In the new indie comedy Welcome to Me, Kristen Wiig plays Alice Klieg, a woman with borderline personality disorder (BPD) who, after winning $86-million in the lottery, goes off her meds and buys herself a cable talk show. During the Toronto International Film Festival last fall, Wiig and director Shira Piven spoke with The Globe about creating an Oprah with a psychiatric condition.
Would it be off base to suggest that Alice doesn't actually have to have borderline personality disorder in order to act the way she does? Frankly, it seems the film could be a satire of us all.
Kristen Wiig: Shira, you were talking about that earlier. What did you say? About the mental illness of our culture rather than specifically BPD? I wonder, if people had the opportunity to have a reality show about themselves, if they would do it.
Don't we already, even without the $86-million?
Wiig: You mean, Don't we already have reality shows about ourselves? Like tweeting, that sort of stuff?
We live in public.
Wiig: We live in public, yeah. I mean, I don't! [laughs] I try not to. But I don't know if it's just a way of connecting with people. I think that's probably at the heart of it, wanting people to see your Christmas photos or your family, or to say, 'Hey, I made this video, check it out.' We are now living in a place where we can be heard. Ten years ago, the average person couldn't just write something that everyone would read. Or be in a picture that everyone would see. Now we have that, so people are like, 'Oh, this is great!' So they do it.
Do you think there's an aspect of mental illness to that?
Shira Piven: I think it's not black or white. We all have to deal with it, right? We're in this culture and this is happening. I feel like we have to embrace what's good about it. Like, revolution happened, a good kind of revolution, by people using Twitter in Egypt, and other places where that kind of mass communication can bring benefits.
Sure, but that's not people posting everything about their lives.
Piven: I think there's a poisonous aspect to it that we have to be conscious of. That's why I loved to get to make this movie, because it just shows you one little poisonous aspect of it.
Alice is ill, but she also seems to be an extremely empowered woman, because she doesn't see the same social barriers the rest of us do.
Wiig: She's very unself-aware in a way, but wanting people to see her at the same time.
Do you see that as an admirable quality?
Wiig: I think one of the reasons we watch certain reality shows and are attracted to certain people is that they absolutely have no filter. Because we all have a filter and we all want to say things that we can't say. There's something kind of unfiltered and freeing, something about that that I think we like to watch.
It's not all fun and games, of course. Alice suffers a psychiatric episode, and ends up walking naked through a casino. I imagine that was a nervewracking scene to shoot.
Wiig: As terrified as I was to do it, there was part of me that was kind of looking forward to it, because it's something I never thought I would ever do. I was really scared to do it, from the moment I read it, but it ended up being a good experience for me. And seeing it last night [at a screening], it was a little weird, borderline uncomfortable; I had my hand over my eyes the whole time. Then, doing the Q&A after, being in front of all those people, I felt like it was the elephant in the room. Like, okay! You've all seen everything!
This interview has been condensed and edited.