Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Jenna Fischer living her dream

jenna-fischer-pregnant.jpg (300×300)
Jenna Fischer is best known as Pam, the beloved character on "The Office" offering a dose of sanity in a crazy workplace filled with over-the-top characters.
In the movie "A Little Help," which opens Friday, Fischer branches out. She smokes, she drinks, she lies. In other words, she is not Pam. While Fischer has appeared in other movies, this is her most ambitious role yet. She spoke recently about playing a different kind of role and why she's comfortable on TV.
Question: This role helps, but do you worry about being typecast as a Pam-type sweet character?

Answer: I feel like I've been really lucky. I feel like I have a pretty diverse career so far. I feel like I've had a chance to kind of break out and do things that are a little different. Some of the comedies I've done, they're much broader than "The Office": "Blades of Glory" and stuff, and "Walk Hard," that was a sexier role than you might expect when you think of maybe Pam as being the archetype or something.
Q: But as they say, if you died tomorrow, "She played Pam in 'The Office' " would be in the first line of your obit.
A: I would be happy with that. When I was wanting to be an actress when I was growing up in St. Louis, what I wanted to do was be on a television show. I wanted to be in an ensemble comedy, and I wanted to play what I felt like was a defining role for that time. My hero was Shelley Long on "Cheers." I wanted to be Diane Chambers. I wanted to have a role that everyone would always remember on an ensemble comedy, and I feel like I achieved my goal with "The Office." I only feel great about everything. All the other opportunities that I've been afforded as a result are gravy to me.
Also, I'm an actress. I like to play different things. My background is in theater. So while my ultimate career goal was to get to play a role like Pam in a show like "The Office," I also want to continue acting and doing different things. I feel like I'm kind of getting to live my dream.
Q: Steve Carell has left the show, and "The Office" can't go on forever. Will that eventually free you up for more roles?
A: It's so funny because it's so hard. I'm such a creature of habit. I love the consistency and the job security that comes with being on a television show as well. I love that I go to the same place every day eight months out of the year with the same people and the same faces. When you make a movie, every job is a group of strangers, and, by the end, you feel like best friends, and you swear you're all going to keep in touch, and a month later, you never hear from anybody. It's like summer camp, you know? It's very exciting, and that's a very exciting kind of life.
But at the same time, I'm kind of a homebody. So I feel like, in a way, the structure of television is more suited to my personality. But what you lose in that structure is you don't get the opportunity to play different roles. There's a give and take. I want "The Office" to keep going as long as I feel like it's good and people like it because I love it. . . . It's very well-suited to me, and I would not shy away from doing television again after "The Office." I would move to another series happily.
Q: There is something comforting about the consistency of a regular paycheck.
A: When you're a movie actor, you spend most of your time trying to get more work. So most of your job is looking for a job. On television, you can relax a little bit more because you know where you're going every day for eight months. That's really nice. But I have to say, I'm still tickled that I have health insurance. Because my big fear when I became an actress was that I wasn't going to have regular health insurance. With (the Screen Actors Guild) you have to earn a minimum amount of money every year, and then you're covered for one year. So I've had health insurance now for eight years, so it's very, very comforting to me (laughs).
Q: How did you land this role?
A: They sent me the script, and I loved it. I don't get sent a lot of scripts like this, with characters like this. And so at first, I was like, "Is this a mistake?" And then I read it and I met with (director) Michael (J. Weithorn), and then I just waited, and I hoped all the big A-list actresses were too busy to take the role and they would eventually call me, and they did. And I just worked my butt off trying to live up to their expectations.
Q: It's hard not to look for bits of Pam in this role, though that's not really fair to you or the film.
A: An actor's body and face and everything, we're an instrument. And if you're playing a symphony, and it calls for a tuba, the tuba is always going to kind of sound like a tuba. But you can manipulate it and make different music out of it. . . . You're used to hearing me play the same song all the time. You're used to my face and my look representing a certain type of performance . . . . But my hope is that you . . . can eventually be transformed and you can use that instrument in a different way.
Q: It's your first leading role. Was that more difficult than you thought it would be?
A: I definitely gained an appreciation for how hard Steve (Carell) works after doing the film. And not just on-camera, and not just with the character but off-camera as well. I feel like when you're the lead of the project, you really set the tone for the project. And so when there are hard times or long days, you really have to be a trouper because people are really looking at you to set the bar.


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