In the film Ghost Town, Téa Leoni plays Gwen, a widowed archaeologist whose dead husband (Greg Kinnear) wants to break up her new relationship. He enlists the help of the only man who can see ghosts: a curmudgeonly dentist named Bertram (Ricky Gervais), who just had a near-death experience himself. In time, a hilariously unlikely romantic connection is forged between Gwen and Bertram. Here, Leoni talks about the role and her costars.
MORE: When a character in a romantic comedy is as obnoxious as Bertram, so much depends on his costar’s reactions.
Téa Leoni: David Koepp, the writer-director, and I talked about that. You’ve got an hour and nineteen minutes to see the truth, the pain, and the fear in this character while he’s acting like an absolute asshole. I liked that challenge. I think that’s why I ended up getting pulled toward comedy, because when you’re doing a comedy there has to be something going on underneath that contradicts what’s coming out of the mouth.
MORE: How was it working with Ricky Gervais?
Leoni: Ricky was a really fun surprise because I didn’t know his work beyond these BBC shows that are so much fun [the original version of The Office and Extras]. And that he was in a boy band in the ’80s. We used to pull photos of him in the band up on computers on the set — so funny! His comic [sense] is so vivid. There’s not a moment where you don’t see the wheels turning with him. He’ll let you watch his character squirm. A lot of actors have a tough time letting go, being willing to look that confused and still be able to deliver a punchline with incredible gusto.
MORE: And Greg Kinnear?
Leoni: When I heard Greg was in Ghost Town, I thought, great, we can finally work together! It didn’t occur to me until I got to the set, "You idiot! You can’t see him. You can’t acknowledge him. You’re not acting with him." We were in the same movie, but we never got to talk to each other.
MORE: When you started out, did you love acting immediately?
Leoni: What I thought it was, yeah, sure, it’s kicky. Then it got harder and more fascinating at the same time.
MORE: Is it more fun for you now, at 42?
Leoni: Oh, god, yeah. Because I’m more concerned with my own experience and I’m less interested in the outcome. I’m less concerned with what you’re concerned about at 25. And I think that if my kids can see their mom get excited by what she does, that’s a great thing to give them.
Originally published on MORE.com, September 2008.