Capone's intimate moments in Rashida Jones' hotel room…talking about I LOVE YOU, MAN!!!
Published at: March 20, 2009, 11:36 a.m. CST by Capone
Hey all. Capone in Austin, Texas here, with a very simple question: Is there anyone more adorable than Rashida Jones?
Like many of you, I first remember seeing Rashida in the very unlikable role of the female bully Karen Scarfolli on "Freaks and Geeks," followed soon by an extended stay as a young teacher on "Boston Public." As the child of Quincy Jones and the lovely Peggy Lipton, Jones grew up around music and famous people, but she's managed to carve out a nice place for herself in the world of comedy lately, hooking up on different projects with former members of "The State" (such as "Stella" and THE TEN). She won and broke our hearts for a season on "The Office" as another (much nicer) woman named Karen, playing Jim's love interest and bane of Pam's existence. She recently appeared on the show again, reprising the Karen role, this time pregnant and hooked up with a nice guy. It was a nice postscript to the Karen storyline. And if you haven't caught Rashida and Natalie Portman's exceedingly serious short films on FunnyOrDie.com, well, you should. It's basically an exercise in which one is cuter.
Jones gets her first true starring showcase in the big-budget world opposite Paul Rudd in I LOVE YOU, MAN, as his over-indulgent and supporting fiancee Zooey. In addition, Jones is set to co-star alongside Amy Poehler in the new NBC comedy "Parks and Recreation," from the creators of "The Office," set to premiere on April 9. Jones could not have been any more charming and funny, despite the fact that we were alone in her hotel room for this interview…allow me to repeat that--I was in Rashida Jones' hotel room…with her…just the two of us…allow me to just bask in that for a moment, while you enjoy our chat, which actually began with her wondering the origins of my real name.
Rashida Jones: Is that Greek?
Capone: It's Czech, actually. What's the origin of Rashida?
RJ: Rashida is Arabic.
Capone: Does it mean anything?
RJ: Yeah, it does unfortunately. It means "rightly guided on the true path."
Capone: Wow, that's a lot to live up to.
RJ: Yeah. [laughs] Thanks, guys! There was a song in the '70s by John Lucien, and my parents liked it, so they named me after it.
Capone: The character you play is perfectly positioned between her two best friends--you've got Jaime playing a bitterly married woman and the other who is desperately single. Is that a fair assessment of Zooey?
RJ: You probably have way more perspective on this than I do, because you've seen it three time, so you could teach a class on I LOVE YOU, MAN. There is something that is perfectly imperfect about her. In my opinion, it's a step in the right direction, because generally when the girlfriend is perfect, she's wallpaper. She's just nonexistent. So Zooey seems perfectly modern, or a modern version of that--she's supportive, she's independent, she's outspoken, she's stable and balanced, which I think is a good thing to evoke. And hopefully, people don't see it as, "Oh well. It doesn't make sense; nobody's that perfect. Nobody's that unconditionally supportive of their boyfriend or husband." But I think that women are.
Capone: "Unconditionally supportive" is exactly how I'd describe it.
RJ: Well, you're like, "Really? Still with this guy? Are you okay?"
Capone: But when you break, it's pretty bad and for very good reasons.
RJ: Oh, I break. The way I would describe it if I was being super-psychoanalytical is that [writer-director] John [Hamburg] wrote her without a family really. And I have friends like that whose friends are their family, and it's so meaningful to them that their friends work on a very healthy level for them to be able to survive. They become the anchor in this "health boat."
Capone: The women in this film are treated very well in a movie that is supposed to be about guys. Those two or three conversations that the women have as a group are really insightful and funny. They're the hidden gems in the film. It might even take people a couple of watches to notice that.
RJ: I agree, because it took me a couple watches. That was the last thing I said to John Hamburg last night: "You really like women, and it shows." There are directors who don't, and they just shrink it and shrink it and shrink it, but he really wants women to be represented fairly and well, and it's so rare to see that. And all that stuff where we're talking dirty and dishing on each others' lives, you don't get to see that in a way that's empowering. Usually it's like, "Oh my God, he didn't call me! Let's go buy shoes!" And it's not in this case. It's what bonds them and separates them.
Capone: Even some of Paul's strongest scenes are with you, especially the one in the car after the engagement dinner, where you two have that really frank and uncomfortable talk about your sex life.
RJ: Yeah, it's really intimate. I don't think I want to see a couple have this conversation. I'm guessing you left during that part each of the three times you've seen it.
Capone: Or I at least plug my ears. So what are your true feelings about Rush at this point?
