Questions for Alison Brie

Slate's Culture Blog
April 13 2011 3:54 PM

Questions for Alison Brie

Alison Brie is best known for lending thecharacters she plays a certain steely sweetness: Dutiful wife Trudy Campbell in Mad Men is full of simmering ambitionand chipper college student Annie Edison in Community knows how to get what she wants. In Scream4 , however, Brie’s character is all steel. In the latest installment of thehorror series, Brie is Rebecca Walters, the conniving publicist of NeveCampbell’s leading lady Sydney Prescott. Sydney has returned to Woodsboro,the scene of the "Ghostface" murders of ten years ago, in order to promote aself-helpy memoir she’s written about being a survivor. Brie’s ruthless Rebeccais absolutely thrilled when Ghostface returnsto terrorize Woodsboro with his stabby ways. More serial killing means Sydney’sbook will sell even more copies!

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Jessica Grose is a frequent Slate contributor and the author of the novel Sad Desk Salad. Follow her on Twitter.

Slate spoke with Brie about playing a bad girl in the latest Scream , her infamous DerbyDay dance scene from Mad Men , andthe forthcoming Community seasonfinale. (Spoiler: There’s paintball involved).


Slate : Your character in Scream 4 is a lot more evil than thecharacters you play on Mad Men and Community , but there’s a certain, let’ssay, high strung nature that they all share. Are you particularly drawn tothese edgy roles?

Alison Brie : Absolutely. I do feel drawn tocharacters that really are really high energy. Maybe it says something about me—I’ve alwaysbeen high energy and singularly focused, but for me it’s been on acting, not onevil. The tie-in with all these characters is ambition. Rebecca is focused to thepoint of lacking sensitivity to others. Annie used to be more focused on herstudies, but she has become more emotional, and she’s very distracted, by boys,or dramas in the study group. Trudy mellowed out when she was pregnant, andthen sort of snapped back into it when she had the baby—the thing that she’sworking towards is having a great family and home life. With Rebecca there isno sense of that. She wants money and power, and wants to work hard. It wasreally fun to play a bitchy publicity type.

Slate : Speaking of Trudy, one of the writersof our Mad Men TV Club had the followingquestion for you: How long did it take you and Vincent Kartheiser (who playsTrudy’s husband, rising ad exec Pete Campbell) to learn the dance for the Derby Day episode from season 3?

Brie : Vinnie and I took dance lessons for about amonth—twice a week in Santa Monica with The Dance Doctor . On set we would practice, we had been drilling and drilling. On theday when we were shooting, it didn’t quite work in the space we were supposedto do it in. Our choreographer took us outside and redid it, and we had torework it in about an hour. So I wouldsay it took us a month and about an hour to learn the dance.

Slate : It’s not quite choreography, but itmust have also taken a long time to block the epic paintball episode, "Modern Warfare" from Season 1 of Community .

Brie : It took longer than our normalepisodes take. We did a paint ball sequel that will be our finale; it’s a twoparter. It is like a dance. You’re working with someone who is shooting high-speedpaintballs at you—we have a sharpshooter come in. Once you map out where you’regoing to run and then the guy is going to shoot where you’re headed, we’re justrunning for our lives. So our reactions are very authentic.

Slate : You and your costarson Community have really embracedsocial media—you’re all Tweeting at each other and at fans. Is this somethingthat was encouraged by show runner Dan Harmon? Or by NBC? Or did you guys justdecide to do it organically?

Brie: The Twitter thing happened organically with thecast last year. I was very reluctant at first. I was not on Facebook, never didMyspace, [and neither had] a lot of people in the cast. But it’s a joke we allhave now—when one of us goes, we all follow. It just took Joel (McHale) and Donald (Glover) , and then the rest of us were like, wewant to check this out. We wanted to interact that way. When you’re shooting the TV show, and then itairs weeks or months later, you don’t get to see the fans’ reaction; it’sreally cool to have that direct line to them.

During the second season the network then picked upon it—the writers, and our characters all have Twitter, and they did some Twittersodes . If you’re following the characters you might get some insight intowhat happens on the next episode—it’s not a spoiler, it’s kind of a littlepreamble. Dan Harmon is the king of being really perceptive and taking what fans say on Twitterand incorporating [it] into episodes. The " streets ahead " thing (an expression that Chevy Chase’s character won’t stop trying tocoin)—somebody said it on Twitter trying to make fun of Dan or the show and wejust wrote it in.

Slate : I read thatyou’re about to shoot a movie where you play Emily Blunt’s sister and have a Britishaccent .Tell me more!

Brie : I leave onMonday to go to Ann Arbor to shoot Five-YearEngagement .It’s my second summer there, since that’s where we filmed Scream 4 . I might get a time share! The film stars Jason Segel andEmily Blunt and it’s directed by Nick Stoller, who directed Forgetting Sarah Marshall .   The movie is about Emily and Jason’srelationship as an engaged couple and I play her sister who is a bit quirky.   It’s probably the biggest departure for me sofar, she’s emotional, but she’s not high strung and ambitious like the othercharacters I’ve played.   She’s flightyand kind of a mess. I’ve been working on my British accent. I am working with awonderful coach, watching videos and studying Emily’s voice to get it right.

Slate : Finally, whatwas the best thing you saw on the Internet this week?

Brie : The bestthing I’ve seen on the internet this week, is on Funny or Die-- the When Harry Met Sally sequel . Helen Mirrenis hysterical and Adam Scott is so fun, I love that.

Interview has been condensed and edited.

Photograph of Alison Brie in Scream 4 courtesy of Dimension Films.

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