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Bryan Greenberg Talks With Us About His Newest Film, A Short History of Decay

Screen Shot 2014-07-01 at 2.46.21 PM.pngBryan Greenberg and Kathleen Rose Perkins in a scene from A Short History of Decay.

For those who miss watching Bryan Greenberg play the cute-sensitive-confused-struggling-nice Jewish boy on How to Make It In America (or Prime or even kinda sorta One Tree Hill for that matter), you get a sequel of sorts in the actor's new film A Short History of Decay. The debut film from journalist and former war correspondent Michael Maren, the movie tells the story of Nathan Fisher (Greenberg), a floundering thirtysomething Brooklyn writer who gets dumped by his longterm girlfriend (Emmanuelle Chriqui) just as he learns that his father has had a stroke and needs his care. Leaving his New York problems behind, Nathan heads down to Florida to simultaneously assist his dad and his ailing mother who suffers from early Alzheimer's. (Okay so a fun-hearted romcom like Prime, this is not.)

With the stakes in place, the rest of the film follows Nathan as he adapts to these changes and gradually reassesses what he wants and needs out of his career, family, and relationships. On the heels of movie's release on DVD, we chatted with Greenberg about the movie, the end of How to Make It In America and that moment all young adults have to get rid of their illusions. 

How did you get involved with the film?

They offered me the project and I read the script, which I thought was amazing. Michael Maren wrote a beautiful script and handled a tough subject matter in a really subtle, funny way that wasn't melodramatic or heavy-handed. It was also about something that although I personally haven't gone through it, my best friend is dealing with these subjects -- with a dad who has Alzheimer's. I did the film sort of as a tribute to him.

Let's talk about the idea of the film's title having multiple meanings -- both the literal meaning of decay in the sense of your character's parents' failing health and then this other meaning of decay in the sense of Nathan's decaying expectations or illusions.

Michael Maren said something early on that really stuck with me and guided me through the process, this ideas that people don't have dramatic changes in their life overnight but that they happen gradually. This movie is an exploration of that, of the stripping down of ideas of who we think we are as people and what we think we want. In the beginning, Nathan thinks he wants to be a playwright, he thinks he wants to date Emmanuelle Chriqui's character, Erika, he thinks he wants this perfect, healthy couple to be his parent, a brother with the perfect life...but eventually the film strips away all of that. It strips away the idea of the girls I think I should be dating, the career I should be having, the parental relationship that I wanted, the brother who isn't the perfect guy with the perfect job and perfect life. It's all about the decay of these ideals.

Are there any recent instances in your own life when you had to strip away some of your expectations?

Yeah, totally. Right when I took on this project, in fact, was when How To Make It In America ended. I was taken by surprise by that.

I think a lot of people were! That showed seemed to have a pretty loyal following.

People come up to me to talk about HTMIIA about ten times a day. I even had locals in Hong Kong and Vietnam stop me about the show when I was over there. So in terms of that, I was expecting my life to go in one direction and all of a sudden that direction stops and I was left with thinking, "What's the next thing? Where do I go? What do I do?" and this was the first project I took on. I really could relate to Nathan feeling lost.

What's next for you?

I've been busy filming, like, five movies within the last year. The one I filmed in Asia is a small, independent movie called It's Already Tomorrow In Hong Kong and it's me and [my fiancée] Jamie Chung.

Was this the first time the two of you had worked together?

She did a little spot in this movie called A Year and Change that I did in December but we work all the time on auditions so it wasn't weird filming something together.

Would you ever return to TV?

100%. I really want to get back on a cable show if I find the right project.

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