About a month ago, I had the opportunity to interview Lauren Lapkus for the Netflix comedy, The Wrong Missy. I have been a fan of Lapkus work for quite some time now but this was the first time that I had the chance to speak with her. We spoke for about 17 minutes and covered a lot of ground within that time. We managed to talk about everything from how she got started in the business to what her favorite reality television shows are. The full interview is below:
Lauren Lapkus: Hi Scott!
Scott Menzel: Hey Lauren, how are you?
Lauren Lapkus: Good. How are you doing?
Lauren Lapkus: I’m hanging in there. I’m okay.
Scott Menzel: About the same. I know that you are normally out doing different shows and events, and because of the whole Covid-19 virus, I know you haven’t been able to do that. It’s got to be a weird change of pace for you.
Lauren Lapkus: Yeah, it is really strange. I think it’s that weird feeling where when you’re so busy, all you want to do is stay home and then suddenly when everything’s taken away, it’s like, “Oh no, I think I like being busy better.” So I do miss everything. I miss seeing people.
Scott Menzel: It’s strange, because I think there are some good takeaways from all of this, as weird as that is to say. I think you can appreciate certain things a little bit more and you can learn to compromise, but then there’s also elements where you’re just kind of like, “I’m just going stir crazy and I want to get the hell out for a little bit.”
Lauren Lapkus: Totally. I’ve gotten sick of the paint color in my house. I just want to see different walls.
Scott Menzel: Haha. I totally feel you there. Well, I have to tell you that I’m a fan. I’ve been following your work and enjoyed you in films like Opening Night, which I remember seeing at the LA Film Festival and falling in love with. And then, The Unicorn, which I saw at SXSW. And then you popped up in films like Dog Days, which I thought was just very cute and heartwarming. You’re just so charismatic and very funny.
Lauren Lapkus: Thank you so much.
Scott Menzel: Absolutely, no problem. So I wanted to go back to the beginning of your career and start with something that I think a lot of interviews kind of miss out on and that is a little bit of your background. Can you talk a little bit about how you got started in the industry?
Lauren Lapkus: Yeah, I guess when I was in high school, I started taking improv classes at Improv Olympic in Chicago. That was really the huge thing for me, where I started finding my voice comedically and figuring out how I would end up getting my dream of becoming an actor. I think that path can be so amorphous and hard to figure out when you have no connections to the industry. So at the time just doing improv was a great creative outlet. Then I could see that it led to things like Saturday Night Live or TV shows and the teacher that was there.
I started out doing that stuff and kept doing that but for the last 15 years I’ve been doing improv and that’s really been the through line through everything because it’s how I got my first manager. It’s how I got my first roles. My first TV role ever was a sketch on Jimmy Kimmel with Ryan Reynolds. I got that because of doing improv because Jimmy’s wife, Molly, who’s the head writer of his show, also was an improviser and saw me doing improv and suggested me for that role. So, it really has connected me to everything that has built my career.
Scott Menzel: That’s such a great story. I think that so many people within the industry get their start doing something kind of unexpectedly. Where you’re just in the class one day and then you meet someone who has a connection with another person and then your career kind of launches from that point on. That’s like the dream Hollywood story.
Lauren Lapkus: Yeah, I mean, even crazier, I got my first commercial agent through Twitter because at the time I was following this agent online who would post advice for commercial acting and I wanted to get into commercials and stuff like that. He tweeted one day, “It’s my birthday. The first five people to write Happy Birthday and you will get a meeting.”
His name was Mark Measure. He was at Abrams Artists at the time and I responded to him and I got a meeting with him and then he signed me as my commercial agent and I started getting commercials. It really was like … that is the most random thing. That’s why it’s so hard to give advice to actors in this business because things have come out of nowhere. I never would have gotten that meeting if I wasn’t on Twitter at the time. I can’t even tell you how that worked out.
Scott Menzel: I mean, weird things happen on social media all the time.
Lauren Lapkus: I will say that was 2010. So that was a little bit different, but yeah. Now it is more likely that would happen.
Scott Menzel: Absolutely. You said you started off in improv, which obviously you’ve done a lot of that even still to this day around the LA area and various other cities. What is it about comedy that just inspires you and draws you into it?
