Interviews - Movies
Jenna Fischer – Whole Lot of Love
Q. Are there any recent projects that you are working on?
A. Well, I’m working on “The Office: An American Workplace” which is a new comedy for NBC and it’s based on the British show “The Office” that was a big hit and won a Golden Globe. So, that’s the main thing, we finished filming our six episodes and we’re just waiting for the show to come out.
Q. How did you come up with the concept for Lollilove?
A. That’s a good question, well there are a couple of things. The first thing is that my husband is a screen writer and he was shooting a film in Australia and I went to visit him. One of the stars of that movie was Linda Cardellini, who is a friend of ours and she’s on the show “E.R.,” her boyfriend is this guy named Jason Segel. Jason, in order to sort of keep Linda in the loop, would send her these little movies on the weekend, you know it was really cute and he would send her a movie and it was really sweet. Linda was showing me these movies that he would send her and they were so funny and so cool and I thought well I’m not doing anything right now, and this was several years ago, and I have some free time and he made it look so easy and I thought, “I’m going to make a movie at home.” So, that’s how it kind of got started, I got inspired and I asked Linda if they would be in it and they said yes and so that was sort of how it started. Also, at the time I was doing this book called The Artists Way, I don’t know if you’ve ever heard of it but it is by this writer named Julia Cameron and it’s this really great twelve week seminar that you do. When I was doing this Artists Play and that’s sort of when I came up with the idea for Lollilove and it’s basically a satire about wealthy Los Angeles types who do a bunch of charity but really it’s all about looking good and being seen, more than it is about charity.
Q. What was it like directing, starring in and writing the movie?
A. It was pretty hellish, if I am being honest. It was a very, very small budgeted film, we financed it ourselves and we basically got everyone to work for free. It was really hard because it was so many hats there and I was doing more things than just directing and acting in it and everything. I was also like making the props and getting the sets ready, catering every day of shooting, doing scheduling. So, it was like me and my producer Stephen Blackehart were pretty much the only two people working on this movie and it was very intense and it was great though. I was able to get a perspective about film making that I didn’t have when I was just an actor. I think that actors sometimes get sort of self important, self involved, and think that like the whole show revolves around them. When I switched hats and became both a director and producer of my project, even on a small level, I got to see all of the elements that go into film making and it made me appreciate how much other people do, besides the actors. I think it made me a better actor and I also think that it has made me, in some ways, a better person because I’m just very, very appreciative of what everyone’s doing to help me have a job as an actor.
Q. A lot of great and famous actors are attached to this project like Linda Cardellini, Sean Gunn and Judy Greer, how did you get them on board with the project?
A. That is a great question, I don’t know why so many great people said yes to being in my movie and working on my movie with me, but they did. I guess I’m really persuasive or something, or just crazy enough to ask, I don’t know but you know Linda and Jason were part of the inspiration for making the movie so they were all excited to help me with it. Judy is a close friend of ours as well and when we started making the movie it started as just a little project, like a weekend project and what I did was ask my closest girlfriends to come over to the house and I set up a camera and we just improv’d some scenes together. Just basically a day of play so there wasn’t much involved and then I taped those improv games and I used everyone’s improv to write a script. So, I think one of the reasons why people were willing to say yes to being in it, because they helped create it. Everyone developed their own character, they came up with a lot of their dialogue, or a lot of the ways their character would speak. So, even though I wrote a script for it, I wrote it based on it these little improv games that I video taped and so when people finally got the script, they could see how much what they had done was in the script. I think everyone, at least I hope, everyone always felt like it was like a group effort, it was like a community movie. That was sort of one of the goals of the movie that everyone really had a strong voice in the creative process and I think that helped. And also I had relationships with people already, these were people I was already friends with and I think I just got them excited about it, got them excited about playing around and going off in sort of a renegade style doing our own thing.
