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Sarah Silverman: “I Smile Back” Required Trip Back Into Childhood of Depression, Abuse

Sarah Silverman stars as Laney in the new film I Smile Back that opened nationwide on Friday. Known for her stand-up comedy, she admits it’s often hard to convince a director she can play a role...
Sarah Silverman: “I Smile Back” Required Trip Back Into Childhood of Depression, Abuse
Written by Kimberly Ripley
  • Sarah Silverman stars as Laney in the new film I Smile Back that opened nationwide on Friday. Known for her stand-up comedy, she admits it’s often hard to convince a director she can play a role. This one was a perfect fit. Looking back into her childhood of depression and abuse, Sarah Silverman discovered she had a lot in common with Laney.

    Laney is a suburban mother who is put together on the outside but falling apart from within. Addled with a past that includes addiction, depression, and adultery, she begins a slow unraveling that isn’t completely foreign to Sarah Silverman.

    Silverman was depressed as a child. Growing up in New Hampshire, she was depressed. By age 14, she took Xanax four times a day.

    “I was kind of numb, I guess,” she said in a recent interview with the L.A. Times. “It didn’t fix me in any way.”

    Silverman shared how one of her psychiatrists hanged himself and that she was informed of his death by a hypnotist her parents hired to curb her bed-wetting. She admits she drew on these complexities to play the role of Laney, and that this is among the deeper roles she has ever played.

    “I don’t have easy access to my emotions,” she admitted. “They’re very tightly packed and compartmentalized. But for this part, they had to be on the surface. A really big director I admire told me once, ‘You’re really good, but I’ll never cast you in anything because you’re Sarah Silverman. People are too familiar with you. You’re like a personality. I need actors that people can get lost in.’ I couldn’t argue with him [she fake pouts] other than give me a chance.”

    Adam Salky is the director of I Smile Back. He watched her play an overbearing girlfriend in School of Rock as well as an alcoholic in Take This Waltz. He knew Sarah Silverman had the instincts of a woman in turmoil from reading her autobiography, The Bedwetter: Stories of Courage, Redemption and Pee.

    “Sarah has a pool of emotional and intellectual depth,” he said. “You put the camera on her and let it run.”

    Even if you’re not a fan of Sarah Silverman’s comedy–it’s laced with four-letter words and can be quite dark and raunchy–don’t count her out for a deep, serious role in I Smile Back.

    It sounds like this film has the power to redefine Sarah Silverman.

    In addition to Sarah Silverman, I Smile Back stars Josh Charles (The Good Wife), Thomas Sadoski, Terry Kinney, and Skylar Gaertner.

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