Everyone has a thing for Rashida Jones. She’s beautiful but unfussy, smart (she went to Harvard). She stars on Parks and Recreation and almost saved Jim and Pam from themselves on The Office. And now she’s generating material so good that it makes a post-SNL Andy Samberg career seem viable, co-writing the sweet and funny Celeste & Jesse Forever (out on Blu-ray and DVD today), which she stars in with Samberg, about the difficulty of remaining close to your ex. We spoke to the lovely Jones on Monday about her writing career and the dangers of low blood sugar.
ESQUIRE.COM: Congratulations on your Independent Spirit Award nomination.
RASHIDA JONES: Thank you so much. I’m excited.
ESQ: The red carpet always seems like it would be a little bit awkward, because there are all these forced “Hey, Rashida Jones, say hi to Amy Adams.” Is it weird?
RJ: Like forced interactions, forced pictures? I feel like such an old pro now. I’ve been in the business for fifteen years. You work this long in the business and between TV shows and pilots and different movies and general meetings and parties and dinners, you end up kind of knowing everybody. Like I’ve known Amy Adams for twelve years, from just around town, auditions, whatever. So it’s actually sort of nice. It’s one of those times where it’s like, “Look, we’ve all known each other for a long time, and we’re all still alive and nobody has a drug habit.”
ESQ: Nobody has a drug habit?
RJ: Well, some people have drug habits. But it’s not a drug habit that’s not allowing them to go to award shows. Which is the most important thing in the world.
ESQ: So Celeste & Jesse Forever is amazing. I can’t believe that’s your first screenplay.
RJ: Thank you. Hopefully not my last.
ESQ: You wrote Celeste & Jesse before Parks and Recreation even started, which is crazy.
RJ: Yeah, I know. I wrote it because Parks and Recreation hadn’t started. I was on hold for this mystery show. They hadn’t written it, Amy wasn’t attached, nothing. I had nothing to do, so I wrote it with Will [McCormack].
ESQ: Are people more receptive to you now that it’s been a success?
RJ: Actors? We’re a dime a dozen, let’s be honest. People are very nice to me, and they’ve been nice as my career has gotten better and I’ve gotten more jobs. But the reality is that if I decided tomorrow that I didn’t want to act anymore, it’s not like people are going to be like, “Please, come back!” There are so many actors, and there are so many people who are hungry and good and want to do it. But if you write, and you have a very specific voice, and Will and I have a specific voice, people tend to respect you more because they want that voice. And yeah, it’s so competitive, but it’s nowhere near as competitive as acting.
ESQ: It’s so great that you’re generating your own material. You and Will just signed a two-year deal with Warner Bros.
RJ: Yes, it’s for TV.
ESQ: Do you have any idea what you want to work on?
RJ: Oh my goodness, I don’t know. It’s just really exciting that people want us to make things and develop things. It just happened, so I have no idea what’s going on.
ESQ: What kind of TV do you watch?
RJ: I love The Americans.
ESQ: I loved that they kept playing “Tusk” in the pilot. It’s so sexy, right?
RJ: It was very sexy.
ESQ: Even though the clothing is borderline repellant and Matthew Rhys’s hair is awful.
RJ: It’s so hideous that it’s sexy. Also Keri Russell is so pretty. She can wear anything. She’s the prettiest. She’s amazing. I love her.
ESQ: She’s so gorgeous. And she just had a kid, right before she started filming.
RJ: I know, and she’s wearing mom jeans and rocking it.
ESQ: Let’s talk about Parks and Recreation. Do you find that sometimes the dynamic that your characters have with each other on screen bleed into your offscreen relationships, or vice versa?
RJ: Absolutely. I think a show is only good if it happens. I think when it really started to find its groove was when little parts of people bled into the character. Like Nick Offerman as Ron Swanson — being an indifferent, anarchist libertarian — really only became the Ron Swanson that we know and love when Nick’s little sensitive awesome personality traits leaked into the character. You know? When Chris Pratt auditioned for that character, he was supposed to be a lanky, selfish, indie-band guy, but he brought the whole Andy thing to it. And April — you really love her because she seems to not care, but the truth is she does care. The writers saw this episode when Andy and April were stuck together, and the chemistry worked, so they wrote to their strengths, and they got married. I think it can only work if that’s the case.
