When it comes to watching Anna Kendrick’s new, charming series, Love Life, there’s no escaping one’s own memories of past relationships -- and that’s precisely the point. “I’ve been so happy that so many people have said that [watching it gives you] that uncanny, creepy feeling of when somebody captures exactly how it feels when you have your first love and your first breakup,” she tells ET’s Matt Cohen about the HBO Max original, which draws from a mix of popular romantic comedy films and personal experiences to chronicle a person’s entire romantic life.
“Like, talking to so many people, different genders and ages, and they’re all just like, ‘Oh my god, this show. I know that guy and I know that girl or I was that guy or I definitely was that girl,’” Kendrick continues. “It’s exciting when you know something actually resonates with people that hard.”
In the first season of the anthology series created by Sam Boyd, audiences follow Darby (Kendrick) throughout her twenties as she navigates living and loving in New York City. And over the course of 10 episodes, she meets the various loves of her life until she lands on the one. Along the way, there are plenty of meet-cutes, awkward encounters, heartfelt moments and unexpected tears that come with any relationship.
Rom-com fans will undoubtedly pick up on the influences from the ‘90s and early ‘00s, like You’ve Got Mail or Two Weeks Notice. But no one had a bigger influence on the series than screenwriter Richard Curtis, who’s responsible for About Time, Bridget Jones's Diary, Four Weddings and a Funeral, Love Actually and Notting Hill. “Sam and I have talked a lot about Richard Curtis and just the way he lets the really romantic parts feel heightened because sometimes -- not all the time -- life is pretty romantic and those moments feel huge and big,” she says. “We really wanted to let those moments be big the way that they feel in a Richard Curtis film but then the rest of it is a little natural and a little nuance and there’s dishes in the sink and that’s a part of life. Not everything is pristine and so he was definitely touched on for us.”
Grounding all those ups and downs are Kendrick’s own experiences, making each moment feel real and relatable. “There was a point when we were pitching the show that I was getting really nervous because I was worried I was going to get some concerned, angry text messages from some exes,” Kendrick says.
“I’ve been dumped once before and I managed to take it on the chin,” the 34-year-old actress recalls. “And then there was a breakup when I was 20 that was just pathetic. I just sobbed and rambled. It was just so bad. And the worst part is that of course you know you’re upset with the person who’s dumping you but you’ll be upset with yourself for so much longer that you don’t maintain a little bit of dignity.”
However, before any of her exes start combing through the series, she says that the characters and events onscreen are reimagined versions of her life, combined with the writers’ experiences. “It all felt remixed enough that I have plausible deniability, like, ‘That scene isn’t about you. I mean, it might be but I’m going to say that it's not,’” she says.
As for some of the actors -- Gus Halper, Jin Ha, John Gallager Jr. and Scoot McNairy -- who bring some of those men to life, Kendrick says she had a small part casting them as executive producer of the series. But she also had to make sure it wasn’t influenced by her own wish fulfillment.
“I was a little bit worried about just going down a list of people I wanted to make out with. I sent Sam Boyd a list early on and then I was like, ‘You know what? I think all of these people are talented and everything but I’m gonna just put a little asterisk next to the people that maybe my judgment might be cloudy,’” she recalls, adding that it was ultimately about finding the perfect person for the role.
“I had a hand in certain casting choices only when I felt really passionately about who was actually right for the role -- and I was making sure that my 14-year-old, Dear Diary self wasn't taking the wheel.”
The first three episodes of Love Life are now streaming on HBO Max.