In the new comedy You Again, Kristen Bell plays Marni, a young woman whose high school years were hell, especially thanks to one particular arch nemesis, Joanna (Odette Yustman). Now a successful publicist with the nightmare of her teenage years behind her, Marni returns home to Northern California for her brother’s wedding, only to find out he is marrying the one girl from high school she never wants to see again. Meanwhile, Joanna is acting like nothing bad ever happened, and everyone in Marni’s family seems to just adore her, prompting Marni to prove to her family that Joanna is not who she appears to be.
At the press junket for the film, actress Kristen Bell talked about her own moments of insecurity in high school, how the physical comedy comes easy for a natural klutz like her, and that she wants other young women to understand that there is a big world outside of high school where you can be anything and anyone you want to be. She also gave brief updates on Gossip Girl and Everybody Loves Whales. Check out what she had to say after the jump:
Kristen: I actually wanted to push the envelope a lot further and was pulled back a couple times. I came out of the make-up trailer with 400 whiteheads on my face and they were like, “Kristen, come on!” I was like, “What? It’s realistic! I had whiteheads in high school,” and they were like, “No, let’s just go with regular, standard, run of the mill acne.”
Do you have good or bad memories of high school?
Kristen: I had a lot of insecure moments in high school. It wasn’t all peachy keen. But, I don’t necessarily think that I hated high school and wanted to crawl into a hole either. I was somewhere between Marni and Joanna. I wasn’t a mean girl. I was way to insecure for that, and way too paranoid that everybody liked me. In that sense, I was a little bit of a push-over, but that was just because I really wanted to be accepted. I think that’s all anybody wants, and it just manifests in different forms. It manifests as guys who beat their chest as jocks, or people who are too introverted, or people like me who just go around ass-kissing. It wasn’t in a devious way, but in a way that I just really wanted to make sure that I was not on anyone’s bad side because I was too scared.
I was so paranoid that my friends wouldn’t like me. I went to a very small school where the consequences of bullying were very real. You couldn’t just push some nameless face in the hallway because everybody knew each other’s families, so there wasn’t the obligatory psychotic jackass that tortured everybody. But, I was also best friends with a girl since fourth grade, who was the toughest girl in our high school. So strategy wise, for me, that was my best move. I am still best friends with her, to date, and speak to her every couple of days. She was the one that could be bitchy sometimes, and she was bitchy to me a couple times.
How was it to have Jamie Lee Curtis play your mom?
Kristen: It was amazing. Part of the reason I wanted to do this script because it’s so few and far between that you read a good female-driven comedy, especially one that doesn’t lend itself to being so romantic a comedy with some brain-dead, doe-eyed girl staring at her co-worker, wishing he would put a ring on her figure. The lovesick puppy dog thing works and they’re great movies, but it’s so few and far between that you get a script that’s different. This movie has so many feisty, sassy women that, when I found out it was going to be Sigourney and Jamie Lee, I didn’t know what to do. I was off my rocker. I was like, “Do you think they’ll still have me?!” But, they were very cool. I was initially intimidated, but then I got nervous and it sent me back to high school going, “Is everybody going to like me? How can I make everybody like me? Are there going to be too many personalities? Will this be a shit storm?” But then, you get to set and realize they haven’t been working for decades because they have bad personalities. They’re awesome women, and it was just really interesting to work with them as peers, which they were so lucky to accept Odette and I as. That really felt amazing. And, we got to see the difference in how everybody works.
What was it like to work with Betty White?
Kristen: I jumped for joy and just cried out of hysterics because I was so excited. The greatest thing about Betty is that every journalist says to her, in every interview I’ve seen, “Congratulations on your comeback,” and her response is just, “Sweetie, I never left. You just forgot I was here.” It’s true. She has been around forever and has such an amazing body of work. She is always the funniest person in the room. She’s diminutive and you may forget she’s there for a second, until she zings you with the funniest joke you’ve ever heard and makes you double over. But, the place that she’s at right now, being worshipped by everybody, it was very exciting to be on the Betty White team because we love her.
Kristen: Yeah, I’ve got moves, obviously, but they’re maybe not dancer moves. They’re maybe not in a category. They’re more just moves I love and I feel rad while I’m doing them. There was so much room to play. I grew up in an entirely Jewish neighborhood and I just ripped it at some Bar- and Bat-mitzvahs when I was growing up. It was unparalleled, and I’ve got the videos to prove it. My friends and I were obsessed with making up dances, like the Stewardess, the Grave Digger or the Baker, or anything like that. Because Marni is supposed to be uncoordinated and awkward, there was so much room to have her do all these dances that I come to find out I actually looked pretty uncoordinated and awkward doing. I had a minor amount of dance training, but it was just really a free-for-all and I could be as weird as I wanted to. The minute that we started, I was like, “I want to do ‘Thriller,’ I want to do it right now and I want to do it really bad.”
