'30 Rock' Star Kristen Schaal On Why Being Hollywood's Go-To Annoying Character Actress Is Actually Kind Of Great
Kristen Schaal is one of the hottest comedic voices in entertainment today. Over the last several years, she's had a number of memorable roles in several great comedies, taking on parts like the stalkerish Mel in Flight of the Conchords, stickler-for-the-rules Carol in Last Man on Earth, and most recently, the clingy hiker Mary Ellen in A Walk in the Woods , the new film starring Robert Redford and Nick Nolte as long-lost friends who decide to hike the entire Appalachian Trail together. And while Schaal is extremely funny in each of the roles I just mentioned, these characters all share something else in common: being really annoying.
"I think playing a character like [an annoying person], you have to be really courageous. And I like to pride myself on being someone who will play a character that will be sort of ugly, or meaner, or get under your skin," Schaal says. "I also just started joking that I'm just on direct dial in Hollywood for annoying characters."
Too often in films and TV, women are relegated to the role of the romantic interest of the male character. Or as eye candy. Or as the straight man (or in this case, straight woman) for a man to be funny around. But Schaal's work is different. She plays the annoying character, the funny character, even the character audiences might hate. She doesn't need to have a love scene or play someone more "likable," because she's perfectly happy filling the "unconventional" roles that come along. Clearly, it's working; Schaal has the attention of Hollywood, even sharing a considerable amount of screen time with legendary actors Redford and Nolte in A Walk in the Woods (out Sept. 2).
And although it might be surprising to hear considering her impressive resume, Schaal says that working alongside her co-stars was a bit intimidating, at least at the beginning.
"I was a little nervous at first because it was something where, for the first time, my parents really lit up when I told them about this job," Schaal says. "But [Redford and Nolte] are very kind."
Also co-starring with Schaal in the film is Mary Steenburgen, with whom Schaal has worked previously on Last Man on Earth and 30 Rock, and of whom Schaal is a big fan. "She stole Step Brothers," Schaal says. "That's her movie." More future projects are likely between the two stars, maybe even one that's focused on just the two of them. "Eventually Mary and I will probably be in a two-person something," Schaal says, joking that "We're like the next Meryl Streep and Mamie Gummer."
Although she's still a relative newbie when it comes to scoring film roles, Schaal has been performing comedy for over a decade. She cut her teeth in New York City's bustling stand up and improv scenes, and she's still putting her improvisational skills to good use.
"[A Walk in the Woods director] Ken Kwapis told me to think of some stuff to say on the trail, so I did improvise a bunch of stuff on the hike," Schaal says. The spontaneity worked; her performance is a mix of requisitely irritating and incredibly funny. Maybe it's time Hollywood changed their listing for Schaal from "Go-To Annoying Character" to "Go-To Great And Really Funny Character Who Makes Everything She's In Way Better." I think that has a nice ring to it.
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