Is your character in The To Do List different from April?
Yeah, The To Do List is gonna be fun because I’m not sarcastic, depressed, or weird in it. I’m a type-A, almost obnoxious kind of girl. I wanted to do something where I’m not the weirdo who’s in the back of the classroom for a change. I want to be the girl who’s in the front of the classroom raising her hand.
Growing up, were you the girl in the back of the classroom?
No, I was more like the girl in the front. I think that’s something people would be surprised about. Even though I’m similar to April in that I’m sarcastic or whatever, I was never “the sarcastic girl,” even when I was starting out. When I was doing sketch comedy, I was doing all kinds of characters.
You’ll say to yourself, 'I shouldn’t be watching a girl learning how to give a hand job.' But girls give hand jobs sometimes, so deal with it.
Was starring in Safety Not Guaranteed scary?
It was terrifying. That character carries the movie. My emotional arc had to make sense and get people through the movie. That part was actually written for me. It felt like an organic way to be a lead in a movie by taking on something I knew—at least the first part of the movie. The depressed intern? I definitely know how to do that. [Laughs.]
You say you want to be a leading lady, but that would mean you can’t hide out in your house anymore. Is that intimidating?
I don’t know. I kind of forget about that part, being famous. I’m not factoring it into my decision-making process. But, yeah, it would definitely suck if I wasn’t able to do normal things anymore. The goal is to have control over my career, and at this point I don’t have that much control. I’m not a big, huge star, so I don’t get to call the shots. I’m still hustling to get my next job. The goal is to be in a position where I can say, “I want to do that, and I don’t want to do that.”
Do you enjoy going on talk shows?
I’m getting better at doing interviews, but it’s not something I’m totally comfortable with. I try to treat talk shows like fun performance art pieces.
That’s clear from your talk show appearances.
People must think I have a plan. I end up being weird because I can’t be normal in those situations. You’re supposed to pretend you’re having this spontaneous conversation when, really, it’s all planned, and that goes against every instinct in my body. I can’t get on that rhythm, so it ends up being awkward. People must watch those shows and think I’m weird or on drugs. Half of them probably think it’s funny and the other half are annoyed.
That plays into the perception that you’re just like April on Parks.
I think about that, but then I try to remember that there’s nothing I can do about it. On talk shows, part of me wants people to like me! [Laughs.] I feel like shouting, “Like me, everyone!” But what am I gonna do? I just gotta do my thing.
Is there anything you wouldn’t do in a role?
I did everything in The To Do List. I never had to do a sex scene or anything too sexual before this movie, but I do everything in it.
Is it weird to think that men find you attractive?
Yeah, it’s weird. I don’t have a great perspective on it. I didn’t grow up thinking I was attractive. I was cool, but not in the hot cheerleader way, so I don’t have that mentality. I definitely wasn’t killing it in the guy department back in school. [Laughs.] But I realized I could be the funny one, so I did that. The guy stuff didn’t come until later for me.
Do you relate to your character in The To Do List in that way?
I relate to her a lot, which is funny because she’s so annoying. [Laughs.] There’s a lot of stuff I tapped into from being 13. It’s a really weird age. I don’t think there’s ever been a good movie about a girl losing her virginity. I think it’ll rub some people the wrong way. It’s like this Superbad, American Pie teen sex comedy but from a girl’s perspective. So it feels very wrong. You’ll say to yourself, “I shouldn’t be watching a girl learning how to give a hand job.” But girls give hand jobs sometimes, so deal with it. [Laughs.]
You have a younger sister, Renee, who’s 16. She must be the perfect audience for the movie.
I’ve shown her the trailer. It’s pretty dirty. I showed it to a ton of my cousins in that age range. I wondered if guys would like it too, but all my guy cousins loved it. There’s so much penis humor. My sister liked it, but she was a little uncomfortable. There’s a scene where I’m masturbating angrily. How awkward must that be for her? [Laughs.] There’s a lot of stuff that will be weird for my family.
It seems like a good time to be a female comedian, what with HBO’s Girls and the post-Bridesmaids wave of female-driven projects.
We actually shot the movie before Girls and Bridesmaids came out. We shot it two summers ago. It’s taken a long time to come out. But maybe that’ll be a good thing. There’s still not as many good parts for girls, but it’s a good time for the movie because there’s been an ongoing discussion about girls embracing sexuality.
Comedians talk about how their comedy comes from a dark place of insecurity. Can you relate?
Yeah, totally. Growing up, I had a weird combination of insecurity and not caring about what people thought about me. That’s still how I am to this day. It’s a good thing. As things get bigger for me, that mentality will help.
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