Lauren Lapkus: Really just how free I feel when I do it. I have so much fun doing big characters. In my improv, in my podcasting life, I usually am playing really big characters. So to be able to do a role like this was so cool because I’ve never had the chance really, besides things that I’ve written to play a character that’s crazy.
Scott Menzel: So, this is actually the second time that you teamed up with the Happy Madison gang. You were in Blended and now this film where you are the leading lady in it. I feel like this is like a big chance for people to see what makes you so damn funny and entertaining. What is it like being part of the Happy Madison family?
Lauren Lapkus: It’s really cool. I truly was so thrilled when I got to do that small part in Blended. That was just amazing for me at the time. I never expected to end up like this, where I got to have a leading role in a Happy Madison movie. And really, those guys are so cool. They’re so nice. I really appreciate the loyalty that I see represented in the crew and the cast and everything that Adam does. I think it’s really nice. I think he has such an opportunity to help out people in his life and end up beautiful. There are so many people on the cast and crew who have been working with him for 20 years or more. Hair and makeup and just every single department has people who have been working with Adam for so many years. I think that’s really awesome.
And one thing that is hard about this business I think when you are in a movie or a TV show, starting something new or a guest player in something, you’re going to a crew where you have to meet a million people for the first time. I think it’s really nice to set up an environment where everyone really knows each other so when new people come in, they’re received so warmly and it’s really easy to just fall in line with everyone in a good way.
Scott Menzel: I get this great sense of family and loyalty in the production company. It seems like a lot of people come back. I mean, we always say, “Oh, there’s David Spade or there’s Rob Schneider again, yada yada, yada.” But I also think, and I’m glad you pointed out that there’s a lot of people behind the scenes. The production team who most people don’t normally recognize but who are also getting repeat jobs and being part of their production company for so long. That’s great that you pointed that out.
So, I like this character because she reminds me of a lot of stuff that you’ve done, but you just don’t hold back with this character. Some of the lines of dialogue that come out of your mouth, I really don’t know how you said them, but I did enjoy the raunchiness of some of this stuff that you came up with. Seriously. It was fucking hilarious.
Lauren Lapkus: Thank you. Thanks so much.
Scott Menzel: I interviewed Tyler Spindel (the director of The Wrong Missy) and he was telling me that some of this stuff was on the paper but then some of it was improvised. He told me there were moments where he would just say something like “Okay, go ahead, Lauren go ahead and improvise this scene. Do what the hell you want to do.” What is your proudest moment that you improvised in this movie?
Lauren Lapkus: Oh my God, well, oh, it’s hard to say. I saw it a while ago so I also don’t remember exactly what they kept in and what didn’t stay in. But I think one of my favorite parts is the blind date at the beginning of the film when I was just screaming in the restaurant. A lot of that was improvised and a lot of that was lines that were being thrown to me in the moment that were not in the script. That was a really, really fun day because it was my first scene that I was shooting with David and the pressure was on and it was very exciting. So, that stands out as a memorable moment.
Scott Menzel: Speaking of David, this to me was a nice change of pace for him because we’re used to seeing him in a very sarcastic kind of role. I feel like whenever I see David Spade, whether it’s from back in SNL days or the Chris Farley movies, or even some of his earlier work like Lost and Found or Dickie Roberts, he’s sarcastic. That’s kind of his thing. And then in this one he kind of plays it straight and he has to deal with you and you’re just wild, crazy and over the top. It’s interesting to see that, that role reversal for him. Working with him, what were some qualities that you would say that you really admire about him as an actor?
Lauren Lapkus: He’s so generous as an actor and really let me do my whole thing. There was never that feeling of competition in the performance with him. He is so funny. I love watching him as a straight man. I think he has some of the funniest lines in the movie just being tired of me or wanting me to leave or whatever. He is just hilarious. He can make anything funny. So yeah, I I love doing scenes with him because he let me go off the deep end and would just throw in a funny line here and there to ground the scene and make it more real. It was really, really fun.
Scott Menzel: So the film requires a lot of physical comedy on your part, which again, leads back into your days of improv. Going off that, which of those were your favorite to the film in terms of the physical humor stuff?
