The drama Monogamy is a very real portrayal of a relationship on the brink, as it is faces the fear of commitment and the fantasy that reality can never live up to. Bored with his job as a wedding photographer, Theo (Chris Messina) forms a company where he is hired by clients to clandestinely snap voyeuristic photos of them, as they go about their daily lives. When a sexy exhibitionist (Meital Dohan) hires him, he quickly becomes obsessed with her, stalking her day and night, which threatens his relationship and impending marriage to Nat (Rashida Jones). As Theo is consumed with thoughts about his client, the couple are forced to face truths about their own issues and sex life at home.
At the film’s press day, actress Rashida Jones did this exclusive interview with Collider and talked about the attraction of playing such a challenging role, the importance of keeping the characters and story as real as possible, and working with an actor as committed to the work as Chris Messina. She also talked about where things are going for her character on her NBC comedy Parks & Recreation, reuniting with her Freaks & Geeks co-star Jason Segel for The Muppets, how much she loved working with Kermit the Frog, how she’s looking forward to doing a guest appearance on the upcoming FX series Wilfred (starring Elijah Wood), and her role in the upcoming comedy The Big Year, with Jack Black and Owen Wilson. Check out what she had to say after the jump.
How did you get involved with this film? Did they come to you about doing this role?
RASHIDA JONES: Yeah, they made me an offer, which is always really nice, as an actor. Auditioning is the worst. I loved Dana’s movie Murderball, and I’ve always really been a big fan of Chris Messina, as an actor. It was a very simple story, the way that it was written out, but after talking to Dana, I just really trusted him and his taste. He was really smart and very collaborative. I saw that the character sang, and I also knew that it would be challenging emotionally, and I didn’t want to do it, which is why I did it. I realized that it probably would be good for me, and it was.
Were there things that were particularly important to you, in developing this character and keeping it feeling real?
JONES: Yeah, that’s always really important to me. I’ve been in some broad comedy stuff, but most of the stuff that I’ve been lucky enough to do has been grounded in reality, and then the broadness comes out of that, and you buy it because it comes out of that. It was important to me that that same thing translate here, especially with the relationship where the girl is frigid. I didn’t want it to be so obvious, like, “Oh, she’s not putting out. See ya! That makes perfect sense.” It still ends up being that, but I wanted to make sure that it was clear that they loved each other. Chris and I wanted to create something that felt like a real relationship and didn’t feel like you anticipated it breaking apart. They’re not communicating well is more the problem. That, to me, is more the thing that happens in relationships. It’s not black and white. She doesn’t sleep with him, but you can tell that she loves him. She’s not sleeping with him in such a way where it’s not totally obvious. But, at the end of the day, she’s not sleep with him, which is kind of why he strays.
Did it help that you had a friendship with Chris Messina prior to doing these roles together?
JONES: Chris and I thought that that could work either way. I know Chris and his girlfriend really well, and she’s an old friend of mine. It was scary to have to do that kind of thing with my friend’s boyfriend, and also my friend. And, you never know if you’re going to be able to achieve that thing, where it feels like a real relationship. It actually might be harder if you’re already friends because there are so many boundaries already put up. But, I credit Chris with all that because he is such a committed actor. He’s so interested in telling the truth that he was so good at making it a safe place, but also making it somewhere we could be a little bit more raw with each other, in a way that we’re never going to be in real life.
How challenging was it to do these really long takes?
JONES: It was challenging, but so satisfying because you forgot you were shooting, which is so cool. You don’t get that opportunity that much, as an actor. You hit your marks, they slate, they’re rolling the sound, they’re rolling the camera and then they’re yelling at you to start, and you’re a little bit scared. It’s nice to just forget that you’re rolling. It’s a real luxury. It’s an indulgence that really helps being able to tell a story.
How do you feel about where things are at with your character on Parks & Recreation? How different is Ann Perkins from what you thought she would be, when you started playing her?
