Born into Hollywood royalty Rashida Jones, daughter of music producer Quincy Jones and Mod Squad actress Peggy Lipton, could easily have become another club-hopping socialite. Instead over the past fifteen years the actress-writer-musician-producer and Harvard graduate has quickly established herself as one of the industry’s brightest stars. Known for her roles on “The Office” and “Parks and Recreation” and for such films as I Love You Man, The Muppets, and The Social Network, Jones breaks out in her first starring role in Celeste and Jesse Forever, which opens in theaters today, Friday, August 3rd.
Celeste and Jesse Forever, directed by Lee Toland Krieger (The Vicious Kind) and produced by Jones who co-wrote the script with her close friend and writing partner Will McCormack (Boiler Room, Elf), stars Jones as Celeste, Andy Samberg (That’s My Boy, Hot Rod) as Jesse, and McCormack as their pot-dealing friend, “Skillz”. The film tells the story of a divorcing couple that tries to maintain their friendship while seeing other people.
I recently had a chance to sit down with Rashida Jones to talk about Celeste and Jesse Forever. She discussed the films that influenced her screenplay, her short-lived relationship with her writing partner, Will McCormack, her thoughts on the leading men that she’s worked with, her least favorite performance, and her new screenplay.
Here’s what the multi-talented actress/writer/producer had to say:
Hey Rashida! Nice to officially meet you; I’ve actually run into you a couple times at a bar in the West Village that I work part-time at called Dublin 6.
Rashida Jones: You work at Dublin? Oh my god! That’s my spot! I used to live at 299 West 12th so I was there with Amy (Poehler) and Seth (Myers) all the time. Dude, I miss Dublin so much. It’s really called Dublin 6? I never realized that.
Yeah, it’s named after a postal code in Dublin. It’s how they do their postal codes over there: D1, D2, D3, etcetera.
Jones: Who’s the owner again, Lou?
Yeah, Lou is the General Manager and one of the owners there. He’s always talking about how much he loves the “Who Do You Think You Are” episode that you did.
Jones: That’s so nice. Tell him thank you. Yeah, it was super intense. We went to Ireland and Latvia.
Well anyway, nice to officially meet you. I wanted to ask you about where the idea for Celeste and Jesse Forever came from?
Jones: It definitely came from personal experience and also just seeing a lot of our friends suffer this unavoidable thing where they try to move from relationship to friendship seamlessly because they don’t want to loose each other, because they grew up together, and because they’ve put stake in their identity with this person; then they’re not able to do that because it’s impossible to just move to the next phase. We also wanted to write about pain and heartbreak, what that actually feels like and the reality of how long it takes to break up with somebody, because you see in the movies and it’s like ‘fuck you, fuck you, I’m never talking to you again,” and then they miss each other and they get back together or they meet someone else. Real break-ups take forever.
The movie was refreshing because that’s happened to me before and you don’t see that in movies much. There’s definitely been times where my friends have been confused why I’m still hanging out with my Ex.
Jones: Will (McCormack)used to always say to me, ‘you’re not done till you’re done’. It was so annoying when he said that but it’s true. You have to kind of play out every scenario first. Like in this movie life has to happen to you in such a way where you’re forced to make decisions.
Celeste and Jesse are struggling to remain friends after their failed marriage. You and your long-time friend and co-writer, Will McCormack, had a short fling. What did you learn from your relationship with him, which didn’t survive romantically but turned into a solid friendship?
Jones: We did. It was really short so I didn’t really learn anything. We learned about each other that we were clearly connected because we had an immediate thing. Sometimes when you’re young you don’t know how you’re supposed to connect you just know you really want to spend more time with somebody and there is something going on, and the thing you were going to do is get drunk and make out because that is what you do in your twenties. But you learn later that there are other versions of relationships that are, in some ways, a lot more satisfying. Will and I are best friends and we’re together everyday and we work together and that’s better than any relationship because we don’t have to get divorced.
Who broke up with whom?
Jones: Oh my god! Well there’s a little bit of a discrepancy here. He definitely dissed me. He wasn’t over his ex-girlfriend. So he just like dissed me and later, apparently, I don’t remember this because I was drunk the whole time but he apologized to me. I told him he hurt me and he apologized to me and then we were friends.
How did you meet your co-star, Andy Samberg? Was that through Amy Poehler?
Jones: I actually met Andy before Amy met Andy. He was a stand-up in LA and doing some writing. I met him at an after party for the MTV Movie Awards when Jimmy Fallon hosted and he had been hired to do some additional joke writing and they were at this after party. I met Andy a year before his whole crazy thing started. It was so weird to watch. I met him; we became friends. He said he’s auditioning for SNL and he acted out his audition for me. He got the show and moved to New York. Then the first digital film! Then the second digital film was “Lazy Sunday”! He blew up out of nowhere. It was really crazy to watch someone just blow up. But we’ve been friends for a while.
How did he become involved in this film?
