'Natural Selection': Meanie 'Hangover' actress plays nice
Rachael Harris can play mean, and in the 2009 smash hit Hangover, she plays really mean as Melissa, the girlfriend of Ed Helms' character, Stu.
"My agent was getting calls for me to play the shrew," says Harris. "You can get pigeon-holed."
She's already been a bit pigeon-holed into comedy ever since joining the Groundlings, the legendary Los Angeles improv troupe, and over the past decade she's appeared in sitcoms such as Reno 911, Curb Your Enthusiasm, and Desperate Housewives.
"As much as I love sitcoms, can we try to branch out?" asks Harris in a chat about her upcoming visit to Charlottesville and her role in Natural Selection. That's the new indie film that scored big at the South by Southwest Film Festival in Austin, and which she describes as a "coming of age" movie about a woman in her 40s.
"You don't see scripts like that," says Harris, who plays Linda White, a devout Christian in a childless marriage whose husband has a stroke in a sperm bank, to which he's been a regular depositor for the past 25 years.
"I really connected with Linda," says Harris. "She journeys from a very small town and has a trusting personality. I grew up in a small town, and I know what it's like to want to believe there's something good in everyone."
Her upcoming appearance at the Virginia Film Festival is not her first in Charlottesville. In Harris' lengthy filmography, there's a part as a journalist in Evan Almighty, the Tom Shadyac film that had Charlottesville star-struck when it filmed here in 2006.
"I was here for six weeks," she says. "We loved it. The campus is outrageous."
And she has a family connection. "My aunt and cousin live in Charlottesville," she says. "My family lives in Ohio, and I'm having them come."
Harris has one other local connection. "I worked with [Film Festival director] Jody Kielbasa about 15 years ago in L.A. He ran the Tamarind Theatre, and he went by Jody Kiel," she says.
The actress has been making the rounds of such film festivals as the Tacoma Film Festival and Ebertfest in Champaign, Illinois.
"I didn't realize there were so many," she says. "For independent films looking for distribution, I'm so grateful we have this opportunity.
"It's a great feeling to be part of a festival and to meet other filmmakers," she continues. "Independents with low budgets– you really appreciate what they went through. You have a lot of camaraderie– and eating bad food." She seems to fondly remember the hot dogs grabbed before heading into another film.
Harris has played at least two reporters, including one in Evan Almighty. Here's an annoying reporter question she says she often gets:
"Wow, it's so shocking; you play all these bitches in all these films. How do you do it?" She pauses a beat. "Well, I'm an actress."
Rachael Harris will discuss Natural Selection with director Robbie Pickering at 6pm Saturday, November 5, at Culbreth Theatre.