Amanda Peet’s first ball hit the net. The second too. The third? This one hit Sanjin Kunovac, his tennis trainer, right in the groin.
“I’m so sorry,” she said with a piercing cry.
“We haven’t had our children yet,” he said, trying to sit up.
It was a recent Thursday afternoon and Mr. Kunovac was teaching Ms. Peet tennis lessons at the Manhattan Plaza Racquet Club on West 43rd Street. He had arrived with his fiancée, Kat Sorokko, another tennis coach. (A few days earlier, he had proposed, spelling out I
Ms. Peet is known as an actress (she appears in the new Amazonian series “The Romanoffs”), but she is also a playwright. She met the tennis couple while researching “Our Very Own Carlin McCullough,” a play about a tennis prodigy that premiered at the Geffen Playhouse in Los Angeles this summer. They served as technical consultants and professional assistants.
Ms Peet, who wore a gray sweatshirt, blue leggings and a high ponytail, is a wobbly tennis player. She played when she was a kid, then switched to soccer and basketball when she realized she wasn’t very good. But she had promised Mr. Kunovac and Ms. Sorokko that she would go out with them in the field. They could go from holding his hand to adjusting his grip.
“I need two coaches,” she said. “This is how bad I am.”
“The first thing we’re going to do is 20 laps around the pitch,” Kunovac said. Ms. Peet, a 46-year-old mother of three, responded with obscenity.
The Racquet Club tennis bubble was inflated and futuristic and brightly lit, with bangs and growls coming from the other courts. Ms. Peet also has a tennis grunt; it sounds like the cry of a woman who stepped on her cat.
She warmed up with a few half-hearted stretches as Ms. Sorokko wrapped her racquet in shiny white duct tape. Then Mr. Kunovac threw it on a few groundstrokes. “I’m really excited to torture you,” he said. It was then that the blow to the groin occurred.
Once he recovered, they returned to the groundstrokes. Ms. Peet struggled to gain a foothold. “The second the forehand comes in, I’m like, it’s over,” she said. She decided that a weak forehand, which she has, and a strong backhand, which she also has, “is a sign of a true neurotic.”
She’s a competitive person (she showed a scar on her forehand, a callback to a scene from “Brockmire” in which she insisted she could grab a full beer can), but when he this is tennis, she knows she can’t compete.
“It’s really horrible to love something and suck it so much,” Ms. Peet said, as she went to fill a paper cup with water. When she had emptied it, she turned the cup into a donkey cap.
Then she practiced volleys. Her arms were like spaghetti, sometimes overcooked, sometimes much more al dente. Still, his net play was solid and the ball slammed from racket to racket more than a dozen times before a passing shot ended the volley.
In her episode of “Romanoffs,” Ms. Peet plays a woman who is about to become a grandmother, and although she doesn’t look like it, maybe she felt it. “I’m seriously out of breath,” she said, stretching out on the court to rest. “If I have a heart attack, tell my kids I love them.”
The father of these children is David Benioff, a “Game of Thrones” showrunner. Mr. Kunovac and Ms. Sorokko are fans. As a thank you for their help in the play, she offered them small roles in the show’s final season, set somewhere near Belfast, Northern Ireland.
“Beyond the Incredible,” Kunovac said. “The costumes were amazing.”
“It was difficult to go to the bathroom,” Ms. Sorokko said.
And no, Ms. Peet cannot reveal any final details except to say that she has a lot of anxiety about keeping the secret.
As she undressed to a T-shirt, Mr. Kunovac and Ms. Sorokko rallied. Ms. Sorokko punched a few rigged shots in her legs. Mrs. Peet hit the water cooler.
She mentioned that she was also collaborating on a film script with the Duplass brothers, who she worked with on the HBO show “Togetherness”. She worked draft after draft. But she still thinks “writing is easier than tennis,” she said. “And that says a lot. “
It was time to practice his service. “Oh my God,” she said. “It’s a bit difficult because I’m nearsighted. I know this sounds like an excuse. It sounded like an excuse. She bounced the ball several times. “This part looks good,” she said, “the preamble.” Then she threw the ball in the air and hit it way over the baseline.
“You have moments of excellence, and then you have this,” Ms. Sorokko said teasingly.
There were more fouls, more mistakes, but eventually Ms. Peet found a rhythm and started calling for balls. “Don’t think about it too much! she says to herself. “Quick, without thinking! Quick, without thinking!
She had finally entered a state of flux. “The flux states are very difficult for Ashkenazi Jews,” she said.
She ended the lesson by rallying around Ms. Sorokko, nearly chopping off her head at one point. “Apparently you like to hang out with people,” Kunovac said. “This is the ‘Game of Thrones’ in you.”
The session ended. Ms. Peet collapsed on the sidelines. “If you lived in the city I would be in much better shape,” she said.
“If you were a real student, you would pick up balls,” Kunovac said.
“I’m so Hollywood,” Ms. Peet said. But she pulled herself up, ponytail swinging, and went to pick them up.