Katie Aselton didn’t do any acting growing up in the tiny Down East town of Milbridge, about 60 miles from the Canadian border.

But she did do a lot of pretending.

“My playground was a rocky beach, I was always creating worlds and fantasies,” said Aselton. “In my heart I always knew (that I wanted to act), yet when you grow up in an area where no one you know has done that, there are no one’s footsteps to follow.”

Katie Aselton, who grew up in the Down East town of Milbridge and has gone on to a career as an actor and director. She directed the new Diane Keaton comedy “Mack & Rita.” Photo courtesy of Katie Aselton

Aselton blazed her own trail from Milbridge to Hollywood, leaving Maine at 19 with little experience and no guarantees. Since then, she’s acted in dozens of films and TV shows, including leading roles on the sitcom “The League” and the superhero action drama “Legion,” both on the FX network. She’s also come full circle geographically by making two films in Milbridge, a road trip story called “The Puffy Chair” with her now-husband Mark Duplass in 2005 and a horror-thriller called “Black Rock” in 2012. Aselton directed and starred in the latter, along with Kate Bosworth and Lake Bell. She also has a recurring role in the Apple TV+ hit “The Morning Show,” as Duplass’ character’s fiancé.

Her latest project was directing Oscar-winning actress Diane Keaton in “Mack & Rita,” a body-swap comedy about a 30-year-old writer (Mack) who finds she’s been suddenly and mysteriously transformed into her 70-year-old self (taking the name Aunt Rita).  It opened in theaters nationally Aug. 12 and will be available on demand on various cable systems beginning Sept. 1.



Aselton had only directed two films, both small-budget indies, when producer Alex Saks ran into her at a Los Angeles-area pilates studio. Saks asked Aselton if she’d be interested in directing again. When Aselton learned the project was already slated to star Keaton, she was both stunned and excited. The movie was written by Madeline Walter and Paul Welsh, writers for the Andy Samberg police sitcom “Brooklyn Nine-Nine,” which ended an eight-season run in 2021.

Saks and Asleton had worked together before on the 2018 comedy “Book Club,” in which Aselton played Keaton’s daughter. Acting in the same film as Keaton was a thrill but the chance to direct her was “beyond a dream come true,” said Asleton.

She says she’s “adored” Keaton her entire life and remembers playing the Keaton comedy “Baby Boom” at a slumber party she hosted in eighth grade. Not to mention Keaton’s incredible resume, which includes starring in “The Godfather” and its sequels and winning a best actress Oscar in 1978 for “Annie Hall.”

“Leading up to it, I was terrified for sure, the idea of directing someone who is your hero,” said Aselton. But she found the 76-year-old Keaton to be completely “disarming” and willing to do anything she was asked, including some very silly and strenuous physical comedy.

Asleton says the movie appealed to her because it’s about self-acceptance. The 30-year-old Mack feels awkward in her own skin, like an older woman trapped in a young woman’s body, finding it difficult to be into the styles and fashions of friends the same age. As the 70-year-old version of herself (played by Keaton) she begins to understand what’s important to her and how to be true to herself.

At 43, Aselton said she feels like she can see both viewpoints of the characters in the film: the 30-year-old Mack who finds it exhausting and awkward to try to keep up with her contemporaries’ tastes and styles and the older “wine club ladies” that Keaton’s character discovers, whose philosophy is basically that life is short so live it the way you want.


In the film, the 30-year-old Mack is played by Elizabeth Lail, best known for lead roles in the Netflix psychological thriller series “You” and the NBC drama “Ordinary Joe.” Dustin Milligan, best known for playing the veterinarian Ted on the Canadian comedy series “Schitt’s Creek,” plays Mack/Rita’s next-door neighbor.

An important part of Mack’s backstory is that she was raised by her grandmother, hence her feeling comfortable around older people. She also gained an appreciation for her grandmother’s fashions, acquired from shopping in vintage stores. Keaton, known as a fashion icon, is seen in the film getting a lot of attention for her wardrobe and style – to the point where she becomes a social influencer. Most if not all of the clothes Keaton wears in the film are her own, Aselton said.

Keaton also does a fair bit of strenuous physical comedy in the movie, including at a pilates studio (the same one Asleton and Saks go to in real life). She’s bending like a pretzel at some points, stretching her legs high in the air at other times and falling over a lot. Keaton did not use a stunt double for any of that, Aselton said, but did for the scene where Keaton’s character’s wig catches fire.

“I’m not catching Diane Keaton on fire,” Aselton said of the decision to use a stand-in.

Diane Keaton stars in “Mack & Rita” as a 30-year-old writer who finds she’s been transformed into her 70-year-old self. Milbridge natve Katie Aselton directed. Photo courtesy of Gravitas Premiere


Aselton grew up in Milbridge, with a population of about 1,200, as the youngest of four children. Her parents, Ora and Carl Aselton, settled there after falling in love with the Down East area when Carl was stationed at Winter Harbor in the Navy. Carl was a doctor, practicing in Milbridge, and Ora taught art at Narraguagus High School in nearby Harrington. Her parents still live in Milbridge.


