Everyone knows Kristen Wiig is a master improviser.
“Nasty Baby,” a new film opening Friday in which the “Saturday Night Live” veteran plays a Brooklyn woman trying to conceive a baby with her gay best friend (Sebastián Silva, also the film’s writer and director), began as a 22-page outline that was improvised into its final dramatic form.
So what’s it like for a comedy legend to bring her “yes and” skills to darker material?
“It is improv, so you know the rules that go along with it, but definitely improvising a drama, it was a very different muscle than doing comedy,” Wiig says. “We would discuss what needed to happen in the scene and how each character felt about it and how they would relate to each other. Sebastian would tell us what we needed to do, and just kind of try it.”
Improvising a drama might have been new territory but this is far from the first time Wiig, 42, has ventured away from her comedic sweetspot; for every “Bridesmaids” or the upcoming “Ghostbusters” reboot on her resume, there’s “The Diary of a Teenage Girl,” or “The Skeleton Twins.”
“I feel like people always ask me why I’m doing different things, and I feel like it should be a question of ‘Why am I doing the same thing?” I wouldn’t want to do the same thing over and over again,” Wiig says. “I just feel really lucky that I get the opportunity to do this, because I know from a comedic background, I’m not the first person on people’s lists when I do a drama.”
It’s a strange stigma, one that has extended to the Academy Awards’ famous reluctance to acknowledge comedies as viable best picture contenders.
“I think sense of humor is so personal and that you can have a dramatic film that people can say, ‘Yes, I agree, this is a good dramatic film,'” Wiig says. “With comedy, it’s different because different people find different things funny.”
Nonetheless, Wiig’s casting was apparently a no-brainer.
“Kristen is super funny, so inventive when it comes to humor, goofy, a comedic genius,” says Silva. “That same sort of intelligence she can put wherever she wants. She has done it with comedy but she can do it with anything.”