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Why Meg Ryan Came Out of Rom-Com Retirement to Star in What Happens Later

Meg Ryan talked to Seth Meyers about starring in—and directing—her first romantic comedy in 14 years, What Happens Later, opposite David Duchovny. 

By Samantha Vincenty

A romantic comedies fan could curate a film festival of gems that actress Meg Ryan has starred in, including When Harry Met Sally, You've Got Mail, Joe Vs. the Volcano, and Sleepless in Seattle, just to name a few. But Ryan's been out of the rom-com game for a minute—14 years, in fact, with the last being 2009's Serious Moonlight. Happily, she's officially returned with 2023's What Happens Later.

How to Watch

Watch Late Night with Seth Meyers on NBC weeknights at 12:35/11:35c and next day on Peacock.  

Meg Ryan visited Late Night with Seth Meyers on October 31 to talk about her return to romcoms in What Happens Later. Ryan doesn't just star in the movie opposite David Duchovny, who plays her ex; she also directed and co-wrote the film. 

As Ryan explained to Seth Meyers, What Happens Later was originally a playwright's first draft when Ryan took over writing the project during the Covid-19 pandemic.

"I just started writing, and I kept writing and I kept writing and I kept writing," Ryan said (are we the only ones picturing this in a Meg Ryan movie montage?). David Duchovny came onto the project, it was financed, and now the movie arrives on November 3. 

Meg Ryan on Late Night With Seth Meyers Episode 1439

Meg Ryan says she wasn't planning on starring in What Happens Later 

Surprisingly, Ryan told Meyers that she didn't originally plan to star as Willa in What Happens Later. 

"Once you were playing the part, how important was it for you to find a David Duchovny?" Meyers asked.

"There's just two people in the movie," Ryan laughed. "So I had to have a partner. And he's so—there's just nothing like him," Ryan said, comparing him to iconic Hollywood actor Walter Matthau. 

"He can spin a line, he can break your heart, he can make you laugh," Ryan said of Duchovny. 

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Ryan admitted switching between directing and acting caused some dissonance at times. After filming scenes she was in, "in the edit room, I was like 'who's that blonde blob in the movie with David Duchovny?"

"My character, she's just a woo-woo, very flaky person, and as a director, you really have to micromanage," Ryan told Meyers. "So every time they said 'action,' I was like, 'all right, I'm just gonna relax a little bit and just be here with Mr. Duchovny."

Filmed in a working airport full of real travelers, What Happens Later is dedicated to another true rom-com queen, writer-director Nora Ephron, who helmed many of Ryan's biggest films.

"The sets with her were really fun," Ryan said of Ephron's "joy" in filmmaking. 

Watch Meg Ryan's full interview above—in which she shares an adorable childhood photo of her son, actor Jack Quaid, dressed as a vampire—and watch Late Night with Seth Meyers weeknights at 12:35/11:35c on NBC and streaming on Peacock.