It's a warm, edgy comedy drama that grapples with issues of illness, mortality and sexuality in fresh, thoughtful ways. Shannon says the material connected to her as a mother. "I really related to what a mother would do for her children," she says, "how she would go to the end of the earth for her kids and it's all she worries about. Joanne is fighting for her life, but also coming to terms with the fact that her life is going to be cut short."

Other People also stars Bradley Whitford

Opposite her, Plemons plays a young gay man who has returned home from New York after his writing career didn't quite go to plan. He liked the idea of this character. "Aside from being a gay character, it was such a specific moment in both of their lives," he says. "And there's this sort of underlying sadness, where you know it's not going to work out but you still love the person, and you're going through a lot."

Shannon says that there's no real reason why she hasn't taken more dramatic roles since her comic performances on SNL. "People might just see you one way, which never bothered me," she says. "I love comedy, but I did always consider myself a dramatic comedian. And I've never had a role like this. It's a fictional film based on [writer-director Chris Kelly's] family and experiences, so it was just so great having him right there guiding me, saying, 'Maybe do it like this.' I talked to his mom's best friend a lot about what she was like as a person, just to get a sense of her essence and her values and what she thought about cancer."

Meanwhile, Plemons' career has spanned a variety of genres, from acclaimed TV series like Breaking Bad and Fargo to films like The Master, Black Mass and Bridge of Spies. Does he have a plan? "I started to try and trace just how Robert Duvall and Tommy Lee Jones did what they did to me, how they made me believe they were those people," he says of his two idols. "I bought every part of their world. I guess I've sort of been chasing that honesty of theirs ever since."