EmmyWrap Cover 2014: The four popular actresses explore the many sides of comedy in first issue of this season's magazine series
ZOOEY DESCHANEL: STILL A NEW GIRL?
The past year of “New Girl” contained one of the riskiest plot lines you can ever bring into a TV show: a relationship. After a year and a half of teasing will-they-or-won't-they? tension, Zooey Deschanel‘s Jess and Jake Johnson's Nick became an item at the end of Season 2 — and their ups and downs as a couple were the driving force for much of the subsequent season. It brought some twists to the Fox sitcom, and gave an actress who came up in movies — notably “Almost Famous” and “(500) Days of Summer” — a few new notes to play in what has become the longest-running job she's ever had.
You're going into your fourth year with the show. Does it get easier because you've done it before, or is it harder to keep things fresh?
It doesn't exactly get easier. The challenges change. As soon as you think it's getting easier, there's something new you've got to try to figure out. And it can be hard to do that also also keep consistency within the characters over the course of three years. This year was definitely a challenging year, especially with the Nick and Jess characters getting together, and I'm kind of proud of the fact that we got through it.
Isn't the rule of thumb in television that sexual tension keeps a show going, but a relationship can wreck it?
Yeah. It wouldn't have necessarily been my choice for Nick and Jess to get together, because it's more of a challenge to play Jess as a person in a serious relationship than it is to play Jess single and making mistakes and being ridiculous.
But when we did it, I recognized that investing in this over the course of the season allows people to be attached enough to these characters that now they really want them to be together. And when we broke them apart [near the season's end], we gained so many more options in terms of what can happen with two characters who are single but have a history. And I am happy. [Laughs] I love Nick and Jess together, but tension is more fun for me to play.
Can you grow as an actress playing the same character week after week for three years?
Actually, it makes you so hardy as an actor. I think it's like the best acting class I've ever had. No matter what, you have to make that thing work on that day, even if it's something you've never done before and don't know how to do.
When you get into a movie, you know what you're doing. When you get into a TV show, you just know what the pilot's doing. You don't know where the next 100 episodes will go, what internal dynamics may influence things, how it will evolve over the years. You figure it out as it comes.
When I was doing movies I would sometimes take long periods off to do music, and I'd come back to acting and think, I'm really rusty. It's like getting in shape – you have to flex those muscles. TV makes you flex your muscles all the time.
CBS recently sent out Emmy mailers pointing out that “The Good Wife” does 22 episodes a season, and it's going up against cable dramas that only do 8-12. Do you look at the broadcast vs. cable competition in comedy and wonder if it's fair?
Well, the thing that's not fair, more than the number of shows, is that we're always up against the gun. The process of making a network show is just more stressful.
And what's most difficult is that the length of the show has to be 21:35. With cable shows, they can make it 30 minutes, 31 minutes, which means that they can cut in breathing time and air. They have freedom with the time that we don't have. There are some times when having a few extra seconds for a reaction
shot really would make a big difference. But you just learn to deal with it and be creative.
You're doing a couple of movies on your hiatus this year, “The Driftless Area” and “Rock the Kasbah.” Have you missed making films?
I have. I miss playing different characters. It's nice to be able to go off and do a couple of movies and then come back with a fresh perspective.
What can you tell us about those films?
Well, I'm worried about explaining “The Driftless Area” because I don't want to give anything away. My character is a mysterious woman. This is the kind of movie I really cut my teeth on – a small, lyrical indie movie. It's kind of like tragic magical realism. It's a beautiful, beautiful script, and it's nice to get back to that sort of thing from what I've been doing.
And the part in “Rock the Kasbah” is smaller, but it's really fun and I get to work with Bill Murray. I'm not number one on the call sheet in either of those situations, which is a little bit of a relief.
– Steve Pond
ANNA FARIS – FROM ‘SCARY’ MOVIE TO FUNNY MOTHERHOOD
Anna Faris didn't dream of being a comedienne when she was a girl — but since her career took off in the horror-movie spoof “Scary Movie” in 2000, she's become known for a comic blend of charm and ditziness. In Chuck Lorre's new CBS sitcom “Mom,” the star says she's found the perfect mix of laughs and depth playing an alcoholic with a pregnant teen daughter.