Lauren Lapkus: Oh man. I mean the physical stuff was the hardest for me. It often stressed me out a little bit because I’m not a stunt person and I don’t really know how to do a lot of crazy physical stuff. It was challenging. I think the part where I had to dive off the pier and … I had three stunt doubles who were kind of rounding out every stunt that I did. Whatever you see where my face is there with me, but then it might be someone else if they’re doing something really challenging or crazy because these women that they brought on were so amazing. I really was so grateful to have them because I could not have done any of the stuff that they were doing. Just throwing themselves off the side of the cliff and doing … I mean, didn’t literally fall off the side of a cliff but there was one woman in the harness being flipped over and over and over again, down the face of the cliff. I mean, truly that there’s some stuff that I would never have been able to pull off, so I appreciated that.
Scott Menzel: Yeah, like I said, I think he did a really good job of balancing the two. And I also think I got to give you credit for your performance is that it’s over the top. It’s a lot to take in at a time, so I’m just going to be totally transparent with you that by the time the movie gets to the second, into the third act, you really start feeling for your character. You see where she’s going, see what you’re going for with it and you just really wind up falling in love with the character.
Lauren Lapkus: Thank you.
Yeah, the fact that you have that dynamic with Spade, I think that chemistry was spot on. I always wonder, how do you create that? Did you guys know each other before this?
Lauren Lapkus: We didn’t know each other before this and we met in Hawaii and Tyler had us do a couple rehearsals where we would just pretty much just sit at a table and read the script. We just got a little comfortable with the script, but he truly is such a warm person that it was really easy to connect with him and joke around with him and build that chemistry as friends while we were shooting. I really appreciated that because people can stay off in their own world or people who are big celebrities, don’t always give that time of day to people. I think that he was somebody who was really open to seeing what I had to bring to the table. I thought that was really cool. We were also both fans of The Bachelor, so we would watch The Bachelor on Monday nights. There was always something to talk about if you’ve got a Bachelor fan in the room.
Scott Menzel: So, The Bachelor is your reality TV guilty pleasure?
Lauren Lapkus: Yeah. I mean, I don’t even feel guilty about it. I have just pleasure. I watch reality TV all the time. I love 90 Day Fiancé. I love Married At First Sight. Too Hot To Handle was good. I mean, I’ll watch them all. So there’s no guilt here.
Scott Menzel: Well, the show that I will tell you that I’m into right now and I cannot believe that I like it is The Masked Singer. It’s so addicting and ridiculous, but it’s good.
Lauren Lapkus: I resisted it for a long time and then once I got in the quarantine, I started watching it and now, I’m obsessed. But I think they ran out of episodes because it was live. So now I don’t know what is going to happen.
Scott Menzel: Yeah. I know. They’re not going to be able to do it. They were supposed to do a tour this summer and everything. It’s crazy.
Lauren Lapkus: Oh no.
Scott Menzel: Alright, I know we have to wrap this up so my last question is as someone who has made the leap into all these different avenues from doing stand up to improv to television to shorts to film, etc. What are the challenges between them?
Lauren Lapkus: I mean, they all have their own challenges. But the nice thing is how well they weave together. I think when you’re doing improv for years in Chicago, especially where it’s removed from the whole Hollywood scene and people are really doing it more for the art form and the craft then for some sort of end result, it can feel like you wouldn’t see how it would connect to acting on film as much, because you’re just doing it on stage for small crowds and it has different rewards. But then being able to apply it to these jobs has been really cool for me. I think I’ve been surprised by how much all of that effort and work put into this art form has come in handy once we get on screen. I really am grateful for that.
Scott Menzel: Great. Well, thank you again. It was so nice and lovely to talk to you and lots of continued success. Hopefully when you do a show sometime in LA, whenever the hell we get back to normal here, I’ll definitely try to come see one of your improv shows live because I would love to do that.
Lauren Lapkus: Thank you. That would be great. Thank you.
Scott Menzel: Well, have a wonderful day and stay safe and healthy.
Lauren Lapkus: You too. Thanks.
Scott Menzel: All right. Bye-bye.