Q. Was it easy or difficult working with such a small budget for Lollilove?
A. In some ways the limitation of a small budget made things easier because we couldn’t get complicated, we had to think very simply. We couldn’t rent out a space and build a set, we couldn’t have elaborate lighting so it helped us move along quickly because nothing could be too complicated. On the other hand, you know it really would have been nice to have more money because I could have done things maybe a little bit more of how I imagined them. At the end movie I have this slow motion shot of the heroes of the movie, James and Jenna Gunn, and the Lollilove girls sort of walking in slow motion towards their goal of helping the homeless. It’s very funny, I love that shot, originally it was written that we pull up in like a van sort of like you know, I don’t know, a van that says Lollilove on it. Part of the idea of the parody was that we were spending all this money on things to look good rather than the people we were supposed to be helping. So, I really liked the idea that they would show up in this elaborately painted van that they had constructed just to drive around town and be noticed, but we just couldn’t afford something like that. So, you know stuff like that, little touches that we could have put would have been very funny but we just didn’t have the budget for it.
Q. Many couples try and steer clear of working together on projects, how was it getting to work alongside your husband?
A. Oh my, I don’t think we’ll ever work together again. It was intense, it was hard, it was some ways it was brilliant because we know each other more than I could know another actor or another person, so it was very wonderful on one hand. But, on the other hand you know it was, when you’re married, it’s like both people are equal and when you’re working on the film and one person is the producer and director and the person is the actor it sort of creates this kind of boss/employee hierarchy and that’s really uncomfortable when you’re shifting the status in a relationship going from this equal partners to being sort of like employee/employer type of relationship. I have to say, my husband is very stubborn, he’s strong willed and I think he had a difficult time letting me be his boss, or his director. We’d get into a lot of fights on set because of it and also he’s a little bit of a diva, he is, what can I say he knows he is, he can laugh about it. Yeah he was hard to work with but he’s so funny and he made it so funny and when we work together our chemistry is just so awesome I think, I say we’d never work together again but I can see us doing it. We just have to be really careful and I think we learned a lot from having work together this last time and I’m glad that we did it on such a small project that was very private, rather than being hired on a television show together and locking horns in front of people in the industry.
Q. Can you give us a little bit of information on the new show “The Office” and your character Pam?
A. Well, the show is based on the British show “The Office,” and it’s basically the in’s and out’s of office life in this one particular office that is in Scranton, Pennsylvania. The idea of the show is that an office is a place where you go everyday, and I’ve worked in a lot of offices, because that’s how I supported myself as a struggling actor so I was a temp, so I am very familiar with office life. Basically it’s a place where you get thrown together with all of these different people that you don’t choose to be with for eight hours a day, sometimes you see them more than you see your own family. Just, all of the different personalities come together with how they interact with one another and it’s an office comedy and I play the receptionist Pam and I am engaged to Roy who works down in the warehouse of the paper company we work. I clearly have a chemistry and a special connection with Jim, who is one of the salesman in the office. So, a lot of what the show is for me is sort of wrestling with the fact that I am in a long term relationship and engaged to somebody who I just don’t have this sort of connection with that I have with someone else who is in the office.
Q. “The Office” is a spin-off of the BBC show and we know that the show “Coupling” was also a BBC spin-off show. Coupling didn’t fair so well with viewers, do you think “The Office” will have the same difficulty?
A. Well, we already have taken a different turn, because aside from our pilot which is based largely on the BBC pilot, all the rest of our episodes are completely original. We haven’t based any of our additional episodes on any episodes of the original show and I saw one episode of “Coupling,” so I didn’t see a lot of “Coupling.” I can’t really say why there show wasn’t a success but I just think that people will love our show if they are comparing it to everything else that is on American television and stay away from comparing it directly to the BBC show “The Office.” The BBC show is just a masterpiece, a classic, I think that we’ve done the absolute best job we could possibly do with taking their idea and sort of running with it and trying to add to it rather than recreate it. We took their concept and we kind of tried to build our own show based on the concept rather than try to make a remake or a re-do, because our show isn’t that. So, people who are fans of the original will get to watch familiar aspects of these characters play out into different scenarios which I think should be kind of fun.
