How a Pregnant Lake Bell Survived Onscreen Boozefest With Simon Pegg (Video)

“Man Up” star and screenwriter speak with TheWrap about faking drunk and subverting romantic comedy tropes

As an actress, Lake Bell is game for a lot. Take her groin-punching Jason Sudeikis in “What Happens in Vegas” or her deadly turn in the 2012 Sundance favorite “Black Rock.”

You’d never guess that her charming, unconventional new rom-com “Man Up” would throw her a significant challenge: having to participate in a raucous binge-drinking montage while stone sober and pregnant.

“I was very early on in my pregnancy and I couldn’t drink,” Bell told TheWrap of the onscreen boozefest with co-star Simon Pegg. “What was worse, [my character] Nancy has something in her teeth in one of the scenes, so they kept putting arugula in my mouth. Every five minutes it was like, ‘I’m going to vomit.'”

A small price to pay for the laughs  earned in “Man Up,” a subversion of the classic blind-date-gone-wrong by screenwriter Tess Morris that is currently playing in select theaters in New York and L.A. and hits VOD on Friday.

“At the end of the day, what’s cool about making a comedy is that you’re paid to play,” Bell said. “You know you are being successful in some respect if you are being playful.”

And she plays a pretty convincing drunk, as well as an anxious thirtysomething who has gone four years without a significant romantic connection. After a chance encounter on a train with a London woman headed to meet a blind date (thanks to mutual interest in a self-help book about finding love), Bell’s Nancy inadvertently steals the guy (Pegg) — and carries on with the date in place of her train companion.

“There’s such a trend to make romantic comedies too cool for school and a little loose, to be ‘anti rom-com’ — this was leaning into it,” Bell said.

 “Of course it’s formulaic, but what you have to do is find a way to put emotional obstacles in front of your characters,” Morris said of her script. “It’s about truth. What I wanted most was to reflect the spirit of a blind date — two people who are absolutely not being themselves.”

Another subversion of the genre comes about a third of the way through, as Nancy reveals her true identity. The admission leads to brutal honestly between strangers.

“The biggest draw to the script was to play the lead opposite Simon Pegg as a fully realized British character,” Bell said. “It’s so refreshing in its classicism. It wasn’t shunning all the classic structure of romantic comedy.”

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