"Is Rashida Jones single?" asks one publicist to another. I'm curled on an uptown couch - the kind you'd inherit from someone rich whom you barely knew - and waiting to interview the actress. Her new film Celeste and Jesse Forever is almost out in theaters, and the basic theme is "Fun in the time of heartbreak." Because the movie's a twisted kind of rom-com, I assume the publicist - a shiny-haired girl who looks like a ShopBop model - is asking as part of a pitch. But it turns out, the question was purely personal. "I'm kind of obsessed with her," she admits. "I mean, I have a boyfriend, but I totally want to be Rashida's love interest!" Moments later, I'm taken into a Regency hotel suite where Rashida sprawls in a Narciso Rodriguez shift dress on another attic-worthy sofa. She has violet eyeshadow, an easy smile, and a day booked solid with press interviews. "Hi - Can you excuse me for a second?" She asks politely. "I really want these, but I think they're kind of expensive." She holds up her iPhone to reveal a pair of Zara shoes, which cost a whopping $89.90. "Maybe I'll just get them..." she continues. By the end of the interview, I secretly decide I'll get them, too. But first, I ask some questions.
You star in Celeste and Jesse Forever, but you also co-wrote it. What's weirder - seeing yourself onscreen or hearing your words come out of someone else's mouth?
Actually, I don't have any issues about watching myself on screen if I'm by myself. But at Sundance, for example, I saw it with 1,300 [other] people. I'd say that's really weird. As for the dialogue, I really enjoy hearing people say things that I wrote. It's so satisfying, almost in a way that acting could never be for me. And the actors we got for the movie... There's so many good actors that we saw during the audition tapes, and it was criminal how good and prepared people are. I would say seeing people read what I wrote, it enhances it. Those actors make everything we wrote better.
A lot of NYLON girls are just starting out in their careers. So for emerging screenwriters out there, can you explain what a writing partner is? Why do you have one, and how do you work together?
For me, I come from a really big family and I'm used to talking things out and collaborating. Most of my things work-wise are ensemble based, and I feel like I can do my best in a group. There's something about -- this is really cheesy -- partnership and collaboration, otherwise why are we here with everybody else [on earth]?
And who is your writing partner?
Will McCormack is my writing partner and my best friend, and we've known each other for 13 years. We kind of speak our own little language, and we've always talked about writing together... I feel like Will and I have a work-marriage and a friendship-marriage, which is good because there's less arguing than in a real marriage! When we work together, I learn a lot about myself by having a constant reflection all the time.
You and Will wrote the movie, but you're also in the movie. When you did a take, if someone changed a line, could you tell, because you wrote it?Yeah! But like 95% of the time, everyone stayed scripted. Andy Samberg is my co-star in the movie, and even though he's so great at improv, he was super respectful of the script. Sometimes, we would pitch a joke on set and try to make it funnier, but he'd never change it on his own!
You cast Emma Roberts as a burned out, perpetually stoned pop star. Care to explain?
I kind of worship Emma Roberts; I do. She's just so smart, hilarious and beautiful. She's just awesome. She came in with a total point of view for her character, which is really great as a writer and producer, and she was perfect for the part! She's so fashionable and very "in it" but she can also reflect on herself and her life.
Can we play Friend-Date-Marry with Will McCormack, Andy Samberg, and your other co-star in this movie, Elijah Wood? Which is your friend, which would you date, and which would you marry?!
Will is "friend." He just is. Andy and Elijah are both marriage material, but I'd have to marry Andy Samberg and date Elijah Wood. I would marry Andy Samberg, too. Andy and I have been friends for a long time, and I feel like because we're friends, if we were forced to get married, we would make it work. Elijah would be the funnest person to date because he knows everything about music and food, and he would take me on great dates. He would, like, plan everything out and make everything an adventure.
What's your most-played iTunes song right now?
I'm obsessed with Frank Ocean. "Sweet Life" is crushing me right now; I can't stop listening to it. I talk about it all the time. I should really be more interesting, I have such a family background in music, but right now, it's Frank Ocean!
He's totally interesting! So what's the worst advice you've ever gotten?
When I was first auditioning in L.A., The WB was first coming out, and it had Dawson's Creek and all those shows. All anyone wanted was to be on a WB show -- me and Katie Holmes, right? Except I tested and I didn't get it.
You screen tested for Dawson's Creek?
I tested for some show with Lauren Ambrose and I was told I needed to be "more WB". I don't know what that means! And it was bad advice because whatever "more WB" is, I don't want to be that.
But you still know all the words to "I Don't Want to Wait."
(Starting to sing it.) I love that song; it was so good.
Do you know what your spirit animal is? I
actually do know! I have a totem animal. I feel like I'm an elephant head or something. They're loyal, smart, and they just chill out and roam around the kids while they sleep. How cute is that?
The New York Times had this amazing article on the socialization of adolescent elephants. It was so incredible - you should check it out.
That sounds way better than what someone else was just telling me about - this article about the "case for settling." Did you read that? I don't even know what the premise is.
I think it's about how women should settle for men who aren't as smart as they are, because it's more important for them to have kids than have an equal.
Is that what it is? That's such bullshit. I think men need to step their shit up. But I kind of feel like we're emasculating men because we've had all of these movements forward and they're like, "I'm gonna play video games and stay a boy." We have to say, "Listen, come be a man".
I think some guys get a bad rap, though. Like, are all the guys you graduated from Harvard with really sitting home playing video games now?
No, you're right. My friends from college were not like that. But every guy I went to school with is married with kids, and they're bankers. Or they're divorced.
Speaking of having kids - bad transition, but I'm dying to ask you about this - you and your mom, Peggy Lipton, were on Who Do You Think You Are. And through that reality show, you got to trace your family's Irish Jewish roots. And it was so amazing!
It was super intense, right? It was my mom who pushed it through, she said, "Rashida, we've got to do this show." And through it, we found an Irish connection, we found relatives who were killed by the Nazis... it was incredible how much we discovered.
Now that you're writing films, do you think any of that family history will surface in a story?
I haven't thought about it yet. I'm still processing it on a family level. I feel a lot of responsibility and connection to my Jewish culture, so it would have to be the right story.