Guest of Honor

Lake Bell Shares How Her Marriage Influenced ‘I Do…Until I Don’t’

The actor, writer, and director shares how she went from cynic to romantic while working on the film, how she incorporated experiences from her own relationship into the script, and more.

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Lake Bell has one of the most interesting resumes in Hollywood. Most viewers know her as an actress — she was lawyer Sally Heep on the series “Boston Legal” and she stars on the Netflix series “Wet Hot American Summer: Ten Years Later.” She also models and was the automotive critic for the Hollywood Reporter. (For the record, she says she’s a big fan of Toyotas.)

Lake also writes, directs and stars in her own indie films. The latest being the comedy “I Do… Until I Don’t.” In the film, a documentarian films three married couples, in various stages of dysfunction, hoping to prove the concept of long-term monogamy is a sham. Lake plays shy Alice, who’s half of one of the couples.

When she came to the studio, Rico wanted to know what made her want to turn her lens on the institution.

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Rico Gagliano: I feel like we should mention at the top of this interview that you yourself are married.

Lake Bell: I did it.

Rico Gagliano: So what part of that made you want to dissect the institution like an insect?

Lake Bell: Well, I started the process of writing this movie and the inception of the idea really did come from not being married. I came at it from a very jaded place when I started writing the movie.

Rico Gagliano: This was pre-married?

Lake Bell: Pre-even meeting Scott. So I thought it’s [an] archaic institution. When it was first conceived, it was a contract, it was like landowners. It was about farmland or whatever.

Rico Gagliano: So you are actually the documentarian in this movie?

Lake Bell: Oh yeah. I was much more of a Vivian, who is the documentarian. I was the pessimist. But I think every unromantic person, deep down, really hopes to be proved wrong.

Rico Gagliano: Oh, yeah. Every cynic is definitely romantic.

Lake Bell: Oh yeah. I was so hoping to be wrong about it, and then I met Scott Campbell, my husband.

Rico Gagliano: Midway through the process of making the film.

Lake Bell: Midway, and thank God! He really taught me a tremendous amount about the kind of bravery of committing. It’s scary.

Rico Gagliano: Did the movie change significantly when this happen?

Lake Bell: Yeah. My opinions of the positive aspects of a union like that changed. To live it and to understand from the inside out was a vastly different thing and invigorated all kinds of feeling, but also comedic moments and realities that I just would not have had.

Ed Helms and Lake Bell appear together as a married couple in “I Do… Until I Don’t.” (Photo Credit: Merrick Morton)

Rico Gagliano: Is there a scene in the movie that comes out of the marriage, perhaps?

Lake Bell: I mean, I’m not going to deny that the scene of them in bed, you know when she tries to get a game going.

Rico Gagliano: Your character?

Lake Bell: Yeah, when Alice is like, “Hey, you know…”

Rico Gagliano: She’s trying to initiate sex, let us say.

Lake Bell: Let us say that. Can we say that? Sexual intercourse is being initiated, and Noah, played by Ed Helms, is sort of like “Oh, I already did it.”

Rico Gagliano: Yeah, “I already took care of myself.”

Lake Bell: “I took care of myself,” you know, that may or may not have really happened at some point. I am sorry, Scott.

Rico Gagliano: But clearly the marriage survived, so it’s OK.

Lake Bell: Yeah. And by the way, that’s real. I had a lot of fun with all of that really real and excruciating, sometimes, portions of marriage.

What I learned from this whole experience in investigating marriage was that the privilege of a committed relationship is evolution and growth. If you’re single and you’re just like, “When the going gets rough, let’s bail out,” then you’ll keep coming up against issues and be allowed to kind of look away from them and not actually grow as a human. In a marriage, you vowed and you can’t go any damn where, and they’re going to call you out on your, can I say, shit? …For instance, the terms are always changing, but for me, it was like an “aha” moment.

Rico Gagliano: The terms of a relationship.

Lake Bell: Yeah. You’ll say, “Today, this is how this relationship functions.” And then tomorrow, everything could change, and that’s… I’m a planner, and I like lists, and I make movies, and I like to have checklists, and homework, and know exactly what we’re doing tonight, tomorrow morning, in the mid-day. Like, I just need to know what the plan is.

Rico Gagliano: You’re the kind of person that actually says aloud a lot, “OK, what’s the plan? Where are we going tonight for dinner?”

Lake Bell: Oh my God! All the time. My husband always jokes with me because I always say “Here’s what I’m going to say. Here’s the thing that I’m going to say right now, which is what I’m going to say.”

Rico Gagliano: You’re planning.

Lake Bell: He’s like, “I’m planning about the very sentence that I’m about to say.” So everything is like, “Here’s what we’re going to do.”

Rico Gagliano: But that doesn’t work in a relationship.

Lake Bell: No. You can say, “Here’s what I think we should do, but I’m open to hearing your side.” That’s what I’ve learned. The terms always change.

Rico Gagliano: Since we’re on the subject of art imitating life in this movie, your husband is a tattoo artist. In the film, there is a character, not your character but there is a character who has a husband who has full sleeves of tattoos and she mentions that her husband is constantly getting hassled by police and arrested with no probable cause because he has tattoos. Is that…

Lake Bell: Scott?

Rico Gagliano: Does that happen?

Lake Bell: It does. There is a sense of profiling. That came from a real thing that happened where Scott called me one day and he’s like, he always starts with “OK, so don’t be alarmed, but…” And I’m like “Whaaaaaat?” He’s like, “I’m at the police station.” I was like, “What happened?” He was like, “I was walking the dog without a leash, and I got arrested.” That really happened.

Rico Gagliano: That just seems incredible. If that were the case, then that means that every chef and cocktail mixologist in America would be getting arrested constantly.

Lake Bell: You’re absolutely right. But they have that cute white coat, and that makes them look chic. And then that’s the cue that like, “No, they’re just foodies, they’re not criminals.”

Rico Gagliano: Maybe your husband should just walk around wearing a chef’s hat.

Lake Bell: So much black. He wears head-to-toe black and then just like, neck-to-toe tattoos and a gold tooth.

Rico Gagliano: So he’s owning it.

Lake Bell: Yeah. Oh, yeah.

Rico Gagliano: Here are our standard two questions we ask everyone on the show. The first one: what is the question, if we were to meet you at a dinner party, that you would least like to be asked? That you’re tired of being asked?

Lake Bell: My first one was, in my head, was “How ya been?” And I was like, “What? That’s a nice thing.” The least favorite thing is, “What have I seen you in?” Because it’s like, I’m not going to go through my resume right now. That’s my least favorite question.

Rico Gagliano: Our second question is: tell us something we don’t know.

Lake Bell: Something that you don’t know about?

Rico Gagliano: Anything or about yourself.

Lake Bell: About myself, well, I genuinely was born with Lake Bell was the name on my birth certificate, because a lot of people were really adamant that it was a stage name that I got off the boat, in the boat, the boat to LA. I was like, “You know what, I’ve made it to Hollywood, I’m going to take my name from Rachel McGillicuddy and I’ve turned it into Lake Bell.” But those two names are straight up bona fide birth certificate names.

Rico Gagliano: What was the provenance of that name?

Lake Bell: My dad’s last name, legally, is Siegel. He’s Harvey Siegel, one of the great names ever, and my mom is Robin Bell. When I was born, my mom was like, “I just think Lake Bell sounds better. It has a better ring to it.”

Rico Gagliano: That’s very progressive.

Lake Bell: I know, it’s very progressive. Well, they were on the verge of divorce, and he was like, whatever you want. He was like, I’m progressive/please don’t divorce me/it’s fine, we’re probably better off this way anyway.”