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The edgy comedy Sex After Kids is an ensemble piece about various couples and the challenges they face maintaining a sex life after the introduction of children into their lives. The film is the second feature for writer/director Jeremy Lalonde, who previously directed the 2010 film The Untitled Work of Paul Shepard, as well as number of short films, the latest of which, entitled Out, recently played at the 2013 Toronto International Film Festival. Lalonde, along with cast members Amanda Brugel, Zoie Palmer, and Kate Hewlett, sat down with Toronto Film Scene to discuss the film.

Jeremy LaLonde directing KateHewlett and MaryKrohnert on set

Jeremy LaLonde on set with Kate Hewlett and Mary Krohnert (Image Credit: Indiecan Entertainment)

In describing the genesis of Sex After Kids, Lalonde said “I was inspired to do an ensemble project and then I went to write down a list of different ideas and the first thing I wrote down was Sex After Kids and then I stopped, because that was literally the best title I have ever come up with and I knew that world really, really well.” The world that Lalonde knew really well as his own experiences as a father and the firsthand knowledge that having kids can be detrimental to one’s sex life.

In describing the casting process for the film, Lalonde said “I cast the film for the most part before I had written it. I had written like an outline, invited actors to come on board, and went from there.” Amanda Brugel, who plays the character of Vanessa in the film, elaborates on the casting by saying “it was this crazy domino effect, where someone got on board and then just started calling people we knew to get on board.” In talking about how she was cast, Kate Hewlett, who plays Jody in the film, said “I auditioned for Jeremy’s first film Paul Shepard and I did not get it. But, we got along really well and all these years later, I got an e-mail or phone call or something asking if I wanted to be in this one and I said yes. Jeremy had seen my short film called She Said Lenny and I guess there are some similarities between the two characters and so this was the one that he chose.”

Jeremy Lalonde with Gordon Pinsent

Jeremy Lalonde with Gordon Pinsent (Image Credit: Indiecan Entertainment)

One notable bit of casting in the film is legendary Canadian actor Gordon Pinsent, who plays the sex therapist Dr. Keaton in the film. In describing how he came into contact with Pinsent, Lalonde said “Gordon’s son-in-law is Peter Keleghan, who’s in the film as well [as Vanessa’s husband Sean] and Peter and Amanda were one of the first couples we shot in the film. After working with Peter that weekend, he really enjoyed it, and I guess he went back and said lovely things to Gordon. And I just got a random phone call one day when I was in the park with my kid, from Gordon, introducing himself, as if I didn’t know who he was”. Pinsent was later cast to replace the actor originally cast as the sex therapist, with Lalonde praising Pinsent’s involvement by saying “if the film had a narrator, it would be him. He, in a way, makes it kind of a fairy tale.”

The writing of the film was a highly collaborative effort for Lalonde, with him working with much of the cast to strengthen their characters. In describing this process, Lalonde said “the beauty of having the actors involved from the get go was I had almost like an entire cast of co-writers that were able to really bounce ideas and workshop the characters back and forth with me, so we able to get to the point, where we can go from first draft to shooting, within [a] short period of time.” Zoie Palmer, who plays Lou in the film, adds “it was always about, I think, flushing it out and just keeping the truth throughout the comedy.” This sort of collaborative filmmaking is something Lalonde would like to continue, however he says that “it’s harder when you go through the traditional funding methods, because they want to see scripts in advance, they want to have a say in the casting. So, it makes it harder with that kind of thing, but I would like to find a way to make that still possible.”

Kate Hewlett and Mary Krohnert in Sex After Kids

Kate Hewlett and Mary Krohnert in Sex After Kids

The collaborative process really helped with the development of Kate Hewlett’s character of Jody, and her relationship with Larissa, played by Mary Krohnert. In describing the characters, Hewlett says “we play a lesbian couple, we have a child together, and we have very different views on parenting and it’s affecting our sex life. I’m a little more relaxed about the whole thing and she’s quite uptight about it.” In describing their character development, Lalonde said “we wanted to go with something different originally and kind of wanted to go with something a little heavier.” He went on by saying “Kate and Mary and I spent like a whole day together just going through and talking about the backstory of the characters and just figuring out what other ways we can go with it. And I think that makes it such a richer storyline than if we’d stuck with whatever bullshit I had originally intended.” Hewlett added to this by saying “the funny thing was that we both thought that was there, it just needed to come out more. And then when we talked about it, it just seemed like it was already in the script and then it just grew.”

Peter Keleghan and Amanda Brugel in Sex After Kids

Peter Keleghan and Amanda Brugel in Sex After Kids

In a similar fashion, Amanda Brugel, who received an ACTRA nomination for her performance, used many of her real experiences as a mother in playing Vanessa. “She is an ex-model and she used to be quite a…I’d say a trophy wife almost and then her life drastically changed when she had a baby,” says Brugel of the character. “Jeremy sent a synopsis of different characters and said ‘which one speaks to you’ and this one really spoke to me, not because I was an ex-model, but because I just recently had a child and I understood how greatly your life changes after you have a baby. And so, I wanted to play her, because I wanted to sort of pay tribute to all of the moms out there that were struggling.” Brugel hoped that her performance as Vanessa would serve as an inspiration to the women who watched the film: “I really kept thinking ‘I just want to honour one woman’. I want one woman to sit in the audience and say thank you.”

Zoie Palmer in Sex After Kids

Zoie Palmer in Sex After Kids

In talking about her character of Lou, Zoie Palmer says “I play a single mom and I sort of don’t really understand how to be a parent very well. I don’t have any really innate abilities and I am sort of trying to navigate being a single mom and dating life and it’s going a bit horribly wrong.” Lou has an ongoing relationship in the film with her brother Peyton, played by Paul Amos, who acts as a nanny to Lou’s child. In describing their relationship, Palmer says “I loved the two of them together and that they both kind of give each other something. And they’re both lost. Like he’s as lost as she is, in a lot of ways, and in a big life way. Like, he can’t get his shit together, he doesn’t know what he’s doing, he’s sort of couch surfing on her couch. But, he has it together in an area, where she doesn’t have a clue. And they kind of give each other this thing that they both need.”

Sex After Kids opens on February 7, 2014 at the Carlton Cinema