RJ: Honestly and truly, I really like them. I didn't know who they were before I did the movie. It's cool because I grew up listening to jazz and rhythmically complicated music, and their stuff is complicated, so it makes it fun to listen to. So when you listen to one song for 12 hours in a row, you're not too bored. It's hard not to be bored with a song after 12 hours, but if had to pick one, it would be a Rush song for me. It was still interesting to listen to.
Capone: Did you actually get to meet them?
RJ: Yes! They were so nice. And Geddy Lee is a big "Office" fan, so he was asking me for autographs, which was pretty funny. They were very, very nice and cool.
Capone: Do you have a favorite funny scene from the film, and a favorite tender scene?
RJ: I'm really partial to the "Slappin' the bass" scene [with Paul Rudd]. It was pretty fun. But it was really close to the beginning of the shoot when we shot that, and for me, I was so nervous and everybody wanted to be good and have everything make sense. And that scene happened, and we just kind of let loose a little bit, and this new thing happened that I don't think either of us were prepared for, but it was really fun and is really funny, and Paul is so funny in that scene. And I love the "Fuckin' let's do it!" and then the iTunes speakers kick in, and you're like, "What?" [Paul's character attempts to turn Zooey on to Rush by playing her a song through wimpy laptop speakers.] I love that.
As far as the tender scene, actually seeing it last night reminded me that it was my favorite, I love the scene where Paul and Jason go on their first date for fish tacos. There's something so organic and sincere about it and sweet and really funny. But I love their first-date montage, their getting-to-know-each-other montage. In the case of them singing "Tom Sawyer." It's so cute to me; it's like I'm watching two people fall in love.
Capone: That "Slappin' the bass" scene reminds me of the stories you hear about how Judd Apatow records dozens of different version of the same scene or reaction and then just picks one. Only every one of Paul's takes was funny, so John used them all.
Capone: In the script, was the line just there once?
RJ: I don't even remember. How about that, I don't even remember. It was in the script, but Paul just made it so ridiculous. "Slaaaapin' Dee Baaaas!" And also that was a good scene for me, because I wouldn't consider myself an improv champion, but when I said that thing about him sounding like a leprechaun, unbeknownst to me not only did John use it, but he used it throughout the film, which is so cool. I love that it became a running joke in the movie. It didn't even occur to me until my second viewing that other people were saying it in the movie. Weird.
Capone: Did you get to do much improvising?
RJ: Yeah. I noticed last night, John picked the takes where we went a little bit off book. I originally did it right every time, because I still feel like that's my job as an actor--just say my lines and say them right. And then when we got a little looser toward the end, those were the takes he ended up using. It felt like he wanted us to speak like normal people speak, and that's educating for me because every director is different and every writer is different, but generally I don't want to go off book because I do have respect for the writer. And I have so much respect for John, but he wanted to make a film about people who felt like people that you know and your friends. So it was okay in that sense.
Capone: Does Zooey have flaws?
RJ: I think she probably, like me, and this is going to sound really lame, but she probably has some boundary problems. She tells her girlfriends way too much. She is super-patient with her fiancee, and luckily it's him. If it were anybody else, she'd be co-dependent.
Capone: I'm guessing that working with Paul was a particularly painful experience.
RJ: It was awful. Could you tell?
Capone: And I heard that Andy Samberg was kind of dicky too.
RJ: Everybody…the tension was so thick. Those assholes! I couldn't wait to be done. No, it was ridiculous. I've said this before, so don't fault me for syndicating this, but I had such a good time that there were a couple days that I had off, and I had to figure out "What am I going to do today? I'm going to go visit the set." I just wanted hang out and be with those guys some more. It was really fun.
Capone: This just occurred to me, but I got an early copy of the ROLE MODELS DVD a couple weeks back, and in watching the deleted scenes, I came to realize you were in that movie and got cut out. If it's not too painful, what happened there?
RJ: In a chipmunk costume. No, it's fine. David Wain, who directed that movie, is a good friend of mine, and Paul and I have been friends for 10 years, so he asked me to do a day on the movie, and I still give him shit about the fact that he cut me out.
Capone: How did you get mixed up with those guys from "The State"?
RJ: You know what, I was a fan. I'm a crazy comedy geek, and my agent had gone to school with Michael Showalter, and I'd seen the "Stella" videos and seen WET HOT AMERICAN SUMMER maybe more than anybody who had seen that movie. I love that kind of thing and thought that was the best movie ever made. In some respects, there has never been a movie like that, that parody of camp comedies. The absurdity of that movie, I think David Wain is a genius, all those guys are geniuses. They are sort of the modern Three Stooges. And I was a fan; I went to a "Stella" show and became friends with Michael and he introduced me to David, and I just clung on for life.
