Gillian Jacobs on Life of the Party, working with Melissa McCarthy and playing Mickey on LOVE
There are a lot of actors and actresses whose career I watched grow over the years. One of them is Gillian Jacobs, who is best known for playing the role of Britta on the television series, Community created by Dan Harmon. While Gillian Jacobs may not be a household name to everyone, she should be. The multi-talented actress has been working in the entertainment industry since 2006 and has been a big part of several television shows, movies, and stage plays.
If you have seen a lot of her work, it should come as no surprise when I state that Gillian Jacobs is immensely talented. I have been following her career for easily the past eight to ten years and her performances have only gotten better and better. Gillian Jacobs and I were supposed to do an interview a few years back but something happened (see below) and it never actually happened. Fast forward a few weeks ago, I finally got to talk with Gillian after seeing an early screening of Life of the Party, the new film from Director Ben Falcone starring Melissa McCarthy. Gillian Jacobs co-stars as Helen in the film.
Scott: Hi, Gillian.
Gillian: How are you?
Scott: Great. How are you doing?
Gillian: I’m doing great. Thank you very much.
Scott: I’m so excited to talk to you.
Gillian: Oh, good.
Scott: I’ve been such a huge fan of yours for so long. Something happened after I saw you get out of your car at the Don’t Think Twice press day. I was supposed to meet you for a TV interview and then something happened that day and you wound up having to cancel that same day. I never got the full details but it’s not a big deal, but I was just so bummed that day because I was so looking forward to talking with you and it stuck with me.
Gillian: I had polyps on my vocal chords.
Scott: Did you really?
Gillian: Yes. I had really severe polyps on my vocal chords, and I had to do this whole crazy voice therapy thing and be on steroids and do vocal rest, so I don’t know if that’s what happened then, but yeah, I totally lost my voice.
Scott: Oh, my. I’m so sorry to hear that.
Gillian: Yeah, it was pretty dramatic, but thankfully my voice is back and now we get to talk.
Scott: Great. It was also a bummer because I was supposed to come to the press conference today and then do this interview in person.
Gillian: Oh, I know.
Scott: I was like, no, please, I don’t want the interview to get canceled again. I apologize, I don’t want to take up too much of our time talking about this, but it’s just kind of funny because it’s like I admire your work so much and I wanted to talk to you, but it felt like it was never going to happen.
So anyway, Britta from Community, Paige from Life Partners, Mickey from Love, and even, Jill from Hot Tub Time Machine 2. You have been someone whose career I’ve followed, and who I think is an incredible talent. I do want to talk to you about other things in your career, but I we should focus on Life of the Party and then if we have a few moments we can talk about other things.
Scott: So, your character, Helen, aka Coma Girl. What the heck did you think of when you read the script?
Gillian: I thought this is a really funny movie. I hadn’t seen a movie like this that’s centered around a mom and daughter at college, and I knew Melissa is incredible, and so I was like, “I want to work with Melissa McCarthy.”
Scott: Yeah. I know she’s very iconic for being a comedienne, but I think this is one of her funniest performances to date.
Gillian: She’s pretty special. I think the world knows by now, but yeah, she’s talented.
Scott: So, the next question I had for you is, when you read the script, and you knew that you wanted to work with Melissa, what was it about your character? How much of that was you and how much of that was the script?
Gillian: A lot of it was the script but they also gave me a lot of freedom on set to improvise and play around. I haven’t actually gotten a chance to see the film in its final form, so I don’t know what percentage me or the script, so I can’t answer that question well. I’m so sorry.
Scott: No, that’s totally okay. But what is definitely all you are your wonderful facial mannerisms, which I absolutely loved, and I thought were so dead on the way you roll your eyes, or the way you pout, it just makes people laugh. My wife said the same thing. She wrote it down in her notes. She was like, “Gillian has such terrific facial mannerisms throughout this movie.”
Gillian: Oh, thank you. Thank you so much. Thank your wife for me as well.
Scott: I totally will. What was it like working with such a female-centric cast? I mean, that was something that really stood out about this movie is that there are a few male characters in it, but they really do play second fiddle to all the females and I loved that about this.
Gillian: It was great. I think we all were just so excited to go to work every day. It was such a fun, happy set to work on, and so it felt special at the time, and I think all of us really appreciated it and didn’t take it for granted.
Scott: And you worked with so many different types of producers and directors over the years from television and indie film and mainstream film … What was it about working with Ben and Melissa at the same time? What was it about their process that was different from previous directors or writers that you’ve worked with?
Gillian: I don’t know how different it is, but they’re just very collaborative. They’re very open, and clearly, because they’re a real-life couple and they’ve performed together for so long, they have such a shorthand with each other, so that was pretty interesting, cool to see, you know, a couple that has this really long-established working relationship? So, that was unique in the experience of that, but in terms of how they work, it didn’t seem so incredibly different from other experiences I’ve had, but just such an open, supportive atmosphere where they really just want everyone to be their best, their funniest. They’re always so open to people’s ideas and improv, so it’s like a fun, easy, and real family atmosphere on set. They work with a lot of the same people behind the scenes over and over again and writers on set, producers, and that’s really cool, where you feel like you’re stepping into something where these people know each other well and they like to work together, and this is a collaboration that happens regularly.
