One might not expect a stylish, olive-eyed starlet like Rashida Jones to have a highly developed dorky side, but the 31-year-old Harvard grad says she spent her adolescent years playing life-simulation games on her Apple IIc Plus. “My sister and her friends used to make fun of me,” she says. “It might be cool for a 12-year-old girl to have a computer now, but it was not cool in 1988.”
Still, things could have been worse. Considering Jones’ upbringingher mom is former Mod Squad glamour girl Peggy Lipton, and her dad is super-producer Quincy Jonesshe could have gone the way of so many other second-generation Hollywood kids. As Jones, sitting in her newly purchased home in West Hollywood, puts it, “It’s a huge testament to my mom and dad that I’m not on drugs or obsessed with being in the tabloids.”
Mindful of her parents’ admonition that “nothing should be handed to you,” Jones got her college degree before trying her hand at the family business. And even then, she says, nepotism wasn’t a factor. “People don’t believe this, but Hollywood really is a meritocracy. There are too many jobs on the line for anyone to do any favors, and nobody has ever said, ‘Let’s give that girl a part because her father is famous.’” To hear fellow funny girl Amy Poehler tell it, there were other factors that ensured Jones’ success: “She’s a quintuple threat. She acts, she sings, she’s beautiful, she’s smart, and she can throw a punch.” Jones worked steadily for almost 10 years, on shows like Freaks and Geeks, Wanted, and Boston Public, before she won her best-known role, as Karen Filippelli on The Office. Of course, stepping in as obstacle to the union of star-crossed office mates Pam and Jim was risky. But Jones didn’t end up getting much hate mail. “There was actually a very divided opinion,” she says. “The Karen-versus-Pam thing became this weird philosophical debate about how you live your life.”
The actress is happy to talk at length about the specifics of the Jim/Karen/Pam affair, but she’s tight-lipped when asked about her rumored off-screen relationship with costar John Krasinski. “I will say this,” she says. “I don’t think that there’s been one example in history where somebody has openly talked about their personal life and it’s done them any good.”
Professionally, Jones has moved on from The Office. She’s currently gearing up for the premiere, next month, of her new show, Unhitched, a Boston-set comedy about four newly single friends searching for love (or, as she puts it, “trying to get back into the dating game. And it’s a hideous, hideous game”). But Unhitched isn’t just another co-ed Sex and the City knockoffit was created by the Farrelly brothers. Jones claims that the version of their signature brand of gross-out humor on display here is a little less crass than the one in There’s Something About Mary, but then goes on to note that a costar is “raped in the butt by a monkey” in the first five minutes of Episode 1, so it’s safe to assume that any fine-tuning for prime time will be subtle.
Jones is obviously excited about the chance to step into the spotlight, especially after so many years spent playing the sidekick. “For a long time, I played the quirky best friend,” she says. “But I think things are changing. Geeks are finally having their day.”