Capone: I saw the short you did with David, where he transforms himself into you.
RJ: Yeah, "Wainy Days." You know, he wasn't even there for that entire filming process, because he was filming ROLE MODELS. So they filmed his stuff in L.A. It was made in October-November of last year, and I want to do another one, but we can't get our timing down because David is so busy and I've been in L.A.
Capone: I'm so excited to see "Parks and Recreation." Tell me something about it. Who do you play?
RJ: I play Ann, she's a nurse, and my way into that world is I live in front of this enormous construction pit that's been there for a year because it was abandoned because somebody lost the money after starting to build and they abandoned it, so the city owns it. And they haven't done anything with it, and my boyfriend falls in an breaks both his legs. And I go to get somebody to fix it, and nobody listens to me. Then I meet Amy Poehler's character, Leslie, and she vows to fix it and make it into a park, and I'm blown away because I've been trying to garner any support and I can't. Then suddenly this woman who I can't quite read--I feel like she's got good intentions but she's kind of a dork. But we like each other and we come together to solve this problem and in the process, we become friends. It's kind of like a female buddy comedy.
Capone: In the commercials, Amy is addressing the camera, which led me to believe it's another documentary set up like "The Office."
RJ: Oh it absolutely is, but it's almost two. This is really heady and omniscient, but there are two camera crews coming together. I have a crew that follows me as I say, "Oh, this is my problem." And Amy has a crew that follows her in her world of government, and we come together. The point of view is a little bit different, because I don't know what the documentarian is making it for, unlike "The Office." You know it's one crew, and they're clearly in the office everyday, whereas on our show there's a lot more going on in the rest of the world with my house and the pit and the hospital and town hall and elementary school.
Capone: "The Office" could almost be looked at as someone shooting a reality show, but everyone I know who has seen it was
RJ: This one absolutely feels like a documentary. I just saw the pilot, and it feels like…there's something very true about it, which I was so surprised about. There's something that's not broad in a way, and then there's also the broad, funny performances. But it feels more like a drama, or it's filmed like a drama. If people like "The Office," they're going to like it; it comes from the same womb--that so gross--but it is the same creators of the American version. But hopefully it will distinguish itself enough that you won't get sick of the format.
Capone: We were talking about some of your short film work earlier, and I love the two FunnyOrDie shorts you made with Natalie Portman.
RJ: [laughs] I didn't have a job this summer. We wanted to do something together that was related to the election, but we kept seeing these really cheesy, earnest videos of actors in black-and-white being "You have the right to choose, and I'm famous and I'm telling you I'm awesome and you should vote." So we wanted to do something that was that but not that. So we decided we would just play with baby animals! How wrong could you go with that? It's kind of unfair because that was kind of our way to convince you that what we had to say was right and best, and it's unfair because they're so cute, those puppies.
Capone: I'm partial to the kitties myself.
RJ: Are you? I highly allergic to cats, so when we were filming kitties, they literally had to make stuff happen between my sneezing.
Capone: I read some really good things out of Sundance about BRIEF INTERVIEWS WITH HIDEOUS MEN [directed by Jones' "Office" co-star John Krasinski]. I don't know how big your role is.
RJ: I'm not really in it. I got cut out of three movies last year--ROLE MODELS, BRIEF INTERVIEWS, and I was in that Renee Zellweger movie NEW IN TOWN.
RJ: Oh yeah. I was her best friend in Miami.
Capone: It was haunting me that she didn't seem to have any friends in Miami, only coworkers.
RJ: I was one of the last friends. It's kind of great, though, because I would be cut out of eight movies in a year just so I could do something like I LOVE YOU, MAN.
Capone: It all paid off. I know a lot of people remember you from the episode of "Freaks and Geeks" you did, but I also was a big fan of "Boston Public."
Capone: One more thing related to short films, how did you get involved in the Foo Fighters video?
RJ: My friend Jesse Peretz directed the video--he's actually how I know Paul. Paul and Jesse have been friends for years. He was directing--he did the Mentos one for them and the "Learn To Fly" video.
Capone: The one with Tenacious D in it?
RJ: Yeah, that one. And I ran into Dave [Grohl] a little bit, and they asked if I wanted to be in a video. And I'm like, "Are you kidding me? In a '70s soap opera video? Absolutely."
Capone: Well, thank you so much for talking to us. You make us all wish for an unconditionally supportive girlfriend like Zooey.
RJ: Aw, thanks. [laughs]