THE GUARDIAN – Her big break came as Trudy in Mad Men where she was ‘silent and professional’. Then it was ‘fart jokes’ in Community and wrestling in Glow. But none of that prepared Alison Brie for a call from Spielberg and a film role opposite Meryl Streep
‘Hello, it’s Ali!’ comes a text message from an unknown number. “I’m running late but I’ll see you soon!” Los Angeles born actor Alison Brie’s Twitter bio reads “Always late… but worth the wait.” It’s true – both when we meet and in terms of her acting career. Though 34-year-old Brie feels like she’s been playing catch-up her entire career, she’s now a Golden Globe- nominated actor – for her role as a female wrestler in Glow – has a starring role in James Franco’s The Disaster Artist and will soon appear in Spielberg’s new drama The Post.
As a kid she knew she was going to be an actor. Growing up in Pasadena, she wasn’t part of the central Hollywood set – “Although the girl who played the daughter in Beethoven did go to my high school.” She would act in local theatre shows, but decided against going to one of LA’s prestigious performing arts high schools, opting instead for a normal teenage experience with her friends.
“I told my mom recently,” she says, “that I thought it was cool she didn’t make me become a child actor. She said: ‘Well we tried…’ I had such integrity at a young age.”
NET-A-PORTER – A series about female wrestlers proved not just to be Alison Brie’s first starring role, but a life- and body-changing experience, too. The actress talks about working with her husband Dave Franco and finding her inner Glow with Jennifer Dickinson
A new job, a great one, can make you feel like a new person. For Alison Brie, her Golden Globe-nominated role in this summer’s surprise hit, Glow, made her look like one, too. The cult Netflix series tells the story of a group of women in the ’80s who sign up to become wrestlers, with 34-year-old Brie playing the engagingly imperfect Ruth. The actress really wanted to win the part. And even though her wide-eyed, lithe-framed, impossibly-glossy-haired brand of beauty had placed her on multiple ‘world’s most beautiful women’ lists – and this character required a helmet-like perm and borderline-steroid muscles – she didn’t hesitate. In fact, it made her desire it more.
“I’d really been wanting to do something where I looked totally different, because I felt like in all the roles I’d done in the past,” – including Trudy in Mad Men, Annie in Community, and Lucy, the online-dating expert in How to be Single – “I’d always looked the same. Nobody would ever let me cut my hair. Every job that I’d get, I’d be like, ‘Maybe she has a short, blond bob?’ And they’d say, ‘What? No! You’re gonna look how you look, that’s why we cast you to do the part.’”
But while a bad perm only involves a few hours and an assault on your nasal passages, a body that looks as though you spend a minimum of three hours a day in the testosterone-thick weights corner of the gym takes, well, three hours a day minimum in the gym. And making those physical changes turned out to be a psychological game changer for Brie, too.
“It’s not just, ‘Oh, we got in amazing shape for this show, so I feel great’,” says the actress, displaying the fruits of the very labour we are discussing in a pair of denim shorts and a ‘We should all be Mirandas’ T-shirt with the sleeves rolled back, showing both her love of Sex and the City’s most under-appreciated character and some very impressive triceps. “It was more about learning to use our bodies in this totally different way,” she explains. “It really changed the way I felt about my body. It felt so empowering and exciting, and it proved that we were capable of so much more than we expected. Glow is such a body-positive show; all of the women on it feel really comfortable in their bodies, and that is such a healthy thing to be surrounded by.”
The Glow workouts, says Brie, have flipped the script on the traditional, society-honed view of what women’s bodies should look like and what we should strive for ours to be. But the actress thinks that men can be just as hard on themselves, if not more so. “In my experience, it’s the men that I’ve worked with who have been much more obsessed with what they were eating and what sort of shape they were in, talking about that kind of stuff,” she says.
“On [our] show, if we’re talking about our bodies, it’s because we’re talking about a [wrestling] move that we’re learning, or workouts that we’re doing to prepare for a move.”
