March 26, 2007

As an uber fan of NBC’s The Office, getting the opportunity to interview Pam I mean Jenna Fisher was something that I was looking forward to more than a typical interview. Thankfully, she didn’t let me down. After speaking with her during the press day for Blades of Glory she came across as someone who is extremely thankful for all of her success and definitely doesn’t take it for granted.

If you are a fan of either The Office or you just want to read a great interview, I strongly suggest checking this one out. Of course she discusses the show and what’s coming up on the remaining episodes. But the real highlight is the way she comes across as a fan of the people she works with. While she is on a great show and is now beginning a big movie career, she acts like she’s the biggest fan who just won a contest and the winner gets to be on television. And if you really want to get the full effect you should listen to the audio – which you can download here as an MP3.

If you haven’t seen the trailer yet for Blades of Glory you can watch it here. The film comes out this Friday at theaters everywhere.

I’ll warn you about some slight spoilers in the interview – nothing that will ruin the movie but it will spoil some of the gags. You are warned.

Question: How weird was it to be the only straight-man/woman in this film? Everybody else was hilarious and you just have to be the straight-man basically. Did you get to say anything funny? Or did they tell you no, you can’t be funny?

Jenna Fisher: It was very not fair because it was like my job was basically to not laugh throughout this whole film. That was my job. Somehow I got stuck with that job. Like the receiver of funny, I am funny receptacle I guess. Throw your funny here. It was great I laughed a lot particularly off camera I laughed a lot making this movie a lot. It was like getting to go like to a top comedy show every day for my job. Also like a master class in comedy. Believe me I learned so much from Amy Poehler. Like she is brilliant, super smart and very funny and I literally took mental notes on how to be funnier. I would go home at night and try out her brand of comedy on my husband and friends. And I picked up like 2 comedy tricks from her. I was like in study mode.

Can you tell us the tricks?

She does a great straight man. She does a really, really great straight man where she can pimp you into doing a bit and she has this great way like improve technique but she has a great way of making suggestions that are really, really good in comparison to other people I’ve been around. That’s such boring comedy speak but she’s very good at it especially with Will Farrell. She can get him to do the most ridiculous stuff. She’s really good.

How many takes went into the groping scene?

It’s not takes it’s number of hours. That was a 12 hour day. That was 12 hours of Will Farrell massaging my boobs. Like around hour 7 you’re like you’re like, “Man my boobs don’t need any more action for like a few months”. I can tell you like my husband I was like slapping his hands away for 2 weeks like they’re done. No more. That was a lot. I mean that’s like a full 2 minutes on screen of him touching my boobs so that was like a whole day of that.

How does the first take start? I mean that’s kind of a weird…

The first take is like he said ok Jenna, you’re married and I’m married and no funny business. Anything that makes you uncomfortable I want you to tell me. I just want you to feel comfortable. I said ok, let’s just go for it and make it funny. He’s like yeah. So we just went for it and as soon as they yelled cut, his hands came off like he was touching a hot iron. He was like so respectful. But then around hour 8 it’s so normal that they yelled cut and we are discussing the scene with the director and I said yeah, dude, your hands are still on my boobs. And that was cool, but when we went to lunch and he was still squeezing my boobs and then that night at my car…I haven’t been in a lot of films but he said that was normal but I’m still not sure. I’m not positive that that was right. He said that was OK and he suggested to promote the film he should play with my boobs. I think that’s cool, right? That’s how it’s done. That’s what he said. Yeah.

Get it in your contract?

Yeah, right exactly.

And that kiss with John that was long.

Yeah, that kiss with John. In the script it just said they kissed. It didn’t say they kissed the grossest kiss you’ve ever seen. It just says they kiss. We sort of felt our 2 characters that was their 1st kiss in life. and they were older and not experienced and we thought what must that look like and so John and I in rehearsal he said “ok, I’m going to keep my mouth closed but I’m going to keep kissing you with a closed mouth and I want you to tongue kiss me and tongue kiss my face.” I was like all right. That’s what we did. I was so excited because I really didn’t know John very well and he was so game. He was just so up for just really being crazy. That was like 5 hours of frenching his lips, I guess.

