Oct 122008

Alison Brie (Trudy Campbell) is perky. That’s a word she uses to describe herself, and it fits. She’s very chatty and full of energy. I felt exhilarated after speaking to her, like when you do four hours of catch up with your best friend in a rapid fire half-hour. I kind of wanted to transcribe everything she said with exclamation points (which I didn’t) because she’s so enthused about what she’s saying.

She’s kind of like the Mad Men fans; she’s so interested in what’s going on under the surface and thinks about it a lot. She’s opinionated and delighted, and utterly contagious.

Roberta and I interviewed Alison by phone (she was in the car with her boyfriend, who we hope has gotten over his sneezing). She’s in California, and we’re on the East Coast, and there was a comical forty minutes worth of realizing we’d never discussed the time zone for the interview, so her perception of the time was very different from ours. Whoosh! Calls, emails, texts, all very fast, and whoosh! there we are on the phone. She sure made it worthwhile, generously giving us a lengthy interview that is impossible to fit into one post (okay, possible”but cumbersome).

So let’s get started:

Deborah Lipp: You’re a hard woman to research! Other than that you’re from Southern California, I don’t know much about you. What can you tell us about your background?

Alison Brie: I find it funny that I sort of remain a mystery even though there’s nothing mysterious about me.

I’m from Pasadena, where I currently reside. I graduated from South Pasadena High School, and then the California Institute of the Arts in Valencia (which everyone calls Cal Arts). As a student at Cal Arts, I studied at the RSAMD, the Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama, in Glasgow, Scotland. I’m very proud of that.

I was just recently back there visiting friends from college. It’s a great city, so that’s my shout out to Glasgow.

And that’s about it, I graduated from school and since then I rolled right into acting. I got my bachelor’s degree in theater, starting taking acting classes in Hollywood, did an episode of Hannah Montana in its first season, and I was actually doing some theater”I was in Hamlet”when I auditioned for Mad Men. And the rest is history.

DL: How did you first get the acting bug?

AB: Since I was real little. I’ve done community theater since I was 5 or 6, my first play was the Wizard of Oz, I was Toto.

Roberta Lipp: That was my first play, too! I was the Cowardly Lion.

AB: Really? That’s great!

I used to do community theater with the Los Feliz Jewish Community Center every summer, kid’s things, all these Disney fairy tales, and they wouldn’t get the rights, so they’d rewrite the music, so it was our version of the Wizard of Oz.

In high school, I was a drama nerd. By senior year I was president of the Drama Club. My parents were always very supportive, as long as I went to college, which I did.

DL: Drama nerd is actually a pretty good way to go through high school.

AB: I like to think I was maybe one of the cooler drama nerds.

You have a great site by the way, it’s so detailed. I was just in awe. It’s a great site for the show, so thank you.

The Lipps: You’re welcome.

RL: I know you’ve said you really like Trudy. I’ve heard many actors say the same thing; that it’s the only real way to play a character, is to get behind it… her.

So I gotta ask, what does Trudy see in Pete?

AB: You know, I actually was just doing an interview with AMC and they asked me the same question. I was at a loss for a short moment. The truth is, I think thatinitially, someone like Trudy, she’s really attracted to Pete’s ambition and his drive. He’s very ambitious and he’s good with people. Trudy is ambitious in her own way. She doesn’t want to join the workforce but she knows where she wants to go. So, they had common goals of wanting to be one of those rich power couples.

I also want to point out Pete can be quite charming. To a girl coming out of college, to be seduced by this charming businessman, he wins over his clients in this smarmy way, and he did that with Trudy, and she didn’t notice the smarminess at first.

Over two seasons (so far), his true colors come out, and she’s got a heavy dose of reality since they’ve been married.

DL: There’s a lot of artifice in Trudy, and her voice is part of that. You used an amazing vocal shift in one episode, saying “I really do want a baby.” I thought it signaled a deeper, truer self. And one of our readers asked about any vocal training you may have had. If you could address vocal work in general, and that scene in particular?

AB: I’m so impressed with you guys for noticing things like that. We have a smart audience, the fans are right there with it.

When we were shooting that scene, Jennifer Getzinger, the director of that episode [The New Girl] said to me, I think in this scene I want to hear it differently in your voice. Trudy puts up this pretense, she has this air of perfection, and she’s sort of stripped down in this scene, they’re having a real moment, so they did want her to shed her disguise. I think that vocally, that’s the best way to show that. That was the moment for Trudy, in doing that, I wanted to show Trudy as a real person, she wants real things, she has a soul, she’s not just a caricature. She and Pete are sometimes comic relief but it’s nice to see their real moments as well.

I have had vocal training, at Cal Arts we had very extensive vocal training, it’s an hour and a half per class of sticking out your tongue, exploring your soft palate, all that. It’s proven to come in handy all the time. You learn all the tools you have, your body (as an actress) is your greatest asset.

DL: It hurt to watch that scene. I think we’ve all been there, being wronged and having to apologize anyway, and it hurt so much to have to see it.

AB: Thank you, thank you so much.

Our interview with Alison Brie continues


  16 Responses to “Exclusive Alison Brie Interview, part 1: "…and Toto too"”

  1. Yay, you asked my question!

    Thank you for the interview. Ms. Brie seems likeshe is really sweet and charming.

  2. We already had the first part of the question, about that one particular scene and the vocal shift, in our notes, so your question was the perfect addition to it.

  3. Great interview. It's nice to know Alison is also an admirer of this site.

  4. Great interview. I'm looking forward to reading the rest of it.
    I think it's so great that the actors on Mad Men are just as big of fans of the show as the rest of us.

  5. Terrific questions Deborah – looking forward to the rest of the interview…

    – Peter G

  6. Excellent Interview!

    Hey, have to mention it. But When Jon Hamm host SNL, they are having Tina Fey, oops I mean Sarah Palin on. Their political parody has been the highlight of the election for me. I am of course a Obama girl (don't go hating) but I loves me some parody (especially Tina Fey). Maybe they could do a skit with Jon as Sarah's (Tina) hubby.

  7. I wonder if she can do a good Scottish brogue.

  8. I grew up in Pasadena, Texas. Does that count?

  9. Good work. I imagine Glasgow to be a bit of a change from someone who grew up in Pasadena (Glasgow can be pretty gloomy, even in Summer). It’s also ironic that she lives in Pasadena, but isn’t part of any of the MM stuff shot there. I look fwd to Pt. 2.

  10. Wow, another Pasadena connection. Most of the Ossining neighborhoods and as well as the Draper home are shot there, Don and Pete are headed there. Alison lives there. I live there…Who knew this city had so much going for it? Heh. Hi Alison [waves hello]!

  11. Ellelque, do you still live in Texas? I was born, raised, and still live in Texas. 🙂

  12. She sounds adorable!

    I also want to say yesterday I was at the studio where they shoot Mad Men for the taping of another show. It was killing me that I could see the MM signs and couldn’t go see the set!

  13. Can’t wait to read what she has to say about working with Vincent!

  14. What does Alison’s regular speaking voice sound like? Trudy speaks so precisely–not like a contemporary American at all–and I imagine that Trudy’s perfect, compliant, feminine, voice is a bit higher than Alison’s real voice.

  15. Inanna, Alison’s voice sounds normal and friendly. It doesn’t have the finishing school polish of Trudy’s, but it is easily recognizable. The registers are about the same. If you look at an episode of My Alibi, you’re hearing more or less her real voice.

  16. […] affects the flow of an interview.  Alison is in-studio, and the difference is palpable.  In her Basket of Kisses interview, Deborah described Alison as “very chatty and full of energy,” which — as you can […]

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