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Josh Charles on Sarah Silverman’s ‘I Smile Back’ Role: ‘She Dove Into Icy Cold Waters’

The red carpet buzzed with accolades for Sarah Silverman‘s performance at a New York screening of “I Smile Back,” hosted by Broad Green Pictures Tuesday at the Museum of Modern Art. The film, in which Silverman stars as a woman who appears to have everything but struggles with depression, opened at the Sundance Film Festival and also showed at Toronto.

Amy Koppelman wrote the novel “I Smile Back” and adapted it to the screen with the help of her writing partner Paige Dylan. When Koppelman heard Silverman on Howard Stern’s radio program talking about her own experiences with depression, she knew Silverman could play the lead character. She sent Silverman the novel on a whim. “I write these really small dark books and I just thought she would understand what I was trying to say… It was a miracle she opened it,” Koppelman said.

Silverman enjoyed the possibility of diverse reactions to her character’s behavior. “It’s something that people will walk away from feeling so many different ways. Some people will have empathy for her and some will have total disdain,” she said. “It all depends on their own life experience that they’re coming from when they watch it and I love that about any kind of art.”

Director Adam Salky joined the project later and was drawn to “a human story, a tragic story — one that touches everyone.” Silverman’s involvement in the project moved Salky. “The fact that she was going to take this chance and she was going to do that different thing and take that risk really inspired me and pulled me into it,” he said.

Silverman texted Josh Charles to ask him if he would play her on-screen husband and he could not turn down the opportunity. “I got to see her deliver a beautiful performance of such raw vulnerability and such great humanity,” Charles said, “It’s exciting to be a part of something with a friend that went out there and dove first into the icy cold waters. I think she’s being rewarded for it by people that have seen it and the people that will see it.” He noted that while there was some laughter on set, it was a “somber and intense experience” due to the seriousness of the subject matter.

After the screening cast, crew, and guests made their way to Beautique on West 58th Street for an after-party.

The film opens Oct. 23.

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