Q & A: Alison Brie on ‘Community’, ‘Mad Men’ and table reads

Alison on acting: "I just think it’s really about being open-minded and being fearless"

Each time I talk to Alison Brie in a Q & A, she’s also so bubbly and happy. And why shouldn’t she be? She’s on two great shows; Community and Mad Men, and just starred in Scream 4.

Community is winding down for the season and I got a chance to talk to her again about the 2 part season finale. The episodes, which also has Lost’s Josh Holloway guest starring, centers on an end-of-the-year picnic. When the dean announces plans for a “small, quick, safe, game of paintball,” an epic battle in waged in perfect Community style.

Alison talked about working with Holloway, her upcoming film with Emily Blunt and her advice to actors.

For the full interview, click the audio link above or download it from iTunes

Community airs on Thursdays at  8/7c on NBC

What was it like working with Josh Holloway?

Alison Brie: First of all, Josh Holloway is incredible to work with. He’s very easy on the eyes, he’s very nice, he’s such a – he’s just such a positive guy. And, you know, we always have such fun on set, but when you’re working these really long hours, it was even great to have this breath of fresh air kind of come into the cast and just be so excited about every scene that we were doing.

And also, he was a really good sport about talking about Lost with all of us because we’re all big Lost fans, and it only took us about 20 minutes before we just jumped right into like, “So, what were you drinking when you were drinking those Dharma beer cans?” And – that was a Danny Pudi question, and you know, “What was it like being in the forest with,” you know, I don’t know. We just had to – we just were Lost nerds, so that was really fun.

I guess it was going really well and they ended up adding some lines and adding some moments for Josh and I later in the episode or later in that scene, and that was exciting for me. I was like, “Yes, chemistry with Josh Holloway; nailed it.”

I recently read that you were back in Ann Arbor filming another movie and I just wondered how does it compare filming there, and do you find it kind of odd that, you know, you’re from Los Angeles and going off to another place to film?

Alison Brie: It’s nice to shoot something out of town, I think, because it sort of gives you more time to focus.

You know, you’re real isolated and you’re just sort of with — oh, excuse me — you’re just sort of with the people that you’re working with, so you really get time to bond with them and time to focus on the work, which I think is really important, so that’s nice. It’s – I have had some interesting downtime here, but it’s been helpful because I’m – you know, I’m working on a British accent for the movie.

I’m playing Emily Blunt’s sister, so it’s nice to just get time to spend with her and bond as sisters and listen to how she talks, and things like that. And it’s pretty peaceful out here in Ann Arbor. I like this town a lot. I’m getting used to it.

How’s that going with the dialect coach?

Alison Brie: It’s going well. The dialect coach actually is already gone and I’m really just focusing more on working with Emily and listening to Emily’s accent in particular, because you know it’s not as much about mastering a standard British accent as much as it is just sounding like her, sounding like sisters kind of being together.

So, Emily has been amazingly helpful with me, you know letting me record her voice and mimic here and doing exercises with her, and it’s a lot of fun. It’s going really well.

Regarding Annie, what do you think her emotional journey has been this season? What do you think it’s been, like, as a whole?

Alison Brie: Well, I think that Annie is just in a constant – on a constant journey towards maturity, I think, and figuring out who she is. And I don’t know that she’s really quite there yet, but I think this season – you know, last season ended with that big kiss with Jeff. And I think a lot of this season she’s sort of still been struggling with her feelings for Jeff and kind of trying to get out from under that flame of love.

Who’s the best paintball player in the cast?

Alison Brie: Oh, I mean, I feel like I have to say Joel, so I don’t get in trouble. Although, I have to say that Danny Pudi is very agile, so he – it’s like he can kind of just spring off of things. Like even last in the original paintball episode, I think everybody thought that he had had a stunt double or he had liked jumped off of something when he did that – he kind of did a jump and jumped off of the wall and kicked off the wall. It’s all Danny. Danny’s a runner and a jumper. He’s like a jungle cat, so he’s a good stealth man, but Joel is, you know, he’s all muscle.

Is there a lot of Annie in Alison and a lot Alison in Annie, or when you go to work are you like slipping on an Annie costume?

Alison Brie: I think there is a lot of overlap. Moreso now than there was at the beginning of Season 1, just because our writers just pay attention. Just – they kind of just put little things that we do in the scripts all the time, and I think all of our characters collectively are – I mean are obviously characters and nobody on the show is exactly like their character.

But, I think all the characters and actors are slowly morphing closer together with each episode that we do. So, they play on a lot of – it’s not a huge stretch for me. I have so much fun. And there are – but there are like Annieisms that are not totally me that are now just habit and fun.

