Friday, April 5, 2013

Interview: Megan Mullally

Posted By on Fri, Apr 5, 2013 at 4:40 PM

Megan Mullally performing in Australia. Shell doing a similar show in New Orleans Saturday.
  • Andrew McLeod
  • Megan Mullally performing in Australia. She'll doing a similar show in New Orleans Saturday.
You may know her from her Emmy-winning role as Karen on the hit NBC series Will & Grace, but Megan Mullally has done about a thousand other things since then: she's had memorable roles on shows including Party Down, Childrens Hospital, 30 Rock, Happy Endings and Parks and Recreation; she returned to Broadway in the 2007 musical adaptation of Young Frankenstein; and she's joined bands, most recently Nancy and Beth with Friday Night Lights actress Stephanie Hunt. Mullally is also also one half of everyone's favorite celebrity couple — she's married to Parks and Recreation star Nick Offerman.

On Saturday she performs in a concert/onstage interview as part of the Broadway at NOCCA series (which previously presented concerts with Patti LuPone and Sutton Foster) hosted by Seth Rudetsky. Here's more from our interview from this week's Gambit, in which we talked about Nancy and Beth, Will & Grace and her relationship with Offerman.

I loved Nancy and Beth's cover of "Smell Yo' Dick." How did that idea originate?

Nick and I did a movie in Cleveland last summer called Toy's House that went to Sundance last summer and got bought and it's now called Kings of Summer. It's getting released in May or June. Anyway, the guy who played my husband in that movie was not Nick, it was this actor Marc Evan Jackson. He's a super funny improv-based actor. And he suggested it. He kind of looks and acts like a CPA in real life so I thought "Oh yeah, that's gonna be great." But I don't know why I would ever doubt him because he's insanely funny. Indeed I did look it up, I did love it and that's when that happened.

Nancy and Beth is a fairly new project, right?

Yeah, we started around June or July, I guess ...

We've been touring a little bit. We had some shows in Alexandria, Va. and Boston. Stephanie went with me to Australia and during my show with Seth Rudetsky we did a song or two. Then we've mostly been doing stuff around the Los Angeles area ... and we're going to be at the Sasquatch! music festival ...

It's really been fun, though. I love the sort of grassroots feel of it. We were trying to get the gays to come to (Las Angeles club) Largo, where we play here a lot, so we were out on a Sunday and we stood on the corner of — in West Hollywood there's an area that's unoffically named "Gay Town." So we stood on the main corner where there is a rainbow colored crosswalk and we went up to people and handed them flyers to the Nancy and Beth show, and Stephanie brought her ukelele and we played and sang. There's something about that that I love.

Is having to start from the ground up and promote a band yourself a new thing for you?

It's not a new thing with having a band to promote, because I'm in a band called Supreme Music Program. But it's a new thing for now, and that's what I really like, actually. We don't have a free pass to anything — we have to work from the ground up like anyone else. And no body gives a shit — it's actually a point against me that I'm an actress who was on a popular sitcom. We have to work against that to establish ourselves as a legitimate band that has its own appeal besides my acting career.

Will this be your first time in New Orleans?

I've been to New Orleans a lot and I love it. My husband and I were there about a year ago and had the best time. We took a carriage ride through the French Quarter. It was insanely beautiful at sunset — it was ridiculous. This time I guess we're staying close to the French Quarter so that'll be nice. I love New Orleans and this'll be my first time doing the show with Seth here.

You two have done this show in Provincetown, Mass. before, correct?

We did some shows in Provincetown together last summer and those were very loose and informal. Then we went to Australia for a couple of shows and those were really great. The Provincetown shows went really well, too ... but this show is a teeny bit more structured. When we did Provincetown I wouldn't even know what song Seth wanted to do next; he'd just pick one out of the air and I'd be like "Oh, OK!" This time around we more or less have a setlist, but we still have that format of I do a song, and he and I go sit and chair for a while and he makes me tell embarrassing stories about myself.

In your training and growing up, what kind of performance were you interested in doing?

I was interested in everything. Even though my father was technically an actor, growing up he wasn't really acting anymore. Very sporadically he'd do something regionally or maybe do a play in Dallas or something. So it wasn't like I grew up in a showbiz family or anything. I sort of sprang from the womb in a top hat and tap shoes and a little cane ready to sing and dance for the people.

I spent my entire only childhood secluded away in my bedroom by myself making up dances and dramatically singing in front of the mirror. So that's how all that happened. It wasn't really my choice, it was just what came over me. It was an irresistable attraction.

You do so many different different types of work — television, film, stage, voiceover spots. Is it difficult to transition in doing different things?

I think it's pretty easy — it's all about telling a story. It holds true for everything, even appearing on a talk show ... I think we're in the service industry and the service we're trying to provide is entertainment of one sort or another, successful entertainment ... I really equally enjoy doing everything, except I would say on a certain level Nancy and Beth I might secretly enjoy a little bit more becasue it's completely our own thing. We get to do whatever we want and we don't have to answer to anyone. There's something joyful about that.

