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Letter Carriers
Moments after witnessing Holly and Gerry's marriage, we are at Gerry's wake, and Holly is reeling from the loss of the love of her life. Weeks later, on Holly's 30th birthday, her friends and family show up at her apartment, which, it is quite apparent, she has not cleaned since Gerry's death. Holly is not ready to face them—or the world— until she receives a delivery of a birthday cake and a taped message…from Gerry.

Finerman notes that, while that first tape and the subsequent letters are mostly meant to help Holly, they are inclusive of the other important people in her life. "We know that Holly has lost her husband, but it's easy to forget that there are other people who have lost him as well. Her friends, who were also friends with him, are sad for her, but they are also sad for themselves.”

In fact, Gerry's first instructions are not only to Holly but to her best friends, Denise and Sharon, to get out and celebrate Holly's birthday together. "Denise and Sharon seem to represent two aspects of life,” relates Lisa Kudrow, who plays Denise. "Sharon is married and is on her way to building a family, while Denise is still single. She is looking for the right guy, but she doesn't want to waste time, so she has her checklist. She's definitely not shy,” she laughs, "but, most importantly, she's a good friend.”

"Lisa Kudrow is a jewel,” says Finerman. "She's got phenomenal timing, and having someone like that is a gift because her delivery on some of those one-liners and the looks she would give were just as funny as they could be.”

For the role of Sharon, LaGravenese turned to his close friend Gina Gershon, whom he had met through their mutual friendship with Ted Demme. "It was clear to me from the start that I wanted Gina to play Sharon because of what she would personally bring to it and also because I wanted Sharon to have an edge, even though she is the more maternal one of the group.”

"Sharon is the more mature, grounded one of the bunch,” Gershon acknowledges, "even though she is just as capable as Denise of getting together with her friends and having a wild time. Seeing what Holly is going through, Sharon is very compassionate and protective. But as time goes on, both Denise and Sharon are moving on with their lives, which leaves Holly somewhat isolated because she is not ready to move forward.”

Swank comments, "I thought Richard captured so well the way girlfriends act together—the way they talk and the shorthand that happens in just a look or an inside joke that no one else gets. The characters are all so fleshed out and multidimensional and Holly's relationship with them is so clear. It was just lovely.”

Holly's friend Sharon is married to John, who, as often happens with couples, was Gerry's best friend. John is played by James Marsters, who offers, "John is in a bit of a strange position because he loved Gerry, too, and maybe he's feeling a little left out. John thinks he will never have another friend like Gerry…that you don't really ever find another true best friend once you're an adult.”

For LaGravenese, it was especially important to convey how John is feeling, having gone through a similar experience. "The best friend of a guy who dies loses a relationship that is hard to describe to people and is often overlooked. It's hard to put into words, but it's something that we feel deeply. I thought this would be a good opportunity to try to put into words what male friendship means to some guys. James is a terrific actor, and I think he did a great job expressing that aspect of the story.”

As Holly begins to live for each letter, the one person who has reservations about them is her mother, Patricia. Kathy Bates, who stars as Patricia, explains, "Deep down inside, Patricia is afraid that these letters are not good for Holly, that they are only<

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