Amy Poehler talks influence of Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz as new doc premieres: 'They were two outsiders'

  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.

It’s hardly surprising to hear that Amy Poehler was heavily influenced by Lucille Ball.

Ball battery-rammed the door down for generations of female comedians as star of the classic, hugely popular sitcom I Love Lucy. Among those was Poehler, who 52 years after the lights went down on Lucy, began starring on her own indelible TV comedy, Parks and Recreation.

With the new documentary Lucy and Desi, Poehler pays ultimate tribute to Ball and her husband and co-star Desi Arnaz.

“I love watching the way that Lucy and Desi approached their work,” Poehler tells us in a recent virtual interview promoting the Amazon release (watch above). “I knew they were talented. I knew Desi was an incredible musician, Lucy was an incredible performer. I knew all those things. But when I really got to know them as people, I found it really inspiring the way they had a really clear sense of what they wanted to do, and they kept betting on themselves over and over again.

“They took huge risks, and they really paid off. And they were two outsiders in an industry that didn’t open doors for women and Latin men.”

Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz in 'Lucy and Desi' (Amazon Prime)
Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz in Lucy and Desi. (Photo: Amazon Prime)

Lucy and Desi traces the individual histories of each entertainer (Ball growing up in a working class family outside of Buffalo in Jamestown, N.Y.; Arnaz from Cuban nobility before his family was forced to flee the country after the 1933 revolution), their marriage and status as Hollywood’s original celebrity couple, and subsequent entertainment empire that continued to flourish well after their divorce.

The doc follows quickly on the heels of a narrative retelling of their professional and personal partnership, Aaron Sorkin’s Being the Ricardos, which earned Oscar nominations for stars Nicole Kidman and Javier Bardem (and was also released by Amazon). But while that film ends bittersweetly with text of their divorce, Lucy and Desi makes a profound case that the pair deeply loved each other until the ends of their lives, even after both remarried.

LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA - FEBRUARY 15: Amy Poehler attends the Los Angeles premiere of
Amy Poehler attends the Los Angeles premiere of Lucy and Desi at Directors Guild of America on Feb. 15, 2022 in Los Angeles, Calif. (Photo: Kevin Winter/Getty Images) (Kevin Winter via Getty Images)

“It's a documentary, so we're trying as best we can to figure out a way in which to approach two big lives,” Poehler says when asked if the films could be companion pieces. “And so I think by creating this three act structure, I'd like to think that Desi and Lucy were making their own music and then they met and they made the kind of best version of their music together. Like they matched up their music and then Act Three is them when they part and what it looks like and sounds like when they're on their own.

“And so it was really important that just like the show, which practiced this rupture and repair cycle, we wanted to try to mirror that in the way that life does, which is not linear. It's not perfect. It doesn't have as many jokes. I think that what was really helpful about that structure is it allowed us to tell a lot about what they did as innovators and artists.”

Lucy and Desi is currently streaming on Amazon Prime.

— Video produced by Jen Kucsak and edited by Luis Saenz

Watch the trailer: