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Rashida Jones Questions “Monogamy”

Rashida Jones Questions “Monogamy” (photo)

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Whether it’s the straightwoman to Amy Poehler’s Leslie Knope on “Parks and Recreation” or the patient fiancée to Paul Rudd’s Peter Klaven in “I Love You, Man,” Rashida Jones has carved out a niche as one of the most confident and reliable comic foils working in the business today, which is why it is with some surprise to see her all wrapped up in self-doubt with one of her first dramatic roles to date in Dana Adam Shapiro’s “Monogamy,” a thriller concerning a soon-to-be-wed couple (Jones and “Away We Go”‘s Chris Messina) put to the test as the would-be groom Theo begins to get cold feet about commitment after his side job as a “photostalker,” where people pay him to capture them in their most intimate moments without their knowledge, leads to his questioning a life shared with just one person.

Since the significant other in question is Jones, one might begin to question the plausibility of the whole enterprise as her usual winning ways are on display as Nat, an aspiring singer who is left mostly singing the blues as Messina’s wedding photographer stumbles through a bizarre journey to self-actualization that involves gorilla masks, filming a woman pleasure herself in the park as part of his job, and only occasionally checking in on Nat after she suffers an infection on her finger that seems to deteriorate at the same pace as the couple’s relationship. Jones recently took the time to talk about the film, the first in which she’s had to channel some of her family’s rich musical heritage, and how as an artist she’s been far from monogamous in recent years.

How did you become interested in the film?

“Murderball” is a fantastic movie. I spoke to [its director] Dana Adam Shapiro on the phone and I just thought that he was going to make the kind of movie I would want to be in and I’ve always really loved Chris Messina as an actor and was excited to see him in a part like this and wanted to be a part of it.

03162011_Monogamy2.jpgYou’re also friends with Chris in real life and yet you’re playing a couple that’s having problems in your relationship. Was having a bond offscreen something that was helpful or something that you had to overcome?

It’s interesting. Chris and I were talking about it today because it’s not a given. It’s not necessarily the kind of thing that makes the relationship more interesting or necessarily better because I know Chris really well and I know his girlfriend really well and I know his kids really well and because this is such an intimate, intense relationship, it could’ve worked either way, but luckily Chris is such a genuinely committed actor and such a professional in every sense of the word, and he’s just a brave, brave actor, he made it really easy for us to have the kind of relationship that would hopefully translate as real and meaningful.

When I spoke to Dana last year at Tribeca, he described how he would shoot for a very long time to get you and Chris exhausted. Was that a different way of working?

It was great. It was absolutely exhausting, but it was exhausting in a very fulfilling way. Yeah, he would just let the camera roll and we would do these like crazy 20-minute takes and he put a lot of faith in us, but it also allowed for us to forget we were being filmed, which is such a huge luxury as an actor because then you’re not battling all the elements of lights and camera and makeup touches and hitting your marks. All you’re doing really is connecting to the moment, so as daunting as it may sound, it’s actually kind of a blessing.

You’ve been in a couple other of indie productions, but this sounded particularly down and dirty. Did it feel like a rite of passage in a way?

Definitely. Everybody earned every penny they made on this movie for sure and there was a lot of just making it work with what we had. There’s something really fun and really rewarding about that, obviously. But it is exhausting and the crew was there because they just loved the movie and that’s really nice. You don’t get to say that very often.

Since Chris goes off on his own journey for much of the film, was it interesting for you to play a more reserved role and then later seeing what Chris goes through on his end in the final cut?

Chris did just such a beautiful job of balancing because his actions are very unlikeable and the way that he treats me could be interpreted as pretty hostile, but I feel like his focus and his commitment to being a voyeur, meaning something about his own confusion about his own life, I think, made him sympathetic.

03162011_RashidaJonesMonogamy.jpg And at the end of the film, you’re asked to sing, which is something you’ve never done before on screen and of course, your father is Quincy Jones, so there’s a lot to live up to. Was it daunting?

No, I haven’t done that on film before and that actually was my last day of shooting, so it was pretty scary. I find it scary to sing – scarier than acting actually. [slight laugh] Just because you’re so exposed and if you’re bad in a movie, you can always blame someone else — you’re like, “oh, it’s the editing.” But when you’re up there and you’re singing and you’re by yourself, you can’t blame anybody. It’s all you and there’s no trick, there’s no editing that you can create to take away from what you’re doing, so it’s thrilling, but it’s also terrifying.

I actually just heard Darren Aronofsky say about Natalie Portman that the hardest thing she had to do was act while dancing – did you find it the same with singing?

Her dancing was so beautiful in that movie and told you so much about that character. I would even hope to be able to do that with singing, but yeah, because it’s part of the storytelling, I’m like this timid wannabe singer and I finally reach this point at the end of the movie where I have the freedom from the relationship or whatever to express myself in that way and I do feel there’s a certain level of vulnerability that can’t really be expressed verbally.

However, you have been expressing yourself quite a bit these days by writing your own scripts (with Will McCormack), the comedy “Celeste and Jesse Forever” and “Frenemy of the State.” What is the status with those?

They’re happening. I’m writing a lot and hopefully we’re making one of our films this summer. We’re in the process of casting and stuff and finishing up the adaptation of my comic book [“Frenemy of the State”] and hopefully, they’ll make that pretty soon too.

In many ways, your career took off around the time of transmedia and while you were able to get your start doing films and television, was there a point for you that things really opened up because of all the different platforms available to you?

