Interview: Catherine Urbanek of “Courting Des Moines”

Posted on April 5, 2016 at 8:00 am

Catherine Urbanek stars in “Courting Des Moines,” a political romantic comedy with a series of cameos from real-life 2016 Presidential candidates and other real-life figures in Iowa for the caucuses that are the official start to the quadrennial race for the White House. In an interview, she talked about what she learned from playing a campaign manager and about her popular comedy web series about terrible first dates.

What was it like to shoot the film in Iowa as the real political campaigns were going on all around you?

I think what was surprising was how politically engaged Iowans are. It was really refreshing to go to Iowa and to see how politically aware everyone there is. It was just kind of different because in Los Angeles, for example, everyone is very focused on the entertainment world, the entertainment industry. But going to Des Moines, people’s focus was on something completely different — it was on politics. There is an expression that they have in Des Moines: “Everything local is politics and all politics are local.” So everyone is hyper aware of what’s going on in the nation. Kind of like how in LA everyone knows who Chris Hemsworth but in Iowa everyone knows who Bernie Sanders is so it’s really interesting.

In the movie your character runs the campaign for a candidate who is a real long shot but what is happening now seems even harder to believe.

Some of the stuff in the movie honestly felt like it could totally be happening in real life but yes, this election in particular is really kind of a bit like a circus.

Your character meets up with an ex and they are interested in getting back together until they begin to work for rival candidates. In real life you knew your co-star before this film, right?

Yes, Brandon Jones plays Damian. I wrote a short film that Brandon ended up getting cast in. It was a Web video that I wrote called “Too Much Clay Matthews,” about a Packers fan and a Bears fan on a date. Brandon read the script and he really liked it and wanted to do the project so we shot it. And then when we were making “Courting Des Moines,” Brent Roske was looking for Damian and I asked if he thought about Brandon Jones. So I’ve known Brandon before and I had worked with him before and honestly too in terms of preparing for a love interest roles it’s just acting. Brandon is very easy to act like you are attracted to him, it’s very easy to be attracted to Brandon Jones so that was no problem.

You’ve been interested in acting all your life. Tell me a little bit about how it all began and what was your first professional role?

I actually was extremely introverted when I was little. We did a play in kindergarten and when I got to be on stage it was like I was somebody, I was playing something else and it felt incredibly comfortable. And I found that I was more comfortable on stage almost than I was offstage in my real life. Then I become a total goofball and not introverted anymore but I always felt so comfortable on stage. And I also really love to make people laugh, I really enjoy that so I tend to prefer comedy over drama.

Did you see any of the real-life candidates when you were filming?

I didn’t meet any of them while we were shooting but I did go back to Iowa when we did a screening Iowa of the film right on the eve of the Iowa Caucus. And I was with the director for a little while, I kind of hung around with him in Des Moines and we went to the Republican presidential debate and so I was there for that and I remember seeing Rick Santorum and I think we saw John Kasich and Carly Fiorina. It was so interesting because it felt like being at the Oscars in a way. And then at the screening for the film I got to sit with Senator Tom Harkin, who has an appearance in the film sowe had a little scene together.

Tell me about your web series.

It’s actually a dating trilogy that I wrote about the girl that goes on dates where each date starts out really well, they have a common interest but then there is a discrepancy about that common interest and then the date ends horribly. The common thread of the dating trilogy was that the people are equally passionate about things — Elton John, Matt Damon, or football. So when they disagree what starts as something they have in common turns out to drive them apart. One was picked up by Funny or Die, but they cut it so I prefer the version on YouTube. I really kind of want to do one know called something like Too Much Trump about a girl and a guy on a date who are both really passionate about politics where one is for Hillary and other is for Trump and the date ends terribly!

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