“The amount of growth that this character has is absolutely amazing to witness,” the recently engaged actress told The Hollywood Reporter of her role as a commitment-phobic woman who attends a series of nuptials with her boyfriend.
It’s a year of weddings for Sarah Hyland.
The actress stars in the romantic comedy The Wedding Year as Mara, a photographer who is scared of commitment. When she begins dating Jake (Tyler James Williams), the two embark on a year of attending weddings together. In addition to starring in the film, Hyland also served as an executive producer.
“I think everyone from their mid-20s to their mid-30s experiences what we call ‘the wedding year.’ It’s a year where everyone and their mom get married and you have all of these weddings you have to attend,” Hyland told The Hollywood Reporter about the film. “It’s all about Mara and Jake experiencing their wedding year and how they go through it as a couple. How it affects them and how it affects the people around them.”
The Modern Family star added, “You gain so many different messages from the movie.”
The Wedding Year is now in theaters and on demand, just two months after Hyland got engaged to Bachelor in Paradise star Wells Adams.
Hyland spoke to THR about the root of Mara’s commitment issues, what it was like to play someone who doesn’t believe in marriage and how her character evolves throughout the film.
How would you describe your character, Mara?
She’s a very brash human being. She’s unapologetically herself, which I love, but almost to a fault at times. For example, she uses Tinder to get free meals from guys on dates. She is a photographer. She works in retail. She’s scared to jump in and actually pursue her dreams because the idea of failure is terrifying and this idea of failure really stems from the failure of her parents’ marriage. They had a messy divorce. They weren’t the greatest role models when it comes to love and relationships. It kind of fucked her up a bit, which I think a lot of people can relate to in 2019. She is a commitment-phobe. She is kind of all over the place, but she has a lot of loving qualities, as well. She really cares for the people around her, and you really get to see her grow tenfold throughout the film. The amount of growth that this character has is absolutely amazing to witness.
What was it like playing a character that doesn’t really believe in marriage, especially now that you’re engaged?
I have always believed in marriage. I fortunately have parents who are not divorced and who have had a very loving and healthy relationship from the get-go. So if you don’t believe in marriage, that was a big deal breaker for me before I got engaged. It was a lot of fun to delve into the psychology of Mara’s views because I didn’t fully understand it. It was a lot of fun to be able to go into her ticks and see why she’s wired the way that she is. I know a lot of people like that, so it was really fun to be able to talk about their experiences with their parents and really create this character.
Does attending all of the weddings change Mara and Jake’s dynamic and shift their ideas of what they want for the future of their relationship?
Definitely. There’s a montage in the film when all of the wedding invitations start to come out, and it’s an amazing juxtaposition between the two characters. Every wedding invitation that Mara gets, the eye rolls just get bigger and bigger. For Jake, he gets more excited and more excited about friends and family getting married and he’s happy for their love that they want to share with everyone. You really see from the start of when they get the invitations and then you see how they interact, not only with each other, but with each other’s families throughout the wedding season. It definitely changes their relationship. Jake very much acts like a man who wants to get married in the future and have that be put on the table, while Mara seems to recoil deeper and deeper into her shell. But at the same time she’s kind of like the Grinch. Her heart is growing bigger and bigger and bigger, but at the same time she’s going deeper into her hole of commitment-phobia. It’s also interesting because the roles are reversed. Normally in these types of rom-coms, you see the male doing that.
Your character goes to many weddings throughout the film. Was there a specific wedding that stood out as the most memorable?
The wedding that was the most fun to film was definitely a scene with this big dance number in it. That is actually the scene that I read when I first got the script and put it down to call my agent and manager. I was like, “Of course I will read the rest of the script, but I don’t even need to. I want to do this film just to film this scene.” It’s so funny.
What was the preparation and filming process like for the dance scene?
It was so much fun to film. We had two or three dance rehearsals. I have a dance background, so it was really amazing to be able to showcase that. This dance sequence is in Mara’s drunken state of mind. It’s like every person that’s wasted on a wedding dance floor thinking that they’re killing it, but they’re really just in the corner brushing their shoulders. Then she does something very embarrassing and it was just so much fun to film. It was a really long day and I was really stressed out because I’m a perfectionist and I wanted everything to be great, especially the dancing, so it was a tad difficult, but it was so much fun to film. It was my favorite thing to film in the entire film.
Did working on The Wedding Year give you inspiration for planning your own wedding? You weren’t engaged at the time of filming, but is there anything in the film that gave you ideas on what you want to incorporate or avoid at your wedding?
I wasn’t really thinking about it then. Wells and I had not even lived together. We had a date set for him moving in, but he was in Paradise filming and I was filming The Wedding Year. For all of the weddings in the film, we do a different part of the wedding for each one. So you have rehearsal dinners, cocktail hour, the ceremony and then the afterparty, things like that. If I have to pick something looking back, for the cocktail hour wedding scene, I give a whole speech about the raw bar and single people, aphrodisiacs, all of that stuff. When we were filming it in Malibu, it was very, very hot that day and we had a bunch of these oysters. There were oysters sitting on a plate on one of the tables when we were filming, and by the end of the day it reeked and it made me want to vomit, so I think I would probably skip a raw bar at my wedding just because of the PTSD from having to be around an oyster that had been sitting out in the sun all day.
People today tend to put off marriage for later in life. Do you think the film has social commentary on that, or is it more of just Mara’s individual story?
I’m not sure that we set out to have some sort of commentary on getting married later on in life. There is a line in the film where I say something along the lines of, “Never date an old guy.” And Matt Shivly, who plays my best friend in it, goes, “Jake’s 29. He’s in his deep 20s.” Most of the wedding invitations the characters are getting are for Jake because he’s in his deep 20s and everyone is getting married later on in life. I think it’s smart to be able to take your time and not rush into things. Obviously now that I know — I hate to say it because I know it’s so cheesy — but when you know, you know. So if you know at the age of 24, then I guess you know. At the same time, your brain is still developing — men’s brains especially. I read in a science article that they don’t fully develop until 31. I think it’s definitely important to know your partner and have those conversations about marriage, living, kids and how you want to raise those kids before you even get engaged. I think it’s very smart to be able to see everything from the get-go before you dive in head first. I also think it’s smart to live together before you get married. I know that may be taboo for some people. I know someone that would never live with a guy because then their parents would know that they’d be sharing a bed. I just don’t think it’s the smartest thing. You don’t really know a person until you live with them.
Mara has many relationships in the film. She has a romantic relationship with Jake, a relationship with her sister and her friendships with Anna Camp and Shively’s characters. Which of Mara’s relationships was the most fun for you to play with?
Tyler James Williams is amazing, and it’s so much fun to be able to act alongside him. We realized between the two of us we have 50 years of experience in the entertainment industry. I can’t remember how old he was, but I started when I was four. Maybe he started when he was five. Between the two of us, we have over 50 years, and it was amazing to be able to talk to someone like that. We’re both from New York. Another really fun relationship that I was able to play with was with Matt Shively. We’ve been actual friends since we were 18 years old, so we’ve been friends for over 10 years at this point. Even though he’s not gay in real life, he is like a gay best friend to me. He is like a brother to me, and it was a lot of fun to be able to play alongside him and to be able to create this friendship between our characters because it’s really like us in real life.
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