Were you a runner before this?
Kristen: No, I am not a runner, but I just started running three weeks ago. Movie running is different. You run 10 feet and they call cut and you back up. I just started running for real and it is the pits. Anyone who tells you it’s not the pits is a liar.
Why are you doing it then?
Kristen: To be healthy. It’s good fitness and my cardio is less than desirable. It sucks.
Kristen: The lucky thing for me is I can pretty much let it happen and, whether you want it in a scene or not, you’re going to get it. I’ve got a lot of nervous energy and I trip a lot. I don’t have a good equilibrium. In the places where the physical comedy was necessary, it came very naturally and it was fun. I embrace it. I’ve long since abandoned any notions of being as elegant as Sigourney Weaver.
What’s your advice to young women who get picked on in high school?
Kristen: Do not let who you are in high school determine who you are for the rest of your life. That’s the most concise way to see it. Your dynamic with everyone will change when you graduate high school. High school is a pit of despair. It’s a swirling tornado of insecurities and there’s really nothing good about it. It’s at the time where everybody is waking up with different opinions every day, and you’re on this learning curve of who you are and who you want to be, and you’re comparing yourself with every other male and female around you. There’s no sense to it. Everybody just wants to be loved, and nobody feels loved enough in high school. Everyone out of high school, I’d say to just give all of our high schoolers a little break and let them know that they’re super-loved. And, if you’re in high school, just know there is a big world out there and you can be anyone you want to be.
Don’t you find Hollywood the same way?
So, high school doesn’t exist after graduation, unless you move to Hollywood to become an actor?
Kristen: True. And, you choose to be part of a profession that broadcasts your every desire, relationship, pimple and piece of cellulite to the rest of America, which isn’t the nicest thing to do. We as human beings are slightly masochistic. Everybody is ridden with insecurities and they manifest themselves in different ways, whether you’re a pleaser, you’re mean, you’re super-duper sweet and get walked on, or you’re a gossip that talks about someone else. Anyone who is gossiping is just insecure about that person they’re gossiping about. Anytime I’ve gossiped about anyone, I’ve realized, “Oh, shit, that’s ‘cause I was super-jealous of her.” It’s true. If everyone did a little personal inventory, we’d all be in a much better state.
What do you attribute your long-standing chemistry with Andy Fickman to?
Kristen: Lust. Just kidding. Andy and I met 10 years ago, doing an off-Broadway show, called Reefer Madness, in New York. Andy is just an indescribable ball of positive energy. He just goes from job to job spreading so much joy. He never has a bad day. I’ve given him reasons to have a bad day, when I’ve shown up crabby. As a director, you’re working with so many elements, and he always has a smile on his face. I respect him the most for that. He creates a set where everybody is so happy to be there, and he plays games with the crew. When I first met him, when we were working in New York, perhaps part of what made us so close was that we were together on 9/11. We were in tech for a show, and the 20 of us that were doing the show were there. There were very real fears addressed that day, amongst that group of friends, and we’re all still very close. We continued to do the show for about two months after that, and then it closed because not much survived that year in New York.
Over the course of that time, Andy said, “I think you need to move to L.A.,” and I said, “You’re drunk.” He said, “No, I think there will be opportunities for you. Trust me.” And, I said, “I don’t know anyone in L.A.” He said, “I’ll be your family out there, along with a couple other people from Reefer Madness.” Kevin Murphy, who just created Hellcats and worked on Desperate Housewives, and a lot of people who had been established enough for me to trust, were also in L.A. So, I came out here and lived at Kevin Murphy’s house for six months, Andy coached me on my first couple of auditions and they were what they said they would be, which was a stable family here. I don’t think I would have moved to L.A., if Andy had not convinced me, and they had not been out here. I was just too nervous. I have a very crazy best friendship and weird older brother thing happening with Andy. I think that it’s a relationship that I’ll take to my grave. I love him so much. I do projects with Andy all the time. They’re just not projects that warrant a press tour. We’ve done a couple plays together that are in black box theaters that seat 17 people, and it’s because we like working together.
Have you gotten any good juicy lines on Gossip Girl for the upcoming season?
Kristen: I have said some juicy stuff. I just started back up and they’re in Paris. It’s really good, that’s all I’ll say.
Kristen: I see them because I have to do them to time. It’s not like ADR where I have to match a voice, but they edit them first and I have to do them in a certain series of shots, so I get to watch the episodes while we do it. I’ve seen three. They’re really good.
Is Burlesque the next thing you have coming out?
Kristen: Yes, in November.
Are you starting any films soon?
Kristen: I’m about to go to Alaska to shoot Everybody Loves Whales. That’s a Universal movie that Ken Kwapis is directing, with Drew Barrymore and John Krasinski. It’s about that thing that happened in 1998, where the whales got trapped up in Alaska, and it was all about rescuing them back into the open water.