Take a look at Brie’s Instagram (@alisonbrie) and you’ll find – and start watching on repeat – video clips of her intense training sessions. We’re talking bear crawls, pull-ups, hauling three times her own bodyweight. When we meet, the actress has just begun filming season two and is working out like the professional athlete she portrays. “While you’re doing something really physical and it has to do with your body and being healthy, the goals are not necessarily about weight-loss, which is so important,” she says.
Even between seasons, pressure dissipated, Brie keeps up the pace. There is an unmistakable aura of the worker bee about her; a sense of someone who is not exactly driven to succeed, but who actually enjoys getting up each morning (before her alarm, no doubt) and getting stuck into a challenge. She is also to-the-core nice. Smiling, unpretentious, almost effervescent with contagious happiness vibes –perhaps a byproduct of all those exercise-induced endorphins.
Today’s meeting spot – chosen by her – is a stone’s throw from some of LA’s most popular hiking trails and within screeching distance of a group of five year olds and their particularly resilient piñata. Her husband, actor Dave Franco, was here with her until a few minutes ago and this is one of their regular haunts – getting outside, being on the move, is pretty much essential for this California native. Relaxing is not really in her repertoire. After months of pushing her body to its limits for Glow, she barely paused to recover: “I took a two-week ‘break’, just running and doing mellower workouts. I love to workout, so I try to [do it] six days a week: three or four days with my trainer, then cardio at weekends.”
As well as exercising, she used the show’s hiatus to film The Post (out Dec 22), Spielberg’s examination of the US battle between media and government. Co-starring Tom Hanks and Meryl Streep, Brie clearly still can’t believe that she is part of such a team. “Shooting [it] was so exciting and insane, it was just like a dream,” says the actress. “It’s Steven Spielberg, it’s Meryl Streep, it’s Tom Hanks…it’s just super surreal. And it’s about this whole thing that couldn’t be more relevant right now.”
But neither The Post or Glow are what Brie is here to talk about, happy though she is to veer off course. This month sees the release of The Disaster Artist, an indie project directed, produced by and starring her brother-in-law James Franco, the first film on which he has teamed up with his younger sibling Dave. The unusual plot centers on the story the 2003 film The Room, otherwise known as ‘the worst film ever made’. Conceived and made by the eccentric Tommy Wiseau, who has a cameo in Franco’s movie, The Room became cult viewing because of its many plot holes and inconsistencies. It’s an unusual premise and it’s taken two years to finish, but the reviews are stellar.
Signing up was a no-brainer, says Brie. “It was a last-minute decision.
Maybe two weeks before they started filming they were like, ‘Oh, do you want to play Dave’s girlfriend?’ And I said, ‘Why not?’”
Brie and Franco met in 2012 and married earlier this year. “We spent the first few years of our relationship on opposite sides of the world, because I was shooting TV shows that were based here [in LA], and he was shooting movies that were in Berlin, London, places like that,” says the actress. “It was kind of great, because on my breaks I could travel the world, but it’s hard to be apart from your partner, so to shoot this with him and James was very special.” While film used to be Brie’s ultimate goal – “When I was small, I performed all the time for my parents and my neighbors, putting on costumes, creating characters and doing sketches, singing songs… I just probably always wanted attention and liked the feeling of entertaining” – it is the small screen and Glow’s Ruth that have finally fulfilled her.
“I was such a snob when I was in theater school; I never thought I would do TV,” she says. “[But] this job has completed me in so many ways. I don’t just feel proud of my work, I feel proud of the show and what it is – that it is representative of powerful women, women creating their own way and finding success for themselves. Maybe in my mind I had this dream of being a movie star, but as the dream has become realized, I’m like, ‘Oh, no, this is the dream.’ The first season of shooting was unlike anything that I’d experienced, it was like euphoria all the time. [The set] feels a little like an island of misfit toys, I think, which is an environment I’m comfortable in.”
Even challenges such as the show’s nudity and Brie’s first in-depth sex scene felt empowering rather than nerve-wracking, she insists.
“Very early on in auditioning it was a case of, ‘Don’t come to any more auditions unless you’re comfortable with nudity, because it is a part of the show.’ It was a deal-breaker, for sure. At that time, I just wanted to be on the show so much that I really didn’t care. It was important that the show be a realistic portrayal of life in the
way people live and the way they have sex. And also that our show be about every aspect of women’s bodies, and women not being ashamed of their bodies. We’re not being shot in a way that’s over-sexualizing us, or exploiting us. I found it very freeing and empowering, and I’m so glad that
I did it.”