ESQ: I love how Amy started doing those, “Oh, Ann, you sweet beautiful flower.”
RJ: Yeah. “You beautiful sexy moth,” or whatever. That was definitely a writer’s-room thing that came about.
ESQ: Your onscreen presence is so amiable, and you’ve been very nice so far in our conversation —
RJ: Oh, you haven’t seen anything — wait five minutes. My blood sugar is going to drop, and I’m going to attack you.
ESQ: You need to carry snacks!
RJ: I just started eating, by the way.
ESQ: Thank God. My favorite thing is when your character is mean to Tom, or when April is mean to you. I don’t know why, but I like seeing Ann in conflict.
RJ: Really? That’s so funny. Maybe because I’m so nice to everybody, it’s nice that I have a negative side.
ESQ: Do you think there’s going to be a sixth season?
RJ: Oh my God, I can’t believe it would be the sixth season. I hope so. I mean, we’ve been on the bubble since we’ve got on TV, so everything feels like borrowed time to us in the best way possible, where we’re like, “I can’t believe we’re still on the air. I can’t believe we can still go to work.” Because they’ve never let us feel comfortable with our standing at the network.
ESQ: I feel like it would make you tense at the beginning, but after a while it must be freeing because you don’t have to uphold a status quo to keep your ratings. You can just do whatever you want.
RJ: Ultimately, our ratings are not great, but I’m sure the network has opinions of what we should be or should not be. But for the most part it allowed us to kind of do whatever we wanted. Because people at first had all this expectation about it and were mad that we weren’t The Office. Then we became the show that we are now, which was nice.
ESQ: I feel like popular opinion on The Office has changed. People have kind of turned on it a little bit, whereas with Parks and Recreation every year it feels like people love it more.
RJ: That’s true, but we’re also in season five, and when The Office was in season five people felt the same way. I think that is just the inherent trajectory of a TV show — it’s really hard to be on the air for nine years and have the quality stay the same, and make sure that everybody is happy. I just watched the season finale of 30 Rock, and that show is such an anomaly.
ESQ: I feel like your show is built for longevity more than most. It’s such a kind-spirited show that when things go well for the characters, the way the audience wants, it doesn’t change the tone, the way it did when Jim and Pam got together.
RJ: Right, and The Office is also limited by being in an office. The writers struggle to get them outside the office. Us, we’re kind of always out and about because we have an exterior location in our title. Also, the conflict of the show most of the time doesn’t come from the characters in our office. It comes from external enemies. We have Jam and Councilman Houser and Councilman Milton and Shauna Malwae-Tweep. A lot of these shows are built on sexual tension of two people not getting together, and we don’t necessarily have that, so there is a part of it that is built for longevity, for sure.
ESQ: Speaking of Jon Glaser, who plays Councilman Jam — how amazing was he on Girls?
RJ: Ah-mazing. I just saw him yesterday — him and his family visited set on Friday, and he was so good and so different on Girls. So cool.
ESQ: Is he sticking around as an adversary?
RJ: Oh yeah. Jam is all up in it.
ESQ: So obviously you’re a beautiful TV and movie star, but you play a lot of —
ESQ: Come on, get real.
RJ: That’s so not how I see myself. Okay, thanks.
ESQ: But you play a lot of relatably awkward characters, but I would imagine a lot of people feel really comfortable coming up to you.
RJ: They do, yeah. It’s close to who I am. I was not — I know everybody says this, but I really wasn’t — I was likable, but I was not an object of affection for guys. In early high school years, I was pretty chubby, and I spent a lot of time on my computer, before it was cool to have a computer — because there was a time that was true. So that’s where I developed my personality. For the most part, it is really nice when people come up to me, because I do think that people who are awkward relate to me, and that’s really nice. It’s generally good. But when people whisper and point at you, it’s never fun, because it reminds you of high school, you know?
I love funny women. Love’m. So I thought I would grab one of my favs and ask her some random questions so we can all get to know her a bit better. You might have heard of her, Rashida Jones? Of course you have. Well this is the conversation i had with her last week. What a cool chick she is!
Hi Rashida, how are you today?
(Every time I say your name, I want to say:
It’s from The Office UK. Christmas Special. Point is, I am just fine.
Did you just say I look like a model? *Swishes hair* Anyway… It’s snowing back in London. You have lived in LA all your life. You can’t have seen much snow?
