Interview – Zach Braff: A Good Person

Writer/Director/Actor Zach Braff sat down for a conversation about his new film, A Good Person. Zach talked about writing the film, grief, and finding humor during dark times.

The devil she knows, which is Allison laying on the couch, is better than the devil she doesn’t – her daughter missing.

Did you always intend to write and direct A Good Person?

Zach Braff: Yes. When I write, the idea of directing [the film] is what excites me the most. I’ve only directed one movie I didn’t write and that was Going in Style. It’s a heist comedy, fun as hell, but it wasn’t my voice or something I created. The most gratifying thing is when you actually put the work into writing something and being able to make it yourself.

Your film has a lot of stuff in it – grief, addiction, and forgiveness on multiple levels. Is there anything in your film you felt more connected to?

ZB: The catalyst for telling the story was grief. In the last four years I’ve lost my sister, and then I lost my father. Then the lockdown happened and my best friend, who was living in my guest house, got COVID-19 at 41 and died. I was surrounded by loss and grief and when lockdown happened I really had no excuses for procrastinating writing something. I was dating Florence (Pugh) at the time and I’m so in awe of her talent that I wanted to write something for her.

I learned dealing with grief is finding the humor in some of it and your film shows that side.

ZB: Thank you! During the darkest times of my experience with trauma and grief, somebody may say something and it’s not the appropriate time to laugh but you start belly laughing because your body is dying for a release. A friend of mine that’s in recovery said, “The hardest I’ve ever laughed is outside of an AA meeting while somebody tells a funny story.” I wanted to infuse the movie with that because I think it’s accurate and makes the movie more palatable. If it’s just grief, you can’t digest it. I designed it with those laugh releases so people can take it all in.

Is there a character you feel most connected to?

ZB: I think I’m most connected to Allison. When I write a protagonist, I’m putting myself in there. There all sort of aspects of myself in this film.

One aspect of Allison I love is that she’s trying to get better. When she comes home looking for change and her mom enables her, I almost screamed “Oh No!”

ZB: That’s the reaction I wanted from the audience. I think a lot of people who are addicts face that. I think a lot of people mean well, but they can be enablers at times. In the case of her mom, she tries tough love, but then Allison disappears and she panics. The devil she knows, which is Allison laying on the couch, is better than the devil she doesn’t – her daughter missing. With people I know and love that have suffered through addiction, there are a lot of starts and stops until they can finally crack it.

Something my therapist told me is fixing people isn’t your job, no matter how much you love them.

ZB: That just gave me goose bumps because that’s what Ryan tries to do. She has no friends and is really grieving and she doesn’t know how to process it. Finally she has an idea to make things right and do what she thinks her mom would’ve wanted. From a 16 year old girl’s point of view, she’s going to save the day. Of course, she ends up making things work.

What are you hoping people walk away from your film thinking about or feeling?

ZB: I really hope people see it in theaters. There’s something magical about seeing a film like this in a community. Whether it’s laughing together, experiencing the pin-drop silence, or hearing people sniffle, there’s something powerful about seeing a film like this with an audience. I hope people see themselves in it and I hope it inspires conversation.