Rashida Jones has gone from playing nurse to playing cops and robbers. The Parks and Recreation alum returns to weekly TV as a hard-edged detective in Angie Tribeca, a TBS police-procedural parody created by Steve and Nancy Carell. EW pulled Jones over for a routine traffic stop — and to interrogate her about her new adventure into absurdity.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: What drew you to Angie Tribeca and this type of comedy?
RASHIDA JONES: I was looking to take a little break from acting, and I got an email from Steve and Nancy. At first I was just shocked they knew who I was. They said, “Would you ever consider playing this part?” And I’m a 100-percent diehard fan of the movie Airplane! I’ve probably seen it more than anything else. That is my ultimate when it comes to comedy, and I feel like it hasn’t been executed in the same way in a long time. This was in that vein, and to me it was like a dream, and I couldn’t say no.
Why do you think this style of absurd-serious comedy is not attempted much? Is it the degree of difficulty?
Not to get too much into the anthropology of comedy, but there was a big shift from multi-cam to single cam and the mock-doc style — the person who looked to the camera replaced the audience laughing. It was a signal that it was time to find things funny; it was the audience’s way in. This is different because you laugh when you feel like laughing. We’re not pointing to it. There’s something slightly risky about it. Because this style of comedy is so easy to watch, you assume it’s easy to do and the truth is, it’s totally the opposite. It’s so visual and gag-heavy that it’s like theater: You have to rehearse, everything has to land perfectly, you have to be in the right place in frame to make the joke work. So yeah, it’s really difficult to pull off.
What kind of stories and tone can we expect as you spoof procedural tropes?
We go undercover as a ventriloquist and his dummy. We go undercover and it’s my quinceanera, and I’m wearing a big quinceanera dress. We go undercover as chimney sweeps. We deal with heists, blackmail — your run-of-the mill LAPD cases, murder in the ventriloquism world, things like that…. With our show nothing is what it seems. We’re heavy on the comedy, light on the nuance. We take turns fast and hard. We’re not afraid to just open the hatch and let it all drop out…. We just want to tell as many good jokes as we can per minute. We’re using this genre, which now has sunk into everybody’s subconscious, because procedural shows — starting really with Law & Order, have this sort of dry following of a mystery from beginning to end. They are part of our culture now. Hopefully we’re turning it a bit on its head and subverting it and inverting it, [but] seeing a trope will ring true to you and you don’t have to dig too deep to laugh about it.
TBS is sneak-peeking the first season with a 25-hour marathon starting Jan. 17 at 9 p.m.; do you have any advice for those who attempt to binge?
Hydrate. Make sure to take 20-minute disco naps. Luckily there doesn’t have to be that much advice because now we have many recording devices but I do think that people should try to sit and watch it live because why not? That’s fun. Just hydrate and take care of your blood sugar levels and keep eating, I’m not going to to suggest drug use but… you know, if you really want to understand the show and you are prone to partying, don’t be afraid to do it.
Bill Murray is one of the guest stars in season 1. How did that come about?
We met through a mutual friend and we just instantly hit it off and kept in touch. I did a little bit of a part on his Netflix show [A Very Murray Christmas] and he did a part on my show, and it was a nice two-fer, you know? He’s the kind of guy who’s very true to himself and he does what he wants to do, and I respect the hell out of that. I am still in shock that he said yes. I feel extremely proud.
Did you have to call his 1-800 number?
Mine was more of a local number. I didn’t get the toll-free number. I was using my minutes, so I don’t know what’s up with that.
What’s the weirdest thing that you shot so far?
There was a scene where I had to change a grown man’s diaper. That’s probably the weirdest thing I’ve ever done in my life. I hope that’s the weirdest thing that I ever do in my life.