During the period that Kate is concentrating on having a baby, she has been handed her most important assignment at work: planning and developing Round Earth's flagship store. While assuaging fears of local small-business owners, whose livelihoods would be threatened by a massive store in their neighborhood, she meets Rob Ackerman, the owner of the Super Fruity juice shop. Rob is played by Greg Kinnear.
After reading McCullers' script, Kinnear was eager to work on the project.
Remembers Kinnear: “I thought the script was strangely sweet. The female leads are a little bit like the female odd couple, in a way that is very funny, and I think the situations that the characters are forced into are very unusual.”
About the casting of Academy Award-nominated Kinnear, Fey compliments: “We keep saying, oh my God, we got all these real movie stars to be in this movie.”
The chemistry between Kate and Rob is not quite immediate, considering their adversarial relationship. Kinnear describes Rob as “a Philadelphia lawyer who is doing quite well for himself who finally tosses it all away in order to follow his dream and open a fruit juice/smoothie store.” He laughs, “How would that not turn a woman on?”
Having watched a date literally walk out on her after telling him about her desire to quickly become pregnant, Kate is more cautious as she starts seeing Rob. “Trying to have a baby is a very personal process for her because nobody around her seems to know, particularly me, what exactly is going on,” Kinnear explains.
Without telling Rob, Kate has patronized the pricey Chaffee Bicknell Surrogacy Center, headed by Bicknell herself. She advises Kate on the advantages of paying another woman to carry Kate's fertilized eggs to term. According to Chaffee, surrogacy is simply another example of outsourcing. “Chaffee is a baby broker,” Poehler offers. “She puts together surrogates and people who want to have babies, so she is in charge of changing people's lives. She's a very powerful woman.”
“Michael had noted in the script that the perfect person to play this part was Sigourney Weaver,” Lorne Michaels remembers. The filmmakers were ecstatic when the three-time Academy Award-nominated actress, who has starred in such landmark films as Alien, Working Girl and Gorillas in the Mist: The Story of Dian Fossey, agreed to play the part of the imposing Chaffee.
“I've loved everything she's done, and Working Girl was a huge influence on this film, with the idea of that kind of class difference,” says Poehler. “We were thrilled that she wanted to do it.”
“Chaffee spent the '80s on Wall Street and the '90s with the Clintons,” explains Weaver of her character. “And now she's started something that is very timely: a lucrative business of matching women who want, or families that want, to have children with surrogate mothers.”
While Chaffee's $100,000 fee ensures that all needs of her clients and surrogates are addressed, she continually becomes pregnant the old-fashioned way. “It's particularly disturbing and ironic that my character, at an advanced age, seems to get pregnant through positive thinking,” Weaver laughs.
Weaver agreed with Fey and Poehler and appreciated acting in a comedy in which the women are not just supporting players. After receiving the screenplay, she felt it was “wonderful to read a female-driven comedy. It was a very touching idea about having a family and what a family is.” Of her co-stars, she adds, “It's so great to have these very pretty, very funny women driving the story. I think it's finally about time. My hat is off to them.”
The idea for Angie to become a surrogate wasn't hers, but that of her commonlaw husband, Carl (played by comic actor Dax Shepard), a guy she's been with for 12 years-though he won't admit to more than three or four. Armed with a Camaro, pet iguana and no profession, Carl is always strapped for cash. Explains Poehler, “Carl is one of those schemers who thinks he's a little smarter than he is.”
“I've known Dax's work for a while, and I thought he was really funny,” says McCullers of his casting Shepard. “When we were thinking of someone to play Angie's blue-collar husband, he was at the top of our list.”
“Dax is a perfect Carl, because he's really funny and he specializes in white trashery. I think he would admit that himself,” adds Fey. “You could also see he's charming, and you could see why Angie would like him.”
Shepard echoes Weaver's excitement to work with two successful female comics. “This is finally a chance for a new wave of comedic women. Tina and Amy come in here, and they just one-two punch it out of the park. We all fell in love with them together as a pair on “Weekend Update,” and I thought they brought the best out of one another here,” he says.
Kate's ever-observant doorman, Oscar, played by Romany Malco, relates to Kate that he is quite familiar with the idea of a “baby mama”-the mother of a child for whom someone else pays the bills. Malco was McCullers' first choice for the part. “I saw Romany first in The 40-Year-Old Virgin, and he was just hilarious,” remembers the writer/director.
“I liked that Oscar was a guy with a lot of integrity,” Malco says of the character. “I loved the relationship between Kate and Oscar, this doorman who's like her best friend, and her confidante in a way.” But Oscar also ends up serving as Angie's conscience, according to Malco. “Amy Poehler's character comes in and gravitates to him as well, and in this way, he's like the pillar amidst this wreckage.”
“Romany is amazing, and we worked together on Blades of Glory briefly,” remembers Amy Poehler. “Oscar and Angie are very similar. They are blue-collar people, so they understand the idea of not fulfilling their true potential. They both have been hurt and cheated by the system at the same time, so you have to believe that they're friends.”
Another person who provides counsel to Kate is sister Caroline. She is an “übermother,” a stay-at-home mom of several children who relishes the role. Played by Maura Tierney, the star of numerous films and the popular television series ER, Caroline is unlike Kate in that she accepts chaos as a part of everyday life. According to Tierney, “Caroline is the opposite of Tina's character, this uptight, driven woman who's having difficulty having children.” But Caroline is still close to Kate. “She really is a very accepting, loving big sister,” the actor adds.
Meanwhile, Rose, Kate's self-absorbed mother, is not so understanding of what she calls Kate's “alternative lifestyle” (being single at age 37), though she tries her bizarre best to comfort a daughter in despair at not being able to conceive. Cast to play Rose was legendary character actor Holland Taylor. “I'm trying to fluff Kate up and say, `Come on now, be proud of what you are-which is not a mother,'” says Taylor. “It's horrible.”
The performer, recently nominated for an Emmy for her role on the hit sitcom Two and a Half Men, finds that good comics are often very fine actors. “I don't think you can be a great comic without being a good actor,” she explains. “But you can be a good actor without being a great comedian.”
Another powerful male in Kate's life is her boss, Barry Steingart, CEO of Round Earth Organic Market. Barry is a former hippie, now turned ultra-capitalist, who maintains an Earth-friendly credo, all the while working toward killing his competition in the natural foods business.
To play Barry, producer Michaels turned to an actor/comedian with whom he has a long history: Steve Martin, who has the distinction of having hosted SNL more than any other performer. “Steve is an enormous fan of 30 Rock and of Tina's, and we were on the phone and I said, `There's this part,'” Michaels remembers. “He read the script, agreed to do it and made it really good. For Amy and for Tina, both of whom are fans, it was exciting to work with him.”
While a demanding boss, Steve Martin's Barry is not your average CEO. “In the middle of a business meeting, Barry makes me get up on the table with him and sit in sort of a yoga position and touch foreheads-because he thinks that's how you transfer success to people,” explains Fey. “It's such an honor to be able to do scenes with Steve.” “I continue to be nervous around Steve Martin because he is one of my idols,” agrees Poehler. “I can't quite really believe that I got to do a scene with him.”