My bad. You were saying?
Gosh, that sounds awful. I’ve been reading about you all day. You are endlessly fascinating. Having been surrounded by fame all of your life (your father is musician Quincy Jones, your mother actress, Peggy Lipton. You once got given a Cabbage Patch Doll by Michael Jackson, etc. etc.). Do you ever get starstruck?
Endlessly fascinating is a huge compliment/exaggeration!
Nope, I’m gonna stick with that if you don’t mind…
Totally, you should have seen me the first time I met Kristen Wiig. The words mop and bucket might have been used.
Tears. Yeah, sure. I totally didn’t mean pee.
So…I’ve just watched a load of interviews with you on You Tube. You are terribly nice and awfully funny. There would be many gals like you who’d have lived your life and ended up being a right pain in the arse, how have you kept it together?
*Awkward cough*. You are pretty great though.
What would you define as normal?
I think I know what you mean. I made a few documentaries about alternative families. Polygamous families, Free Lovers, and one thing I was always surprised by is that when the doors are closed to the outside world, no matter how bizarre these people seem, a family is just a family like any other. Would you say that was true of yours?
So how normal do you feel now you are all grown up?
Yeah, hah, that would be weird! *Gets out of freezer*
How girly are you?
Do you have a favorite swear word? A ‘go to’ obscenity?
Apart from people who sleep in freezers what, if anything, makes you feel a bit awkward?
Isn’t that THE WORST. I am like, stop pretending not to take pictures of me. Then I’ll grab their phone and be like, oh, you weren’t. And then the police come, and they do that thing where I have to put my hands behind my back and everyone pretends not to know who I am. Does. My. Head. IN.
So…would you call yourself a feminist?
Who are your female idols? Past and present.
*Has a little Nora Ephron moment*
You told me that your favorite food is pizza. How often do you eat it? Whats your favorite flavor? How would you describe your diet and your attitude to food?
You never told me your favorite flavour? Sorry, it’s the details that I thrive on…
You came to my wedding, thank you! Did you like my dress?
I really wasn’t fishing for compliments but, err, thanks. I guess I did look kinda pretty. Kinda. Maybe. Stop going on about it I get shy…
On those nights where you get to stay in and do nothing, what do you do/watch/read?
I recommend Gatsby and To Kill a Mockingbird. Oh, and Breakfast At Tiffany’s, the book is so much more glorious than the film. But I wonder if you are talking more about classics such as Jane Eyre and The Bronte Sisters? You should download the abridged audio books. They are quick and you get the story and a great sense of those iconic characters. It’s a great way of getting through them all. You’re welcome.
Oh, and lastly. On New Years Day this year I woke up with a French Fry stuck to my butt cheek. Have you ever woken up with anything strange stuck to you? It’s a fair question. Don’t judge me. And yes, I ate it.
Ah yes, college. Once I woke up in a….you know what? Let’s just end it there.
Rashida Jones everybody! *Rapturous applause*.
Rashida Jones explains to her idol Holly Hunter that she broke her foot playing tennis. When Holly Hunter asks Rashida if she’s a big fan, Rashida plays cool and tells the only tennis story she knows. Embarrassment strikes when Rashida realizes that Holly is implicated in her tale…
Last night, Rashida Jones was a guest on the talk show “Conan”. You can watch her interview in the three video clips below!
Rashida Jones & Conan Compare Traumatic Childhood Photos
Rashida Jones Is The Classy American Abroad
Rashida Jones And Conan Play The Mustache Game
Rashida Jones has never been one to hog the spotlight. Her brightness comes from sharing the stage with others.
Whether it’s in her current role as Ann Perkins starring opposite comedian Amy Poehler on NBC’s “Parks and Recreation,” or as Karen Filippelli, one of the dysfunctional desk jockeys in “The Office,” all that ensemble work is where Rashida Jones feels most at home.
Even in the middle of an interview, she’s playing to the rest of the room.
“I just like doing things with people,” she said. “It’s not worth it to me unless you can do it with people that you love and get along with. Because it’s so lonely to just sit and be successful at something and then, what, celebrate by yourself?”
Her role in “The Social Network” won her – and her colleagues – two awards for Best Ensemble Cast.
Her most recent film, “Celeste and Jesse Forever,” is also a collaboration.