It’s really exciting and I’m really grateful because I know that it’s not the norm and I know that not everybody gets the opportunity to do it. My dad had always said to me, “Be really great at two things and you’ll never be in trouble.” And I might’ve taken that too far because I’m trying to be pretty good at a bunch of stuff because for me, I like to be challenged regularly and that’s another reason why I took this movie because I saw the script and I knew Chris was attached and I knew it would be down and dirty and I was scared of the idea of it and the minute I’m scared of something is the minute I know I have to do it to push through to whatever next level I’m going to push through to emotionally or professionally. So for me, I just always want to have things lined up that will challenge me and hopefully make me better and humble me and keep me on my toes.

“Monogamy” is now open in New York and expands on March 18th.


Hacked In

Funny or Die Is Taking Over

FOD TV comes to IFC every Saturday night.

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We’ve been fans of Funny or Die since we first met The Landlord. That enduring love makes it more than logical, then, that IFC is totally cool with FOD hijacking the airwaves every Saturday night. Yes, that’s happening.

The appropriately titled FOD TV looks like something pulled from public access television in the nineties. Like lo-fi broken-antenna reception and warped VHS tapes. Equal parts WTF and UHF.

Get ready for characters including The Shirtless Painter, Long-Haired Businessmen, and Pigeon Man. They’re aptly named, but for a better sense of what’s in store, here’s a taste of ASMR with Kelly Whispers:

Watch FOD TV every Saturday night during IFC’s regularly scheduled movies.


Wicked Good

See More Evil

Stan Against Evil Season 1 is on Hulu.

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Okay, so you missed the entire first season of Stan Against Evil. There’s no shame in that, per se. But here’s the thing: Season 2 is just around the corner and you don’t want to lag behind. After all, Season 1 had some critical character development, not to mention countless plot twists, and a breathless finale cliffhanger that’s been begging for resolution since last fall. It also had this:


The good news is that you can catch up right now on Hulu. Phew. But if you aren’t streaming yet, here’s a basic primer…

Willards Mill Is Evil

Stan spent his whole career as sheriff oblivious to the fact that his town has a nasty curse. Mostly because his recently-deceased wife was secretly killing demons and keeping Stan alive.

Demons Really Want To Kill Stan

The curse on Willards Mill stipulates that damned souls must hunt and kill each and every town sheriff, or “constable.” Oh, and these demons are shockingly creative.


They Also Want To Kill Evie

Why? Because Evie’s a sheriff too, and the curse on Willard’s Mill doesn’t have a “one at a time” clause. Bummer, Evie.

Stan and Evie Must Work Together

Beating the curse will take two, baby, but that’s easier said than done because Stan doesn’t always seem to give a damn. Damn!


Beware of Goats

It goes without saying for anyone who’s seen the show: If you know that ancient evil wants to kill you, be wary of anything that has cloven feet.


Season 2 Is Lurking

Scary new things are slouching towards Willards Mill. An impending darkness descending on Stan, Evie and their cohort – eviler evil, more demony demons, and whatnot. And if Stan wants to survive, he’ll have to get even Stanlier.

Stan Against Evil Season 1 is now streaming right now on Hulu.



Reminders that the ’90s were a thing

"The Place We Live" is available for a Jessie Spano-level binge on Comedy Crib.

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GIFs via Giphy

Unless you stopped paying attention to the world at large in 1989, you are of course aware that the ’90s are having their pop cultural second coming. Nobody is more acutely aware of this than Dara Katz and Betsy Kenney, two comedians who met doing improv comedy and have just made their Comedy Crib debut with the hilarious ’90s TV throwback series, The Place We Live.

IFC: How would you describe “The Place We Live” to a fancy network executive you just met in an elevator?

Dara: It’s everything you loved–or loved to hate—from Melrose Place and 90210 but condensed to five minutes, funny (on purpose) and totally absurd.

IFC: How would you describe “The Place We Live” to a drunk friend of a friend you met in a bar?

Betsy: “Hey Todd, why don’t you have a sip of water. Also, I think you’ll love The Place We Live because everyone has issues…just like you, Todd.”


IFC: When you were living through the ’90s, did you think it was television’s golden age or the pop culture apocalypse?

Betsy: I wasn’t sure I knew what it was, I just knew I loved it!

Dara: Same. Was just happy that my parents let me watch. But looking back, the ’90s honored The Teen. And for that, it’s the golden age of pop culture. 

IFC: Which ’90s shows did you mine for the series, and why?

Betsy: Melrose and 90210 for the most part. If you watch an episode of either of those shows you’ll see they’re a comedic gold mine. In one single episode, they cover serious crimes, drug problems, sex and working in a law firm and/or gallery, all while being young, hot and skinny.

Dara: And almost any series we were watching in the ’90s, Full House, Saved By the Bell, My So Called Life has very similar themes, archetypes and really stupid-intense drama. We took from a lot of places. 


IFC: How would you describe each of the show’s characters in terms of their ’90s TV stereotype?

Dara: Autumn (Sunita Mani) is the femme fatale. Robin (Dara Katz) is the book worm (because she wears glasses). Candace (Betsy Kenney) is Corey’s twin and gives great advice and has really great hair. Corey (Casey Jost) is the boy next door/popular guy. Candace and Corey’s parents decided to live in a car so the gang can live in their house. 
Lee (Jonathan Braylock) is the jock.

IFC: Why do you think the world is ready for this series?

Dara: Because everyone’s feeling major ’90s nostalgia right now, and this is that, on steroids while also being a totally new, silly thing.

Delight in the whole season of The Place We Live right now on IFC’s Comedy Crib. It’ll take you back in all the right ways.