Exclusive Interview: Lake Bell Talks Fast Cars and Making Henry Winkler Fight a 13-Year-Old
Actress Lake Bell arrives at the 16th Annual GQ "Men Of The Year" Party at Chateau Marmont on November 17, 2011 in Los Angeles, California. (Source: Frazer Harrison/Getty Images North America) more pics »
Lake Bell and Ken Marino (Adult Swim)
Not only is the actress currently appearing on Adult Swim's no-holds-barred comedy romp, Children's Hospital, but she also directed two episodes of the series, as well as a feature film of her very own. Oh, and she reviews cars for The Hollywood Reporter.
We recently chatted with Bell about her passion for directing, the weirdest thing she's ever done in the name of acting, and the kind of car she'd drive if she were a superhero. Which she kind of is.
So you directed a couple of episodes of Children's Hospital this season. What's the best part of directing versus acting?
I think it's more that it's definitely different. You know, you're exercising a different muscle. But I utterly enjoy them equally. I think with directing, obviously, the team of people that we have on the show are impossibly fun to wrangle, but also difficult to wrangle because we're kind of raucous and we all act like we're 12 when we're on set. And I have been one of those people, so I knew that it would be a challenge coming in. But much to my surprise they were utterly supportive and very cool.
This is the best cast to direct because at this point, four years in, we understand the musicality of the comedy and we already understand the absurdist ping pong of the dialogue, and we're very playful. It's not like we're going on set and we have to think about character arcs or anything like that because there's not a lot of logic in Children's Hospital. So yeah, if anything it's just as much fun as acting, it's just even more fun to play with such talented comedians.
What was your favorite scene in the two episodes that you got to direct?
My favorite scene is in the upcoming episode that I did called "Kid Walks Into a Hospital." And it's a full-on fight sequence. This episode is kind of like a Bourne Supremacy meets Hanna — it's like a 'Hanna Supremacy' or something — and there's a full-on, not funny fight scene between Henry Winkler and this great actress that I hired who is a full stunt woman who looks very young but she's older than she looks. So it looks like Henry Winkler is beating up, and getting beaten up, by this 13-year-old girl. So you have that to look forward to. [laughs]
You guys are given pretty much free reign to do whatever you want on Children's Hospital. But I'm wondering if Adult Swim has ever said no to something. Like 'whoa, that's going too far.'
Well, we always laugh that the only notes we ever got were during the first season when it was a web series. I think the network said to [Children's Hospital creator Rob] Corddry, "Are you sure you're going to want to have the Twin Towers burning?" So I think there even is a line that they can draw. But seriously up until the Twin Towers we had pretty free reign.
You have a drama background, but nowadays you mostly do comedy projects. Do you have a hankering to get back to drama or are you pretty happy hanging out in comedy land?
I love what I do. I mean, I love to be an actor and I love to write and I love to direct. And I'm lucky enough to be able to do all of those things, whether it's comedy or drama. Because I have had a smattering of dramas within that. In fact, I have a movie coming out which is a thriller but it's not a full drama. It's like a drama with comedic beats but then it gets not so funny at all. It's called Black Rock, directed by Katie Aselton, with Kate Bosworth and myself and Katie [Aselton]. So I think in general the privilege of doing what we do is that we get to play in a lot of different genres. And I know I've been in comedy land recently, but I think I will always crave different genres. Even within comedy, you know there's sketch comedy, there's dramedy comedy, there's all kinds of stuff.
Certainly the stuff that I write and direct is more sort of neurotic dysfunctional, subtle dramedy vs. sketch comedy. But that's why it's so fun to do Children's Hospital, because I don't write that kind of stuff. It's fun to direct stuff that is out of my wheelhouse.
You went to drama school in England. What was the strangest thing you ever had to do as an acting class assignment?
We had a whole semester about "neutral mask," which is like the concept of being…you put on this white mask and when you put on this white mask you are then the concept of neutrality. So everything you see, you embody and experience emotionally. So for instance, you put on the mask and then if the teacher says, 'What is in front of you is water coming out of a faucet' then in the neutral mask you have to see the water coming out of the faucet, embody the water, and then be it. So I think my moment of attacking water coming out of a faucet was the weirdest, most esoteric experience I've had in drama school. But by the way, I nailed it.
Obviously. So you wrote, produced, directed, and starred in your upcoming feature film In a World… I'm curious why you wanted to write about the voiceover world.
I wrote about the voiceover world because when I was at drama school I was big into radio plays and I love accents, so I would collect them and I had tape recordings of different accents. And I fancied that I would be one of the great voiceover artists in the world when I got to LA. And that was very ignorant of me, obviously, because there is this tight-knit clique and this hierarchy of people who are allowed to infiltrate that industry. So I thought it was very interesting — the idea that there are these omniscient voices telling you how to feel about things or what movies to see or what products to buy. I thought it was just an interesting subject to take on, and to use this sort of female, two-bit vocal coach who aspires to be more than that as a protagonist to try to tell that story.
It's a lot of work to take on writing, directing, producing, and acting. Is that something you'd like to do again or was it like crazy exhausting to wear all of those different hats?
Would I do it again? Fuck yes, I would do it again. I loved writing and directing. It feels like home to me, and I love to multitask. I'm totally the person who like cleans up the house, makes a phone call, brushes their teeth, and folds linens all at the same time. While writing an article. I function best when I'm in the middle of the seven ring circus, so it appealed to me and my personality. And I love the idea of assembling a team of people that you believe in and think are so cool and creative, who understand where you want to go with something and then they add their own thing. I mean, it's the coolest thing. So I hope it's something I do for the rest of my life.
And directing on Children's Hospital is a different experience obviously because I didn't write it, so I'm interpreting and adhering to something that somebody else envisioned, which is even cooler. And you know, I'll be in some of the things I write and I'll not be in some of them. I would only put myself in a role that I'm really right for. I'm not going to try and squeeze myself into a role that I'm not going to be good at. Because I want to make myself look good, you know what I'm saying? [laughs]
You review cars for The Hollywood Reporter, which I think is totally fascinating. What's your favorite kind of car to drive?
Well, I can't really answer that because I have to be non-biased...But if I had to have a car I would probably have like a 1970s Italian car, like a De Tomaso. I know it sounds kind of esoteric and annoying, but something like a Lambourgini Miura or something like that. Those sort of 1970s body shapes are really sharp and pointy and sexy. When I think of myself as a superhero that's what I drive.
Children's Hospital airs Thursday nights at midnight on Adult Swim. Bell directed the Season 4 premiere, as well as an upcoming episode that is currently slated to air on October 4.
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