marks Garofalo's Broadway debut, and, in addition to forming an inspired theatrical pairing, she and Taylor have become fast friends. We spoke on the phone just after the play's opening. Garofalo, a self-proclaimed "neo-Luddite," dialed a moment late into the conference line, while Taylor cheered her ability to join — their unfettered admiration for each other and joyful camaraderie made them seem more like longtime pals than newly introduced costars.
Leigh Flayton : What was your reaction when you found out you would be each other's costar?
Lili Taylor : I said, "Perfect." I feel like she's familiar to me. Familial.
Janeane Garofalo : Without even having read the play, I knew I wanted to work with Lili. I auditioned for it, never thinking I would get it, and then I actually got the part somehow. It was Lili that was the motivating force.
LF : Why didn't you think you would get it?
JG : Because I don't get 90 percent of the things I audition for. I'm not a particularly good auditioner. It's a very unnatural, unsettling situation. My low self-esteem does not serve me well in that type of situation, so I just assumed I wasn't going to get it, which I think actually worked in my favor. I went into it with, "I'm just happy that they would even ask me to do it."
LF: This is Janeane's and the play's Broadway debut. Why is now a good time to revive this show?
LT : I think any time would be an OK time, because it's about family. It has all the stuff that any good story has, which is the specificity with a certain family, the conflicts within it — dying, loving, what's important.
JG : There are — out of necessity in the last, I would say, ten years, because of the economy — multigenerational families living together again. Growing up, my mother's mother lived with us for most of my life, and it was extremely difficult. Especially since my father did not get along with my mother's mother. And so I am a huge advocate, just from personal experience, of nursing homes — if it's a nice nursing home … These are very difficult issues, and people sometimes think I'm very, very cold and somewhat crass about my sort of straightforward opinion on this, and I certainly don't mean to be.
LF: Speaking of straightforward, Janeane, you got a lot of flak for raising a political voice against George W. Bush and the Iraq War. What did that do to your career, and to you?