NEW YORK — Last summer, Amanda Seyfried watched her boyfriend prepare for a play and had one thought: “I could never do this.”
Twelve months later, she’s doing this.
Seyfried made her stage debut this month in a new off-Broadway Neil LaBute play, and she’s still a little shocked that the knot in her stomach is allowed it.
“Isn’t it interesting how you have this whole sick, sick feeling every time you think of something and then, all of a sudden, it’s gone? It takes the right people,” said the star of “Mean Girls,” “Lovelace” and the film adaptation of “Les Miserables.”
One of the right people was sitting to her right on a Manhattan rooftop one recent afternoon: Thomas Sadoski, a stage veteran of such plays as LaBute’s “Reasons to Be Pretty” and “Other Desert Cities” and HBO’s “The Newsroom.”
“We are two people who are really open and sort of unfailingly honest with each other,” he says. “We have a big journey to go on and it requires a level of respect.”
In “The Way We Get By,” which opened last week, Seyfried and Sadoski play a pair of good-looking people who wake up after a passionate night together. Do they have the courage to act on it, to make a commitment?
“It’s that big question: Is life too short or is it too long? That’s what I’m constantly grappling with every day. Should you just go for it? Or is it way too long and there are so many things in the way so just go with it?” says Seyfried.
“You never know, and that’s exactly what we’re dealing with in these 85 minutes. It’s something everybody’s dealing with at some point in their life.”
Sadoski, who counts LaBute as a friend, was sent the play by him a year ago and fell in love with it. He pitched it to the respected Second Stage Theatre, where he earned his first two jobs. “This is my artistic home,” he says.
Leigh Silverman was picked to direct and then the search was on for the actress to play opposite Sadoski. At first, Tatiana Maslany, the star of “Orphan Black,” was hired but she had to withdraw due to scheduling conflicts.
“I was second choice but that’s OK,” Seyfried teases.
Seyfried’s name soon came up because the star was getting the word out that she was interested in finally making her theater debut.
“I’ve been dancing around the idea of being onstage for about five or six years and the only thing that’s been keeping me from it is timing and fear,” she says.
The fear part took care of itself. Seyfried says he attended her boyfriend Justin Long’s rehearsals of “Living on Love” at the Williamstown Theatre Festival last summer and felt nervous and anxious for him. But, now, turning to Sadoski, she says: “The second I sat down and read this with you, that didn’t exist anymore.”
For Sadoski, that early reading also changed everything. He and Seyfried had never worked together before and didn’t know each other socially. But she impressed him immediately.
“I thought I had a pretty good idea what this world was and what this play was about and what the dynamic between these people was,” he says.
“We got into this room, we sat down and cracked open the script, and the instant Amanda opened her mouth — literally, the instant Amanda opened her mouth — everything I thought I knew about the play changed seismically.”
Seyfried smiles at that. “Things happen for a reason. This is like the perfect first play,” she said. “It’s so much fun. It’s a brighter world for me.”