Lampooning Every Parent’s Nightmare

Photo-Illustration: by The Cut; Photo: Getty Images

The Drop is a nightmare come true for Anna Konkle. Tapping into real fear for the actress and new mother, the film centers on the aftermath of Konkle’s character, Lex, dropping her friend’s baby on the ground. After the accidental splat, Lex begins to reassess whether motherhood is her really true desire. But the main question on Konkle’s mind while filming was “Can I still play an adult?

The star of PEN15, in which she played a 13-year-old version of herself, swapped school corridors for an ecolodge in The Drop, Sarah Adina Smith’s new dark comedy, which captures the celebratory mood of a friend’s tropical-destination wedding fizzling out as a solipsistic bunch of close friends grow distant. Lex’s husband (Jermaine Fowler) begins second-guessing their decision to have a baby, and the free-flowing cocktails at the resort start to taste bitter. It’s not exactly a happy assessment of parenthood and relationships. “Looking back, it was a psychotic decision to go into the jungles of Mexico with a 3-month-old and do motherhood and 15-hour shoots,” Konkle laughs.

Playing a character contemplating motherhood resonated deeply with Konkle as she made her own journey through parenting in real life. At its core, The Drop possesses the uncomfortable humor she gravitates toward. “What interested me was trying to find my way into motherhood being funny,” she tells the Cut. “In our media, it’s a very saccharine thing. We’re not supposed to talk about the dark side, which, to me, is the funny side of it.” Unraveling shame and digging into what is considered taboo has always been at the forefront of Konkle’s work — and her latest cinematic endeavor is no different.

How was filming the moment of the drop? Did​​ that tap into real fear for you as a new mother?

Definitely! I had a lot of trouble with filming that moment and afterward in the hospital. We did ten takes of all different colors. I don’t think they used the last take, which was the most visceral, chaotic, and upsetting, because it was a little too dark for the tone of this ensemble comedy. I was grappling the whole time with finding the balance between the severity, honesty, fear of the issue and then the comedy.

The film, albeit a comedy, does confront motherhood and shame. How was navigating that subject through the character of Lex?

I found it really refreshing to talk about motherhood in a way that shows grappling with the idea of wanting to be a mother is really normal. Going through being pregnant and birth, it kept occurring to me over and over and over how much wasn’t talked about. That’s why, in an overkill way, on set I’d be like, ‘My vagina is still healing!’

It was really exciting to use the shame you’re taught and reverse it and talk about all of it. There’s a seriousness to it and there’s humor. If you can’t laugh at the dark parts of life, you’re in trouble, I think.

Photo: HULU

The Drop really taps into this uncomfortable side of comedy and is sometimes painful to watch. What was the atmosphere like on set?

There was a lot of improv to an outline the writers, Sarah Adina Smith and Joshua Leonard, made for us to follow. But there was a lot of freedom to find what you think is funny about the situation or character. Filming the movie felt very Method in that everyone’s in this ecolodge — it’s not supercomfortable — and grappling with their own demons. That was pretty true to life.

At the end of the film, someone told me, “I thought this was going to be a vacation. I don’t have that many scenes, and we’re in the jungle by the ocean.” The reality was that I was on an IV for days, pumping at the same time, because I was so dehydrated from the horrific diarrhea that we all had! It was dark and very bonding.

Like trauma bonding but in such a beautiful location.

Right! I think I blacked out because I was in survival mode. Sarah Adina Smith was around eight months pregnant, I was three months postpartum, and my co-star Jen Lafleur was breastfeeding. It was an inordinate amount of motherhood on set, which was really cool. Sets often avoid that because it’s a time drain. It was really neat they supported that and hired someone three months postpartum.

The Drop, like PEN15, really shows off your particular style of humor. Does that come naturally to you?

Since PEN15 — and this movie, too — I’ve read people calling it “cringe comedy.” The first time I read it, I thought, That’s not accurate. Then, after the tenth article, it made me grapple with my sensibility. There are a few moments in PEN15 I cringe at, but mostly it feels alive to me. In this movie, too, it’s just shit we don’t talk about enough. That tone of “Here’s something we’re not supposed to talk about — I’m going to mine the humor from that” is more outrageous and hysterical because it’s underdiscussed. That’s where the new trove of content comes from, too, rather than something that’s been done a million times.

Instead of cringe comedy, what would you label it?

Shame comedy. Shame is not a word people think is funny, except for me.

Shame is so intrinsic to womanhood in that there are topics we don’t seem to openly discuss.

Exactly. It makes me want to shout it from the rooftops. Maybe that’s not funny at first, but the hope is eventually vagina humor is as funny as penis humor. That’s the goal.

Do you consume a lot of that sort of comedy?

I think so. It’s happening, but so much isn’t super-mainstream. It sounds so pretentious — I also admit my lowbrowness; I love reality television — but in terms of finding stories that feel truthful and fringe, it could be in a painting or dance choreography. My background is experimental theater and stuff being done in a warehouse that makes no money. Humor is an equalizer, bringing in what makes us uncomfortable or what we don’t understand.

What’s next for you? You did a lot of writing work on PEN15 — are you keen to write again? 

I’ve been doing some acting. The Afterparty is coming out on Apple TV+ in a few months, and I was able to do that with some people I love. My main focus is writing — that’s my happy place. Slowly but surely, I’m working on a memoir. I have a feature going on, and I’m working on a new show that’s just in the development phase. I’m just trying to keep experimenting.

This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.

Lampooning Every Parent’s Nightmare