This summer, Alyson Hannigan is breaking bad. Best known for playing funny, adorable nerds with healthy ids (namely computer-geek-turned-witch Willow Rosenberg on Buffy the Vampire Slayer, best-wife-ever Lily Aldrin on How I Met Your Mother and Michelle “This one time at band camp” Flaherty in the American Pie films), Hannigan is an unlikely candidate to show up among the drug dealers and corrupt religious communities of WGN America’s drama Pure. And that’s exactly why she couldn’t resist the role. Inspired by the real-life “Mennonite Mob” that trafficked cocaine across the Canadian border, the crime series has just kicked off its second season, which features Hannigan in a recurring role as an ex-Mennonite who has truly left the simple life behind. (If you need to catch up, Season 1 is streaming on Hulu.) Hannigan spoke with Yahoo Entertainment about getting pulled into the complicated world of Pure, and took a moment to reminisce about American Pie as the teen raunch-com approaches its twentieth birthday.
Yahoo Entertainment: So tell me about Pure. I was not familiar with the show until recently and it’s really fascinating.
Alyson Hannigan: I wasn't familiar with it either. And then I watched the first season and I just couldn't stop. Ever since I became a mom I sort of only stick to comedies – comedies and reality shows, basically. But I was hooked! It’s the next Breaking Bad for me. It's just riveting and it's so beautifully shot, and I can't wrap my head around the fact that this is actually based on true events. And the performances are just incredible. So I was instantly hooked and then so incredibly excited to take part in it. It was an easy yes.
Your roles generally seem to skew towards wholesome women with a wild streak. This character seems like she has more of a darkness to her.
She grew up with the Mennonites and that did not suit her, so I think the pendulum has swung as far to the other side as possible. She will do whatever it takes to live the life that she wants, which — you know, she likes the nicer side of things. She's a fun character to play. She's definitely a departure from characters I’ve played in the past.
And you're speaking… German?
Ugh! It's not even German. Honestly, this language makes German look easy! It's Low German. It's just this small sect of people that speak this type of German that’s harder than German. That was the most difficult part of the job, mainly because they'd given me lines and, you know, somebody had recorded it. But then when I got there, they changed the German dialogue. And suddenly I had to work to re-learn these new lines in a language that I don’t understand, and I was just like, aaaa! And the pronunciation! There's somebody who actually does speak the language there, you know, correcting me on like, every little [makes guttural sound]. Oh my goodness. So that was the hard part, talking like, oh yeah, this is my first language.
Well you seemed comfortable enough with it that I actually Googled, “Does Alyson Hannigan speak German?”
That is the nicest thing anyone’s ever said to me.
And what I turned up was a clip of you on Ellen trying to do a German accent.
[Laughs] Oh no!
Do you remember this?
No, I don't, but I'm sure it was not good.
You didn’t do an accent exactly. It was more like growling.
I’m sure that was very offensive to anyone who speaks German! Oh boy. And I'm sure that anyone who speaks Low German is going to think that I'm not-at-all good at it.
But would it be accurate to say most of them don't have TVs?
Oh, I would hope that's the case. Let's really hope.
The 20th anniversary of American Pie is coming up next month. Do you remember the moment when you first realized how big it was going to be?
I remember getting the script and my manager’s assistant called me and said, “Look, we're sending this script. People either love it or they hate it, and so it's fine either way.” And I loved it. Then I got to the table read, and I remember sitting next to Sean William Scott, who was just the nicest guy ever, and he’d just quit his job at Home Depot. And we sat there with all these kids that I'd never met before, and I walked out of there just like, “This is even better than the script that I really liked. This is so good.”
And it just kept getting better. Every day I showed up, it was really funny and the improvs we would do were fantastic. And you know, I worked seven days [in total]. They were a great seven days. But then I remember seeing just a little cast-and-crew screening. And I was like, “Oh my gosh, I can't wait for my friends to see it.” And then the next thing I knew, one of the producers was like, “We did the test screening and it tested through the roof. People really like it!” So it was just one of those little movies that could, you know? And here we are, twenty years later, people are still talking about it.
You’ve done a few roles that have spanned many years. I'm thinking about Willow and Lily and Michelle. When you’re kind of living these characters’ whole lives, do you feel like you have multiple sets of memories of different milestones, like your wedding? Or is it more compartmentalized than that?
It’s sort of like a montage. So like, How I Met Your Mother — if somebody says, “OK, what's your favorite episode?,” I can't really pick one because it all seems like a great big montage for me. You know, I have moments that are spectacular. But I don't work in episodes like that. So yeah, I feel like each project is a different montage.
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