Actress-Writer Rashida Jones breaks bad in rom-com ‘Celeste and Jesse Forever’
Photo by Sony Pictures Classics
Know this: Rashida Jones is Hollywood royalty, the daughter of music mogul Quincy Jones and "Mod Squad" icon Peggy Lipton. She grew up on the inside: Check out her hand for the scar where Michael Jackson's pet chimp, Bubbles, nipped her at Neverland Ranch. Harvard grad. Dated Tobey Maguire and John Krasinski. Jewish but her first name is Arabic for righteous. "Parks and Recreation" co-star. Ensemble player — "Our Idiot Brother" -- with occasional leading actress forays: "I Love You, Man." And now the role she co-wrote for herself with co-star Will McCormack as a happily married alpha named Celeste who dumps her slacker husband Jesse, played by SNL's Andy Samberg. Suddenly single, the professional trend-spotter runs full-tilt into her personal limitations — and doesn't see it coming. Rave reviews. Industry applause. Humble gratitude. So, don't hate Jones, 36, because she's beautiful, well-spoken and takes herself with two grains of salt. Embrace the self-deprecating laughter.
Thelma Adams: Tell me about your character Celeste.
Rashida Jones: Will and I wanted to write a strong female character that was layered and complex and not necessarily great and likeable, and not entirely bad and unlikeable. She has some unique flaws that drive her to be myopic, opinionated, judgmental, and imperious -- and those are the good things! [laughs] We wanted to create a character that was flawed so that it would be interesting to watch her change.
TA: Did you and Will ever disagree on how dark Celeste could go? How disagreeable she could be?
RJ: We got into a creative disagreement in the scene where I'm in the bathroom and meet Riley for the first time.
TA: Riley is Celeste's new big client, a teen singing sensation played by Emma Roberts that Celeste initially treats with outright condescension.
RJ: I wanted to softball it and be polite, and Will thought Celeste should be more spikey, more 'I know more than you, I want you to know who's boss.'
[Related: Rashida Jones' Awkward Childhood Photos]
TA: How did that turn out for you? I remember in the scene you immediately correct Riley's grammar — in a bathroom! And, when all is said and done, Celeste is supposed to be working for Riley.
RJ: It's such a bitchy thing to do, to correct somebody's grammar but that happens a lot…
TA: The small one-upmanship battles in daily life, the ego flames.
RJ: It's a tricky tone to set, to make sure the audience is still following her journey.
TA: And doesn't want to yell "beeyatch." In an interview with "Newsday," my colleague Lewis Beale called your character "kind of a nasty career striver" but to me she just seemed real and relatable.
RJ: That's so pejorative. Celeste's a successful woman. Maybe there's a little like virgin/whore thing happening. It's still an issue for women to be brazenly ambitious and successful.
TA: Very "Devil Wears Prada."
RJ: The Celeste part was the more traditionally male role, someone who seemingly has it all and gets derailed by a girl.
TA: And then you have Andy as Jesse — er, the girl role — and he's so irresistibly likeable in every scene.