Scott: Yeah, and you can just totally tell that when watching this movie, and I will say that the trailers and the TV spots, don’t really do this movie justice. However, after seeing the film, you can tell it was a real collaborative effort from everyone, and everyone got along splendidly. There was a very natural chemistry that bounced from one person to the other throughout the film.
Gillian: Yeah. I’m glad to hear that you could tell because that’s how it felt on set.
Scott: Yeah, I really did, and I thought every one of the characters had their own moment to shine, they had their own personality type, but the actress that I thought was the weirdest and unexpected was the girl who played Lenore. Oh my, she was hilarious.
Gillian: Mm-hmm (affirmative). Yeah, and now she’s on SNL. Isn’t that amazing?
Scott: That’s terrific, and I love your character’s scene with her where you go “I like your vibe, I like your vibe.” I’m sorry I realize you didn’t see the movie, but the film is so fresh in my mind since I saw it last night.
Gillian: Oh, good.
Scott: This might be hard since you haven’t seen the final cut of the film. Was there a scene, in particular, that was difficult for you to do because it was so hilarious?
Gillian: Anything with Melissa. Anything where she’s doing any type of physical comedy just because you’re biting the insides of your cheeks to stop yourself from laughing because you don’t want to ruin a take. Yeah, she just makes me laugh. I mean, that’s not surprising to hear. She’s one of the funniest people in the world, but she’s just so funny.
Scott: Yeah, I hope to meet her, too one day. She oozes energy … I don’t know. She just has that. The word I am looking for is slipping my mind right now, but she just has that spunk that so few people have …
Gillian: Charisma, yeah.
Scott: Charisma. There you go. Working all different mediums, what’s your own personal take on the difference between each like what do you find the most challenging or the most difficult?
Gillian: Between movies and theater?
Scott: And TV.
Gillian: Goodness. They’re each challenging in their own way. You know, doing a TV series is kind of like doing a marathon, because it’s such an extended period of time, and so, keeping your energy up and just having the endurance is sometimes challenging. Doing a play is obviously very challenging in a different way because you’re performing live, you’re doing a whole thing, start to finish in front of an audience every night, you’re doing eight shows a week, so I feel like it requires a lot of discipline as a performer. And then, doing a movie can also be really challenging depending on where you’re shooting it. If you’re shooting a movie that takes almost entirely outside in the middle of the night, just like sort of that can be very challenging, or the location, things like that, but I find each one is sort of rewarding in different ways, too, some I’m lucky that I’ve been able to bounce between all of them.
Scott: So, since time flew by, I have to ask about LOVE. I rarely binge watch shows but this show just resonated with me, and I connected to the story and the characters. I was devastated at the end of Season Two, and I’ll admit it, I hated your character so very much at the end of Season Two, and then I went into Season Three and I fell in love with Mickey all over again, and you and Paul had such incredible chemistry. Can you just talk a little bit about that show and how you were able to play such a complicated character with so many flaws, but who was somehow un-hateable. I think that’s really the word. You were just so charming and lovable, even though Mickey was so flawed and did such unlikable things.
Gillian: Well, thank you. I just tried to play it as honestly as possible and it’s hard as an actor to think about things like likability. As you’re doing the scenes, I just tried to play the scenes as truthfully as possible and bring as much realism and feeling and vulnerability as I could to her, because I think she’s a character that can seem harsh to people at first, but I also feel like she’s someone who desperately wants to make connections and do better and improve herself and improve her life and have people love her, and so I think that balance in the writing and in the character sometimes getting in her own way and also just so desperately wanting to do better in her life. So, maybe that? You know? But I try not to judge the characters that I’m playing, and to just try and play them as truthfully as possible.
Scott: With every role you’ve taken on, I really do think you’ve nailed every single part, but that one for me was just such a complicated character, and the chemistry that you had with Paul Rust was just remarkable, and I had to bring it up because you were just terrific. Again, I appreciate you so much for taking the time to talk to me today. I will continue to support your career. I am rooting for you. You have a life-long fan.
Gillian: Oh, thank you. Thank you so much. I really appreciate that.
Scott: No problem, and I look forward to talking to you again soon.
Gillian: Yeah, I know I have Ibiza coming out at the end of the month, so maybe we’ll talk again soon.
Scott: Yeah, hopefully soon. Thank you, so very much and good luck, with this film. And hopefully I’ll be able to talk to you again soon and we can talk about how you liked the final cut of this movie.
Gillian: Oh, yeah, I know. I’ll have seen it by then. Okay. Thank you.
Scott: All right. Bye-bye.
Gillian: You, too. Take care.
Life of the Party opens in theaters everywhere on Friday, May 11, 2018, while Ibiza will premiere exclusively on Netflix on May 25, 2018. If you haven’t seen the Netflix series, LOVE, I highly recommend checking it out and all three seasons are now streaming on Netflix.