For the past six years, Rashida Jones has been a fixture on NBC's Thursday-night lineup, starting with her role as Karen Filippelli on The Office and transitioning into Ann Perkins on Parks & Recreation. In both roles, she's proven consistently charming—the smart, beautiful girl next door who can also hang with the guys. This month, she stars opposite Andy Samberg in the Sundance hit Celeste and Jesse Forever, a film she cowrote with Will McCormack.
The basic premise is this: Celeste (Jones) and Jesse (Samberg) are long-time best friends who get married, only to find themselves on the brink of divorce. The film explores their attempt to maintain their friendship while letting go of their romantic relationship. It may sound like the stuff of predictable rom-coms, but it turns out to be much more. Jones' performance is touching, genuine, and, at times, sad. It's a promising start for her as both a screenwriter and a more serious leading actress.
Details spoke with Jones, 36, about Celeste and Jesse Forever, huge bongs, and her love of Frank Ocean.
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DETAILS: This is the first feature film you've written. Set the scene on how you write: At a coffee shop? At home, surrounded by scented candles?
RASHIDA JONES: No scented candles. At home, in my backyard. Will [McCormack] and I sat side-by-side with one computer. We boarded the movie for two months and made sure that the story of the film felt right to us, and then we started writing dialogue. It was very equal and collaborative.
DETAILS: You must've written things in the past when you were growing up. What's the most embarrassing plot you've ever conceived of?
RASHIDA JONES: Oh my God... [Laughs] I took a playwriting class at Amherst. I was just auditing classes because I was in Massachusetts for a couple months after I graduated. The project was to write three scenes with the same two characters, and I wrote a really terrible, pedantic story about a daughter and a father. He was a drunk and they were southern and it was just bad. Bad.
DETAILS: One of the things that Celeste and Jesse Forever explores is the idea of the man-child—the guy who suffers from Hooded Sweatshirt Syndrome.
RASHIDA JONES: Is that what they call it? That's so good!
DETAILS: That's what I call it.
RASHIDA JONES: You should coin that. You should brand that right now. Make it a meme.
DETAILS: I will make it a meme! But really, why do women fall for this type?
RASHIDA JONES: Women date dudes in sweatshirts because they have no choice. I know so many women who are my age or older, who are beautiful and smart and awesome, and who want a husband or a boyfriend, and can't find one. It's seven to one in New York. It's crazy.
DETAILS: It's a weird kind of settling—which is what your character Celeste does, and it's how your character on Parks & Rec wound up with Andy [Chris Pratt] at the beginning of the series.
RASHIDA JONES: I think women try to make the best of any situation. That's kind of our biological burden, in a way. We do the best with what we have. I think Celeste and Jesse are a different case because they fell in love with each other's potential. But they didn't grow at the same rate that they were expected to grow. And also, I think she beat his manliness out of him in a way. He had to go find a situation that was going to make him feel like a man. So I get it.
DETAILS: Over the course of the film, Celeste spends a lot of time drinking. How drunk were you during filming?
RASHIDA JONES: Wasted. I'm wasted all the time. I'm wasted right now. You'll rarely catch me awake and not drunk! No, I wish. It would've been so much more fun. But there was no time in the movie where I actually drank, which is super-lame. I just had brown-colored water, and herbal flowers instead of weed. So lame.
DETAILS: Speaking of weed, one of the lowest points in the film is when Celeste is using a three-foot bong. Is it difficult to maneuver that kind of equipment?
RASHIDA JONES: It is. And as you see in the movie, I have an accident and smash my face [with the bong]. That was a real accident. That wasn't a physical-comedy move.
DETAILS: Using a huge bong is usually a two-person operation...
RASHIDA JONES: You have to. I had a friend—not that I had anything to do with it—but who had a bong two feet taller than that. So you had to use a stepladder. And that was a three-man operation.
DETAILS: One to light, one to hold, and one to puff.
RASHIDA JONES: Yeah. Exactly.
DETAILS: Where does one get a prop like that? Is it custom-built?
RASHIDA JONES: I think headshops go for the three-foot bong. I think that's something that's available. [Laughs] I left that up to the professionals; I don't know anything about it.
DETAILS: What are the differences between having Andy Samberg as an onscreen love interest versus Aziz Ansari [who plays Tom Haverford on Parks & Rec]?
RASHIDA JONES: [Laughs] I think the Tom-Ann thing was always set out for comedic value. Andy and I have been friends for a long time, and there's a real friendship element to the Celeste and Jesse thing. Hopefully our relationship in the movie has more than just comedic value.
DETAILS: You've tweeted about your fondness for Frank Ocean...
RASHIDA JONES: [Moans dramatically like Homer Simpson]
DETAILS: On a scale of 1 to 100, how much do you love him?
RASHIDA JONES: Not even. Googol. That's the number. It's like a hundred million hundred million.
RASHIDA JONES: I don't know. I think it's the intersection of my deep need to scratch my R&B itch, which hasn't happened in years, and on top of that, he's this really honest poet, and his voice is beautiful, and he's so truthful and cool. He's just awesome. And I really just enjoy his music.
DETAILS: You've done backing vocals before. Do you think you could do a duet with him?
RASHIDA JONES: Don't even suggest that. That's so...that's so exciting. I don't think I'm cool enough for Frank Ocean, honestly.
DETAILS: Modern R&B seems overproduced over the past 10 years, always talking about clubs and champagne.
RASHIDA JONES: Nineties R&B used to be all about romance. And the naughty aughts has been all about sex in R&B. And I hate it. Because sex should be a part of romance. It shouldn't be just sex. That's the thing about Frank Ocean. He talks about feelings. He's very transparent, and I like that.
DETAILS: People think Drake is like that, but I'm not so sure.
RASHIDA JONES: I think Drake is too. I think he's probably the only person that's been holding it down in that particular way of romance and love and feeling lonely.
DETAILS: Frank seems pretty self-aware and self-deprecating at times, and Drake's a badass.
RASHIDA JONES: Yes and no. I think he's got swag, but he's also Canadian and Jewish. He has some internal moments. He has a nice nerd-swag combo. Nerd swag! New meme!
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—Mike Ayers (@themikeayers) is a New York City-based arts and entertainment writer. He has overcome Hooded Sweatshirt Syndrome.