Q. Had you seen any of the BBC version of the television show?
A. I have seen every episode, every DVD extra, anything that I can get my hands on from the BBC show that I have seen and it’s not for research purposes, it’s because I absolutely love it! I saw the first season of the BBC show “The Office” right before I got called to audition for the the American version. I remember sitting on the couch with my husband and watching the DVD he had brought home and I was pointing to the television and I was saying, “that is what I want to do! That’s the kind of TV I want to be on, that’s what I’m talking about, why can’t we have a show like that in America?” I’m not kidding you, two weeks later I got a phone call asking me to come do an audition for the American version of “The Office,” I flipped out, I was so excited. I absolutely think that the British version of the show “The Office” is hands down the best television show ever made, hands down, ever made. It really felt like the planets aligned and I thought that I really hope that the universe isn’t placing this opportunity in front of me to break my heart. If I hadn’t gotten the role on the show, I really would have been crushed, I’m so proud of our show, I’ m so excited about it. I just think that it turned out great, I think that people are going to like it, at least I hope they do, it has the same sensibility as the British show, the same cringey slow burn humor, the same camera work, there was a rumor we were going to add a laugh track, or we’re all going to look really glamorous, none of that is true. There is no laugh track, we’re using florescent lighting, we’re in very drab clothing so it’s very authentic looking. We spent a lot of time with the creators of the original show, just picking their brains to figure out how did they make their masterpiece and they were great, I think we made them proud and I couldn’t be more excited about it. It’s this amazing mix of like artistry and pop culture and I love it.
Q. We know that you recently guest starred on the show “That 70s Show,” what was it like getting to work with such a terrific young cast?
A. That cast is outstanding, they are so funny and so professional and so kind, I can’t tell you. I particularly liked working with Topher Grace, he’s really friendly, really warm, just a really stand up guy, a class act you know. I also really loved working with Kurtwood, who plays the father on the show, he was also very sweet. He had auctioned off a day for someone to come on the set of “That 70s Show” at an auction and the woman who won was there that day and he was introducing her to everyone, just really making her experience great. I thought, “oh that’s awesome,” and also at the end of every taping the cast of “That 70s Show,” every single person comes out into the audience and signs people’s scripts and signs autographs. I just think that after seven years and to do that, just really shows they appreciate where they are, I just think they are fantastic and very, very funny.
Q. Working on shows like “That 70s Show” requires a lot of comedic timing, have you studied comedic timing and comedy in the past?
A. You know in school I got a B.A. in Theater and I’ve taken some classes since I’ve been in Los Angeles but I don’t know, I think that people are sort of either good storytellers or they’re not such great storytellers. Some of it is like your wiring and your personality, so I wouldn’t say I specifically say I studied comedic timing, it’s just something that you can feel. People who are great chefs, I mean I can follow a recipe and make a mediocre cake and there is somebody else who could just feel how much extra little dash to put in it and it turns out great. So, I think there are some things that just can’t be taught, you’re either tuned into that or your not, I haven’t really taken any comedic timing classes. There are certain rules about working on a sitcom that are different from working on a single camera show that are different than working on stage. Just different techniques in terms of waiting for laughter, there are different timings that should be learned, so I guess in that sense, yeah I don’t know, maybe I just negated everything I just said. You know different types of comedy have different rules and you can learn those different techniques. In general, I feel that comedic timing is something you sort of have it or you don’t, I guess.
Q. Do you have a most memorable moment from filming the episode of “That 70s Show?”
A. There was this one scene where, it’s the very first scene that I’m in, and I sort of with a smile insult the character of Jackie, and Wilmer as we were rehearsing kept laughing while I was doing it. I was like so, I just loved that he was being amused by the way I was doing it and that he kept laughing, that made me feel so good that I was able to make him laugh. That was kind of a very memorable moment, I guess, I felt very proud.
Q. What do you enjoy doing in your spare time?
A. I love watching TV, I’m a huge TV junkie, I have two Tivos, one in each room so I am constantly recording television shows, I love to watch television. I love like you know, I love shopping at Target especially. Just walking into a Target and going up and down the aisles looking for all those random household items that you need. I’m a big Target shopaholic and hang out with my friends, just you know seeing my girlfriends and having lunch and do yoga, just sort of girly things, I like that sort of stuff. I love animals so I spend a lot of free time playing with my pets.
Q. Is there anything that you’d like to say to your fans and supporters?
A. Wow, I guess just thanks and I would never think that I would have any fans any fans so that’s a really weird question, I don’t think anyone even really knows me. I guess I would just say thanks, thanks for letting me do what I love every day of my life, I feel really blessed that I’m able to make a living being an actress which is something I’ve dreamed about since I was a little girl. I would just say thanks and be nice to other people who are trying to pursue their dreams, I really appreciate it.