A Conversation with Zahra Newman

I spoke with Zahra Newman about her role in Long Story Short — available NOW in theaters, On Demand and Digital.

Yanis: I loved Long Story Short, what made you say yes to this film?

Zahra: One of first things that really stood out to me when I first read the script was that it read very much like a play.

My background is in theatre. That’s where a lot of my experience is, and so it’s really comforting to read those long scenes. Lots of duologues. I was like “oh I get this. I get this language. I know I can understand this. It’s so familiar.”

That was one of the things that stood out to me also of course getting to work with Josh. I knew of him. He’s known in our industry here, and his previous film The Little Death I heard a lot about.

I was really attracted to the kind of relationship that he’d written for Teddy, who is the protagonist, and Leanne who I play.

This kind of relationship that was a little bit representative or similar to the relationship you might find in Shakespeare. Between very sort of like bantery couples in Shakespeare who can give as good as they get kind of thing.

They have really good repartee. They are partners in mind as well. That was really attractive to me to be able to tackle and engage. I haven’t done a lot of romantic comedies. I wouldn’t say it was in my wheelhouse, so getting the chance to do a straight up and down romcom was a challenge as well. I was looking forward to that.

Y: Which Shakespearean couple reminded you of Leanne and Teddy?

Z: Beatrice and Benedict from Much Ado About Nothing. Kate and Petruchio from The Taming of the Shrew. Those relationships are very combative. Leanne loves to play the game a little bit.

Y: What are Teddy’s good qualities? Why did Leanne fall for him?

Z: I think he’s very charming. I would say his charm. He is a procrastinator, but he is also very much inside of the moment. When we first meet them and they meet each out at the new year’s party you know that scene and his ability to make fun of himself is quite endearing. You take people’s flaws, you take the good with the bad when you have a partner.

I think that she is willing to live with and take some of his flaws along with all of the things that make him great.

The difference is that sure you can have flaws, but if they’re gonna impact your ability to be present in this relationship, that’s when it starts to become a problem and that’s what we see happen in the film.

Y: Do you have a favorite scene in the film?

Z: It was really fun filming the scene where she finds the bra under the couch. That was quite fun. Also the letters scene where the counselor says they should write letters to each other.

I think part of the charm of the film is even though there are scenes that are quite sad, they’re still filled with charm and that underlying sense of the rom com that helps to keep it buoyant.

Y: Why should audiences return to movie theaters when they’ve been watching movies from the comfort of their homes for over a year?

Z: It’s a good question. I think there’s something about the social aspect of watching a film with other people. There’s something about the community of that that is important.

It’s part of cinema. Going to it with other people knowing that you're experiencing it not in isolation in your home, where you can be easily distracted by other things. You can look at your phone. You could be making a tea. There’s lots of distractions.

Those two things are why it’s important. When everybody in a room laughs at one thing, that’s a special moment.

All of these strangers who have no connection to each other apart from just happening to be in the same place at the same time all instinctively think this thing is funny, or that moment’s sad.

That’s an incredible feeling, and that’s about our ability to gather and our necessary need to be social animals. So that’s why I think it’s important to see things in a cinema. Also a big screen man. You can’t beat a big screen.

Y: What’s next for you?

Z: At the moment I am preparing to shoot a TV show here in Australia called Spreadsheet with Katherine Parkinson.

I’m also preparing for a stage show with the Sydney Theatre Company here in Australia. We’re doing Lorraine Hansberry's A Raisin in the Sun. I’m really looking forward to that. Classic American story. I’m really looking forward to it.

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