“Together Together,” a comedy that premiered at Sundance Film Festival, is a different kind of love story.
The movie centers on Anna, a 20-something woman portrayed by Patti Harrison, who is hired as a surrogate for Matt, a single man in his 40s played by Ed Helms. As the pregnancy proceeds, the once-strangers form a genuine bond that subverts expectations about parenthood and platonic friendship.
Director Nikole Beckwith — whose first feature “Stockholm, Pennsylvania” debuted at Sundance in 2015 — wanted to tell a story about the male biological clock.
“As a culture, we’re obsessed with women being ruled by their biological clock and doing whatever it takes at all costs to become a mother,” she said at Variety’s virtual Sundance Studio presented by AT&T TV. “We need to change the representation of women in film, but part of feminist filmmaking is changing the representation of men.”
“Together Together” marks the first leading role in a movie for Harrison, who’s best known for her stand-up career and Hulu’s “Shrill.” Helms, most familiar to audiences as Andy Bernard on “The Office” and Stewart Prince in “The Hangover” trilogy, similarly gravitates to comedy. “Together Together” certainly has funny moments, but Harrison and Helms were both drawn to the promise of a slightly more grounded role.
“It definitely was about being outside of my comfort zone. It felt very scary, but also like an exciting opportunity,” Harrison says. Helms adds, “I’m at a point in my career where I’m eager to do different things. There’s so much specificity and nuance in Nikole’s storytelling. In some ways that meant doing less, which weirdly is very very hard for me.”
Beckwith says Harrison landed on her radar after Harrison appeared on “The Tonight Show” to discuss the Trump administration’s transgender military ban. As a transgender actor, Harrison called it a “magical experience” to be cast as a cisgender character where being trans was not part of the role.
“I started doing comedy because it was an escape for me,” Harrison said. “I didn’t talk about being trans a lot because it’s such a thick lens through which to view your life. There are very few moments in my daily life where I have this sense of ‘normalcy’ outside of thinking about being trans. There’s a daily anxiety and fear.”
While comedy was initially an outlet to escape, she found that as she achieved greater success, Hollywood types were singularly interested in working with her on projects that played into being trans.
“It felt at odds to why I do anything creative,” she said. “That has been really frustrating — to want to do other stuff but to be pigeonholed by someone else’s perception of me. It feels like you’re having your agency taken away.”
And that’s why filming “Together Together” felt “therapeutic,” even “cathartic” for Harrison, even when doubt creeped in.
“There were times I had body dysmorphia issues. There were moments where I was like, ‘I don’t know if people are going to believe it,'” Harrison said. “But Nikole was super supportive in a way that was so soothing.”