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Waving a wand over Boston

Jillian Bell, the star of ‘Godmothered,’ talks about filming the Disney+ comedy here

Jillian Bell plays a fairy godmother in "Godmothered," streaming on Disney+.Disney+

Not all movies filmed around Boston embrace the city as part of the narrative.

Some productions — most likely made here because of the state’s film tax credit — are set somewhere else.

But “Godmothered,” a new Disney+ film about a fairy godmother-in-training (Jillian Bell) who winds up in Boston to help an overwhelmed single mother (Isla Fisher) and her kids, is all about name-checking every community and local brand it can.

It includes a story line about the Bruins. It mentions Marblehead and Dedham. In a few scenes, it’s like a tourism video for the North End.

One of the first big jokes from Bell’s fairy godmother character, Eleanor, has her checking to make sure she’s landed in Massachusetts — and pronouncing it incorrectly. (For an otherworldly being, that “c” is confusing.)


The movie was filmed last winter — and almost completed in March, just before lockdown. Unfinished scenes at the end of the film, Bell said, were replaced with an animated sequence in the style of a classic Disney feature.

A few days before the film’s Friday release, Bell (“Brittany Runs a Marathon,” “22 Jump Street”) talked by phone about the very local project and how the family movie might land during a complicated holiday season.

Q. It’s so fun to realize how much this movie leaned into Boston and Massachusetts.

A. It was so great because the guy who was driving me around, Michael [Kazmouski] — whom I just fell madly in love with; we were instant friends — he was showing me around as we were driving. One of my favorite things about him was, not only was he showing me around and explaining the history of the town but also he would literally tell me which [spots] were from the movie “The Town” [2010].

Q. That is so Boston, to point to a place and explain its connection to a Ben Affleck movie.


A. He was like, “That’s the ice rink near the end of the film,” and I had to go back and rewatch it when I got back because it was so nostalgic.

Q. I just feel like “Godmothered” will be right up there with “The Departed” [2006] in terms of films that really commit to Boston. And you’ve proven that Matt Damon doesn’t even have to be in it!

A. Maybe. Maybe he’s the one playing Gary [the fairy godmother’s raccoon].

Q. From my memory, this film was wrapping right as we were entering lockdown in March. I remember wondering if you got to finish.

A. We were three days shy of wrapping. I remember they gathered the whole crew and cast and said, “That’s a wrap . . . question mark.” I think the hopes were [that] we were going to come back to Boston two weeks later, when we thought it would be just two weeks of shutting down. And then, obviously, the rest happened. I was so happy with what they did in the final edit to piece together what we hadn’t [finished]. [Bell says the animated portion of the movie, a nod to classic Disney, represents unfinished scenes.]

Q. “Godmothered” joins films like “Maleficent” [2014] and the recent “Aladdin” [2019] where the heroine gets to sing a new song about feminism and power — that suggest Disney is re-examining the meaning of its fairy tales and happy endings.


A. That’s what I loved about it. I think it’s really beautiful that they took what we know fairy godmothers to be — of coming to Earth and helping a young lady find a prince and a castle and a gown, [which] is just a little bit antiquated — and [turned] it on its heels.

Jillian Bell at the Provincetown International Film Festival in 2019. Mae Gammino/Provincetown International Film Festival

Q. When I was watching this, I thought about my friends who’ve been doing so much parenting, homeschooling, and struggling during COVID. I texted my single-parent friend and said, “I think this movie is a metaphor about how all parents need childless friends to help them.”

A. It’s honestly about community, and I think that doesn’t have to just mean women, but in this film it’s showing women leaning on each other. The cast is full of everyone from Willa Skye [who plays one of the children] to June Squibb [a more senior fairy godmother], and it’s been so cool watching all these different generations of young ladies and women come together. We really did lean on each other while we were shooting, so it’s so cool that was happening off set and on. And I do think that it’s so important, especially during this time, to be reaching out to each other. This has been one of the hardest years. I’m a single woman without kids, and I’ve been reaching out to a lot of my friends who have little ones and just saying, “Do you need a break? What can I drop off? Do you want me to put on a mask and hang out with them in the backyard while you go have a glass of wine?”


Q. As an actor, how does it feel to have a film like this released on a streaming network instead of in a theater? Is it frustrating or exciting, because the work might reach more people?

A. It’s probably a bit of both, just because one of my happy places is a movie theater. Going inside and experiencing it with a group of strangers. Listening to where people laugh or where people get scared. I will say that with something like this, it’s been so wonderful because you realize so many people are stuck in their houses right now, and they all need more content, especially [something] fun and lighthearted. We didn’t know while we were shooting how much people would need a movie like that.

Q. Is there one Boston spot you want to mention from your time here?

A. [Ristorante] Limoncello. It’s so delicious. Every time we were there, we got the best service, and it was like a warm comforting meal at the end of the night. We would all run in right before they were closing. They’re like, “Come on in.” They would feed us.

Interview was edited and condensed. Meredith Goldstein can be reached at Meredith.Goldstein@Globe.com.