JONES: The nice thing is that, with any television series – and it’s something that is taken for granted with movies because you have the whole arc within two hours – you establish who the character is and it’s a two-dimensional version, or if you’re lucky, a two and a half-dimensional character. Once you establish that, you can move forward and break all those rules. Once the audience has accepted who the person is, then you can do the exact opposite. What makes it funny and interesting is doing the opposite. And, I feel like that’s happened a little bit with Ann. I’m the loyal, dependable, normal character and, now that that’s been established, I’m falling apart a little bit, and it’s been really fun. I’m able to be a little bit crazy, which makes sense because why would I hang out with all these nutty people unless I was actually a little bit crazy.
What is coming up for your character?
JONES: Ann starts dating a lot. There are lots of cute guys. There are so many that it’s not even worth you getting used to anybody because they will be gone the next week. It’s my empowered slut phase. I’ve been in relationships since the beginning of the show, with a couple of losers and Rob Lowe, who’s not a loser, but he dumped me. Now, I’m just sewing my oats.
What was it like to reunite with Jason Segal for The Muppets? Could you ever have imagined that you’d be acting with The Muppets?
JONES: No, I still can’t imagine it. It’s not trauma, but I’m having post-elation stress disorder. I really still don’t know what happened. I’m still processing it. I still have moments where I’m like, “Did I really just act with The Muppets? I don’t understand.” And, there’s nobody who has more love for puppets, in the world, and has more respect for them than Jason Segal. We’ve known each other since we met on Freaks & Geeks in the ‘90s, so to be able to continue to work with him is so wonderful. I’m so happy for him, and he’s so talented. He gets to run the gamut, in this movie, of being writer and actor and puppet-lover. It all culminates in this one moment, and I get to share that with him, which is awesome.
JONES: I did. I was really into Fozzie and Piggy. That’s who I wanted to meet. But, I worked a lot with Kermit and now he’s my favorite. I like them all. It’s hard to choose. It was nuts. It was absolutely crazy.
Who are you playing in the film?
JONES: I play a TV executive and I’m kind of their boss. I’m a little stressed out, and I tell them that they’re not as famous anymore and nobody cares, and they have to prove to me that I’m wrong. That was really hard for me because they’re my heroes. I love them so much. I didn’t want to yell at them and tell them they’re not famous enough because they’re super-famous to me. But, they were so great. The Muppet performers are so talented because they’re infusing personalities into these little puppets. They infuse all their heart and soul and their mannerisms into these tiny little things. I have even more respect for them now than I did, going into it.
What are you going to be doing on the FX series Wilfred, where you’ll be working opposite a guy dressed in a dog suit?
JONES: I haven’t shot it yet. I can’t wait. I saw the pilot and that guy is hilarious. I’m hoping that I can bring some of my Muppet experience to it, although he’s slightly more crass. I’m really excited about that. I’m a huge fan of the pilot, which is all that I’ve seen. I thought Elijah Wood was hilarious on it. He’s such a good actor. I’m really looking forward to it. It’s also a slightly different character. Maybe I’m not that likeable, in that character. I play a hospice worker, and I’m really controlling. I didn’t think it would be, but there’s nothing funnier to me than a crass Australian dude, in a dog suit, humping a teddy bear. That’s so funny!
Who are you playing in Friends with Benefits and The Big Year?
JONES: I’m not really in Friends with Benefits that much. I have a tiny cameo, so I can’t really speak with any level of knowledge. But, The Big Year is a bird-watching movie. It’s directed by David Frankel, who made Marley & Me and The Devil Wears Prada. He’s really good at extracting heart from these little niche worlds and making it available to everybody, so I’m curious to see how it turns out. It was a really, really sweet script and a great cast with Jack Black, Steve Martin, Owen Wilson, Anjelica Huston, Jim Parsons and Tim Blake Nelson. It’s not a broad comedy. It’s more of a heartfelt comedy. I play a bird watcher.