When Nasim Pedrad joined the second season of People of Earth, she (and everyone else) had no idea what was to become of The New Girl, the beloved Fox sitcom where she also made regular appearances. The broadcast network ultimately renewed it for a seventh and final season, but with Pedrad’s new series commitment, it’s anyone’s guess as to whether or not she will return as LAPD Officer Aly Nelson. With her debut as FBI Special Agent Alex Foster on People of Earth, however, she’s proving herself just as memorable in her role as a hyper-committed, foot-shooting agent riffing on a character from one of the series’ strongest influences, The X-Files. “Maybe I’m not a model agent, and yeah, I shot myself in the foot,” Foster declares in an early scene reminiscent of Gillian Anderson’s first appearance as Dana Scully. “I was born for this job. So you can ridicule me, demote me, make me file meaningless reports until I am blind in both eyes — but you will never break my spirit.”
As viewers (and Foster) discovered, her case would bring her to Beacon, New York, where the members of StarCrossed have reassembled. In tonight’s episode, the agent will finally meet the group members for the first time — a prospect that excited the Saturday Night Live alum. In an interview with Uproxx, Pedrad spoke about the joys and challenges of joining an established ensemble cast, as well as the terrifying delight of auditioning for Curb Your Enthusiasm‘s upcoming ninth season with Larry David himself.
Between Ana Gasteyer and Greg Daniels, there’s a lot of SNL heritage on this show. Was that a part of how you got involved?
I was so excited to just be a fan of season one, to appreciate it as a fan. Of course I knew Ana a little bit. She had popped in a few times during the five years I was on SNL, so we have met before. I just adored her and loved her work while she was on the show. But the opportunity itself came about when I met with Greg Daniels and Norm Hiscock, and they offered me the role of Alex Foster. The first season was such an interesting, weird and wonderful story, so of course I was excited to join it for season two.
Joining an already close-knit ensemble like this must have been a challenge, though one you successfully navigated previously with New Girl.
I feel like what my character is going through, in terms of coming into something that’s already happening. Foster is coming in and meeting everyone for the first time, trying to educate herself on what’s going on. That whole thing sort of mirrored what I was going through as an actor, joining a cast like this in season two, which can be a little overwhelming at times. You feel like a kid who switched high schools somewhere in the middle of things, and you’re like, “Oh my God, I hope I get along with everyone.” But I could not have joined a more warm and welcoming group of people. We’re really like a little family, and because we shoot in Toronto — which most of us are not based out of, as we’re all either from Los Angeles or New York — it was really nice to have each other for those long days.
When I spoke to the cast at New York Comic Con, a few them talked about doing escape rooms with each other. Did you do anything like that this time around?
Oh yeah. I didn’t do an escape room, but we hung out all the time. I mean, if we weren’t shooting, we were spending time with each other — having dinners, going to movies, exploring Toronto. I just came into a situation where I made all of these new buddies overnight, which was so wonderful. It’s especially great when you’re not at home. This show is very ambitious, so it’s not like a seven-hour day. We just spent a lot of time together and I could not have been luckier.
In previous conversations with the cast, Daniels and creator David Jenkins, I’ve heard mixed things about People of Earth‘s use of improv. Obviously it’s a tightly scripted show, especially with its use of higher concepts, but with a phenomenal cast like this I imagine improv is encouraged at times.
I felt like it was really collaborative. That being said, it’s also a show that is very dense with story. It’s not a show in which four people are lying around in an apartment and talking about dating. I don’t what comparison there is, but it’s a show that has lots of twists and turns and story points — literally lots of information to get out, episode by episode. Improv was certainly encouraged, though obviously not at the expense of getting to a certain story point. I think everyone was pretty mindful of that and understood what the stakes were. I mean, we would always improvise, but we were also aware of the fact that if we started at Point A, these characters would be at a much different position when they reached Point B at the end of the episode. I wouldn’t say that’s a limitation, but there’s a lot of ground to cover beyond just having fun and opening up in additional takes.
With that said, I’ve seen the first few episodes…
Oh my gosh, you’ve seen more than I have! I watched the premiere, but I also hate watching myself.
Many performers tend to feel the same way, though you must know, I think your one-on-one scenes with Wyatt Cenac are some of the series’ best. Your comedic chemistry together is wonderful.
It was really special to work with Wyatt, because we met each other so long ago. We were in the same beginners level improv class at The Groundlings, so we kind of got our start together. It might have been intermediate class now that I think of it, but it was definitely one of the earlier levels. It’s been a blast witnessing the direction his career has taken over the past few years, and seeing all the amazing things he’s done. I was not at all surprised, having improvised with him in our previous classes together, by just how natural and gifted he was. It’s been so much fun following his career and rooting for him. And then, after all that, finally getting to work with him? It was really special for me.
It really shows.
There’s such a comfort level there. I love that guy.
Last but not least, you’re guest-starring on the new season of Curb Your Enthusiasm. What as it like to audition for Larry David?
I cannot even tell you what a bucket list item that was for me to work with that man. I was so… I don’t think I’ve ever been more thrilled to walk in a room and just audition. Auditioning for Larry involved following a very specific guideline, then you sort of improvise. The whole time. It was the most fun I’ve ever had. He’s just the funniest, and I don’t need to speak to how amazing he is. Everybody already knows. But to get to do that really did feel such a bucket list thing. I was like, “Now that I have done that, what else is left?” I mean, that’s the coolest thing you can get to be a part of.
The thought of auditioning for, and improvising with, David seems like it would be one of most wonderfully terrifying experiences.
That’s the great thing about having not been twenty and at the beginning of my career when the opportunity came about. I already had five years of SNL under my belt, as well as the many improv classes I took and all the shows I’ve been a part of. I felt like I had at least enough chops to be a part of the conversation for an audition, at least. It’s definitely nerve-racking in the sense that it’s Larry David. Obviously you want to do a great job, but he exceeded every one of my expectations. He made it so fun, and he couldn’t have been a better scene partner, which is the dream as an improviser. He was genuinely making me laugh. It blew my mind as a comedy fan, but it was also so much fun.
People of Earth airs Mondays at 10:30pm ET/PT on TBS.