Primarily known for his work as an actor on The Blacklist and 90210, Ryan Eggold just premiered his feature directorial debut, the romantic comedy Literally, Right Before Aaron, at the 2017 Tribeca Film Festival.

Equal parts beautiful, bitter and profoundly sad, the film tells the story of Adam and Allison, in the initial passion of their deepening relationship and in the aftermath of a traumatic breakup, as Adam struggles to come to grips with what he had and has no more. Invited to Allison’s wedding, as she marries a man every part Adam’s equal, the young lead comes to a turning point.

“I was going through a breakup, as you do, and I had some feelings— feelings about heartbreak and marriage, in particular, and ‘forever-ness,’ and the definition of that, and how people’s relationship to each other changes, from being in love, to not being in love, to what do you mean to the person at this point in time,” Eggold said, joining his stars Justin Long, Cobie Smulders and Ryan Hansen at Deadline’s Tribeca Studio.

Seamus Tierney

Literally right before Eggold’s feature debut, the burgeoning filmmaker wrote a short film of the same name, telling a similar story of the tragedy of what could have been, and mining similar comedic moments out of the lovelorn thirtysomething’s dark night of the soul. Experiencing an audience’s outpouring of love for the short, Eggold sensed what was universal in the premise, and its potential to be expanded for an affecting feature.

Inspired in part by Bob Dylan’s tune “It’s All Over Now, Baby Blue,” Eggold’s script also achieved a deep connection with actors reading for the project. “I was a couple months out of a breakup that I was trying to process, and when I read the script, it really spoke to me, and I felt like I connected with it, and I felt like I needed to do it because of that,” Long said.

“We also wanted to teach the kids—the millennials—about the proper meaning of the word ‘literally,'” the actor joked. “It was something [where] we all got together, we felt like it’s just being misused constantly, and this might shed some light on it.”

Featuring strong performances by Long, Smulders and Hansen as Adam’s foil, Literally, Right Before Aaron is also buoyed by supporting performances by John Cho, Kristen Schaal and Luis Guzmán.

To hear more of Deadline’s Tribeca conversation with the Literally, Right Before Aaron stars and writer/director Ryan Eggold, click above.