Do you think a crazy comedy like this needs a character like yours to kind of ground it a little bit?

I think it’s always good that there be somebody in the film that the audience can relate to. They sort of see the film through that person’s eyes. I definitely felt like the only sane person in an insane asylum. You’re running around going no I’m not crazy but everyone doesn’t believe you because they’re crazy so it was like that sort of thing. It was surreal. I think the coach Craig T. Nelson is not too crazy. He sort of has that frustration of having to work with the lunatics.

By comparison, how does it feel on “The Office’ then because you’ve got Steve Carell and Rainn Wilson doing crazy stuff?

I know. Well, it’s pretty cool. The bar was set pretty high for me in terms of quality of people and quality of comedy. To go on The Office and be working with really some of the funniest people in the business– writers and otherwise. It was like…I couldn’t believe on my break I got to work with basically the other most funny people in Hollywood. It was pretty insane. Yeah, I spend a lot of my life laughing. It’s pretty cool. When I met my husband, I fell in love with him for his sense of humor and he said the only down side to my success is it’s harder to make me laugh at home. He said I really have to step it up because you’re with comedy geniuses all day and he’s like you used to think I was so funny. You thought I was the funniest man alive. He really has to step it up now because I spend my days with Steve Carrel and Will Farrell. My husband still….we hung out last night and we laughed for a 1/2 hour. We had this one bit that we did for like 1/2 hour it was incredibly funny to me. He can still hold his own. He shouldn’t worry.

Can you share that?

Our bit that we did? Oh, man, I don’t know. It’s like those things…oh your private life. I don’t know if you want to say what your bits are. We have this running bit about how our cat is hounding us for a million dollars. Our cat has all these get rich quick schemes. He wants to sell a line to T-shirts and we’re always incredibly frustrated and put upon by our cat’s monetary demands and his get rich quick schemes. I mean, the cat was on the computer again and he’s just like out for a million dollars. Our cat is out for a million dollars. All our cat cares about is a million dollars, constantly asking for a million dollars to buy sushi. These are like our little bits that we …and one day if we’re ever like stupid rich I would love to play a practical joke where my husband’s home and I have this sushi truck back up to the house and deliver a million dollars with of sushi to our cat. Like oh, hi, this is for Andy Fisher Gunn. A truck load of Maguru. I don’t know I think my husband has to sign for that. Crates and crates full of tuna.

Are you looking forward to the part where you can be the wild and crazy one because you got to be sort of the center here and you got to do that on The Office?

This has been great. It’s really been good in terms of getting my feet wet and then this movie I’m working on now with John C. Reilly, I do get to be–I get to full on co-star in this movie with him and get to be like the girl, you know, that is holding her own hopefully with him because he’s pretty amazing.

Can you say who you play and what?

Yeah, it’s basically a take-off on Walk the Line. It’s a fictional music bio pic and just sort of like satires the crazy world of musicians. I play like a June Carter Cash to his Johnny Cash. I’m sort of that one woman who believes in him and stands by him through his drug abuse and his hits and his pitfalls. It spans from the 50’s to the present. It’s just like a crazy comedy. Judd Apatow is producing and Jake Kasdan is directing.

Do you get to sing?

Yeah, I sing a duet. A country duet with John.

Was that intimidating?

Yes. I have not actually recorded my voice yet. I’m still in training. Who knows if I will be actually singing in this film? I’ll be doing my own acting in the film though for sure.

Did they just call you? What was the casting process like for this film?

For Blades of Glory?

Did you act a scene with the guys or…?

