Comedienne Kristen Bell has made a career of filleting men with stiletto-heel one-liners in House of Lies, Forgetting Sarah Marshall, and Party Down, all while doing double duty as America's sweetheart. This is why her breakout performance—as a journalist caught in an illegal affair with her hunky, 16-year-old neighbor in the indie drama, The Lifeguard—made waves at the Sundance Film Festival. Between screenings, we caught up with Bell to discuss her controversial role and why she gets weepy over sloths.
DETAILS: Congratulations on your movie The Lifeguard getting into Sundance. Is this your first time at the festival?
KRISTEN BELL: Thank you. I've had a few films participate, last year Safety not Guaranteed and Reefer Madness a few years back.
DETAILS: Does it differ much from other festivals on the circuit?
KRISTEN BELL: It's definitely the most well-known, but in some ways that can both benefit and detract from the cachet of the festival.
DETAILS: How did your comedic background influence this role?
KRISTEN BELL: The writer/director Liz Garcia has a sharp and disarming wit that's apparent in her writing. I understood that beneath all the drama she wrote is quite a few layers of comedy, and I think that allowed for a deeper story to be told—one that's a lot more like life, where tragedy and comedy seem to be one in the same.
DETAILS: I've noticed you don't shy away from darker comedic roles. From Veronica Mars to Sarah Marshall to Party Down to House of Lies, you've played many forceful characters who aren't always immediately likeable. That's a brave choice when many actresses tend to opt for roles that present their characters in nothing but the best light. How do you jump into a role like that and not worry what people will think?
KRISTEN BELL: I guess I just believe nothing is funny about perfection. It's always more interesting to me to have a flawed character, and it's inevitably funnier as well.
DETAILS: The Lifeguard's director is an industry vet but novice filmmaker. Why did you take on the project?
KRISTEN BELL: The minute Liz and I jumped on the phone to discuss the project we connected. We are very similar women and that comforted me in knowing that this woman, who I felt I understood and understood me, was the captain of the ship.
DETAILS: You were pregnant during filming. Did anyone know?
KRISTEN BELL: Not that I know of, though now people have said they had their suspicions since I was tired all the time. I imagine everyone else just thought I was lazy.
DETAILS: Did being pregnant complicate any Lifeguard sex scenes or nude scenes for you?
KRISTEN BELL: No, it was too early to affect anything.
DETAILS: Congratulations on all the accolades for House of Lies. How do you balance major projects like that with smaller indies like The Lifeguard?
KRISTEN BELL: House of Lies only shoots three months a year. That leaves me the majority of the year to look for other projects that interest me and that's very lucky. I adore TV but also think there are a ton of great indies out there, and rather than try to balance things I try and fight for the ones I love and hope for the best!
DETAILS: With VOD and indies increasingly being released outside of theaters, do you see new opportunities for A-list actors to take on more esoteric passion projects?
KRISTEN BELL: With newer ways to raise money and also new ways to release a project I think it emboldens many more actors and writers to take a chance on producing their own ideas. Things like Kickstarter, web series, and Netflix releases all make it possible for new, fresh ideas to hit the mainstream.
DETAILS: You and your husband Dax Shepard looked great at the Golden Globes. I'm curious—do you dress him for these events? As a celebrity couple, is it like prom? Do you guys coordinate?
KRISTEN BELL: No way! He has a mind of his own, and that goes for his fashion as well. He likes what he likes and I always think he looks adorable, so I don't interfere!
DETAILS: You took Dax to Roscoe's Chicken and Waffle for his birthday. His choice or yours?
KRISTEN BELL: His! But don't get me wrong—a pregnant woman will never turn down waffles for dinner.
DETAILS: You are famously attached to your sloth. Do you actually have a sloth?
KRISTEN BELL: Ha, no. I think many people jumped to the conclusion that Dax actually purchased a sloth for me, but I in no way support the exotic-animal trade. I have always wanted to meet one, and the sloth I was introduced to was a rescue sloth who lives at an animal sanctuary and is trained to work in movies. Her name is Melon and she lives a very happy, very slow, comfy life.
—Details' editor Stayton Bonner. Follow him @staytonbonner.
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