Leslie Bibb

Actress Leslie Bibb speaks at length about her latest project, the comedy film About My Father. 

After doing interviews for a while now, one would think they know what to expect out of an average, typically formulaic chat. Then you sit down with Leslie Bibb and everything changed. Often when interviewing someone, you’re slotted in between other press calls, your subject shows up a few minutes late, they can sometimes take a little warming up before getting comfortable with you. Leslie was none of these. She was early. She was warm. And best of all: she was the greatest storyteller. 

About My Father centers around the relationship between Sebastian (Sebastian Maniscalco) and his father Salvo (Robert De Niro) as the two meet the family of his long-time partner, Ellie (played by Leslie Bibb). Of course, hijinks ensue. The movie is as sweet and endearing as Bibb herself, which is to say incredibly so. After watching the film you walk away feeling joyful and bubbly; it’s an unserious movie that languishes in its light-heartedness. Casting could not have selected a better actor than Bibb for this part. Her character, Ellie, is an artist who doesn’t take life too seriously. She sees the best in everyone around her. Leslie is no different, in fact, were it not for our lengthy talk about her process, I’d guess she was hardly acting at all. 

In conversation with 1883 Magazine, Leslie Bibb discusses being “cursed” on the set of About My Father, her acting process and getting into the weeds of the ever sought-after and ever elusive “chemistry” with castmates.


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I finally got to watch About My Father the other day!

Did you watch it at a theatre or a screening?


I’m based in Vancouver so I had to watch it at home, unfortunately. 

Oh, I love Vancouver! One of my best friends is from Vancouver. Carly Pope. I did Popular with her. She’s from Vancouver. I love going to see her there! So what did you think of the movie?


I thought it was so fun and heartfelt and sweet. Something that I appreciated about it was that the movie wasn’t complicated. It’s not trying to drive home a message that goes over your head. It’s not a movie where you leave asking, What was that about? It felt like such a nice break from real life. It was just earnest and sweet.

Totally! I’m glad. Will you promise me that you’ll go see it in a theatre?


I promise.

I first saw it in a screening room with my partner and a friend of ours, and two of my publicists, and we were laughing, we enjoyed it, but it was only five of us, right? And then when we saw it at the premiere, it was really fun. It’s fun to be in a theatre with people laughing and enjoying it. I think we kind of need this movie right now, as silly as that sounds. This story is kind of a love letter to Sebastian’s father, Salvo, who’s played by Robert De Niro. But it’s also an immigrant story. It seems like it’s an Italian American story, but I think that it’s like any immigrant story, if you’re a first-generation and your family came here to give you a better life.

When we were doing the junkets, people would walk in and they’d be like, I’m Mexican American, or I’m this, I’m that. They all had a version of the Italian things that were in the movie. People would tell me that they left the theatre and called their mom or grandmother, that this movie struck them. I thought that was beautiful and a facet of the movie that I think I had underestimated would hit home. I’ve lost both of my parents and I love getting to play a character that has both of her parents, I love the fantasy of it. As wacky as Tigger [Kim Cattrall], and Bill’s [David Rasche] are – they’re great parents. They were so funny. I think they’re so talented together.


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Oh my god, I was so excited to see them in the movie. They’re so fun. 

Right? David Rasche kind of steals the frickin’ movie if you ask me. When he said, “Oh, we don’t pet the dog because he might kill us.” That’s all improv because the dog wouldn’t do anything we wanted him to do. He just made up that line because the dog was supposed to walk in with us. David is brilliant. Kim’s brilliant. Anders and Brett, who play my brothers, I think they’re brilliant. Everybody on this movie… They were great. 

We shot it during the pandemic, which is also something I liked about the movie because it’s about family. I think coming out of the pandemic, and being isolated and everything via Zoom, and being apart… I think it’s a reminder that the world is better when you do it with family, whether it be your chosen family or your blood family. It’s better to be in it with partners. You need partners in crime. Coming out of the pandemic, it hit me — that message and that importance.