Yeah well my agent sent me the script. I read it and pretty much I didn’t even need to read it because they told me the concept and who was starring in it and I’m like yeah I think I want to do that film. I’m pretty sure. So, no I went in and read with John Heder. I met with the directors and read with John Heder and wanted to see how our chemistry was then they offered me the role after that. I like John Heder from the moment met him. I just fell in love with him. He’s a sweet guy and I loved working with him. So that’s how I got the part but I did have to audition. This was before The Office had won an Emmy. This was before The Office had many ratings and so like it definitely opened the door for me being considered but I still had to audition to get the role.

On The Office TV has a long history of long running shows with will they or won’t they romantic plots. How long do you see this carrying on The Office that you can resolve and still maintain something for season’s forward?

I saw that you have Slither in your bag and it made me so happy. I think that…you know there’s a lot of things they said we couldn’t do with The Office like they said early on people said things like another British import they all failed how’s your shows…your show’s not going to make it. Or whatever it was we’ve had all these hurdles and I feel like we’re going to break the mold on the relationship curse. I really do. I feel like the most important thing is that we just stay true to the characters. I don’t think they’re going to force us to be apart any longer than is natural and they’re not going to force us to be together any longer than is natural. I think that if you really love these people and being that it’s a character driven comedy not a gag driven comedy, as long as you’re really invested in the people we will overcome all of those sort of pitfalls and burdens of other shows. I have complete faith in our writers and in the show. And I don’t know if Jim and Pam are ultimately meant to be together and I say this to producers all the time, sometimes that person helps you become the person that you’re supposed to be to meet the person you’re supposed to marry. Maybe that’s our story and if that’s our story that’s still a beautiful story to tell. So if we’re still on the air in 10 years and you’re just not feeling Jim and Pam anymore that’s alright. I think we’re open to letting it be that way. We’re not committed to end of this series as a wedding between Jim and Pam and a baby you know. It’s more of like a real life story.

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On this film when you were shooting out of town in Montreal or wherever, was there any hanging out after filming or did everybody just go to their separate corners?

Oh no. Amy Poehler is the sweetest. She’s like our mother hen. She organized cast dinners every night. One night we all went to a casino and it was really sweet. Very funny story at the casino. We walked in and Amy’s just very protective and such a care taker. It was very sweet. We walked in and all of a sudden….and Will Farrell is very tall and like everyone in the casino said “oh my God, Will Farrell is here” and they started to come up to him and Amy was like acting like his body guard. She was like excuse me, let him through, excuse me we’re going to need a private area and then the casino manager came up and I think thought Amy was like Will’s publicist or something and said “hi I’m the casino manger and you’re looking for a separate area for Will Farrell….oh my God you’re Amy Poehler! She so took charge of the situation. She made all our dinner reservations. She was a complete sweetheart. It was a fun time. It’s always fun to be on location and it becomes a little bit like summer camp when you’re away. We started the film in Montreal so we started with that summer camp bonding experience so that when we came back to LA we were all closer so that was nice.

How is it working with 2 directors?

It was kind of cool. I mean it was like a blessing and a curse in the way that like there were always one set of eyes on your performance. Usually a director has to take in both the camera technicality of making a movie and the performance element of making a movie. In this case there were 2 guys so they could just divide and conquer. They would confer and then Josh would go talk to the crew and Will would come talk to the actors. You just couldn’t get away with anything. All these eyes were on your performance so in that way it kind of elevated you because every take was someone was watching your acting but on in another way you were like “Man, I just want to phone it in for once. Just one take, concentrate on the camera, don’t concentrate on me.” Yeah it was cool. It was nice. For a big movie like this I think it was helpful.

Was there a bit of improv that you contributed that you were especially proud of?

Oh, man. I didn’t contribute any improv to this film. No. I’m not even try to improv with people like Amy and Will and Will. I’m just going to sit back and stay out of their way. That was my plan. I do feel like I improv’d one line but I can’t even remember what it is because it so pales in comparison to anything that Will Farrell might have said.

What about the phone call? Did everybody just throw in lines?

