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Appearances: 2015: May 22 – Amanda & Thomas appearing on The View || Screencaps

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As Ted 2 hits the big screen, Amanda Seyfried gears up for her stage debut in a sizzling two-hander from Neil LaBute.

Amanda Seyfried is a serious hugger. Even in our newly hug-happy world, one in which political rivals routinely embrace one another like sorority sisters at a reunion, Seyfried’s capacity for the deep hug stands out. For example, one rainy Friday morning in early April, as I arrive in the rehearsal room at Second Stage Theatre at Forty-third Street and Eighth Avenue, Seyfried, wearing black jeans and a hoodie, leaps out of her folding metal chair and wraps her whole tiny little self around me, hanging on for a bit longer than customary. Granted, she has been hugging me hello and goodbye over the past several weeks that we’ve been meeting, but there is something extra-intense about this hug that seems to say, Oh, thank God. Something familiar.

It’s the third day of rehearsals for The Way We Get By, a new Neil LaBute play directed by Leigh Silverman that goes into previews in less than a month. Though Seyfried, who turns 30 later this year, has been working in TV and film since she was a teenager, this is her first play. And while it may sound like business as usual, yet another Hollywood actress out to prove she’s serious, it’s a very big deal for Seyfried because the thought of getting up in front of any audience has always been paralyzing. A few years ago, she famously downed a couple of shots of Jameson to calm her nerves before going on Letterman and appeared drunk on TV. “It made it fun for me,” she says, “but then I watched it and was like ‘That is not what I want to promote about myself.’ ” Soon after, she started seeing a shrink to help get over her debilitating fear. “I have a lot of anxiety that I’ve been struggling with my whole life,” she says. “So I have been working through it. I’m terrified, but this is exactly what I wanted.”

The fact that it’s Off-Broadway, and the character is a beautiful 29-year-old, certainly doesn’t hurt. “She’s made a really smart choice,” says LaBute, “She didn’t say, ‘Yeah, I think the first thing I’ll do is Cordelia in King Lear in Central Park.’ ”


In the rehearsal room, Seyfried and her costar, Thomas Sadoski (an accomplished stage actor known for his work on TV in The Newsroom and The Slap), along with Silverman and LaBute, are sitting around a big, square table picking apart every line of dialogue. Because this is a morning-after play about two people who got drunk at a wedding reception and had sex for the first time, and because the scene they are working on is one in which Seyfried appears nude, tries to initiate intimacy, and is rebuffed by her lover, the assembled group is in the midst of a very specific conversation about oral sex. As in: What situation would cause a man to turn down a blow job from a very beautiful naked woman he is wildly attracted to?

“In terms of backstory,” says LaBute, “is it more interesting for them if this is the first time she’s going to give him a blow job? Or if it’s already happened, then. . . .”

“Oh, it happened,” says Seyfried, and everyone laughs.

“O-kay,” says LaBute. “Discussion out the window!” More laughter. But then he flips back a few pages in the script and cites one of Seyfried’s lines: “We already got pretty crazy in there.” So, LaBute says, “it’s either, We didn’t do that last night or Wait a minute: That happened several times, so why are you stopping me now?”

“I mean, the way they describe how incredible it was,” says Seyfried, “I just imagined that they spent a . . . lengthy time in there.”

“In other words,” says LaBute, “enough time that most bases were touched?”

“Exactly,” says Seyfried. “Except for the butt.”

“What base is that?” says LaBute, laughing.

The playwright, who has been labeled “American theater’s reigning misanthrope,” is perhaps most famous for In the Company of Men, a play about two businessmen who romance a deaf woman for the sole purpose of humiliating her, and The Shape of Things, which premiered in London with Paul Rudd and Rachel Weisz and also trafficked in the idea of love as an instrument of cruelty. And although this play—90 minutes of real-time conversation between Doug and Beth, “balanced on the head of a pin,” as Silverman puts it—features two people sparring, modern-day sex negotiations, and a lot of tricky backpedaling, it somehow also manages to offer some hope. “While people may carry in a preconception about what I do,” says LaBute, “I think they will be pleasantly surprised. I give these two people a fair chance.”