Asleton’s childhood home was on the town’s coastline, and she spent lots of time exploring and creating fantasy worlds for herself. She followed her older sisters into dance lessons and became a cheerleader in high school. She played sports, including volleyball, and ran track. But she didn’t do any acting or theater. Still, looking back, there were signs that Aselton was comfortable in the spotlight.

“When she was very little and she passed a mirror or saw her reflection in the window,  she would stop and strike a pose,” said her mother. “In cheerleading, she was always the one on the top of the pyramid.”

Being a youngest child means it’s “in your blood’ to be the family clown, and sing and perform for everyone, Aselton said, and she did.

Actress and director Katie Aselton was Miss Teen Maine in 1995, and came in second at the national pageant. Photo courtesy of Ora Aselton

As a teen, some family friends gave her, as a present, a gift certificate to take modeling and acting classes in Bangor, her mother recalled. That led to her becoming interested in the Miss Teen Maine pageant, which she won. She then went to the Miss Teen USA pageant in Wichita, Kansas, and came in second, in 1995 at the age of 16.

Aselton said preparing for the pageants – including practicing interviews and public speaking – helped her gain self-confidence. The national pageant was broadcast live on TV, and the experience helped convince Aselton she might want to pursue a career in TV or a related field.

She applied to Channel One News – a TV network broadcast in schools around the country for many years – which focused on news for teens and used teens as correspondents. She was accepted and was assigned a story in New Hampshire about a bill that would have legalized corporal punishment for some types of low-level crimes. The four-minute video report appeared on the network in 1996.


She decided to study broadcast journalism at Boston University after high school, at least partly because her parents wanted her to go to college. But after a couple years, she realized journalism was not for her. She decided to move to California and try to get into acting. Ora Aselton said her daughter’s decision “gave me a small heart attack, but my family convinced me to let her go.”

She worked as a waitress to support herself while looking for experience. Her career got started in earnest after meeting Duplass and working on the indie film “The Puffy Chair” in 2005, which Duplass and his brother Jay wrote, directed and produced. The film debuted at the Sundance Film Festival and was picked up by Netflix. It’s a road trip movie, with Aselton and Duplass as a couple who drive from New York to Virginia to pick up a lounge chair Duplass’ character bought for his father’s birthday.

The movie was shot in Milbridge and cast members stayed at Aselton’s family home, mostly to save money and because it felt comfortable, Aselton said. Family members were cast as extras, including Aselton’s mother as a customer in the furniture store.

Aselton and Duplass got married in 2006 and have two daughters, Ora, 14, and Molly, 10. The couple and their children live in Los Angeles. Aselton said that, before the pandemic, she was trying to get back to Maine about three times a year and hopes to get on that schedule again at some point.

Maine native Katie Aselton and husband Mark Duplass have appeared in several movies and TV series together, including “The League” on FX and “The Morning Show” on Apple TV+. Photo courtesy of Shutterstock

Aselton and Duplass were cast together in FX network’s “The League,” a semi-improvised comedy about the members of a fantasy football league in Chicago. The show debuted in 2009, ran for seven seasons and got critical praise. She also appeared in the FX superhero “Legion,” which ran from 2017 to 2019, as the main character’s sister. In recent years, she’s had smaller roles on the TV shows “Curb Your Enthusiasm,” “Veep” and “The Morning Show” and in the films “The Gift,” “Bombshell” and “Silk Road.”

Maine native Katie Aselton and husband Mark Duplass have appeared in several movies and TV series together, including “The League” on FX and “The Morning Show” on Apple TV+. Photo courtesy of Shutterstock

Aselton also directed and starred in the 2010 indie film “The Freebie,” which premiered at Sundance. It’s about a married couple who decide to allow each other a one-night stand, to spark their relationship.

Then Aselton directed and starred in the 2012 film “Black Rock,” a thriller written by Duplass about three friends recently reunited but stranded on an island, fighting for their lives. Aselton came back to Milbridge again to film, as the isolated coastal locations fit the script. And family members were again used in various background roles.


“Mack & Rita” is the first film Aselton directed that she did not also act in. But both her daughters did. Molly plays the child version of Mack in a couple crucial scenes, and Ora is one of several teens at a restaurant table.

Aselton didn’t think about directing for quite a while after “Black Rock,” saying the dark film “really took it out of me. It was a hard movie to sit with.” So instead she acted in films and TV projects and spent time with her daughters. She decided that when she directed again, it would have to be a very different kind of story, something with heart and laughs. So when she was offered the chance to do “Mack & Rita,” a comedy with an uplifting message, she did not hesitate.

She said the film’s theme of self-growth and self-acceptance made her think of her own journey, from a tiny Down East town at the far end of the country to the red carpets and backlots of the entertainment capital of the world, Hollywood. Her parents went to see the movie as soon as it opened in Bangor, about 60 miles from Milbridge.

“I think growing up here among wonderful, hard-working people really grounded Katie,” her mother, Ora Aselton, said. “I feel like being from Maine has helped her.”

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