Jones co-wrote the script with her ex-boyfriend, Will McCormack, which was handy given that the film’s theme is the pain of breaking up.
“For me, it’s horrible. It feels like somebody died,” Jones said. “They didn’t, and it’s totally fine and you get over it, but at the time you’re like, ‘I’m never going to get better. I’m never gonna feel good,’ and we wanted to make sure that felt real.
“It was really scary but at the same time, nobody cared because I’d never written anything, and everybody in Hollywood is writing a script, so the pressure was off, you know?” she laughed.
Her try-anything approach, she says, came from her parents. She was born in Los Angeles to music mogul Quincy Jones and actress Peggy Lipton.
Both were vigilant at showing her both sides of the entertainment world – and what happens if you take the life of celebrity too seriously.
“For the most part, having more money and more fame make your life harder,” Jones said. “It just does. I’ve seen it happen with people. You know, it’s so hard to stay normal. It’s so hard to stay happy. It’s hard to remember why you were doing what you did in the first place.”
So, she says, she never puts too much emphasis on any one thing. Instead, she samples a lot.
She went to Harvard, and although she was involved in acting and music, she majored in religion and philosophy.
How did that happen? “I don’t know, I um. . .” she laughed. “I think that’s the whole point of a liberal arts education, is you study something that you would never get the opportunity to study that has nothing to do with what you actually end up doing in your real life.”
Now at age 37, real life to her, it seems, is a moving target.
She’s done a bit of everything. She’s appeared with nearly every Muppet, and in keeping with her ensemble rots sang backup vocals for the band Maroon 5.
And none of it came easy, she says.
“You’ve said that despite all the family connections that nobody really gave you a leg up, you didn’t get an easy pass,” Cowan said.
“I wish! Oh my God I wish! I would have LOVED an easy pass, it would be so great!” she said.
“Did you want it?”
“Yeah, are you kidding?” she laughed.
n fact, right before being cast in “The Office,” the going was so tough she almost gave up acting all together. “Yeah, I was going to bail. I’ve tried to bail so many times. I may still bail! I wasn’t auditioning very much, I wasn’t getting that many jobs, and I felt like it might be a waste of my time and my effort and my brain and my heart to not go try to do something else, you know?”
She kept acting, but also jumped head first into the comic book industry, writing a series called “Frenemy of the State,” based on a socialite superhero.
Not content with just cartoons on the page, she’s turned it into a screenplay as well.
And she’s become a volunteer for the International Rescue Committee, an organization helping poor communities rebuild in the face of humanitarian crises.
“You’ve got so much going on, do you even have a personal life?” Cowan asked.
“Well, I do this thing where I work with my friends. That way it’s like I can be social and work at the same time,” Jones said. “I mean, at some point I probably have to have some babies, so I might want to try to focus on that a little bit, yeah.”
But her most immediate challenge is something else she’s never tried: Slowing down.
“I’m going to try to not say ‘Yes’ to everything. I’m going to try to do a little bit of ‘No. No. Thank you, but no,’” she laughed.
Check out this behind the scenes video and interview with Rashida Jones from “Flaunt” magazine!
This summer, All Things Considered has asked listeners and guests to share a personal memory: the memory of one song discovered through their parents’ record collection.
Rashida Jones stars in the new film Celeste and Jesse Forever. She’s also the daughter of superstar music producer Quincy Jones and actress Peggy Lipton. Jones says her father is a “record collection all unto himself,” but she had something else in mind when NPR’s Audie Cornish asked her about the song she most remembers from when she was growing up.
“My mom, I remember as a kid, came home with Steely Dan, and “Hey Nineteen” was her favorite song,” Jones says. “We had a lot of jazz growing up, and soul, R&B, classical … ['Hey Nineteen'] was the first time I had heard something that was like this ’70s bluesy rock, that was really lyrical.
“It kind of opened me up to being a music nerd,” Jones says. “Those guys are music nerds, and that’s what’s so great about them. They like complex rhythms, and they’re interested in the mathematics of music.”
Actress Rashida Jones has starred in TV shows like “Parks and Recreation” and “The Office.” She’s appeared in the movies “I Love You Man,” and “The Social Network.” This week she stars in “Celeste and Jesse Forever,” which she also scripted with writing partner Will McCormack. Rashida tells Brendan about the heyday of the rom-com(dram) and Apatow males… then she plays matchmaker.