Though we filmed the movie during the pandemic, it was in 2021, so it was kind of lifted but the protocols from the studio were pretty stringent. Sam, my partner, was shooting in London, and he couldn’t come to see me. I couldn’t go see him. There were no visitors allowed on set. We were shooting in Mobile, Alabama, so our crew was shipped in because Mobile is not a big filming community. Everybody was in hotels and living there and we would go to work. We were in this pod where we were all together. I think it was something that just sort of naturally happened because of us being together all the time because we were the only people we could be around all the time. It helped create great chemistry that you feel. I feel it.


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That is one of my questions for you! Because it seemed like such a crazy dynamic between the siblings and parents and everyone’s relation to each other just seemed so thoroughly fleshed out. 

Well, I think it starts with the script. I think the script is really solid. Austin Earl and Sebastian Maniscalco wrote the script. Laura Tweeuso, our director, she’s fabulous. She has a Sicilian mother, so the story is very true to her. She did a lot of work on the script as well. I think the script was there. The characters were deeply fleshed out and they would also let us improvise stuff. 

Chemistry is this elusive thing. It doesn’t always happen. You can not like somebody and somehow when they yell action, whatever is happening, what ends up on film is electric. I usually find when you have this great chemistry when you’re filming and in life, and filming the movie was fun, it ends up not being as good when you see it in the film. This movie is not the case! For some reason, I don’t know what happened. It felt so great and so authentic. It just landed on the screen. 

The first week we filmed, it was just Sebastian and myself. Then, the family came in. The first scene we did was around the table having lunch at the club. I’d been with Sebastian for the week so we have a real simpatico – we were always together. We had this great chemistry, we had each other’s backs. I would lay on train tracks for that man. I just adore him. We were sitting at that table and Kim and David from the get-go… The stuff that goes back and forth between them! Some of that is not on the page. It’s weird stuff that they’re just starting to go back and forth on. Then you have Brett doing his stuff, then you had Bob [Robert De Niro] and his phone rings – that wasn’t in the script.

Later, I asked Sebastian, “what is with that ring?” And he says, “That’s my dad’s ringtone.” I guess Bob picked it up when he was with him because Bob went to meet Salco and spent three days with him. He was doing some movie or something with Marty Scorsese. I was like, “what is happening?” That ring is amazing and made me just fall in love with Bob immediately. I thought to myself, “you better step up your game, Bob De Niro is coming.” I just remember looking at Sebastian and I was like, “Oh, this is going to work. These people are insane. And it’s gonna work.” I’m proud of this movie. I just love it.


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It’s so much fun. It’s such a good time. I finished the movie and realized they’re leaving it open for a second one… Now, I’m hoping for a sequel. 

So go put your butt in a seat and see the movie! If it makes money there will be! 


I will, Leslie! I promise I’ll go see it in theatres. [Both laugh].

I’m like, “Can we please just shoot a second one, and in Sicily? Can we please please get married in Sicily?” I feel like that would be the natural place.


Oh totally. I think so as well. So how did you go about levelling up your character after seeing Robert De Niro come in with all that prep work done?

I’m pretty thorough with breaking down my scripts. People have teased me about my scripts my whole life. They say I look like I’m a serial killer. I don’t like people looking at my scripts because that’s so personal. It’s like pulling up my dress and looking at my underwear. I write everything on my scripts and anything that hits. I keep my script with me always because I daydream about it and I come up with ideas. I’m watching movies for moments like, Maybe this could be something to try to craft or do. I don’t know, it just made me feel not shy about the work I do. 

I studied acting in New York. I studied with this woman Maggie Flanagan at the William Esper Acting Studios. She said, “If your scripts don’t have coffee stains on them and notes everywhere, you’re not doing your job. Your job is to create.” I think your job as an actor is to go in with an arsenal of ideas; a toolbox filled with ideas and have it all prepared. Then, as soon as they say action, you focus everything on your scene partner and what’s happening. You see what comes to the surface based on what the other person in the scene has created in you. 

I feel like such a cornball sitting there and talking about having [takes on a pompous accent and turns her head sideways before saying snootily] your arsenal of ideas. It’s so corny. But that’s sort of how I look at acting. Sometimes people tease me about my scripts, and what I’m doing, so it was good to see Bob. I felt very seen. I thought, “Okay, if Bob De Niro is at 79, still doing that level of work, I have to, too.” It inspires you to do better. He inspires you. I felt very safe. Every time Bob was on set it was a reminder that I wasn’t crazy. That’s the way it should always be. I think it inspired Laura to demand that when Bob wasn’t on set and make sure that we always figured it out. 


