Liar, Liar: Jennifer Westfeldt

Photo: Haley Simmons

Jennifer Westfeldt’s 2001 movie, Kissing Jessica Stein—which she co-wrote and starred in—made bi-curiousness cool. Since then, she’s been on Broadway (as an ingenue in Wonderful Town) and TV (she just completed an arc on Grey’s Anatomy) and is about to begin a run in Cusi Cram’s new Off Broadway play, A Lifetime Burning. Early on, she also hooked up with Jon Hamm—that guy from Mad Men. The couple have been together for eleven years and recently formed a production company. Westfeldt spoke with Emma Rosenblum.

Your character in the play is a troubled woman who fakes details of her life for a memoir.
The inspiration was Margaret Seltzer [who, under the pen name Margaret B. Jones, wrote the fictitious memoir Love and Consequences]. Now there are so many memoirs that have disclaimers. As research I read transcripts of interviews in which Seltzer describes made-up memories with such specificity—it’s lunacy. The play is also about two sisters— I play the younger, manic-depressive one. Much of the action is flashbacks to see how this fabricated tell-all came to be. It’s such a fine line between fiction and reality.

Given that you’re an actor, that must be a provocative theme.
Go see Brüno—some of it is so painfully real in every way, and some you’re like, that’s a setup, we can see that. I was older than I should have been when I found out that professional wrestling was staged.

Up until now you’ve mostly been known for romantic comedies.
Ah, yes, the poor man’s Jennifer Aniston! To me, the greatest challenge is that I’ve always played good, nice, or sweet people. It’s different to play someone who’s so hateful.

Your partner is suddenly very, very famous. What’s that like?
It’s weird for both of us. He’s doing great work, but all the rest is bullshit. People I’ve met a million times will say, “I didn’t know you’re dating Jon Hamm!” It’s hilarious and unbelievable. My fame is the kind where people think they know me from a wedding or maybe I’m a friend of a friend—as opposed to his recognition, which is more like, “Oh my God, I’ll die if I see Jon Hamm!” Jonny’s very famous, but he’s not in crazy-land yet, where you can’t go anywhere. I would never want that, but we’ll see where it goes. I still haven’t come up with a good answer to “He’s so hot, how did you land him?” or “You’re so lucky to be with him!” Um, thanks?

A Lifetime Burning
Primary Theaters at 59E59 Theaters.
Previews begin July 28.

Liar, Liar: Jennifer Westfeldt