Whether she's answering phones on The Office, bachelorette partying with Kristin Wiig in Bridesmaids, or crushing on Channing Tatum in the upcoming 21 Jump Street remake, Ellie Kemper is everyone's favorite sweetheart. But this is one good girl who's into the idea of breaking bad.
DETAILS: Five years ago you were doing improv in New York City. Surely your life must have changed a bit since then?
Ellie Kemper: I need to make sure that when I'm running out to the drugstore I'm not wearing a Biore strip or something. Not that I expect anyone to recognize me, but on the off chance they do, I just don't want to embarrass myself.
DETAILS: What's it like working with James Spader, who plays The Office's new CEO, Robert California?
Ellie Kemper: It's such a pleasure working with him. The Robert California character is killing me. He is so mysterious and powerful, and I love that everyone is semi-terrified of him. It's such a different energy than Michael Scott.
DETAILS: Is everyone also semi-terrified of James Spader?
Ellie Kemper: He can be terrifying. I watched Sex, Lies and Videotape earlier this summer, then saw him in person. It was a little weird.
DETAILS: The show is full of crazy characters. How do you define Erin's crazy?
Ellie Kemper: We always want to make sure she doesn't come across as dumb. She's naive, and she doesn't always think before she talks, but she's an intuitive person and has insight into things.
DETAILS: You're often cast as "the sweet one." Are you dying to play a vixen badass?
Ellie Kemper: There was a webisode from Subtle Sexuality, "The Girl Next Door," and I get to play the mean, popular high-school girl. And I love to play that kind of person—someone who is kind of terrible.
DETAILS: Everybody wants to be the bitch at least once.
Ellie Kemper: Right? Yes, get that out of your system. It's cathartic.
DETAILS: Bridesmaids got pretty raunchy. Are there any deleted scenes on the DVD you'll have to explain to your family?
Ellie Kemper: You know the kissing scene? When we shot it, it was sort of a longer kiss. We shot it several times, and there were several levels of intensity, and I kept thinking of my family seeing hard-core girl-on-girl action, and it turns out to be a two-second little blip at the end. So my new thing is to keep my mouth shut until it's out. The less they know, the better.
DETAILS: You auditioned for Saturday Night Live before The Office. Do you want to do more sketch comedy?
Ellie Kemper: I don't think I would have been a good fit for SNL, and that is based upon my audition itself, where they asked me to do two impressions. I can't do impressions.
DETAILS: Not every impression on that show is spot-on, but they can still be funny.
Ellie Kemper: My painting teacher in high school used to say, "I can't paint like I want to, but through practice I'll get better." But I don't think that's true. I think sometimes you just can't paint.
DETAILS: Speaking of high school, Jon Hamm was your theater teacher? Did you actually learn anything or just sit and swoon?
Ellie Kemper: He was this young man who came back to teach theater, and we were a bunch of ninth-grade girls, so—hello—we were swooning. And we all did very well in that class.
DETAILS: You play a teacher in the upcoming 21 Jump Street. Are you even old enough to have watched the original series?
Ellie Kemper: I'm old enough! But I had to go back and watch some shows to refresh my memory. They remade it as a complete comedy, there's nothing dramatic about it. It was a ton of fun. I play a teacher who falls in love with Channing Tatum because he's Channing Tatum and a hunk, and all the ladies have a crush on him.
DETAILS: Are you just a little bummed 21 Jump Street isn't set in the eighties, if for nothing else than to wear the fashions—metallic leggings, jean jackets, head scarves!
Ellie Kemper: I know, it's very tame. My character especially: cardigans and long skirts.
DETAILS: There are a lot of cardigans in your acting life.
Ellie Kemper: I'm glad you realized that. I don't know if I suggest cardigans in my outward appearance. Maybe I should start a line. Wait, I just had a Kim Kardashian moment!
DETAILS: Okay, Erin is killed off on The Office. What's your fallback dream job?
Ellie Kemper: I want to be a morning-talk-show host. I love Kelly Ripa's job. She gets to live in New York and has this amazing job hosting a talk show.
DETAILS: You're perky. And you've got the sweater sets.
Ellie Kemper: And I turn into an absolute grouch after 8 p.m., so I'm great in the morning.
— Heather Wood Rudulph