What was it like working with Laura Terruso?

Laura Terruso, who is our director, was a wonderful leader. She’s this young woman leading this crew and you know, it was interesting. It’s probably not who you would think would get this movie that is written by dudes, about dudes. Sebastian said she came in for the meeting and she had PowerPoint presentations and pictures, and she was so prepared. And Judy, Sebastian’s manager, who was also producing, said, if she is this prepared for this meeting, imagine what she’s gonna do with the movie. She was locked and loaded for directing this movie. Sometimes you go to sets and some directors make you go, “Have you read the script? Do you know what this is?” She just knew where every character was coming from and their trajectory and she’s wonderful.


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It looked like it was such a fun movie to shoot, with the best locations, and the funniest people. Could you tell me a little bit more about some of the highlights of filming?

If I’m being honest. Sebastian and I had a running joke that we were cursed. I would come to set and be like, “What happened today?” He’d go: “Cursed! We’re cursed.” Because we shot in Mobile, Alabama, which is the rainiest city in America. I didn’t know that. But we shot a movie that’s like 80% outside during the rainy season. I remember Laura saying that we’d blown through our weather cover days and that was crazy. I also took a 10-pound medicine ball to the face in the second week of filming and I had to get 12 stitches in my lip. 


Oh my god!

I was in the gym. It was 4:30 in the morning and I was trying to get ready because we were gonna do boat stuff. I was like, “I’m gonna be in a bathing suit. What am I doing? I gotta go to the gym.” Then we were also trying to avoid COVID. The car blew up like that. We were trying to do the car things and that kept fucking up, the peacocks couldn’t do what they’re supposed to do, and it was that stuff. Lightning strikes constantly, that sort of stuff was challenging. But then it became like this joke. I remember Sebastian came up and was like, Does this usually happen? I was like, “Nope. Never. No. Not like this.” I think in a way it made all of us band together. 


That’s amazing.

One thing that always made me laugh is when we were doing the scene where Bob makes us dinner and we were all there. Laura goes, “Just trust me, but I’m gonna film this in a way where it looks like you’re on acid.” It’s a real compliment to Laura Terruso that we were on board. When you’re doing it, I remember feeling like, Oh my god, we look crazy. But it’s so funny. The fact that she wanted to film it all as it was happening and then Sebastian’s realization of what was happening. 

Every day we would have a good laugh about everything. We were shooting at the country club and Sebastian was sitting around. I was like, “Come on, let’s go for a walk.” And he’s like, “Bibb, there’s like shit everywhere. There’s other stuff.” I was like, “It’s fine.” He’s like, “There’s probably alligators in that pond. I was like, There are no alligators in the pond. Come on.” Anders came down with us and there’s a dock that we’re gonna go sit on the dock. Then Anders goes: “Hey Bibb, look.” Then I see that there was a sign that read Alligators in the water. We started walking back and then all of a sudden we heard this whoosh. We heard a gator come up and spin on the water. I was like, “Oh, that’s great. That’s called a death roll.” I remember Sebastian saying, “What are you doing?! Just let me stay in the lobby, stay in the country club!

Sebastian and I were like old fogies. We had this running joke, which was what time are you going to go to bed tonight? We wouldn’t go anywhere because of COVID. I hadn’t seen my partner in months, which isn’t usually what we do.  I was gonna go visit him in London. Sebastian hadn’t seen his wife and he had to do a tour and we were just like, “We gotta stay healthy. Gotta finish this move. We gotta land this plane.” We would call each other and be like, “What are you doing?” He’s like, I”‘m in bed.” It was 4:30! Sebastian’s like, “Yeah, I’m gonna go to bed”. Every night he was in bed between 4:30 and 5:00. I would be asleep by 5:30 or 6:00. 


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That’s crazy. I guess you guys also had early days, if you’re getting up at 5 am, you need to get some rest. 

