Hollywood would be a different place if there were more actresses like Elizabeth Banks. Ivy-league educated, bombshell sexy, and a complete chameleon, the 38-year-old has appeared in everything from big-budget flicks (The Hunger Games) to cult-classics (read: her ridiculous turn in Wet Hot American Summer as Paul Rudd’s shameless fling). And while her real-life comedic timing is, well, perfect, it’s her role as a down-on-her-luck single mom in People Like Us that taps into the real Elizabeth.
“I grew up very working class,” she says thoughtfully, taking a long swig of hot tea. Though her hair is perfectly styled from an early morning appearance on Good Morning America, Banks has changed into jeans, a graphic-print top, and a military jacket, which she drapes casually over her shoulders. “I was a bartender. I worked my way through everything. This film is the California version of what my life was like. I was a cocktail waitress and I Erin Brockovich-ed the whole outfit for tips.”
Halfway through People Like Us, you forget this is the same woman who boisterously offered to shave Steve Carrell’s head in The 40 Year Old Virgin. It’s not a funny role but rather an informed one, in which Banks’s Frankie does what she has to in order to provide for her 11-year-old son. “You get physical with your regulars. You put your hand on their hand. I know what it is to survive and to have the instinct for surviving. That’s what I hooked into with Frankie. I really understood that,” Banks said.
Aside from her complete transformation into a push-up bra-wearing, liquor-craving single mom (off-screen, the self-proclaimed “good girl” is married to college sweetheart Max Handelman, with whom she welcomed a son, Felix, last year), it’s her on-screen chemistry with co-star Chris Pine that’s the most remarkable. The pair play siblings, but Frankie, who isn’t in on the secret, begins to fall for her half-brother. “They’re great together,” Banks admits of the burgeoning relationship’s semi-incestuous nuances. “There’d be no reason not to be falling in love with him.”
People Like Us hits theaters this Friday, June 29.