Luke Grimes Wanted to Channel Hugh Grant in Netflix Rom-Com ‘Happiness for Beginners’

“That was where I was trying to land the plane,” the actor tells TheWrap

Luke Grimes as Jake in "Happiness for Beginners" (Netflix)
Luke Grimes as Jake in "Happiness for Beginners" (Netflix)

Luke Grimes considers Hugh Grant his North Star when it comes to acting in romantic comedies.

Grimes, known for his role as Kayce Dutton in “Yellowstone,” stars as Jake in Netflix’s romantic comedy “Happiness for Beginners,” adapted from the novel of the same name by Katherine Center. The film, which is currently streaming, marks a shift in genre for the drama actor.

“[Hugh]’s absolutely incredible at the genre, and I could never be as good as him at that. But, you know, that was where I was trying to land the plane,” Grimes told TheWrap in an interview conducted before the SAG-AFTRA strike. “I just think he’s so good at being the straight guy, also being sort of quirky and funny enough in himself to carry it. He also lets the funny people be funny. A lot of my favorite rom-coms have Hugh Grant, and I talked to Vicky [Wight] the director, about it and I said ‘I’m gonna do my best Hugh Grant here.’”

Jake, a skilled doctor, ends up on a camping trip hiking through the Appalachian mountains with Helen (Ellie Kemper), his best friend Duncan’s sister. Even though they have guide Bennett (Ben Cook) to oversee their expedition, one of the campers (played by Nico Santos) breaks his leg in one of the film’s more serious scenes. For Grimes, the following moments were so comedic that he had a hard time filming them straight-faced.

“I always wanted to do a romantic comedy for exactly that reason. I used to watch them on DVDs where they’d have the extra feature and you would just watch the actors just crack up and like not be able to control their laughter,” he said. “I used to watch that and be like, ‘I want to do that so bad. That looks like so much fun.’ To be around that many funny people and be to the point where you’re on a movie that you’re trying to do your job and you can’t because you’re laughing. I wanted that experience and I got it with this movie.”

While Helen and Jake have known each other for a while through Duncan, it’s not until now that they have the chance to explore a romantic relationship because Helen has just recently gotten divorced.

“From the point of view of the character that I played, the whole time I’m thinking ‘Why doesn’t she want to be with me? I just don’t get it.’ I think the audience probably feels that a bit too and I think what you’re dealing with is someone who’s kind of going through a change of life and a lot of things and learning about herself and he’s learning about himself,” Grimes said. “He’s dealing with this exterior thing, which is sort of a debilitating thing, and I think it’s a nice resolve when the people that should be together get together, and that’s what’s great about rom-coms. That’s what we all want to see happen in rom-com, and I think it built nicely to that and it really pays off.”

Most of the cast of camping/hike in "Happiness for Beginners": From L to R - Shayvawn Webster, Nico Santos, Luke Grimes, Bus Birney, Esteban Benito, Julia Shiplett, Ellie Kemper and Ben Cook (Netflix)
Most of the cast of “Happiness for Beginners”: From L to R – Shayvawn Webster, Nico Santos, Luke Grimes, Bus Birney, Esteban Benito, Julia Shiplett, Ellie Kemper and Ben Cook (Netflix)

While Jake seems to have it all together on the surface, he has to tell Helen one night that he is losing his eyesight after she finds him lost in the woods after dark.

“I was actually nervous about that scene where I’m lost because I can’t see at night. I was thinking ‘How do we make this not feel cheesy?’ The whole time I just kept being like, ‘Is this OK? Is this weird? Like, are people gonna believe this?’” he said. “When me and Vicky and Ellie were planning it out, we wrapped our heads around, ‘Let’s just lean into it.’ We’re really gonna lean in and, and, and just be as earnest as possible. For me, I come from a drama background and that scene was like a fish out of water from the rest of the movie, and I didn’t want it to feel false. I hope it didn’t, but that was sort of the pivotal more dramatic scene for me.”

Grimes also weighed in on the theatrical versus streaming release of romantic comedies and what works best for the genre.

“It’s all the wild west now. I think theaters are amusement park rides now, it’s got to be either Pixar or Marvel or something to actually make it work financially for a studio,” he said. “Coming up in this business and watching it change, you’re a little scared, but the great thing is there’s more opportunity for actors and artists to make things because there’s so many streaming platforms, and I think it’s a good thing. Actors should be working, writers should be writing, directors should be directing. There’s just more opportunity for all of that. I don’t really care where it comes out. I mean, obviously, I’m on a television show on a cable network that still has commercials. That’s like, [being] stuck in a time machine.”

“Happiness for Beginners” is streaming on Netflix.