Sex Advice From Ari Graynor

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The star of For a Good Time, Call… on phone sex, growing up as a fat kid, and working construction.

Ari Graynor stole a lot of scenes as the drunk friend from hell in Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist, before playing a more restrained supporting role in this year's Celeste and Jesse Forever. Now she's starring in For a Good Time, Call…, a film based on writer Katie Anne Naylon's experiences working for a phone-sex line in college. We got Ari to talk about her ideal phone-sex partner, working construction, and growing up as a fat kid. 

There's some profoundly raunchy sex talk in For a Good Time, Call… Did you balk at all when you first saw the script?
I don't know what you've heard about me, but no, I didn't. The actual phone-sex stuff was always about it being funny. The point was never to be sexually titillating. No one was ever actually talking to me — it never got too out-of-hand. But people have remarked on how frank the girls' sex talks with each other are — someone recently told me it was like watching National Geographic. Like "watching women in their natural habitat." But it's still so true to life. The "raunch" never even occurred to me, because that's how girls talk to each other in real life. 

Is their anything off-limits for you when you're talking about sex in real life?
I'm a pretty open book. I think intimacy, connection, and emotional understanding are the most important things in life — that's why I'm an actor, and that's how I look at the world. I don't even know if there's a limit that exists that I would feel super-judgmental about. That's the beauty of friendship. That's where this story came from.

How much phone-sex experience did you have prior to shooting this movie?
That is a very personal question. 

But you just said you're an open book.
I guess we just found my limit [laughs]. We didn't do any major research, unfortunately. We just let Katie and Lauren [Anne Miller, costar and screenwriter] draw from their experience actually running a phone-sex line. We didn't want it to get too porn-y. Personally speaking, though, I'll plead the fifth. You're not my friend yet.

Your character in the film meets her love interest after he's already been a regular caller to her hot line. What's the strangest way you've ever met someone in real life?
I've been set up with people before, but that's about it. But is meeting someone on a phone-sex hotline really that strange? With the way people are meeting each other online and talking through texts, I think that people crave a certain level of intimacy immediately but aren't quite ready to give up that distance. So maybe people talking on a phone-sex hotline are just getting it out of the way earlier. Maybe they know something we don't. 

Despite working at a phone-sex hotline, your character is a virgin, and she feels pressured into acting as if she has more experience than she really does. Do you think that's a common dilemma?
Definitely. I think that especially for women, it's a catch-22. On the one hand, women are way oversexualized, and young girls want to be seen as sexually confident and capable and masterful. That's where value lies for them. I think women feel validated by being sexual objects, but there's also a lot of anger towards sexual women — there's this total discomfort about true female sexuality. People have no problem with the amount of violence that's everywhere in even a PG-13 movie, but God forbid women should say "penis" or have an orgasm. 

Your character in For a Good Time, Call… is juggling a bunch of jobs at the beginning of the movie. What's your best story about struggling as an actress?
Well, I started acting when I was very young, so by the time I was eighteen, I was making decent money. I never really had the terrible shit jobs. At one point, though, when things did get a little thin, I went to work for my dad, who's a contractor, and he got me a hot-pink hard hat to wear on the site. I was so excited when I saw the pink phone I was going to use in the movie, because it took me back to that. 

You've said that you and Rashida Jones bonded over growing up as fat kids. How did that affect your love life growing up?
There's a lot I relate to in my character in this movie, in terms of overcompensating. I was made fun of for being fat until I was about fourteen, and I didn't even kiss a boy until I was fifteen. I started to come into myself in high school and college, but I did a lot of overcompensating for how I felt around boys. To be honest, I think I still do a little bit. Once a fat kid, always a fat kid.

You also said, "When you're not the cute girl, you've got to get your funny chops in order." Have you ever felt that guys are intimidated or put off by that?
I try not to hang around those people. We're still hearing that women can't be funny, and I can't understand why that keeps coming out of people's mouths. If somebody has a hard time with a woman being funny, then… fuck them.

Kevin Smith and Seth Rogen both have cameos as callers to the phone-sex hotline in the film. Who would you rather have phone sex with?
You're making me choose?

Okay, if you could have phone sex with anybody, who would it be?
I wouldn't mind a young Paul Newman.