Interview with Jenna Fischer from The Orange County Registrar. Thanks so Vanessa for the link!
Before we start, let’s clear up a misunderstanding – Jenna Fischer is not a weird cat lady.
Oh, she loves cats, and has worked with cat rescue organizations, but she has only a single cat at home. She does not, as some bloggers would have you believe, share her home with more than a dozen felines.
“Would you mind setting the record straight in your story,” the actress asked in a polite whisper at the end of an interview in Beverly Hills to promote her new Farrelly brothers comedy “Hall Pass,” which opens throughout Orange County on Friday.
Consider the record straight.
The 36-year-old actress, whose burgeoning film career is just starting to approach the success of her soaring television work (she has played the adorable Pam for seven seasons on NBC’s hit comedy “The Office”), plays a woman who grants her husband (Owen Wilson) a guilt-free week without the confines of marriage. He and his best friend (“Saturday Night Live’s” Jason Sudeikis, who is married to Christina Applegate in the movie) are allowed to pursue young women, eat unlimited Buffalo wings and do whatever else husbands fantasize about doing when they’re feeling tied down.
Fischer tells us whether she would ever give her real-life spouse a so-called “hall pass,” explains how she feels about Steve Carell leaving “The Office” after this season and comes clean on a rumor that she is addicted to “The Real Housewives of Orange County.”
Her most recent film work included “Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story,” and “Blades of Glory” opposite Orange County’s Will Ferrell. Yes, we asked her about the comically sexy scene in that latter movie when she wore a shocking bedroom outfit, and Will tried to take liberties with her. We’re cleaning this up for family consumption.
ORANGE COUNTY REGISTER: Is it true that you are a “Real Housewives of Orange County” junkie?
JENNA FISCHER: Atlanta.
Q. Atlanta? I heard it was Orange County?
A. I watched Orange County when it first came out, but have since left Orange County behind for Atlanta.
Q. We’re shattered. Why did you desert us?
A. The Atlanta ladies can’t be beat. Atlanta is diva central. They are so over-the-top that it’s fantastic.
Q. More over-the-top than Orange County?
A. Oh yeah. I haven’t been keeping up with the Orange County ladies for some time. I hear there have been some divorces, but that’s all I know. Trust me; watch Atlanta – you’ll never go back to Orange County.
Q. I have to go back to Orange County; that’s where my paycheck lives.
A. I’m sure it’s very nice, but not as crazy as Atlanta.
Q. Speaking of nice, you have this sweet, innocent image from playing Pam on “The Office,” but it seems from a couple of recent magazine covers that you might be pushing a sexier image. Is there an inner conflict going on in your career between playing sexy and playing funny?
A. No conflict. I am at the mercy at how I am perceived by directors and casting directors. The perception of me is a certain way, which might not reflect how I perceive myself.
Q. So, are you really funny or sexy?
A. In real life, I am a fairly confident sexual person, but I am cast as these wallflowers and shrinking violets. If you’re noticing a change in my image, then perhaps I am no longer suppressing my real self.
Q. Can this perception of you change in the movie industry?
A. I think a great liberating role for me was Darlene in “Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story.” That was really exciting for me because it was a comedic role, but I was allowed to be a little bit of a sexy girl. Otherwise, you’re right. I’m routinely cast as school teachers, waitresses and librarians.
Q. Is it a problem?
A. I wouldn’t call it a problem. In the same way that certain people are always cast as villains, even though they never committed a crime in their lives, I am cast this way. My body and face are my instruments, and apparently the industry thinks my body and face are best utilized in these roles.
Q. It sounds as if you have made peace with it?
A. This allows me to play characters with some depth. If I was seen as a sex symbol, you don’t get the opportunity to play characters with an interesting past. It becomes all about the exterior. My kind of typecasting allows me to play characters with some interesting interiors.
Q. Frankly, I think your role in “Hall Pass,” in which you play a nice suburban mom who finds out whether she is still attractive to the opposite sex, one of the more interesting aspects of the movie. Is that why you took the role?
A. What I liked about the character is that this movie is about a frustrated woman who could blame her problems on other things, like her husband gawking at other women, but the truth is that she has lost her own identity and sexuality. This hall pass has given her a chance to rediscover herself, and get her strength back. It makes her more attractive to her husband because she finds herself more interesting. I like that transformation in the character. Usually, in these kinds of movies, the actresses don’t have a lot to do.
Q. You’re right; it really is a significant woman’s role for a Farrelly brothers comedy.
A. The Farrellys have been going around telling people they’ve made their first chick flick. The women come out on top in this movie, although there is still a lot of dude stuff.
Q. Those husbands are so stupid in the movie, the women would have to come out on top.
A. (laughs). I think you’re right.
Q. This movie can get pretty gross at times. Was there any hesitation on your part to be involved in a movie like this?
A. Luckily, I am in none of the scenes you’re talking about. I am not really in a Farrelly brothers movie. I’m in that other movie inside the Farrelly brothers movie. But I got to work on the funniest set in Hollywood, and I didn’t have to do anything gross at all. I’m very lucky.
Q. Judging from “Blades of Glory,” you obviously are willing to do just about anything for a laugh?
A. OK, I would have done crazier stuff in this movie if it called for it. It is closer to my sense of humor. Personally, I think the gal with the stomach problems steals the movie. (Editors note: the abovementioned scene is too disgusting to describe here). That’s our version of the hair-gel moment from “There’s Something About Mary.”
Q. How do you feel about the full-frontal male nudity scene?
A. If they put in women’s boobs, they should put in the boy parts, too. It’s only fair.
Q. By the way, would you ever give your real-life husband a hall pass?
A. Never in a million years.
Q. I want to ask you about Pam. Where was your career at seven years ago when “The Office” came along?
A. I had just quit my job as an administrative assistant. I had been working as a temp for years. The world was different back then. You can’t be that cavalier these days and jump from job to job.
Q. What were some of your temp jobs?
A. I worked as a typist, data-entry girl, receptionist, and everything else you can imagine.
Q. And then going to acting class at night?
A. I had studied acting at college, but I was spending my free time going out on auditions. When “The Office” came along, I think the only acting jobs I had gotten were “college girl number 2″ in some movie, and two episodes of the Judd Apatow show “Undeclared.”
Q. Were you motivated?
A. The great thing was that I was finally earning the same amount of money acting as I was as a secretary. That was my goal. If I could do that, I could justify pursuing an acting career.
Q. Did you have any idea that “The Office” would be so successful?
A. No. I knew it would be good. It had a magic to it. But I had no idea it would stick around.
Q. How do you feel about Steve leaving?
A. Mostly denial, particularly about not seeing Steve on the set every day.
Q. Do you think the show will survive his leaving?
A. We’ve had such a surge of creativity this year because the writers knew Steve was leaving, and they had something to write towards. Now, there’s a mix of nerves and excitement. After seven years, you want to do something new, and this has given us an opportunity to sink or swim. This is forcing us to get new and interesting. It almost feels like the energy we had in season two. At the same time, who really likes change? It’s scary.
Parts 1, 2, and 3 of Jenna’s interview on The Tonight Show on 2/17/11:
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