Glow may have made Brie look different, but it’s changed her irrevocably on the inside, too. Here’s to jobs that do that for all of us. Though hopefully without the ’80s perm.
The Disaster Artist is out now
Alison is NYLON’s December/January digital cover! Check out the photoshoot and interview below.
The actress is ascending into true stardom
NYLON – Name a mediocre movie, like any mediocre movie, from the mid-’80s to early-’90s—Look Who’s Talking, Defending Your Life, Just One of the Guys, um, Look Who’s Talking Too—and Alison Brie has not only seen it, but can quote from it extensively, describe its most arcane plot details, and even sing—full voice, at the drop of a hat—its Cher-helmed end credits song.
Let Alison Brie—with an assist from her trainer, Jason Walsh—lead you on a deadlifting, bench-pressing, hip-thrusting journey of true transformation.
WOMEN’S HEALTH – Alison Brie doesn’t want to talk about shooting the second season of the Netflix “lady wrestler” hit, GLOW. Or the two Oscar-bait movies she’s in this month. Her wedding to actor Dave Franco (brother of James) earlier this year? Thanks, but she’ll pass. The 34-year-old would rather wax poetic about split squats. (Yeah, the brutal, one-legged kind.)
“I just did my heaviest ones ever—80 pounds,” she says, slipping her legs, still clad in black camo workout pants, under a weathered picnic table in Los Angeles’s Griffith Park. “Usually I peak at 50, but today we went up and I was like, ‘Oh my god!’ It was intense.”
Alison’s enthusiasm makes sense when she describes how her workouts of the past two years have had a ripple effect on her entire life. “I came out of it feeling like a totally different person. It changed everything.”
On Dolly Parton, Binge-Watching, And Where To Eat In Paris
Alison Brie stole our hearts on Community, and we’re pretty sure she’s about to do it again on GLOW (premiering June 23 on Netflix). To say we’re excited to watch her new show would be an understatement. Female wrestlers in 80’s clothes and makeup? Yes, please. We sat down with Brie to talk about everything from the best restaurants in Paris, which five guests she’d have at her dream dinner, and of course the funniest thing that happened on the set. Read below for the full interview; it’s the perfect read to kick of your week…
From start to finish, what would be your ideal food day?
I’d start my day with my usual apple with almond butter and white tea, then have a post-workout protein shake made with protein powder, spinach, and a scoop of coconut oil. Then I’d head to Go Get Em Tiger in LA for midday soft scrambled eggs with avocado and toast. For dinner, I’d have a hearty quinoa bowl with pan-seared salmon and a mix of roasted veggies topped with plenty of Sriracha, home-cooked by me.
With the seventh and final season of Mad Men off to a great start, seeing how much Don, Joan, Peggy and the gang have changed over the years is more obvious than ever. One of the most dramatic transformations of all is that of Trudy Campbell, played by the talented Alison Brie, who goes from being head-over-heels in love with her husband Pete Campbell, to kicking him out of their family home in season 6. We caught up with the actress, currently starring alongside Adam Scott in a series of hilarious videos for Smirnoff, to find out what it was like developing Trudy as a character, and how she grew from year to year.
“It’s really interesting working on a TV show like this where everything that happens to the character is a constant surprise,” Brie tells InStyle.com exclusively. “I think Trudy started out seeming very superficial and driven by money and appearances. We definitely saw real growth as she struggles with trying to conceive and start a family, which makes you realize that she has more at stake in this life, and has deeper wants and needs than it appeared.”
Are you guys done now?
We’re done – I’m just walking off the lot now. And it’s so strange, because they’ve already broken down the whole set. We’re only shooting these thirteen episode seasons, so they tear down the entire thing. It’s so sad.
And they’ll build it again next year?
Right, right. Or maybe never again. Maybe that’s why it’s sad.
So you’re talking to me instead of celebrating?
Yeah, you’re helping me through the pain.
How does it feel to have the gang back together?