The themes in Mom are darker than those in most sitcoms. Tell me about the balance of lightheartedness and intense subtext.
There has been this [family] pattern of pregnancy and unfulfilled dreams. [My character of] Christy, you know she's a single mom, and she had her daughter when she was a teenager. And her mom had Christy when she was a teenager.
It's so interesting to see where the show goes with Christy.
I love the episodes where I get to go on dates and stuff. I love Justin Long, and Nick Zano was so much fun. But honestly, it's also great that there are bigger themes than love interests. ‘Cause as an actress you spend your 20s and into your 30s playing roles where you're trying to get a guy. And that's exhausting.
So it's been really rewarding to explore these other issues, and I feel incredibly fortunate that at this stage in my life, 37, we are doing a show about two really strong, very complicated women.
Where do you draw from to play Christy?
I think as a person these issues are very relatable. [Christy's] starting again basically. She's almost like a new mom, because her priorities haven't been her children in the past. And I don't know if I've fully recognized how much being a mom has helped me playing Christy.
There's just that intense feeling that you experience. I think that Christy feels incredibly guilty, and that's part of the reason she sometimes tolerates inappropriate behavior from her daughter.
Tell me about the transition from film to television, and in particular, this 22-episode sitcom format.
It's been such a perfect experience with where I'm at in my life right now. In this format, you have to be brave. Friends was the first time I had done multi-camera, and I just remember being so terrified. I was sitting in my dressing room being like, “I can't go out there. How do I run away, where do I go? I'm gonna run away to Canada.” It's really challenging and really exciting.
What do you have to say to those people who still insist that women can't be funny?
I just don't think that they sound very bright. [Laughs]
My journey with comedy's been odd, and I think unlike a lot of other women in comedy, it was never my intention. I was a very serious kid. I was unnaturally short growing up–like a foot shorter than everyone else in my class. I had a little bit of, I think, a Napoleon complex, and so I was never the class clown. I needed to be taken seriously, and when I started acting I only did dramatic stuff. There are people in my life that are really surprised that I ended up falling into comedy, [but] comedy has made me a happier person. It's such a huge compliment, getting laughter out of somebody.
It's annoying that there's still a conversation about women being funny. I think a few generations have to kick the bucket, maybe. [Laughs]
– L.A. Ross
TAYLOR SCHILLING – DRAMA IS THE NEW COMEDY – A DRAMEDIENNE?
Taylor Schilling was nominated for a Golden Globe in the drama category, but her show, “Orange Is the New Black,” is being submitted in the comedy categories at the Emmys. Schilling, who has never considered herself funny, revels in the chance to play around with the comedic aspects of her character in the series created by Jenji Kohan. And she promises more light — and dark — moments for her character, unlikely jailbird Piper Chapman, when Netflix releases the second season June 6.
How weird is it that your show was a drama for the Globes but now it's a comedy for Emmys?
Isn't it weird? Now for the same thing, it's a comedy. I'm always surprised when people think I'm funny.
I was going to ask you whether you thought of yourself as a comedienne.
No, I never did — at all. It wasn't until I met Jenji that she was like, “You're funny.” I said, “Come on, you've got to be kidding me.” She was like, “No, you are.”
When we first meet Piper she seems a little bit prissy, a little uptight, like her mother. Did you think of her that way at the start?
I never thought of her that way. When I hear those words, I'm like, ooh! Ow. It's true that's probably what people see, but my internal experience is she's a woman trying very hard to maintain the status quo, and trying very hard to fit in. She doesn't want to touch on anything that she thinks will be unacceptable to the outside world, and I think that is a kind of way of being that can clamp you down, and can certainly make you appear to be be all those words. But I think she's trying to be hat she thinks other people think she should be.
When you hear that she's too uptight or controlling, do you feel like saying, “Oh, you just wait?”