Yeah, we’d have a 5 am wake-up. But we were also so monastic because we didn’t want to get sick. Sebastian sent me a text and it was just a stack of medicine balls in a gym and I was like, That’s not funny. I thought I knocked my tooth and that I got 12 stitches.


[Laughs] Oh my god! Did you shoot the next day after getting hit? How did you do that?

They made me film that day! I went to a plastic surgeon and had seven stitches put on my lip. I went to set. Got there and they were just gonna FX it. I’m sitting in the makeup trailer and Sebastian is looking at me and asking if I’m okay. I was like, “No, I’m not okay! ” Then all of a sudden I busted a stitch. The medic came in and looked at me and said I needed to go back and get stitched back up. I was driven back to the plastic surgeon. They stuck a needle in me and numbed me, then put in five or six more stitches. It was crazy. That day was insane. I came back to set to shoot, but then the weather was fucked up and we were shooting outside. The whole day was just gone. It all went ass over the tea kettle. I felt bad, like part of it was my fault.

This accident had happened, but also the weather was not helping us out there. They’d had lightning strikes all day and had not been able to shoot and I get there and as soon as I get there, they’re like, “You can go home.” I’m going back to my car, I’m just frazzled, and it’s incredibly painful getting stitches in your mouth. I see Bob walking and it was  maybe our second or third day working together. I saw him and someone was walking with an umbrella over him and because it was starting to rain and I run over to him and I go, “Bob, Bob, I’m so sorry. I am so sorry. I fucked up this day. I’m so sorry.” And he goes, “Kid, let me see.” And I showed him, he looked at my mouth and he says, “It’s okay. Accidents happen.” And he rips up his pants, shows me his knee and he’s says, “I busted my knee walking to set. I stepped over something and I tripped.” That moment was so generous and kind of him. That, to me, is Bob in a nutshell. He’s very generous and kind.


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That’s beautiful. We’re running out of time here, but I wanted to ask you one last question. How did you get into such a silly place to play Ellie? She was such a delightful, joyful character. 

She’s such an indomitable spirit. I usually play characters who are a little left of center. That year [of shooting] I played Satan opposite Melissa McCarthy and Ben Falcone. So, for me, I was interested in the vulnerability of not having a mask to hide behind, not having a wig or crazy outfit or this persona that I could hide behind. The vulnerability of being exposed like that. This is a mashup of Lana, which is Sebastian’s wife, and also Austin Earl’s wife as well. Austin and Sebastian wrote the script because they both said that they married up, that their partners have families that had money and it’s not where they came from. I met Lana and Sebastian at a party and spoke to them briefly. I remember just being struck with this impression of this tether that they had between them this connective tissue you could just feel. Lana has a joyfulness about her. It was an essence of her I wanted to pick up. It’s fun to play a person who sees the world as half full, I wanted to rest in her curiosity.

I also love the fact that Ellie doesn’t try to change Sebastian. It’s like, that is a zebra. He has stripes. He is not a giraffe. He does not have a long neck. This is who he is. I think it’s a wonderful quality to have to just take people for who they are and not try to change them, and appreciate that. She has those seeds when she realizes that her family betrayed her and you see that this is a woman who could very easily choose an easier life, she could choose a life where parents pay for everything. A life that was similar to what her brothers have chosen. And she doesn’t. She is striking her path and she’s not living in the house that her parents probably want her to live in.

There’s a curiosity and gumption in Ellie that I appreciate. When you see iconic Kim Cattrall — Canadian [points at me] — you understand where Ellie gets it. Tigger is a badass and she’s got gumption and she’s gonna do it. That’s the best quality that I’ve taken from my mother and now I soften it and I change it. You see that Ellie is a sort of mixup of her two parents. David Rasche is this insane guy with this really hard part. That character could have been so unlikeable, but he does it so beautifully. You see him and can tell that he’s kind of a bumbling guy, who got lucky and had the right family, but he’s decent and kind. Tigger wears the pants in the family. I think you see how Ellie is like this. She is the child of both of these people, she’s the best qualities of them both. It’s so fun to play a character like that. 


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About My Father is in theatres now.


Interview Kendall Saretsky

Photography Alexandra Arnold

Styling Andrew Gelwicks

Hair Ben Skervin

Makeup Rebecca Restrepo

Studio LeVue Studios

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