It’s great. I’ve seen the first episode and some of the other ones and they’re just great. It’s so wonderful having Dan [Harmon] back. The material is excellent. I think it’s better than it’s ever been, which is super strange for the fifth season of a show. Having done last season without Dan, I think that everyone was really rejuvenated to have him back and to be back at all. Every year we think that we’re not coming back, especially last year, so there was general excitement just to be back and have Dan back and see what he was going to come up with. And as we shot the season, the material just got better and better.
After a brief stop at Comic-Con this weekend, the cast of Community begins production Monday on Season 3 of the much-adored (except by stubborn Emmy voters) NBC comedy. Creator Dan Harmon will no doubt let loose with a few spoilers for the faithful assembled at the Con, but he knows there’s also a loyal core of fans who won’t be able to make the schlep to San Diego. As such, he agreed to take a break from writing next season’s episodes to fill in Vulture readers on what to expect from the new season: new characters, the status of Annie-Abed, and just what he has planned for the show’s annual Halloween episode. For those whose questions didn’t get asked, don’t worry: We promise to track Mr. Harmon down again before the season begins.
So: Annie and Abed. What is the status going into the third season? We saw that amazing kiss. Will there be more, or will this continue your policy of just having everyone hook up with everyone?
The latter. But there’s only so many people, so sooner or later people gotta hook up second times. The first order of business is to make good on the insinuation that we made in the first season that any of these people could end up together, in any combination.
So are the Annie and Abed ‘shippers going to be happy or pissed?
If there [is] an Abed/Annie ‘shipper out there, they would be frustrated that I was doing it in the way that a reset button could be hit on it. Because [in the Season 2 finale] Abed isn’t being Abed, Abed’s being Harrison Ford. But the concept that the writers have talked about for several seasons [is] the idea that Abed would have a persona that Annie might have a relationship with, so to speak. Annie has a very specific taste in men, and Abed doesn’t by default fit that profile. But he’s capable of becoming Jon Hamm, or Jeff Winger, or Hans Solo. We do have more plans for that area. We won’t be hitting on that in the first episode, but there’s lots of fun to be had.
What about the rumors of a new professor? And what will the gang be studying this semester?
They’re going to be taking biology. The general idea with this season is to add — on one hand in a real way, and on the other hand in an absurd way — a certain amount of groundedness and reality to the series. Because the detractors of our show complain that there’s a distancing that takes place because we have such a silliness and far-fetchedness. Doing the themed episodes, and having every episode stand on its own as its own little movie, [they say] that you’re not able to get hooked on the show. If last year we were a bunch of loose pearls that were rolling all over the floor that you could slip on, hopefully this year those pearls will have a string through them that makes them all one thing.
Any other new characters?
[We’re adding] the vice-dean of Greendale’s air conditioning repair annex. The Greendale Community College only has one part of it that is actually nationally renowned, and it’s their air conditioning repair program. And it’s sort of a separate annex on the campus that puts itself above the rest of the school, and ironically has more power than the campus itself. It’s much like a Big Ten university’s football coach having more power than any administrator or faculty. It’s going to be part of a larger story that I think should be really cool.
A dream sequence is just too lame?
Yeah, well you can’t tell the audience — well, you can, but I don’t like to tell the audience — that anything they’re watching doesn’t matter.
What special episodes do you have mapped out so far?
In the first six, you’ll be seeing an episode in which you actually see multiple timelines. And that’s cool. Again, the danger of that is you’re now telling the audience, well, some of this stuff didn’t happen. So why are they supposed to care? The answer, in this case, is that because you’re seeing multiple timelines, you’re seeing different circumstances. And each of those circumstances is bringing preexisting things about the characters out to the surface. So even though this person in this reality didn’t slap this person, we now know this person wants to.
How about Halloween?
We might do a sort of anthology-type Halloween episode. Which means we’ll be telling stories that are just stories, and they don’t matter to the canon of the show. And that’s something you can justify more on Halloween than you can in a regular episode.
Okay, back to Vulture readers’ questions. From Falcon15: “Dear Dan Harmon, have you seen the GQ shoot with Alison Brie and Gillian Jacobs? Will you please allow that photo shoot to inspire next season’s overarching story line about Annie and Britta’s entrance into the world of lesbian-tinged S&M?”