Oh, that phone call was great. There’s that part in the phone call where Will Arnett hands me a pad of paper and it’s like something’s written on it. Every time he hands me that pad of paper it was different. I actually think it was like in his own way to say fuck you to see if I could get through the take having to read what he had written on the paper. It was sometimes horribly obscene. Completely unusable. Completely X-rated. I knew but I had to read whatever was on that pad of paper. It was like aggressive. Aggressively harsh because he knew that he had me in that spot. I wish I had all those unusable pieces of paper that I could just staple together and read one right after the other because they were all a variation on my breasts. Like wax my jugs was what ended up in the movie, but like they were all various things I had to go do to my boobs before the date.

You guys are getting ready to film the Office finale I think the 1 hour…..

Yeah, this week.

Can you say anything about the finale? Is it a big cliffhanger?

It is …you know we just filmed our 50th episode directed by Harold Ramis and that’s a pretty….that’s the episode before the finale and there’s a lot that happens in that episode that leads into a big finale. There’s a huge Michael/Jan storyline that is just really awesome in the finale but there’s a lot of Jim/Pam stuff as well. But I can say that one thing is that their arc for Pam this season is that she’s trying to find her own voice and trying to get what she wants and that is going to continue. Pam really is gong to come out of her shell in the last few remaining episodes of the season and that was really exciting.

Did you watch the British version of it before you even started this?

Obsessively and not even know they were making an American version. When they called to tell me, I watched the British version and I actually stood up in my living room and said “why don’t we make stuff like this in America. This is brilliant TV. This is why I became an actor. This is exactly what I want to do. I’m never, ever going to get to be able to do anything this awesome.” Then 2 weeks later they called me and said we’d like you to audition for the American version of a show called The Office. I almost peed my pants. I was terrified because I thought I didn’t want to be in the scholcky sitcom version of The Office and actually my first audition for the show in some ways they were auditioning for me because I would not have participated in that sitcom version of the show. And I immediately knew that Greg Daniels was right on because my audition was …I just went in in character and they interviewed me for 10 minutes completely improv. I decided that Pam Beasley is not a good interview. She’s not going to help a documentarian make a great documentary and that was my take on the character and when they liked that idea, I was like oh this is a fun show to work on. They liked my twist and I liked that they liked my twist.

Have you ever had a boring office job?

Oh, more than I can say. That was how I earned my money as a struggling actor. I worked in various investment firms, medical facilities. I transcribed press tours. I transcribed the Television Critics Association Press Tour. That was my 1st job in LA. I sat in a hot little hotel room typing away listing to stuff, listening to actors be witty. It was awful.

How did you feel when you came to the press tour in The Office?

I so wanted to send a huge fruit basket to all the transcribers saying been there and know what you’re going through. It’s smelly in there, they put like 12 people in a room this size with computers and you just sit and type away all day. It was brutal. I …actually at that press tour, I sneaked into…I pretend to be sick one day when they had this Saturday Night Live party afterwards all these SNL folks. I feigned sickness starting in the morning and I even sneaked into the bathroom and put a little yellow makeup under my eyes to make them look sunken in. I started coughing. I had this whole plan so I could leave at 5:00 so I could leave early. Then I went to my car, I changed into other clothes, put on makeup, I walked over to one of the limo drivers who had driven one of the stars to the show I said “Dude, could you just like drop me off at the front door.” He dropped me off at the front door I walked down the red carpet right into the SNL party and ran right into my boss. He fired me on the spot.

That’s an awesome story.

Yeah, and that night I met Molly Shannon and Fred Savage who couldn’t have been nicer. I had a great time but then I was also unemployed.

Can you tell me about working with Harold Ramis?

Harold Ramis. Oh man, this year we worked with JJ Abrams, Harold Ramis directed 3 episodes, and Joss Whedon. Great. So Great. Harold Ramis is hilarious. We just pick his brain constantly. We ask him all about starting out in comedy and what was that like and all the people he’s worked with and that guy is amazing. I can’t believe that I just spend all last week hanging out with Harold Ramis. It’s so weird.

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