You're involved in the comedy world. Did you ever study improv?

No, I never studied acting even. I never studied acting and I never took an improv class — was too scared to — and I've never done stand-up. I knew that I could land a joke if I needed to, but it wasn't until Will & Grace that I thought of myself as being actually funny in any kind of way that was better than average. I got a lot of confidence from Will & Grace and you're right, my milieu is very much the comedy milieu and somewhat the indie movie world. But I realize now it's changed so much in the last 10 years. It used to be that you never ever could improvise anything — you'd just be summarily dismissed on the spot. But now I feel like you almost are expected to improvise, so I learned how to do it. Learned on the job. And I enjoy it quite a bit.

Are you most often recognized from Will & Grace? If so, are you OK with that?

Yes, absolutely. One hundred percent. When we were in Australia, I was like Madonna in Australia. They fucking love Will & Grace and they love the character of Karen I've learned. I think that's great. It's fantastic. It's completely fair — that's the main thing I've done back that millions of millions of people watched when millions and millions of people watched network television, which they don't anymore. And it's still on in syndication. I'm completely good with that and I'm thankful for it. It's opened so many doors for me for the rest of my career.

What's it like being married to someone you often collaborate with?

Nick and I are so fortunate to — first of all, have the relationship we have, which I think is an unusually comfy and fun and good one — and to be able to work together so much. Some people don't like working together, but we love it. We met doing a play back in 2000, so we've kind of always worked together. Maybe if we met under different circumstances we'd be shy to do it or something. We really love it — we're in rehearsals right now for a play here in Los Angeles that opens April 20 that's just a two-person play. So it's just me and Nick and it's really fun.

Is it an original play?

It's a new play that's only had one production called Annapurna by Sharr White. It's pretty cool. It's just me and Nick. In a trailer. For 75 minutes.

I read recently you sold a show to IFC?

Yeah, I did. I'm excited about it. We sold a show, and we're signing contracts right now. My writing partner and I have already basically writen the pilot — it's a deal to write a pilot for a half-hour scripted comedy. We're basically already done, so that's exciting. I love IFC right now because it's kind of the wild west of cable. They're really reaching out to so many interesting creators and it's a very diverse group — they're doing some animation, doing some live action, they're really mixing it up. ... They got in to business with some really great people.

Can you talk about what the show will be like?

I don't want to say yet becase it hasn't been announced, but I'm going to be in it and I'm playing a not very smart person ...

I grew up obsessed with television. I didn't get to go to many movies because back then it was a really big deal, and when you're little you don't have your pick — it's basically Mary Poppins and The Sound of Music. You're not going to be going to really artsy films ... I was obsessed with television and I pretty much watched everything I could watch.

What else are you working on right now?

We just wrapped season five of Children's Hospital. Just did another episode of Happy Endings, because I have a sporadically recurring character on that. Doing a little pilot thing for a brilliant comedy wrier friend of mine Wendy Molyneux — she does Bob's Burgers and I've known her for many years. I'm doing a sort of pilot presentation for a friend. Working on Nancy and Beth and trying to get it off the grond. But the main thing Im excited about is Nick and I have a nice vacation coming up. We haven't had one in a long time. We're going to take pretty much half of June and all of July off, so I'm excited about that.

Are you traveling outside the country or staying stateside?

I don't know. There's some talk of going back to Australia because Nick wasn't able to go last time we went, and we had so much fun and loved it there. I kinda want to get him there and — the water there is so beautiful — and just kind of relax. (Australians) are nice people. They're not at war so everyone's in a good mood.

Are you and Nick able to travel together much?

We try to always travel together, but this year there's been several occasions ... where we've had to be apart, but (Nancy and Beth has) opened for his American Ham show several times, we've opened for him in Austin, Chicago and San Francisco … we've kind of amalgamized, joined forces a few times which has been good. We have a hard and fast rule that we are never apart for more than two weeks. We've never been apart for more than two weeks in 13 years.

Since's Nick's a woodworker, has that brought out any DIY tendencies in you?

I love that he does that, but I feel like I don't have time to do anything except work from the second I get up to the second I get into bed at night. So it's all I can do to be able to watch The Bachelor, which is my number one priority in life — next to my relationship with Nick and our dog, The Bachelor is probably number two. And The Bachelorette and Bachlelor Pad. I haven't gotten the woodworking bug, but I draw. So sometimes I will take my easel and my sketchbook and I will go to his shop and set it up and draw some things while he's in the other room doing his Japanese joinery, so to speak.

Is there anything in the entertainment world you haven't done yet that you'd like to try?

I feel like I'm really lucky because I get to do a weird, crazy combination of theater, animated shows and I recur on Bob's Burgers and I'm also on a new show for called Axe Cop. So I get to do that, and I get to do a lot of television, and I'm starting to create shows and write more and produce. I've been lucky in the past year to get some supporting roles in some indie movies. I feel pretty lucky and happy, and I think Nick would say the same. The fact that I sing, too, adds a different element for me … I just get offered a little bit different things sometimes since I sing. It just opens that many more possibilities.

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