NEW YORK, Nov. 12 (UPI) -- Watchmen and Billions star Malin Akerman thinks her new action comedy movie, Chick Fight, might comfort and inspire people pummeled by a tumultuous 2020.
"I'm sad that we are in this time, but I am glad that we can bring levity and, hopefully, some laughs to people in their homes," Akerman told UPI in a recent phone interview.
"We love to root for the underdog, and I think, at its core, the film is about sisterhood and holding each other up," she said.
"I've definitely experienced that in my life when I've had hardships and been able to lean on girlfriends. I think a lot of times women are portrayed as catty toward one another, and I think it's so important that we stick together."
Directed by Paul Leydon in Puerto Rico over about three weeks, Chick Fight is set to premiere on digital and video-on-demand platforms Friday.
At the center of the story is Anna, a down-on-her-luck woman who earns back her confidence and discovers a sense of purpose at an underground fight club for women.
Bella Thorne plays her nemesis, Olivia; Dulce Sloan plays her best friend, Charleen; Fortune Feimster plays the club's referee, Bear; Alec Baldwin plays Anna's drunk trainer, Jack; and Kevin Connolly plays Anna's love interest, Dr. Roy.
"This is breaking the mold a little bit," Akerman said, noting how the film shows women working out their problems in a way that is not often seen on the screen.
"We could probably all use that outlet right now," she laughed.
The role was physically demanding, requiring the actress to train for weeks in the gym and work with stunt coordinators.
"I love a good challenge when it comes to physical acting. It also gives me an opportunity to not have to learn lines," Ackerman joked. "This 42-year-old body was getting beat up. I had to stay strong."
Fight scenes were shot slowly in pieces and from clever camera angles to make the brawling look difficult and gritty, while also keeping the actors safe. Stunt performers filled in for the most dangerous moves.
"Bella and I were focused, and none of us wanted to hurt each other, so we did this dance together and it worked out well," Akerman said.
The January film shoot was a quick one, far from home, so the cast and crew became close since they were always together.
Two months later, the coronavirus pandemic struck, shutting down film and TV productions and keeping people at home all over the world.
"It felt great that we got some of that physicality out and got to bond with good friends," Akerman said. "It was almost like a wrap party for the next few months. I was surprised by how quickly [the filmmakers] turned it around and I'm so glad that it's coming out the same year that we shot it."
Feimster, a standup comedian also known for her roles in The Mindy Project and Office Christmas Party, joined Chick Fight because the script was hilarious and she liked Akerman, having worked with her previously on the movie Friendsgiving.
"I love the idea of any movie that stars women. We don't get the opportunity to do that a lot and I love the idea that it was this female fight club -- certainly not based on the regular fight club movie," Feimster said, referring to the 1999 Brad Pitt-Edward Norton cult classic, Fight Club.
The character of Bear also was a draw for Feimster.
"I liked that she was this referee that was tough. I told them, 'I'm not as tough as maybe this character is, but I certainly can give it some spunk.' I did like that I would only be fighting one fight and mostly just refereeing," she said.
Bear also has a supportive den mother side to her.
"She's the one that's making sure that people are following some sort of rules and that they are not going too far," Feimster said. "She, obviously, has this history with the club and wants to carry on those traditions and make sure the new people respect those traditions.
"She's just sort of looking out for everybody. I like that sort of tough nurturer."
Before she got the job, Feimster was required to submit to the filmmakers a video showing off her fighting skills.
"I'm sure it was pathetic. I remember my now-wife laughing at me while we were filming it and I was like, 'This is not the response my fighting is supposed to bring out in you,'" she recalled.
The experience of making the movie cemented Feimster's respect for women fighters and stunt performers.
Although she admires their skills, Feimster knows fighting is not the hobby for her since she admits to overreacting to the slightest injury.
"So, the idea of getting punched in the face or kicked does not appeal to me whatsoever.
I like the pretend part of it," she said, noting she thinks hitting a heavy bag could be cathartic in expelling negative emotions.
"Anything that doesn't hit back basically, I would be into," she said.
While coronavirus wasn't a fear when they made the film, the cast and crew frequently wore face masks because they were working in an old building and equipment was sometimes running in close quarters.
"We all just remember thinking how crazy it is that we're wearing masks every day and then cut to a month later and that was the norm," Feimster said.
Like Akerman, she hopes Chick Fight offers a boost to viewers who have been experiencing a rough year.
"I always enjoy the movies where people find their voice and find their power and, certainly, you have that in this movie," Feimster said.
"When you watch this movie, not only are you seeing this cool journey with Malin's character, but the fight scenes are so good and so cool. ... The best part is seeing women kick butt."