The Parks and Recreation star and writer of Celeste and Jesse Forever on love, sex, and Jewish wet dreams.
From Freaks and Geeks to Parks and Recreation to roles in The Muppets, The Social Network, and one million other impressive things, Rashida Jones has done a little bit of everything you care about. Currently, she's starring in Celeste and Jesse Forever, a bittersweet romantic comedy which she also cowrote. It opens this week; if you're in New York and want to come to a Nerve-sponsored screening this Thursday, click here.
You're pretty! My writing partner loves cute redheads — I was going to text him. Are you single?
Um. Kind of.
All right. We'll talk about it.
Your character in Celeste and Jesse is in love with her best friend, whom she's also divorcing. What inspired that?
A lot of people I know were going through this. You don't want to lose your best friend, you think you can outsmart the process of separating from somebody, and you decide to have this middle-ground friendship, that's a) irritating to your friends, and b) ultimately unhealthy. There's also this archetype of a lady who's really ambitious, successful, and opinionated, being with a guy who's kind of a slacker and a man-child, maybe a little bit poetic, head in the clouds.
Yeah, I feel like that's been a shift in romantic stories lately.
Which, by the way, I'm happy about. It allows guys to be sensitive, rather than just super-macho. It empowers them in a different way.
Andy Samberg is playing his first romantic lead. What made you think of him?
Andy and I have been friends since before he was on SNL. I think there's a lot that's bought by the fact that Andy is one of those guys you already have an association with. You already have an idea of who he is, and you like him. You can drop into the middle of the relationship, and you kind of know what to expect from him. And then he turns a corner and gives a great dramatic performance, which makes it more interesting.
Oscar Wilde once said, "Between men and women there is no friendship possible. There is passion, enmity, worship, love, but no friendship." Do you believe that men and women can actually have non-sexual, mutually beneficial relationships?
It's the When Harry Met Sally question. Although in that movie, sidenote, they end up together. But I think all those things that Mr. Wilde referred to are things that bubble up in friendships, too. I have girl friends and guy friends who I feel passionate about. Will [McCormack, co-screenwriter] and I are best friends, we're writing partners, we dated for three weeks in the '90s, but now, we use that currency for friendship and work. We're evolved enough to do that.
That's very grown-up of you.
You know, I'm single. Whatever. What do I know?
Can you tell me about a time when you were in love with someone who was emotionally off-limits?
There were a couple of people I had crushes on when I was a teenager, who were a little older than me. Who were dating my older sister. That really informed the way I liked guys for the next twenty years, because there was always a slight idol worship. And there was a lot of fallen-idol shit that I had to work out in therapy. People would disappoint me and be less than perfect, and then I'd have to deal with that version of the relationship. That's something that I try not to do anymore. For me, the key is getting to know somebody before I decide how amazing and perfect they are.
How do you get yourself out of the friend zone?
It's so pheromonal, right? They say when you first kiss somebody, you're exchanging immunities. Isn't that crazy? I could do romance to friendship, back to romance. But I can't do friendship to romance. There has to be romance first. Or passion. Sex.
Your parents, Quincy Jones and Peggy Lipton, are both sex symbols. This is very important, so please answer as candidly as you can: which of your parents is sexier?
Why don't you just shoot me in the eye? Maybe they're both equally sexy and that makes me, like, exponentially more sexy?
What lessons did your dad pass on about love and dating?
My dad is a total romantic. I know that sounds crazy, because he has seven children with five different women…
That's the very definition of a romantic, right?
It is! He's seventy-nine, and he has a lot of girlfriends. But both my parents are all heart, which is nice, because I'm all about the intellect, and that's a thing I have to move away from.
I'm a big Twin Peaks nerd, and your mom played Norma Jennings.
Oh my God, I was obsessed. Had, like, the diaries. I was terrified of BOB. I was in high school, so I had no right to be that scared of any fictional character. I would check under my bed every night. Also, not cool when your mom is on the television show. And you go to the set and you see BOB walking by, and you know that he's a nice person. And all the girls were so pretty. I was obsessed with the cherry-stem tying, 'cause I could do it.
What's the best way for a fan to hit on you?
To… not… hit on me? Can that be the answer?
Have you ever had an interaction with a fan who charmed you?
People tend to be more disgusting on the internet, because there's a barrier between us, but generally they're pretty sweet and cute. The problem is, I'm not who you think I am, so we have an imbalance anyway. But I know what it's like. Last night I was on The Daily Show, and Jon Stewart came to my dressing room, and I was so freaked out. I love him so much, I was like, "Don't come in here. I'm your fan. You don't fucking know me. Don't talk to me."
You've worked with a lot of attractive people. Single and available versions of Paul Rudd, Jason Segel, and Andy Samberg walk into a bar. Who gets the most action?
God, that would be so hard. That's like a Jewish wet dream. It would crumble an entire generation of women. It would crumble me. That's a lot of hot funny hotness.
Do you have a type?
Smart and funny is the biggest thing for me. But actually funny and actually smart. Not smart like, "I'm going to show you I'm smart." Smart like, "I'm just smart, so don't worry about it. Figure it out."
When is ex sex a good idea?
I think it's a good idea when you know that you're not going to see them again or call them again. If it's ex-sex with the hopes of it not being over, you're screwed. Ex-sex is also a good idea when there's unfinished business, like maybe when it's subtly hate sex, or let-me-show-you-how-much-I've-learned-in-the-past-couple-years sex.
I think that's it. Congratulations on writing this project!
Thanks! The good thing about getting older is that I had so much fear, in my twenties, about actually doing stuff, completing stuff, putting it out there. And now I just care a little bit less. It's out there. It's for everybody else to decide.