With that awkward moment over, Anna returns to her chatty self as we talk about her other Love Life, the Stan anthology series. Anna’s character, Darby, a museum tour guide, is the subject of the first 10-episode season as we follow her relationships from first love to lasting love via everything in between.
“The real arc that we wanted was to show how we learn from each relationship,” she says. “Even though our relationships end, it doesn’t mean they are complete failures. People come into your life and you grow and they change you and what you learn from them might be really positive or it might be negative.”
The series shares DNA with Sex and the City and Girls as we watch a group of friends clumsily navigating the messy reality of pairing up. “It was painful at times and I cringed at the way that I, and so many women that I know, dated guys in our early 20s – the way we were so awkward and needy and clingy,” Anna says.
“Looking back now, it’s like, ‘Oh god, I acted like such a jerk in that relationship.’ Or all the times I didn’t feel strong enough to say, ‘You can’t speak to me that way.’ I’m just so happy that I’m clearer now about what I will accept from people in my life.”
As Anna grows more relaxed, we circle back to the dating themes of the show and how they resonated in her life. “When I was maybe 14 or 15, somebody gave me this specific example, that if you’re ever in a car with a guy, and he’s driving, and as a joke he lets go of the wheel and makes you grab it, that is not a guy you want to be with,” she recalls.
“He might say, ‘Hey, I’m just joking, why are you being so sensitive?’ But really, he’s testing your boundaries and what you’re willing to put up with and trying to make you uncomfortable.”
“It sounds silly, but I dated a guy when I was 19 who tickled me all the time and I don’t like being tickled, because it makes me claustrophobic. So I kept saying, ‘This is a problem for me. Please don’t do it.’ ”
“But he kept doing it and I thought, ‘He’s the guy with the steering wheel!’ So, I broke up with him and he told everyone it was because he tickled me. I was like, ‘No, dude, I broke up with you because you didn’t respect me!’ ”
Anna Kendrick grew up in the sleepy US East Coast town of Portland, Maine, the daughter of
a history teacher and an accountant. At age six she scored the lead role in a community-theatre production of Annie. By 10, she was insisting her parents make the five-hour drive into New York City for stage auditions. And at 12 she scored a Tony nomination in the Broadway musical High Society.
Eventually, the fresh-faced brunette with big blue eyes transitioned into films, including the four Twilight Saga movies (2009-12). She has also put her theatrical roots to good use in musical films, including Stephen Sondheim’s Into the Woods (2014) and the 2016 animated film Trolls, including eight songs on the soundtrack.
Love Life also implies sex life, although Anna says she really hadn’t thought that through when she first signed on. “When we started filming, it dawned on me that in every single episode I was going to be doing a kissing scene or a sex scene with someone brand new,” she says, rolling her eyes. “It was definitely weird to know that we were going to meet and within a week we were going to be in bed pretending to have sex!”
That doesn’t mean, however, she’ll be going the full Kim Cattrall or Lena Dunham on the show. “My personal feelings on nudity – that I’m not really interested in nudity for me – stayed the same. I’ve never had a problem with simulated sex scenes – that feels like it’s about the character, whereas I only get one body, so nudity is more about me.”
Anna’s on a roll with this new screen persona, recently playing a woman who falls for a talking sex doll in the quirky, bite-sized series Dummy, available on the Quibi streaming platform.
“That gave me a new appreciation for people who are owners of sex dolls because it turns out that a sex doll is really heavy lifting, so there’s a certain level of commitment,” she says in typically deadpan manner.
“I have no judgment and I seriously tip my cap to those people,” she adds, grinning. “But the creator and director of Dummy, Tricia Brock, also directed an episode of Love Life where Darby uses a sex toy and I said, ‘Tricia, do you just like to have me doing something gross every time we work together?’ ”
As video chats become more the norm, stars are often sharing intimate glimpses into their homes. Not Anna, who is sitting in front of a blank white wall looking surprisingly glammed up thanks to a good blow-dry, immaculate make-up and a pretty floral dress.
“I could say I’ve been exercising every day and cooking,” she says, “but there’s definitely been days where I feel helpless because there’s something really terrible happening out there and I’m powerless to change it.”
For now, she’s happy to use Zoom to keep her loved ones close. “Twice a week I do family movie nights – my parents are in Maine and my brother is in New York – and we pick a movie like Robert Redford’s The Natural or The Princess Bride and all press play at the same time. We’re all texting each other during the movie, which normally would be a no-no, but under these circumstances it’s really sweet.”
That also applies to many of her co-stars. “In the last couple of weeks, I was on a Zoom call with some of the girls from Pitch Perfect [including Rebel Wilson and Anna Camp] and we were talking about when you get in fights with friends, how it’s the worst.
“I said, ‘If you just text me first to warn me you’re mad before you call, that would be great.’ And those girls were like, ‘What? We’re not going to get into a fight!’ I met them when we were around 25 and now we’re talking about being friends until we’re 80.”
It’s not surprising then, that Anna embraced the episode of Love Life devoted to a potential breakup with Darby’s best friend, Sara (Zoe Chao), instead of a beau. “Sometimes your girlfriends are the great loves of your life and they affect you so much,” she says. “I’m just grateful to have those kinds of relationships, too.”
Love Life premieres on May 27 on Stan. Stan is owned by Nine, which owns this masthead.
This article appears in Sunday Life magazine within the Sun-Herald and the Sunday Age on sale May 24.