An interview with Marianne Bayard
Marianne Bayard is an actor living and working in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Originally from Wayland, Mass, Bayard graduated from Emerson College in Boston and later from Ecole Philippe Gaulier, a clown training school in Paris. Bayard has played supporting roles in Joy and Mindhunter.
She is returning to Boston for the screening of Killing it!, a comedy web series co-created with Jonathan Kaplan that focuses on the lives of two best friends looking for fame and purpose late in life. We spoke via email.
You’ve said that this project is pretty much based on real life. Was there a specific moment or event that made you and Kaplan decide to create Killing it!?
Long story short, I moved to NYC right after Emerson, bopped around for a couple of years, doing some theater and spending hundreds on new headshots (cuz that’s what you do at 22), but never settled in. Grad school applications didn’t turn out exactly as I had hoped, (though I did get into some good conservatory programs, which I turned down, proceeding to shoot myself in the foot) and instead w[ent] to clown school in Paris—on a whim—for a year. Returning to Paris in 2008, I settled back in Boston, did some solo show work and started a regular day job, but decided I needed material for a film reel so I could maybe get some real acting work. I was hired for some great BU and Emerson school projects, as well as some big league films (i.e., Joy), but I was mostly getting serious “mom” parts. It was then, 2015, 2016 or so—that I said to Kaplan, who was also a clown, but living in NYC, let’s make something for me to be funny in. And so we did.
There’s certainly a lot of work that goes into making something like Killing it! What was it like building this from the ground up?
Lots and lots of writing. Since we lived in different cities—and we still do to this day, I am now based in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and he is still in Long Island/NYC—we have always shared work back and forth on Google Drive, Google Chatting while at our day jobs. And calling and texting. Now, we see each other once a month at least—for intense work or writing sessions. Kaps just left my house today, Monday, Sept 17, after working on our Seed and Spark crowdfunding pitch video, something that we hope will help us to finance season two.
The comedy comes from our real lives—our pain, our embarrassments, our wants, our joys. It’s the old adage “write what you know.” I would literally take word for word things my boyfriend and I—at the time, now husband—would say to each other in a fight, and write it down and send to Kaps. He would then look it over and suggest how and where to heighten the scene. Kaps is a stand-up and a veteran of the improv houses of NYC. He knows comedy—it’s very different from mine—but it’s great to be working with someone whose vision is so sharp, so clear, so direct.
As scenes started to come together, Kaps and I would still go back and forth on editing them and making sure they said what we wanted them to. Finally I said, “Let’s pick a date. We’re shooting these!” and so we did. We both took time off from our jobs—and I drove down to LI —and we did it, in three weekends. The first eight episodes were shot in Kaps’ apartment, because it was cheap: one location, no other actors, very small crew. Jonathan edited all the eppys and they are all on our website maresnkaps.com. We have big ideas and plans for season two, 1) that Mares and Kaps leave the apartment and 2) that they set out to face and follow their dreams. We want to do season two right, with great sound, great photography, actors, sets, all the goodies that come along with that—and so we know we need to pony up a good deal of money to make it happen. Thus the crowd funding and our day jobs. We very much intend to submit season two in full, to film festivals and in part to smaller web festivals. We will also be reaching out to distributors and production companies, and hopefully keep making more content, but ideally on someone else’s dime.
You got your first big theatrical break in Boston with Joy. What was it like as a working actor in Boston?
