Based on the New York Times best-selling novel, The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry follows bookstore owner A.J. Fikry (Kunal Nayyar), though his life is not turning out as he expected as he struggles both emotionally and financially. After his wife’s tragic death, he feels lost and left behind in the rapidly evolving world of today.
As he tries to keep his store afloat, he begins to drink his sorrows away ultimately hitting rock bottom when his most prized possession, a series of Edgar Allen Poe poems, are stolen. But when a mysterious package appears at the bookstore, the unexpected arrival gives Fikry a new lease on life, and love, that are greater than he ever imagined.
The movie also stars Lucy Hale, Christina Hendricks, Scott Foley, and David Arquette, and we recently spoke to the latter about his superb performance as small-town cop, Nick Lambiase.
During our conversation, the actor explains how he approached this role and what it was like working with Nayyar and Hendricks in some of the movie's most hard-hitting, memorable scenes.
As well as looking back on his unique facial hair in that movie and whether he enjoys subverting audience expectations, David also opens up on the fate of Dewey Riley in Scream 5 and looks back at his pro wrestling career. Would he step back into the ring? And how does it feel to be part of WCW history?
You can find the answers to that and more in the video below!
This film took me on an absolute rollercoaster of emotions, but when the role of Nick landed on your desk, what was it about this small-town cop that resonated with you and made him someone you wanted to bring to life?
Oh man, you know, Officer Lambiase is just such a big-hearted guy. He’s the old kind of police officer who just wants to keep his town safe and have a home that was like when he grew up. He wants to keep it the same with the bookstore and all the great things about that small-town life.
When we first see Nick, it’s all too easy to assume he’s some bumbling cop, but there are so many layers to him and you take him on an almost epic journey. What was it like to follow this character through so many important stages of his life in this one film?
Gabrielle Zevin wrote such a beautiful book and she wrote the screenplay. It really just unfolds, following this man’s life and all of the experiences he has and the growth he goes through. My character becomes friends with him almost by accident, and with time, we grow to be really dear friends to each other. So much so that my character starts a book club at one point [Laughs]. It comes out that he loves reading while getting to know A.J. It’s really sweet. It’s sort of the journey of life and just like a great book unfolds, it has a mystery component and all the stuff that goes along with it. I think audiences will really enjoy it.
Kunal has shown that there’s much more to him than The Big Bang Theory since that show ended and you guys have such great chemistry; what was that experience of working together like for you?
Oh, it was amazing working with Kunal. He’s so talented…he’s just got such an interesting process. I watched him really closely and he studies in a way that I never learned how to [Laughs] as far as dissecting scenes. It’s like theatre in a sense. It was great. We had these dinners together and got to know each other. A lot like the film, we became fast friends and really enjoyed each other’s company and got a kick out of each other. I really enjoyed watching him act. I would just laugh quite a bit. I love the character he portrayed and he had such a great take on it all.
Was the unexpected friendship between Nick and A.J. something you particularly enjoyed exploring?
We filmed on Cape Cod and it had this small-town feel during the off-season. We got to have a few dinners with each other and a lot of rehearsal and then jumped into it. I read the script and was then on set doing some really major scenes right off the bat [Laughs]. We had to work with the kids and it was a really intense way to get started. I just remember having a tonne of dialogue the first day. I got really nervous because I was trying to do an accent from the area. I called my sister, Patricia, afterwards and said, ‘Oh, I felt so unsure of myself today.’ She told me, ‘I feel like that on every project I do.’ That was nice to hear. It wasn’t just me [Laughs].
Some of my favourite scenes of yours were also with Christina Hendricks and I loved how that dynamic between Nick and Ismay develops. Can you talk about what that collaboration of creating that relationship was like?
Our characters had gone to school with each other and I knew about her and she sort of knew about me, but not really. It was interesting because I’m such a big fan of hers. She’s so talented and I was so pleased to work with her, I got to bring that to it. I had dinner with her and was kind of nervous and those deep, poignant moments, like the one [on the beach], came towards the end. We’d gotten to know each other and there was more comfort there and understanding. She’s such a talented actress. She’s really easy to work with. Everything about this film…Hans, the director, created an atmosphere that was really about the work, the acting, and the story. We stuck really closely to the dialogue because it was Gabrielle’s vision and her voice. That was interesting. Typically, on some other sets, I might find some ad-libs, but it was really cool to have those guardrails.
This feels like a really special project, so at this point in your career, do you find yourself seeking out movies like this one where you can do something different and perhaps even subvert audience expectations?
I guess so. I try not to overthink it too much. When you have an incredible script, some great actors, and a wonderful director, it makes it a lot easier [Laughs] to want to do certain things. You never know when you’re doing a film how it’s going to turn out. When you have those assurances with really wonderful actors and a beautiful story, it makes it a lot easier.
Nick’s moustache does get mentioned a fair few times in the movie and everyone seems to have an opinion, but what was it like for you rocking that here?
[Laughs] Yeah, it’s a great moustache this time. It was fun. It’s a small town and he’s higher up in the rankings, so when he gets his way and he’s sort of the boss, he can grow beyond regulations [Laughs]. I don’t know, it’s funny. My wife loved it! She said, ‘You should keep it!’ It’s really funny. I often get cast as a police officer. I’ve done it like five times or something. It’s crazy.
Not to speak on your behalf, but it felt like your put your heart and soul into this role - has Nick really stuck with you since working on the film or do you move on from your characters pretty quickly?
Yeah, a lot of the time when you leave them, some stick with you. Usually, the more painful ones. They really affect you and you kind of get depressed after. I really enjoyed the experience of working on this film. It’s such a beautiful setting and such wonderful people that I worked with. I had just great feelings about it all. I’m really happy with the way it turned out and with being part of a beautiful book that was turned into a film. The World According to Garp is one of my favourite books that was turned into a movie, so to be part one of those…Gabrielle Zevin’s new book, Tomorrow, and Tomorrow, and Tomorrow, is really special as well. I hope everyone checks it out. It’s got gaming in it, so if you love gaming…her writing style is just so incredible.
The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry arrived in theaters on October 7, 2022.