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Stiller, Seyfried, Horovitz and Baumbach all generously took the time recently to talk about filming ‘While We’re Young’ during a press conference at the Crosby St. Hotel in New York City. Among other things, the actors and writer-director-producer discussed how the comedy-drama’s filmmaker tried to show Josh is concerned about showing his own truth in his work, but to an extent all art is based on other other people’s intellectual ideas; how Baumbach also infused all of the characters in the film with positive and negative attributes of their respective generation, so that all viewers can relate to, and understand, them; and how the writer-director made Josh a documentarian so that he would not only visually chronicle life’s challenges in his film, but also force him to collaborate with people of all backgrounds while making his movie.

Q: Amanda, what did you like most about your character of Darby, and are there any lessons you learned from her?

Amanda Seyfried (AS): Well, I was attracted to the fact that she doesn’t seem to worry about much. There’s this burden that I carry on my shoulders constantly, so I’m actively working on really loosening up. So I’m learning how to be so mindful all the time from her.

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No matter how many movie musicals she’s made, the stage–with or without live singing–has eluded Amanda Seyfried. “I always wanted to be up there,” she tells ETonline, ever since she first auditioned for the Broadway revival of Annie when she was just a pre-teen. (“The audition was awful,” she told Jon Stewart during a recent appearance on The Daily Show.)

That initial failure led her to the small screen where she landed her first acting gig at the age of 14 on the long-running CBS soap opera, As the World Turns. Later, she garnered attention as Lily Kane on the cult classic, Veronica Mars. However, Seyfried’s big break came in 2004 when she adopted the “ESPN”-blessed persona of Karen Smith in Mean Girls before honing her dramatic chops in HBO’s Big Love.

In the years since, Seyfried attempted to make her theatrical debut but somehow always fell short. In 2013, she signed on to playwright Neil LaBute’s The Shape of Things, but the production fell apart when they couldn’t find a co-star or director. “I wanted to do something else last year that ended up not happening,” she adds vaguely.

And then there’s her stage fright–which she says she occasionally drowns with whiskey, especially during appearances on the Late Show with David Letterman–that may have ultimately sabotaged her, at least until now.

“It was one of those things I kept putting off because I was scared shitless,” she says.

But she’s about to break her bad luck streak now that 29-year-old actress is set to make her Off-Broadway debut in the two-person play, The Way We Get By, written by LaBute and co-starring The Newsroom’s Thomas Sadoski. The performance comes on the heels of one of her most nuanced roles on screen as Darby in Noah Baumbach’s While We’re Young–another opportunity she’s been hoping to get. “I’ve always been a fan of Noah’s,” Seyfried says. “It was about him being attracted to me at all in any way.”

However, Seyfried’s upcoming stage production doesn’t mean the fear is gone. She said her heart was pounding while watching her Les Miserables co-star Hugh Jackman in the Broadway production of The River last December. “It makes me nervous to even think about it,” Seyfried says of her upcoming show, which starts previews on April 28 and officially opens May 19.

While the play is the right fit for Seyfried (“It’s the perfect first play”), it may not be an obvious one for fans who’ve seen her sing soaring father-daughter ballads with Jackman in Les Miserables or massive dance scenes with Meryl Streep in Mamma Mia.

“Ugh, no, I can’t live like a singer,” she says. Unlike Emma Stone, who recently took on Sally Bowles in Cabaret, or Vanessa Hudgens, who is prepping her debut in Gigi, Seyfried admits she doesn’t have the discipline for such a production

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Malaise of various kinds has manifested itself in the work of American director Noah Baumbach. In 2012, the much adored Frances Ha saw the director chronicle the ailing dance career and resultant ennui of an arrested development twenty-something whilst gently ribbing consciously cool New Yorkers. His new picture, While We’re Young (2014), explores both professional stagnation and sends up trendy hipster culture through a more traditional mid-life crisis narrative. Providing a further through line between the films is Adam Driver who stars alongside Amanda Seyfried, Ben Stiller and Naomi Watts in a film that talks about getting old and artistic integrity while keeping the laughs plentiful.

