Earlier today, Allison and I participated in a special Virtual Press Conference for romantic-dramedy 7 Days, ahead of its premiere at the 2021 Tribeca Film Festival. When a wonky pre-arranged date from their traditional Indian parents is forced into an extended stay thanks to the sudden emergence of the pandemic and ‘shelter in place’ orders, Ravi (Karan Soni) and Rita (Geraldine Viswanathan) must learn to live with each other for 7 days… Executive producer Mark Duplass, producer Liz Cardenas, director and co-writer Roshan Sethi, lead actor and co-writer Karan Soni, and lead actress Geraldine Viswanathan answered a few questions for us about their new pandemic-inspired movie…
What made you interested in doing a drama so deeply rooted in the 2020 pandemic, and how did you spend your time quarantining and staying productive during all of this?
MARK DUPLASS: Yeah, well it was on all of our minds and there was no way to make a movie about love without talking about what was impacting our feeling of loneliness and disconnection at the time, which was obviously the pandemic. I don’t think it was honestly like a conscious decision. It just entered our minds, and then the script. Yeah.
KARAN SONI: And then in terms of productivity, I mean, I was just a mess. Literally nothing, and wallowing and being like, ‘I’m not going to work.’ And then Roshan to his credit was just like, ‘let’s just make a movie.’ And I was like, ‘we can’t make a movie.’ And then he was like, ‘let’s just write it and make it.’ He really just shepherded it, but just being like, ‘I can’t sit around.’ So he had just finished his medical shift, and he was like, ‘I have four months, let’s make something!’ And then it was really his spirit that made this movie exist in a lot of ways. I would’ve just sat at home.
MARK: So if you guys are interested, Roshan and Karan are essentially the romantic version of the Duplass brothers. Roshan is me and Karan is Jay. I’m always trying to figure out how to get things done. I’m always doing a bunch of things and I was like, ‘Jay, let’s just fucking do it.’ And he’s like, ‘we can’t just do that.’ And then I pushed him into something, and then about halfway through, I start to lose my confidence, and Jay picks it up and saves us by the end. I’m loving watching this mirror up to my own relationship with my brother. It’s very fun.
KARAN: We both read your book, which is so helpful for creative collaborations. I think we both recommend it to anyone who is trying to do that. We often reference it, because it is an interesting place to start off where turning a relationship into also something with work. It’s been so helpful to have you guys as a model. It doesn’t help that people think me and him [Roshan] are brothers.
MARK: Well, there’s been a rumor going around for awhile that Jay and I are not actually brothers. We just use that because we don’t look anything alike. We just use that because brother filmmaking teams get further along, so who knows.
Geraldine, did you grow up with a set of expectations around your personal life, and how did you relate your family restrictions and expectations to Rita’s own?
GERALDINE VISWANATHAN: I feel like my parents are pretty lax. My grandparents were arranged, and my dad rebelled against that and was like, ‘I’m going to do my own thing.’ For me, he was like, ‘go off.’ And I did, I let off. I feel like that was something different to tap into with this movie, I guess, like alternative reality, if that wasn’t the case. If I did kind of have this pressure, which was interesting to explore. I learned a lot about the arranged marriage situation doing this movie.
How much fine-tuning did it take to get the chemistry of Ravi and Rita so in sync, because you guys just clicked so well?
MARK: They hate each other off set, it creates great chemistry.
KARAN: Yeah. Mark would just pit us against each other and be like, ‘you’re a star, don’t let her shine!’ No, Geraldine and I were on the same TV show, Miracle Workers, and so we’ve known each other since 2017 or 18. We never actually acted this much, this intensely, together because we have a more lax schedule on the show, and a bigger cast. So it was really exciting for me get to work with her in this sense then, because, even with being on a show with her, I’d been a fan from afar a little bit. I’d see her with certain things with other actors. And so it was really, really fun to get to do this one.
Rita mentioned that she licked the ground when she went for a walk. What was everyone’s identity like during the pandemic, and their level of safety? How did each of you approach everyday living?
KARAN: I’m dating a doctor, so I feel like I was kind of lackadaisical, and he’d be like, ‘no, wipe it down!’ And I was like, ‘do I have to?’ I feel like I was quite strict because of you [Roshan]. On my own, I grew up in India, so I have this false sense of ‘I’ve experienced it all.’ My stomach is just ironclad at this point. On my own, I would’ve just been natively not taking it as seriously as my character. I feel like I was pretty intense about it.
ROSHAN SETHI: I was personally not intense, but had an expectation…
KARAN: He’d be taking selfies in the hospital with his mask down! You’ve got a good face, you’ve gotta capture it.
LIZ CARDENAS: Well shooting this movie is what brought me back into the world. I was just working from home with my two golden retrievers in a room. This movie is when I reemerged, but still very safely—quarantining, face masks. We did so much COVID testing. We were taking it very seriously, but it was a nice way to kind of get back into the world. I just took my lead from Roshan, and whatever he was doing on Instagram.
ROSHAN: Yeah, it’s true. I was very good at giving advice to other people that I mostly didn’t follow.
GERALDINE: I think similar to Karan, the person I was quarantining with was very strict. So I just rolled with that. But if it wasn’t for him, I think I would have definitely let go. I do remember having the thought of like, ‘just bite the bullet, just go out, get it over and done with, get COVID now! Should I just go lick everything?’ I’m glad I didn’t. That’s when we didn’t really know much, but I was pretty removed from society. I was up in the woods for most of it. So thank God for that, because I’m very stupid. I would’ve gotten it for sure.
It was such a pleasure getting to chat with this exciting group of creatives, and wishing them all the success on 7 Days! 7 Days premiered 5pm today, at the 2021 Tribeca Film Festival. It’s available for online viewing for the duration of 2021 Tribeca Film Festival (through June 23rd.) If you’re interested in purchasing $15 tickets, head over to the Tribeca website’s 7 Days page.