You’re talking about my daughters, essentially, so back off, mister! They’re out there for you, and I make money off of you leering at them. But I have to be careful about exploiting them myself. It feels very icky. I love those girls and I love those characters, so when I dress Annie up in a cleavage-enhancing outfit, I’m always dying inside. It kills me to have to do it for the public. But I do it sparingly.
Thanks to Andie for sending me the link!
As far as we’re concerned, Alison Brie can do no wrong. She has the small but pivotal role of Trudy Campbell on “Mad Men,” arguably the best drama on TV, and she’s among the primary cast of “Community” on NBC, arguably the best sitcom to air in years — unless you’re among the NextMovie staff, where we accept no arguments. (It is. Case Closed.) Now Brie appears in “Scream 4,” the latest tongue-in-cheek slasher from horror auteur Wes Craven, playing “Scream” veteran Neve Campbell’s greedy and overbearing publicist Rebecca. As she tells NextMovie, “[Rebecca] is pretty cold, she’s missing that sensitivity chip. She’s not as wholesome a character as I usually play.”
Read on for Brie’s shocking “Scream 4” spoiler (we’re pretty sure she’s kidding… we think) and how she needs your help to achieve her next career goal.
So level with us. You’re the killer this time, right?
[Laughs] Yeah, oh yeah. I was just tired of all these young, beautiful actresses being around. I thought, “There can be only one.”
On tonight’s episode of Community, the study group throws a Pulp Fiction-themed birthday party. But don’t expect a total movie spoof: Vulture caught up with Alison Brie at an event hosted by Dewar’s at the Redbury and Cleo Restaurant in Hollywood last night, and she told us, “The main storyline is a parody of a much more cultish, if you can imagine, independent film-following type; the Pulp Fiction storyline is the secondary storyline. You’ll see great Pulp Fiction costumes … am I teasing enough?” Sort of. But judging from the rest of our conversation, Josh Holloway’s face is the real tease: The Community crew is shooting the May 12 season finale with him, and Brie said he had a dreamy effect on the cast and crew.
What are the big things we should look for as we move toward the end of this season of Community?
We have the big paintball sequel season finale — that’s going to be an hour long, and there’s a lot of exciting stuff in it. Josh Holloway from Lost makes an appearance and he and Joel have a “handsome off,” as I like to call it, between the two of them. That was kind of the vibe on the set, as well. Everyone on set — guys and girls alike — were fawning over Josh. I was calling it “the Josh Holloway effect”: Everyone was on their best behavior, looking better than ever. Our male producers would talk to Josh for five minutes and then they’d walk over and say, “He really is attractive, isn’t he?” It was so funny. There were a lot of man crushes, absolutely, and we’re also hardcore Lost fans so you’re like, “This is a face I’ve been looking at for six years.” You can’t help but be enamored by it. And he’s great on the show: His part is very cool, he plays this kind of mysterious character and he and I have some great scenes together. We even added some stuff while we were shooting because it was going well; they appreciated our chemistry. In the finale, you definitely see a different side of Annie and one of the ways that’s reflected is that you see a little more skin than Annie is used to showing.
Does she chloroform anyone?
She may not chloroform — but for the record, that’s one of my favorite scenes of the whole season. I have a scar on my hand from when we shot that scene.
How are you feeling about the news that came out this week about Mad Men’s production delay?
I feel okay about it because I’m going to be busy shooting a movie this summer, Five Year Engagement, which Judd Apatow is producing. I play Emily Blunt’s sister. I’ll be using a British accent because Emily will be using her normal accent. Jason Segel is in it. Jason and Nick Stoller wrote it, and Forgetting Sarah Marshall [written by Segel] is one of my favorite movies. These guys are so much fun. We start shooting in Ann Arbor at the end of April and we’ll shoot all through the summer, almost until we start back on Community. So I was actually a little relieved to hear the Mad Men news because I’ll be in Ann Arbor all this time.
One final unrelated question: Who do you think is the new Rebecca Black?
Isn’t Rebecca Black the new Rebecca Black?
That’s like “black is the new black.”