Jillian Bell is known by many different names. She’s been slowly building up a resumé that includes stints on Workaholics, big budget action comedies like 22 Jump Street, and Paul Thomas Anderson films. She’s played strait-laced, sweater-loving coworkers like Jillian Belk, controlling wives like Dixie on Eastbound and Down, and spoiled rich girls under house arrest, like Gene on Idiotsitter, created by Bell and her writing partner Charlotte Newhouse.
Along with the second season of Idiotsitter, which recently premiered on Comedy Central and sees Gene and her best friend/reluctant mentor Billie (Newhouse) heading off to college, Bell’s got a raunchy summer comedy hitting theaters today, Rough Night, a film in which she appears alongside Scarlett Johansson, Kate McKinnon and others that follows a group of college friends reuniting for a girls weekend that begins with a murder and ends… well, probably not well. Bell talked to Uproxx about her favorite sex scene on Idiotsitter, her first time smoking weed, and her love for Meg Ryan.
Congratulations. You’ve gone from wearing Costco sweaters on Workaholics to starring in a movie with Scarlett Johansson.
Yeah, it’s very nutty but it’s been going all right.
That Catholic school upbringing must’ve done something right. I didn’t even know there were Catholic schools in Las Vegas.
Well I went to Catholic elementary school, there are a few of those but I believe at the time, it was the only Catholic high school in Las Vegas.
Now you’re dropping F bombs and killing strippers in movies. The nuns must be proud.
[Laughing.] I haven’t checked in with them but I believe they’re very happy with the progress I’ve made as a human adult. No really though, I feel like every time I check in with my mom I’m like, “You still good with everything?”
Rough Night must’ve been something she loved then. How do you get a raunchy, all-female comedy like this made? They’re still not the norm.
That’s true. This is all from the beautiful brains of Paul [Downs] and Lucia [Aniello]. The script was so clever, so funny, and I love anything with death and comedy. I think that’s always a good partnership.
Was it important to prove that girls can snort cocaine and have Weekend at Bernie’s adventures too?
I think Lucia and Paul did a good job. I feel like a lot of times, the way women are portrayed or written in films like this, they go way towards being dudes and then they’re not relatable to women. Or guys don’t relate to jokes that are too feminine. It’s a really hard line. I think they did a beautiful job of making it from a female perspective but the men will laugh just as much as the women.
And there’s real heart to this too. At the end of the day, it’s about these female friendships.
Exactly. There’s a friendship there and at the beginning of the movie, you see where they came from, you see them in college and how close they were and then, when you get into your thirties, as happens with everyone in their thirties, you move into a new life. Career and family and all that takes center stage. It’s a good story about remembering the people closest to you.
I heard you smoked weed for the first time on set.
I want to be clear. I didn’t smoke it on set. [Laughing.] We weren’t that wild.
Was that a good team bonding exercise? You had the master, Ilana Glazer, guiding you.
She’s the best. She let me kind of do my thing. I invited a friend out from New York and it was the weekend and I was like, “I’m going to try this and see how it goes.” I was so nervous. I was 32 and I’m like terrified about trying it but it was wonderful and it made me feel so creative. I know that’s not the case for everyone so I’m not going to encourage anyone.
Disclaimer: Weed might give you great ideas but it might also give you paranoid delusions.
Yeah maybe you’ll think the cops are after you or something.
Idiotsitter season two just premiered on Comedy Central. This second season feels far removed from the first. Did you want to expand the world a bit this time around?
There’s stuff I genuinely love about that first season. It was all in one place because Gene was under house arrest. It was a small cast, it was just about two friends and their relationship and to me, that’s what will always be a part of the show: the friendship of these two people and how different they are but how similar they are too. The second season we sort of blew it out and got all of these new characters and took it to college and it has a little bit more life. It was certainly a quicker pace this season. We wanted to get a lot of things in there and just experiment with this new world.
And there’s a sex scene finally. Big things are happening.
Yes! It’s so funny, Charlotte [Newhouse] and I were talking about how, “Oh that’s the first person I’ve kissed on the show.” We’re like, “Oh we’re so PG. We’re so not edgy.” But I will say, that sex scene is one of my favorite sex scenes ever. They did it in a t-shirt.
I like to think that Gene’s a bit of a role model. She’s confident, not embarrassed by anything. Are you anything like the character?
We have a little bit of both characters in each of us. Charlotte went to school at Columbia so she’s definitely got some Billie in her, but she’s a wild child. She has a history of being a crazy kid whereas I was super straight laced. But there are parts of me like Gene too. There are a lot of weird vulnerabilities about Gene and I think that’s me.
On Idiotsitter, your character regularly spews out Geneisms.
I’ve heard of Geneisms. What is one for example?
What Would Michelle Pfeiffer Do? Just like little slogans or life mottos. Do you have a Geneism?
I said in the first episode, “Get it girl, get it like Meg Ryan.” I don’t even 100 percent know what I’m talking about, but I said it at a baseball game once with a bunch of friends. We don’t normally go to anything sports related but it was really fun to be at a baseball game and everyone was shouting out things so we were joining in, and just saying random things and I did say, “Get it girl, like Meg Ryan.” And we couldn’t stop chanting that. No one will make that expression blow up, but that’s the dream.
The next Yankees game I go to, that will be the mission.
If not for me, do it for Meg Ryan. She’s cool.
22 Jump Street was probably your mainstream breakout moment, and now you’re set to play the romantic lead in a film in this Splash remake with Channing Tatum as a male mermaid. A merman I guess you’d call him?
A merman, yeah. That sounds right.
Every woman’s dream.
It’s going to be very difficult. I don’t know how I’m going to pretend to be in love with him. I’ve called a lot of acting coaches and I’m going to start prepping.
You’re going to have to pull deep from that well.
Yeah I’m going to call Meryl Streep and see what she would do in this situation. I don’t really know how to act like I’m in love with a man that’s that hideous. We’ll figure it out on the day as they say in the industry.
I know Disney’s interested in that. How are you going to keep it PG?
My friends ask me [that] all the time. I think it’s a good challenge. Whenever Channing and I do comedy individually, it’s normally R rated, fun but slightly raunchy comedies. We thought this could be a fun challenge, to keep it PG so that families can come see it. There will still be some jokes that go over the kids’ heads but still have it where kids can get into the magic of it all because mermaids are pretty magical.
Fearless is a word that people use to describe your brand of comedy. Is there anything that scares you?
Everything. Every single thing scares me. I did a sketch where I played Barb for the MTV Movie Awards and I was like, sitting in my trailer asking, “What are the lines again?” Just pacing. I don’t know how to not take it seriously. I love comedy so much but I tend to beat myself up before I go out there, it’s this weird ritual I need to chill out on because I do actually really enjoy it when I’m out there but beforehand, I get very nervous that I’m going to be the one that fails and screws everything up. The first couple days of shooting Rough Night I was like, “Oh my gosh, you’re ruining this! You’re going to be a failure!”
Weed might help with that.
Yeah I should really start smoking a lot of weed.