Her name might not be recognizable, but you’ve seen actress Jennifer Westfeldt at dozens of red carpet events on the arm of Mad Men star Jon Hamm. Now her boyfriend of 15 years is celebrating her success as director, writer and star of the well-received independent comedy Friends with Kids.
“I’ve been a huge fan of Jen’s acting ability and writing ability and ability to charm, but unfortunately we live in a world where you don’t always get the opportunities to do what your calling is,” says the 41-year-old Golden Globe-winning actor, who also appears in the film. “So I’m just glad she’s getting her moment now.”
In Friends with Kids, Jason (Adam Scott) and Julie (Westfeldt) are single and best friends. Their friends with kids - Leslie and Alex (Maya Rudolph and Chris O’Dowd) and Ben and Missy (Jon Hamm and Kristen Wiig) – don’t make it look attractive, so they decide to try and beat the system and have a baby together but maintain separate romantic lives.
“I think the original idea came from just being out of sync with our peer group, not having children and watching so many people in our lives one by one make this profound and epic transformation and all handle it very differently,” the 42-year-old actress reflects of her directorial debut. Hamm admits they’ve never prioritized marriage or children. “I love children - I taught 8th through 11th grade before becoming an actor,” he elaborates with a smile, “but I love other people’s kids because I like being able to give them back at the end of the day!”
Hamm worked with Wiig, Rudolph and O’Dowd in the comedy Bridesmaids and his success playing Don Draper on Mad Men has enabled the couple to form a production company together and raise the money to make this film – their third together on-screen after Ira & Abby (2007) and Kissing Jessica Stein (2001). “I thought we’d have a hard time turning it off and going home to bed,” Hamm says of his initial concerns, “but we were both so invested in the project it was just very exciting for us.”
Westfeldt acknowledges Hamm was pivotal to the film, personally and professionally. “It was nice that we balanced each other out,” she explains. “He’s much more mellow and I’m high strung and fret every detail, so every day, shooting in the coldest New York winter in 40 years with a really low budget, something would go wrong and he would say, ‘let’s deal with the crisis of today and then tomorrow will be another day’.”
“Before Jon got Mad Men, he’d tested for ten pilots in a row and didn’t get them and was really despondent - and I’d come off my last independent film so we had no money at all,” Westfeldt recalls. “But we have always encouraged each other that everything is going to come together with the right vehicle or the right role sooner or later, so it’s really a dreamy moment for both of us.”
Movie: Friends with Kids
Buzz: Hamm’s presence and great reviews made the film an indie hit in the U.S.
Stars: Jennifer Westfeldt, Adam Scott, Jon Hamm, Maya Rudolph, Megan Fox, Kristen Wiig.
Director: Jennifer Westfeldt
Release: June 7