Eliza Coupe is best known from bringing the funny thanks to her sublime sitcom Happy Endings and so wrong it's right webseries, Frenemies. But in her new movie, Shanghai Calling, Coupe proves her heart is as strong as her funny bone.
The fish out of water tale casts Coupe as Amanda, a relocation specialist who is tasked with helping Sam (played by Daniel Henney) acclimate to his new surroundings in Shanghai. But filming the movie on location in China led Coupe to wish she had an Amanda of her own.
In addition to opening up about this amazing moviemaking experience (as well as hooking ETonline up with an exclusive clip!), Coupe talks about the current season of Happy Endings and previews a couple fun surprises coming in the near future.
ETonline: Shanghai Calling actually filmed in China. Did that immersion help you step into the character's shoes?
Eliza Coupe: Yes, and I'm going to steal that from you because that's exactly how it felt. There's nothing like being on location and throwing yourself into the world you're representing. We were really there. My character was supposed to have been living there so she knew the language, but I had never been to China, so I felt more like Daniel's character -- which is funny because David's lived in Asia a lot, so he ended up teaching me a lot in our off-time. But I have to say, filming this movie was one of the best experiences of my life.
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ETonline: You speak very impressive Chinese in the movie -- did you have a pre-existing grasp on the language?
Coupe: Not even a little bit. In fact, I was coming from a French lesson when I got a call to read the script. Which is hilarious. I'm pretty fearless when it comes to roles. I mean, if someone told me I had to play King Lear right now, I'd be excited. That's just kind of the way I do things ... but I had no idea how hard Chinese is. I'm not a mathematical person, and it's a very mathematical language -- wrapping my mind around that was hard. And the tone is very important, if you get the tone wrong, you're not even saying a real word. I was practicing at least an hour a day and was in tears all the time, but it worked out. Well ... there was one scene that was entirely in Chinese and it was cut from the movie [laughs]. But the director assured me it had nothing to do with my grasp of the Chinese language.
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ETonline: The movie is all about acclimating to a new country, what was the biggest adjustment to life in China for you during production?
Coupe: It was so hot there. I lived in New York forever, so I'm very used to humidity. But it doesn't even compare to the humidity in Shanghai. I would step outside and immediately have to turn around again because I'd be drenched in sweat. I had short-shorts on the entire time. Well, they were jean cutoffs that basically looked like denim underwear -- I just pranced around in denim underwear the whole time. And my body is basically all limbs. My legs and arms are awkwardly long, so I looked like a big marionette walking around in China.
ETonline: I was a little disappointed to find out that you didn't tap Michael Fassbender to play the role of "Awesome Wang" in this movie. What happened?
Coupe: [sighs] You know, he won't talk to me. That's where that comes from. I tried, I really did -- I was outside his house and he wouldn't even read the script. But the cops have tapped into my phone, so if I talk about him too long, they're going to be here in five minutes, so...
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ETonline: Moving on then, I've been loving this season of Happy Endings. I think I've watched The Merry Prankster about 10 times. Great job making it rain on Damon, by the way.
Coupe: Thank you! Brad and Jane are completely unhinged this season and clearly need to go to some sort of sex addiction therapy. It was so funny because they only used such a tiny part of what we did. We went crazy. Like, crazy with that scene -- I hope they put it on the DVD because we did some crazy stuff. I don't know what was going on with me that day, but I was loving Damon in that outfit.
ETonline: Looking at what you have coming up, what are you excited for fans to see?
Coupe: Let me say, it's going to get crazy. Just buckle up. There's an episode where Brad and Jane throw a game night -- we wear matching tracksuits and have our own warm-up cheer ... it's a really intense episode. And in the episode we're filming right now, Penny writes a play and it's pretty much the worst play in the world but Derrick comes back to, of course, be in the play. That's a great episode.
ETonline: Right now ABC is, basically, burning off Happy Endings episodes. What's it like to still be filming the show that ABC is, once again, treating so badly?
Coupe: It's a running joke on set when we film something we all think is incredible that someone goes, "Oh man, that was so good -- it's too bad no one will ever see it." It's the same as every year, we just never know. The network and the studio love the show, and they have been very good to us. They have given us a chance and kept us around for three season. Do we wish there was more publicity? Yeah. But it's undeniable we're making a great show. I just wish we had more of a push, and I really hope we get a fourth season -- but that's not up to me.
Shanghai Calling opens February 12 on VOD and February 15 in New York, Los Angeles and San Francisco.