‘Language Lessons’ and ‘Plan B’: How first-time director Natalie Morales made 2 films in a year

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Natalie Morales directs Victoria Moroles and Kuhoo Verma on the set of “Plan B.” Photo by Brett Roedel/Hulu.

In the opening scene of the new movie “Language Lessons,” Cariño, a Spanish teacher in Costa Rica, virtually meets her new client Adam, who lives in Oakland. Cariño is played by Natalie Morales, who also directed and co-wrote the movie, while Adam is played by her collaborator on the film, Mark Duplass. 

It turns out Adam's husband Will bought the lessons — 100 of them — as a surprise gift. 

Over the course of all those lessons, Adam and Cariño form a bond, connecting mostly in Spanish over a sudden tragedy. 

Morales had an unusual debut as a director. Originally she was supposed to shoot her first movie, the R-rated teen comedy “Plan B,” in the spring of 2020. The film follows two high school friends, who after an unexpected night of partying, end up on a quest across South Dakota in search of the Plan B pill. 

When that was shut down because of the pandemic, Morales came up with a real plan B — writing and directing “Language Lessons.” The result is that both of her “first” movies came out in 2021: “Plan B” on Hulu, and “Language Lessons” now in theaters. 

Morales, who built up a career with acting credits on shows including “Parks and Recreation” and “The Grinder,” tells KCRW about the moves she made to set herself up to be a two-time feature filmmaker in one year. That included leaving her agents after they refused to consider her for directing jobs. 

“Over a year went by and they did not set me up with anybody. I didn’t meet with a single person, and it was very clear that they only saw me as one thing,” Morales says. “And as terrifying as it was to leave a big agency as an actor, I knew I had to do it. Because those are literally the people representing you — the people who don’t believe you can do anything else? That’s not what I want.”

Morales also explains how she ended up interested in the entertainment industry in the first place — it’s a story involving a high school application mix-up that host Kim Masters says is worthy of its own movie. 

Credits

Guest:

Host:

Kim Masters

Producer:

Kaitlin Parker