‘Non-pregnant’ stars discuss making abortion comedy
To tackle abortion through the prism of road comedy, it took a sense of grace and wit on the part of the cast and crew of “Unpregnant”. To strike that balance, director and co-writer Rachel Lee Goldenberg had one guiding mission.
“My goal from the start, and always is, it’s just that I just want to normalize and destigmatize abortion,” Goldenberg told editor Jenelle Riley in the Variety Streaming room presented by HBO Max. “I want people to be able to say the word, I want people to know that they can talk about it and their friends can talk about it and that most Americans support abortion and that fact is purposely hidden.”
“Unpregnant” sees estranged high school girls Veronica and Bailey rekindle their friendship to drive from Missouri to New Mexico so Veronica can have an abortion at a clinic that provides the service without her parents’ mission.
“When we were doing the scene, we were actually driving into the clinic and all these extras were there to protest and everything, it felt very real and intense,” said Haley Lu Richardson, who plays Veronica. “It actually shocked me in my heart.”
Not all of the moments in the film are so heavy, not least thanks to Barbie Ferreira’s Bailey, an emo zoom that stands out with a tuft of green hair. Her dry sense of humor invigorates “Unpregnant”, but it’s also a method of deflection so that she doesn’t have to face her feelings.
“I feel like if I get to a place where I’m ready to be emotional, for me it takes time and intention. I can’t just turn it on, ”Ferreira said. “I like to watch like crazy reality TV and try to go to bed real early, wake up and have a fresh new day because it’s hard to get out of it.”
The buddies comedy finds a good place to expose the absurdity of reality, such as when Veronica points out backward logic in teens who can “give birth to a human child” but need parental consent for an abortion.
“There is so much comedy inherent in and in life,” Goldenberg said. “The guiding principle when bad faith people say, ‘oh, that, this movie thinks abortion is funny. It’s like we never make abortion jokes. All the jokes come from why is it so hard to get this abortion? Like why is this trip so difficult? And so it really frees us to let the humor inherent.
Watch the full interview above.