Dating dilemmas get a fresh overhaul in My Favorite Girlfriend, the new romantic comedy about a gal sharing head space with six different personalities and the hunk who must keep up with all of them. Not since Toni Collette charmed in United States of Tara have audiences witnessed such robust personality roulette as they do in this film, written and directed by Amanda Raymond (You Are My Home). No doubt relationships in the 21st century are more complex than they were 20 years ago, between numerous dating apps and finding a groovy soul to actually sit down to dinner with who doesn’t always look at their phone. The craving to share real personal bandwidth with somebody is at an all-time high. But to have to share it with a slew of other personalities? That’s a game-changer.
Bonnie Piesse (Obie-Wan Kenobi) and Tyler Johnson (The Young and the Restless) play potential star-crossed lovers Molly and Conrad in this offbeat comedy. Conrad’s by-the-book, Molly—and Vanessa, Sarah, Silk, and several other personalities—not so much. What Molly has, in fact, is Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID), also known as multiple personality disorder, which is characterized by the presence of two or more distinct personality states. For Piesse, who’s fresh off her celebrated appearance reprising the role as Beru Lars in the hit series Obie-Wan Kenobi—“It was really inspiring to return to the role in a new way and play a strong woman in the Star Wars universe,” she said—My Favorite Girlfriend was both a joy and challenge to experience. And she knew early on that she had to dive right in.
“This was quite an opportunity, and a scary one—reading all those characters, and what would be required to do it right,” Piesse said of the demanding role. “So, I definitely had a moment of overwhelm, wondering if I could bring what was needed. But at the same time, what an amazing opportunity. And I loved Amanda’s script—so heartwarming, full of goodness, and funny. I just thought, why not? Let’s stretch myself and go for it.”
There were other reasons she said yes to the project.
“We live in a time when we’re bringing more awareness to the different mental health struggles people face; there’s a sense of really trying to understand it all,” Piesse added. “It’s an important time to understand DID from a more human perspective, and it’s equally important to humanize these things. The film is a breath of fresh air, and after everything everybody in the world has been through the last three years, I think people want that comedic-heart connection; something that makes them feel good.”
Most actors are jazzed when they get to morph into one commanding role. For My Favorite Girlfriend, Piesse had to take what was technically six characters, each one with their own distinctly original presence—from sweet southerner to rocker chick and then some. But one of the most significant challenges in Amanda Raymond’s tale was doing enough research about DID beforehand. Piesse wanted to find the right emotional footing for each of Molly’s personalities, all of whom, curiously, have distinct traits that the character of Conrad finds loveable.
“Before filming, I spoke with someone who actually has DID, who was consulting on the movie, and basically they were able to break down for me what it’s like switching from one personality to another—or from alter to alter—and also what it’s like for the people in their lives,” Piesse explained. “I came to understand that it’s usually trauma that causes DID. The consultant was very open sharing all that, and it was really helpful.” Piesse also turned to educational YouTube videos by people who have DID. “In the videos, they switched from alter to alter, and it was very educational for me to see what that’s like, and to understand it from a human perspective because I didn’t have a deep knowledge of it.”
Moviegoers have experienced characters with Dissociative Identity Disorder on screen before, of course—from The Three Faces of Eve and Sybil to Primal Fear and Fight Club. But misconceptions about DID abound. “A lot of movies that feature this condition tend to be extreme—like a really psychopathic character or somebody who’s very twisted like a murderer and such,” Piesse noted. “But that’s very rarely the case [with DID]. It’s often these kinds of normal—quote, unquote—personalities that are just very different from each other. It’s not necessarily the way the media so often portrays it.”
Playing six characters had to have its challenges at various stages. If there was one personality Piesse found most intriguing to slip into, it was the character of Maxine, who is revealed toward the end of the film.
“I won’t give too much of it away, but Maxine is shy, quiet, and withdrawn, and she expresses some of that trauma that’s underneath it all,” Piesse said. “That was meaningful for me. But the most challenging character for me was Silk, who’s the rocker chick, up on the stage in black leather. I’m not much of a rocker; the rocker personality doesn’t come easily to me. So, that was a stretch.”
Crafting a Lighthearted Comedy With Depth
Yes, My Favorite Girlfriend sheds light on a subject that could be fleshed out more in movies for general audiences, but at its core, the film is intended to be an enjoyable romp. Piesse and Johnson play well opposite each other, something the actress appreciated.
“There was an instant chemistry between Tyler and I when we did a table read, especially as I go from character to character,” she shared. “It surprised me. Sometimes, there would a very strong chemistry between one of my characters and Conrad’s, which was unexpected, and other times, I really thought one of the alters would share a unique chemistry with Conrad, but then I realized… not so much. It was interesting for me because the various characters showed us what was going on with them—as a couple.”
One scene, in particular, stands out. Molly and Conrad are on a date when Molly rushes to the restroom. Upon her return, one of her personalities, Vanessa, has come through—a “southern girl” from Oklahoma. She said Johnson was genuinely “taken aback by Vanessa when they did the first take,” adding, “He was shocked and that really came through in his performance—the surprise of, ‘Wait, who is this person? That really played well on screen.”
It’s safe to say filmmakers and actors hope audiences are left with something valuable after experiencing their films. For Piesse, her biggest wish is that people enjoy themselves but also realize that mental health struggles are something “we all can all go through.” She hopes people feel the “heart” connection of the movie and feel “inspired to strive for goodness in their own lives.”
Still, it must be asked: with so much going on in the acting world on any given day, what does Piesse do to find her center and stay grounded? “Meditation is probably the main thing—that, and yoga,” she said. “And breathing—not even any kind of hardcore breathwork. Just getting your diaphragm to move and breathing deeply into your stomach. I find it does so much good. It helps ground my nervous system and it really supports me.”
Interestingly enough, Piesse sees acting and performing as a kind of meditative process, especially when she’s diving into character. “Time stands still for me and things just flow,” she noted. “It’s exciting for me to stretch as a character. We all have our—quote, unquote—identity and characters we’ve settled into. And that was something I thought about with My Favorite Girlfriend, too. So, it was great for me as an actor and as a person to stretch that and start to feel at home in something completely different.”
My Favorite Girlfriend (Saban Films) will be available in select theaters on Aug. 5 and on demand and digital on Aug. 9.