Between Trudy and Annie, which character are you more like, and what’s your mindset with Trudy’s character?

Alison Brie: These days, I think I’m probably more like Annie just because of her sort of nerdy sense of humor. It’s closer to my sensibility, and I think that’s easier just because, you know, it’s a contemporary character and obviously, Trudy is a, you know, period character.

With Trudy, again, there’s – the underlying thing is her ambition and I’m very ambitious, so it’s easy for me to kind of connect with that side of Trudy; her striving for perfection and things like that. It’s just that what Trudy values are not the things that I value. And her interest in sort of having the perfect home life and dedicating herself to being a wife and a mother are not so close to my goals. But, I can understand having, you know, strong conviction towards her goals.

So that’s always been my angle with Trudy, and really with Trudy it’s mostly about her just loving Pete. I think Pete can be a very despicable character and people love to hate him. And what’s fun about playing Trudy is that she really doesn’t bear witness to a lot of his horrible deeds. And she just loves him and wants to be an amazing wife to him, which in that alone makes her a quirky character because he’s so odd. You think, “Who could love this guy,” and it’s like, “Oh, this woman.” It kind of makes sense.

To anyone who wants to be an actor, what would your advice be?

Alison Brie: Oh, wow. I guess I would say just do everything. I mean, you’ve got set boundaries, obviously. I’m not encouraging people to do porn, but I would say really be open, you know, just to get involved, do student films, do independent films, do you know guest spots on whatever. I think as soon as you start from an early – you know, and then later you can start to kind of pick and choose and figure it out.

I think for me it was helpful to – you know, even when I was younger in high school and in college, and in only studied theater. And I was a bit of snob about television, and now it’s like I can’t even imagine if I had said, “No, I don’t do television,” you know, where I would be. You know, and I’ve been afforded these amazing opportunities to work on these incredible shows.

And I just think it’s really about being open-minded and being fearless and I see it as a – you know a big downfall all the time with people. Even on a set, you know, if a guest star comes in and you’ll be like, “Here’s what you’re going to do in the next take,” and they’ll kind of be – shy away from something that they maybe feel uncomfortable doing. Not because it’s – again, I’m not talking about taking off your clothes. You’ve got to set moral boundaries. But other than that, I think just always just go for it; people will respect it.

If you said, “Do porn,” that would be the greatest headline ever.

Alison Brie: Yeah, my advice. Alison Brie says – no. Thank you. Thank you.

And after two seasons, how much ownership of your character do you have when it comes to individual episodes? Do you get much say in how she would, you know, “really” do something?

Alison Brie: You know, not really. I think – honestly the writers – I mean, we fall into our characters and I think we really know how they would say things and do things, but the writers know just as much as we know. I mean, like the writers are the parents of these characters. They’ve created them and – you know, and then we’ve given them life and taken it to an even further extent.

So really, I think we find a healthy groove between the two of us. Like, the writers will write a line that Annie would say and I’ll just know the way they would want me to say it, because there’s only one way Annie would say that line. You know what I mean? I think we fall into a group where it’s both. It’s the writers and the actors together going, “Oh, yeah, this is the pattern, this is the character, this is what she would do.”

How anxious and fun is it for you guys when the scripts come down? I mean, you had an episode about Dungeons & Dragons and you had a shout out to Cougar Town, and I – you know, when the script – I would just think, “Okay, what are we going to do this week,” you know?

Alison Brie:That’s always the feeling. In fact prior to the table reads, we just do just about whatever we can to get little secrets and snippets out of the writers. So, while we’re shooting an episode we’re just always probing the writers, or if Dan Harmon comes down to set we’re – or if other writers who maybe didn’t write that episode who – they’ll take a break from the writers room and we’ll be like, “What do you working on? Oh, so what,” the best thing is many times we’ll just ask, “What are you working on?”

I think the bottom line is we’re always like, “What’s Annie doing in the next episode?” You know, the underlying theme is, “What’s up with my character in the next couple episodes?” So, it’s good. It almost just – I would assume just like with an audience watching the show, when they get little teases of what might happen in an upcoming episode, we’re that way with what might happen in upcoming scripts, you know?

So, they might come down and say, like you said, you know, “Oh, well, we’re working on a Dungeons & Dragons episode,” and then for a week the cast can all buzz and do your speculating, “Oh, Dungeons & Dragons. What are we going to be doing? Who’s going to be leading Dungeons & Dragons?” And of course, by the time we read the scripts it’s never what we think is going to happen. They’re always full of surprises, so it’s a lot of fun.

The table reads are just full of excitement and energy. We have a lot of fun with them.

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