Getting that part in Joy was a tremendously lucky thing. I remember, it was 2015 and I had just finished a gig working on the TV show Nurse Jackie, shooting in Queens, New York. I was playing a nurse for the final season, which meant I got to be on set nearly everyday and see how a TV show is made, with real actors, and crew and fake sets and everything. It was a huge learning experience for me. It was February, and I was up in Boston for some reason—visiting my mom I suppose—and Angela Peri of Boston Casting calls me in to play this tough broad type… something I really don’t think I am fit for, but I made myself up to look the part and I go for it. So I’m doing the taping at Boston Casting, there are five other wom[e]n there—and it’s my turn, and Angela is yelling at me to say my lines more tough, more sassy—to not give a damn so much. And I’m doing my best, but you never know what they like or want from you. So I did my thing, and I left, having no idea what to make of it. And I think it was just a few days later, they call me. They say David O. Russell wants to book me, and it will shoot the following week. And I was like, WHAT?! And I was a nervous wreck when I met him, but it was great. I did my part—everyone was super pro and did their part—and we all went home. And I waited and waited to see if the scene would actually even make it in the movie—because I wanted this piece for my reel! And December 2015, my little brother from London sends me a photo of him seeing me on the big screen, and I was like YAHOO! Let’s buy the DVD and cut it for my reel, y’alls!
So, you get work in this industry by showing that you’ve gotten work. It’s a Catch-22, but you know… you just keep putting yourself out there, until you get a little bite. And Joy was my bite. And I ran with it. And I think shortly there after, I started working with Tim Ayers of Model Club, and I started getting some commercial work and getting auditions for other TV and film stuff.
Boston TV and film acting is a tough market—it’s largely tax incentive based, which is great—but [if what] you really want to do is be in a creative environment, making stuff, creating with other driven people who want greater exposure, Boston is not your city. It was not MY city, I’ll say that. Everyone has their own story. And what do I know, that could be changing—I mean, SMILF was just up here and that’s great—and they were casting day player parts with Boston peeps. At least I auditioned for them, so that’s very positive.
And I don’t mean to bite the hand that feeds me—I LOVE getting auditions in Boston… my sense though, and I could be wrong and it may not be everyone’s story, is that Boston has its limits. Even with Emerson—all my Emerson peeps—they don’t stick around in Boston. They leave… for NY or LA. So, to be a creative in Boston was hard for me. Working with Jonathan in NYC, someone who has the same insane drive that I have, has been a perfect match. But don’t get me wrong, NYC is not everything—it’s expensive, it’s noisy, it’s busy, it’s hectic, it’s hot—I really don’t want to live there to live there. But there is a lot of great work to get there.
And like I said, I don’t know much about theater in Boston, so I cannot speak to that. I never got involved in the theater scene—even though, theater is where my roots are 100 percent. But I didn’t want to stay with that. In college, I was really drawn to the intimacy of film. So that’s what I did.
Did your time at Emerson and in Boston have any specific influence on this project?
Not on this project, but yes, by getting involved with film and comedy. Emerson is where I tested some of my comedic chops—on improv teams and with the other actors and creators. I was in a few dance shows and I got to be the token nondancer in the group—and I think I just made them laugh, I think that’s why they kept me around. I was the clown. I’ve always been a clown, I didn’t need to go to school for it—and so I’d make them laugh. And that would encourage me and I’d make them laugh more.
Viewers will get a chance to see the series at the screening in Somerville. If you tell your audience something to keep in mind when watching, what would it be?
First off, this is not genius material and it will never claim to be. One of the greatest things I learned in clown school was “to follow the fun.” Don’t be pretentious, don’t try to teach a lesson, don’t try to look cute or smart—just have fun and invite the audience in on that.
If Mares and Kaps were a band, season one would be our “demo tape.” Even now, two years later—the stuff we are writing and how Jonathan and I engage with each other, has developed so much more. Season one is like the early Simpsons cartoons—we’re just getting to know them, and they’re a bit awkward looking, but they are funny and we want to see more. Mares is like a raw nerve—she says and acts out whatever she is feeling or thinking. She can’t hold it in, she won’t hold it in. And her best friend Kaps, puts up with her, encourages her, wants to problem solve and go along for the ride. They are best friends, and the uninhibited and idiotic ways that they are together, I think and hope, is what makes the show fun to watch.
Bayard and Kaplan will be attending the screening of the first season of Killing it! in the MicroCinema of the Somerville Theatre on Sept 28 and Sept 29, at 7:30 pm. Both screenings will feature a Q&A session following the showing.