Rashida Jones tells us why I Love You, Man is the decade’s most original comedy. I Love You, Man opens nationwide March 20 and one of its stand-out stars, Jones, is having a career year and tells us all about it.
Initially Jones made a splash on Boston Public. After appearing on The Office, Rashida Jones became a face that audiences recognized. The familiar last name, her father is music impresario Quincy Jones, followed her into the barbed wire world of Hollywood. Jones’ moniker did nothing to soften the blow of years of rejection.
In 2009, Jones is set to explode. With her comedic splash on The Office as the romantic rival for Jim and Pam fresh in audience’s minds, Jones stars with Amy Poehler in the highly anticipated April NBC debut of Parks and Recreation.
Rashida shares an exclusive look into the view that is a Hollywood actress having her dreams realized.
Rashida Jones: Hello Joel.
SheKnows: Hello Rashida, how are things in Austin for South by Southwest?
Rashida Jones: Things in Austin are pretty good.
SheKnows: You’re at a little music festival to talk about I Love You, Man.
Rashida Jones: That is correct, it just started last night. It’s totally fun.
SheKnows: We were invited to attend and couldn’t help but notice that your father is the keynote speaker there.
Rashida Jones: I know!
SheKnows: How cool!
Rashida Jones: It’s so sad that I can’t stay. It’s such a bummer. It’s a moment I live for where I can be somewhere on my own accord and stay and hang out and wait for my dad to show up. It’s so awesome (laughs).
SheKnows: I was going to ask you later, but I’ll ask right now – I’ve spoken to a number of talented children of parents who are also talented. A lot of the response seems to be the same, when you first expressed an interest in a career in show business, how did your father react?
Rashida Jones: Both my parents are categorically unconditionally supportive. No matter what I was going to end up doing, they were totally fine with it. It wasn’t phrased as a warning, but my dad definitely said, ‘look, be really good at two things. That’s your way into the business. Be good at two things in the entertainment business and cultivate those things, learn and study and grow and keep getting better. That’s when you’re going to be OK.’
SheKnows: That sounds like a keynote address right there.
Rashida Jones: It is, right?
SheKnows: When you first get the performing bug then?
Rashida Jones: I have always performed when I was a kid. I was in every play and musical, the chorus, jazz band – everything. I continued on with that through college. I was kind of an overachiever. I like to do all sorts of things. When I got to college, I majored in religion. But, I was doing plays and that was what the thing that kept me ticking. My best friend in college left to pursue independent film in the ’90s and made her first film and put me in it. That was a perfect way to get in – I didn’t have to audition, I didn’t have to go through the steps that make people want to quit acting. I just realized that I loved acting. Then I graduated and had to suffer the rejection for many, many years (laughs). It was good for me to get the opportunity to do it and know that I really liked it. It kept me going.
SheKnows: You have quite a film here about to come out in I Love You, Man. When you first got the script did you think this was the most uniquely funny idea?
Rashida Jones: I did. From the minute I got the script I loved it and wanted to be a part of it. It’s a new way to tell a story which is so hard to do with a comedy. More importantly, I was so pleased and blown away by how women were represented. You don’t generally – especially if the focus is men – you don’t get the girlfriend who is in any way dynamic. She is usually wallpaper to hear a voice that is not a guy. This is a really well carved out interesting specific integral character who has a point of view. She has her own mind and her own friends. It’s really, really, really nice to play someone like that. Women can get shoved into the nagging box. They get shoved into the boring box and this is not that at all.
SheKnows: Much experience, the time you spent on The Office certainly prepared you for this, on a comedy film like I Love You, Man, how much is scripted and how much is improvised? We’re talking about Paul Rudd and Jason Segel here.
Rashida Jones: You don’t have a choice after a while with those guys. You have to go up and take a shot. For me, I have so much respect for writers that I never assume that it’s OK to improv. I would never assume I’m a better writer than them. It makes me nervous because everybody thinks they can improv and they can’t. I definitely yield to the people that are really good at it. I feel a little like I’m cheating because I’ve been surrounded by people are really good at it (laughs). If I just say, ‘yes’ and keep the story moving forward, I’m in pretty good shape.
SheKnows: And another person who I think has the most impeccable comic timing is Jamie Pressly.
Rashida Jones: Hilarious! So hilarious! It’s just innate with her.
SheKnows: Was that ever difficult for you playing off of her?
Rashida Jones: That girl scene that we had with all the girls, that was – luckily we didn’t have to reign it back so much. All we did is crack each other up for 12 hours. The director would yell cut and we couldn’t hear him. You know, if you get a pack of girls together.
SheKnows: Well, as you know…
Rashida Jones: SheKnows! You know!
SheKnows: This has got to be an incredible time for you. You also have the Amy Poehler show coming out.
Rashida Jones: Yes.
SheKnows: You talk about the rejection and struggles, here you are in Austin talking about I Love You, Man and you have Parks and Recreation coming on NBC.
Rashida Jones: It’s kind of mind-blowing. It’s really nice. I never pictured where I would be, but this is almost better than I could imagine.
SheKnows: The work you did on The Office, I was just spellbound by…
Rashida Jones: Thank you so much…
SheKnows: Particularly, I was thrilled to see you come back for this season for that great road trip episode.
Rashida Jones: Me too. It was so nice to get a sense of closure with that. I think Karen deserves to be happy.
SheKnows: Yes! And she is certainly after seeing those two stop by, probably feels much better about where she is (laughs).
Rashida Jones: (laughs) Yeah, seriously. Onwards and upwards to Utica!
SheKnows: Speaking of comic timing and actors you’ve worked with, Amy Poehler, what was it like working with that dynamo on Parks and Recreation?
Rashida Jones: That’s just it, she’s a dynamo. She is so great human being and she is superbly talented that I get so excited every time I go to set. I feel stupid about how excited I am (laughs).
SheKnows: With Parks and Recreation, is it in the same vein as The Office?
Rashida Jones: Absolutely, I hope that people who like The Office will like this show. The way in is similar. It’s documentary style. We do interview-style rundowns, but then I think the comparison might end there. I was really surprised when I saw the finished pilot who different it feels from The Office. In a good way, there’s something so serious about city politics. It’s still important to people and can make or break how a city survives. Hopefully, you like these people and want to know more about them. There’s a heart there.