She starts at one place to go on a very specific journey, and it gets even deeper in the second season. And I think that's really exciting to have all the control eaten away: It's like putting a penny in Diet Coke or whatever you used to do science class and then it rusts away. All the old stuff rusts away. Sometimes people say stuff, and I'm like, have you seen the last episode?
She is really going to town there.
It's a big change from how we see her in the beginning. What is so cool to me about the world that Jenji created is that all those real internal shifts and her coming to know who she really is and that jump it takes to stop pretending you're something you're not for other people that she's going through happen in a funny way.
Is the second season going to be as dark as when we left her, or is there going to be a mix?
I think it's always a mix; that's what so cool about the show. Within that tone, that world, Piper goes to deeper places within herself. And at some points deeper are darker.
With Netflix releasing the entire season at once, did you get an immediate response to the show, or did it build?
I've never been in any situation like this so I don't really have anything to compare it to, but it did feel sorta sudden. It did sorta feel like a week went by and so many people had seen the entire series.
– Diane Garrett
MINDY KALING – THE EMMY PROJECT
Hail Mindy Kaling, with the talent and sheer stamina to anchor a show that's willing to go daring new places for laughs–inside a woman's emotional life. “The Mindy Project,” soon entering its third year, gives us an appealingly flawed heroine in Mindy (no relation and totally related, if you get what we mean), an accomplished doctor who also manages to be a serial failure at love.
It's been really fun to watch you grow your talent from “The Office” to “The Mindy Project” as a strong, new female comedic voice. How has it been for you?
One of the nice things is it's exciting to see a lot of comedy developing with female leads that are super flawed and interesting. On TV for the longest time, women were the straight man for all the other characters, and that's not remotely what life is like.
I wrote on “The Office” for eight years. Steve Carell is a flawed and funny lead character. When I did my show I knew I didn't want to have it any other way. Why deny myself doing something that fun?
Also read: Mindy Kaling Exits UTA (Exclusive)
What feedback do you get from fans of the show?
I'm astounded how devoted and positive the fans are about the character. On Twitter or at the airport, the feedback from women is so nice and so supportive. Things she says, people embroider on pillows, or it's their signature on Twitter.
So let's talk about stereotypes of “hot.” Do you feel your character is an antidote to the impossibly perfect women we usually see on TV?
Wait, am I this big fat ugly person with fat thighs and people think I'm like that? I think of myself as fine. I feel like I'm constantly receiving backhanded compliments about the show, and I never know how to respond.
My show is a reflection of I how feel. I have a nice dating life, and nice boyfriends. And on the show, the kind of guys I date are reflected from my real life — Max Greenfield, Seth Rogen. I don't think it's weird I'm dating them. It's not Beauty and the Beast. But it's such a weird thing to talk about.
I don't want to be defensive. And you get into dangerous territory of accidentally seeming like I think I'm so hot or something. I love that I have an impact that makes girls feel better about themselves. But–I love Andy Samberg and I feel jealous he doesn't have to answer those kinds of questions.
Where do you want to take the character?
From the beginning she's such a flawed person–a bundle of self righteousness, having opinions based on hunches rather than facts.
I had arrested development, I was a late bloomer — I was a nerd for so long. Even though the character is very different, we have that in common. She did this noble thing of becoming a doctor, but she has so much to learn, and so many bad qualities to shed. She always wants to be around cool people. She owns a gun, which she keeps losing. She's kind of giant weirdo.
She needs to suffer. She needs to go through trials before she wins. She wants to have a rockin’ body, be skinny as hell and date a guy who's really rich. You hope she'll learn that's not what she needs or wants.
– Sharon Waxman
Photo credits: Zooey & Anna photographed by Jana Cruder at HollywoodLofts, April 18. Zooey & Anna Styling by Kimmy; Taylor & Mindy photographed by Haoyuan Ren at TheWrap, April 27.
Zooey wardrobe: Three Dots dress, Pretty Polly tights, Aldo shoes, Lia Sophia ring (cover); Stop Staring Dress Lia Sophia ring Bones & Feathers earrings
Anna wardrobe: Helmut Lang trousers, LA Made sweater, Rachel Zoe shoes (cover); Ted Baker dress