Daisy Ridley doesn’t want audiences to be misled by the title of her new film, “Sometimes I Think About Dying.”
Her character, Fran, is, actually, quite funny. Fran is a woman content in her mostly solitary life, apart from her co-workers in her chatty office. But when an attraction to a new colleague challenges her to take risks and push through social awkwardness to make a connection.
The film, in theaters now, is directed by Rachel Lambert and co-stars comedian Dave Merheje and several other comedic actors, who improvise watercooler talk to big laughs. )Ridley says she often had to stifle her laughter to stay in character.)
The Associated Press recently spoke to Ridley about finding Fran, reprising her role as Rey in a new “Star Wars” film, and perfecting her death stare. Answers have been edited for brevity and clarity.
AP: The film’s title makes it sound gloomy, but it’s actually a comedy, right?
RIDLEY: There was a lot more humor than anyone is expecting because the title gives a feeling that it’s going to be more of a melancholic sort of feeling. But there is a lot of humor and Fran is pretty funny. But also the world that she lives in is full of vibrancy and the office space is very gregarious and loud and fun, so it’s a nice world for her to live in, even though she is struggling to make connections occasionally.
AP: Fran’s outsider view puts the office setting and people under a microscope — did that amuse you?
RIDLEY: I loved the world and I loved the office but, actually, a lot of that was improvised. Rachel talks about how much she loves working with comedians because there’s such an ease with improvisation. The first scene we filmed was around the table in the conference room, and Rachel just let people fly and it was such a great way to bring everyone together. Fran loves to be at work. She loves her routine. But also she is sometimes a little judgmental of the people around her. So it’s not just that she’s struggling. Sometimes she’s like, “I don’t want to be part of it.” I think it’s very human, like two things can be true at the same time.
AP: You perfected your death stare for the fantasy scenes — was that challenging?
RIDLEY: The beach was cold! And the main thing really was trying not to shiver. So that was “please don’t shiver, please don’t move.” And then lying in the forest was tricky because I had a handful of bugs and it was like icky icky icky.
Thank you for the compliment about my death stare, I don’t know how I managed that well (laughs). It sounds so messed up. An absence of thought, which is obviously a contrast, because I had so much thinking when I was playing her. So in those moments, it was about the absence of any of that and the sort of calm, quiet time.
AP: This was your first time producing — how was that experience?
RIDLEY: It was a generous give of the producer credit (laughs). I did come on early so there was a sense that we all had to hold hands and say, “OK, this is what we’re going to do, and this is how we’re going to do it.” I was asked about various creative things, but Rachel made it so easy. And then from landing in Portland, (Oregon,) I was just an actor. There was no feeling of responsibility — bar from my own performance and being part of a company of people, which was wonderful. But there were a lot of lessons I learned on set because there were a group of people who made the film together and they were very generous with me, talking about budget and scheduling — so that actually facilitated me making my own movie, because I knew what could be done.
AP: Knowing you can’t say much about the new “Star Wars” movie,what excites you most about it?
RIDLEY: I’m excited about the story. I didn’t think it would happen that I would go back now. I thought maybe it would at some point, like in the faraway future. But I think the story is great and will appeal to the people that love it, and people who are maybe not as familiar with it. I think it will be a worthwhile adventure (smiles).
AP: You were so young on the last one; how will this be different?
RIDLEY: I was the baby! Now I feel more like a grown-up. It’s going to be so strange because I’m not going to be the baby anymore. But also, that’s sort of an exciting adventure of like, OK, how is this going to be — a different filmmaker, different writer, different crew, different cast? It will be such its own thing with its own thumbprint on it. It will be interesting.
AP: Who on that set gave you advice or helped you learn about the business?
RIDLEY: I’m the person that is always too embarrassed to ask questions. So I pretend I’m not fussed at all that I’m, like, next to Harrison Ford (laughs)! I think J.J. (Abrams) particularly, I will always think of in such a wonderful way because it’s such an intimate relationship, the one between actor and director, and the one between actor and cameraman. We had this amazing camera operator called Colin and there’s always such protection with the hair and makeup team and the costume team because, again, it’s so intimate. You go in at 5 in the morning and people are in your space, helping guide you and helping you feel ready to be seen eventually on an IMAX (screen). And actors. There was a lot of kindness from all places.