Jones: You know I didn’t know if Andy wanted to do something like this because it is a little different for him. He had read the script a couple years ago as my friend, just as writer/performer to writer/performer and he was really nice and complimentary about it but a little shy about wanting to be involved in it. As the movie got put together he started to express more interest in it. He was like I can do this; this is definitely something I’m capable of doing. He was right. He did a great job.
How come your co-writer, Will McCormack, didn’t play Jesse?
Jones: I think originally we did write the script with us in mind. When we first sold it we sold it to a studio. There were all these “bankability” factors. We sold the movie with me attached and just me attached because we thought it would be easier to sell. Even I’m kind of a ship-sinker. And I guess I was because the studio folded! [laughs] As time went on Will has become more of a man and less of a man-child. That’s how long it took to get this movie made. He totally grew up and couldn’t play that anymore and then Andy just seemed really right. My chemistry with Andy seemed really right.
This film is very different from a stereotypical Romantic Comedy. Was it difficult when writing a screenplay of this nature to not fall into those trappings of RomCom cheesiness?
Jones: I guess you just have to be honest. I’ve seen so many RomComs. I love RomComs, and we just tried to invert some of those traditional archetypes and structural conventions. So we would use them and flip them a tiny bit so it was something you felt comfortable with and that you could attach to and then we would try to take you in another direction. Some people are going to be into it and some people aren’t. For some people it’s going to be too uncomfortable. We let Celeste’s descent be a little longer than they are in most RomComs. She gets to the bottom and we wanted it to be like that. It’s not necessarily everybody’s cup of tea but we wanted to be honest about heartbreak.
What were some of the movies that were floating around in your mind when you wrote this?
Jones: Not just on our mind but on the TV! [laughs] You have to steal from the best: Jim Brooks, Cameron Crowe, Nora Ephron, Woody Allen, kind of anything they made but particularly When Harry Met Sally. Broadcast News is one of my favorites. Annie Hall. Husbands and Wives, which is a little darker than this but the relationship between Judy Davis and Sidney Pollack felt similar. We stole! We stole a lot. We did hopefully slightly subtle stealing of the best.
What’s a RomCom that you absolutely can’t stand?
Jones: I don’t know. Most Romantic Comedies even at their worst you still end up watching them on TV. I just like the genre really. I can’t think of any.
You’ve worked with quite a few leading men. What’s the first thing that comes to mind when you think of…Paul Rudd?
Jones: He’s just a doll. He’s a complete delight to work with and I hope I get to work with him ten more times. We’ve been friends for fifteen years. Oh my god, fifteen years, yeah, it’s been fifteen years. He’s hilarious. Actually the last time I was here I came into Dublin 6 with Paul (Rudd), Amy (Poehler) and Adam (Scott).
Jones: Jack is so mellow and sweet and humble. Kind of anything he does is funny and he has a great voice as well.
Jones: He’s so fun and loveable, a total sweetheart, and the conduit of one of my career highlights which is The Muppets.
Jones: RoLo! The hottest man in the world! He’s hilarious, self-effacing, and so game for anything. He also has the best stories in the world and is not afraid to share them with you.
…Kermit the Frog?
Jones: Kermit is a witty, flirtatious, fun dude. I actually really love Kermit, I really do. Even though Steve (Whitmire) who is the performer for Kermit is amazing I still think of Kermit as a real entity in my mind separate from him. I still think of him as a real person; it’s sad and deranged.
What are some of your favorite performances that you’ve been in and what’s your least favorite?
Jones: I Love You Man was I think the best professional experience I’ve ever had. It wasn’t like working; we had such a good time. John Hamburg is a deeply talented person, such a cool friend, and a really good director. Just being with Paul (Rudd) and Jason (Segel) was so fun. I was at work even when I wasn’t shooting, which is a telltale sign for me. I’ve had some really good work experiences. Ultimately, for me it’s about the experience not the final product because you never know and it’s out of your hands except for this movie that I’ve just done. I had a hard time on this show I did called “Nylon” in England for Channel 4. I had a really hard time on that show. It was the first time I’ve ever been a lead in a series. It was tough. It was during the winter. There were a lot of mini-skirts being worn outside and I was out of my country, out of my element, so that was a little tough for me. But the show itself was pretty cool.
What’s next? Are you and Will McCormack currently working on anything together?
Jones: We are going to write something else, just for us, which we are going to do in our own time and send it out when we want to send it out. But we just adapted a comic book that I co-wrote a couple of years ago called Frenemy of the State.
What’s Frenemy of the State about?
Jones: It’s about a socialite who’s recruited to become a spy for the CIA because she’s the perfect cover: everyone thinks she’s an idiot; she can go anywhere; nobody questions why she’s in Dubai.
It’s like Kim Kardashian as a Secret Agent?
Jones: Yes, basically, because I went to school with all of those girls. I went to grade school with them and I used to think it would be so awesome if they were secret geniuses. Behind the sex tapes and the reality shows there’s this cultural experiment happening. So yeah, we adapted that as a film and we’ll see if it’s going to get made.
Celeste and Jesse Forever opens in theaters Friday, August 3rd!