Stiller is the best he’s been for some time as filmmaker Josh. A promising start to his career has given way to the mire of a turgid six-hour opus that he describes differently each time he speaks about it (“it’s about America”, he defaults). He and wife Cornelia (Watts) are childless and outwardly happy, after all, it’s the freedom to do anything that matters, not what you do with it. As friends keep trying to pressurise them into the cult of baby, they suddenly find a revitalising fix of spontaneity and joie de vivre through Jamie (Driver) and Darby (Seyfried). Soon, Josh and Cornelia are attending hip-hop dance classes and Ayahuasca ceremonies. Baumbach highlights the generational differences – “it’s like their apartment, young is full of stuff we threw out” – as the older pair become more enamoured with their new friends.

Darby makes homemade artisan ice cream in flavours such as avocado, while Jamie wows Josh with his vinyl and VHS collections. Their boho lifestyle provokes something in Josh and Cornelia but it’s when Jamie seeks advice from Cornelia’s famous documentarian father, Leslie (Charles Grodin), on his own film that cracks begin to show in the previously blemish free generosity of spirit. Without dropping the comedy ball for a minute, While We’re Young changes tack and begins to adroitly explore separate age groups’ diverging attitudes towards not only life but also authenticity and ownership, particularly in this age of the internet and social media. Driver and Stiller perfectly encapsulate those two outlooks, and events turn sour as Josh sets out to sabotage and discredit the project of his friend and would-be-protégé.

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Some two dozen celebrities — including Melanie Griffith, Amanda Seyfried, Peter Dinklage and Pablo Schreiber — threw themselves onstage Monday with little rehearsal and little sleep — and survived.

They appeared in the 14th annual benefit “The 24 Hour Plays on Broadway,” which asked the actors and several writers and directors to come up with six original short plays over the course of a day. Proceeds help the Urban Arts Partnership.

One play was set in a furniture store. Another was at a casting agency looking to hire an actor for a beer commercial. A third was in a hotel lobby with two sisters — one communicating only through a kazoo — who waited to meet a wizard.

There were jokes about Ebola and Kim Kardashian. At one point, Griffith just lost it and giggled onstage. At another point “Saturday Night Live” star Jay Pharoah came out in ripped up pants that did nothing to cover his rump. A prop chainsaw was used several times.

The other stars who participated included Justin Bartha, Leslie Bibb, Katrina Bowden, Mark Consuelos, Laverne Cox, Rachel Dratch, Michael Ealy, Taran Killam, Justin Long, Stephen Merchant, Diane Neal, Rosie Perez, Leven Rambin, Sam Rockwell, Sebastian Stan, Cecily Strong and Tracie Thoms.

“There were a few people with lines written on their arms,” said Neal, who has starred in “Law & Order: Special Victims Unit” and is a veteran at the 24-hour plays. “But then they got really sweaty so it all went horribly awry.”

The directors included America Ferrera (“Ugly Betty”), Ari Edelson (“One Night Stand”), Kathy Najimy (“Veronica’s Closet”), acting coach Leigh Kilton Smith and director and educator Peter Ellenstein.

Writers included Christina Anderson (“Good Goods”), Bekah Brunstetter (“Oohrah!”), comedian David Cross, David Lindsay Abaire (“Rabbit Hole”), Jiehae Park (“Hannah and the Dread Gazebo”) and Jonathan Marc Sherman (“Things We Want”). Sarwat Siddiqui, the winner of a young writers’ project from Fordham University, joined the playwrights.

In Cross’ play, titled “Darkness Falls on St. Petersburg,” for no apparent reason, the playwright mocked Long and Seyfried, and pretty much every character, male and female, was obsessed with David Cross. In Sherman’s play, Seyfried sang both versions of the song “Shake It Off” by Taylor Swift and Mariah Carey as if she was in the opera.