The Screen Actors Guild Awards may or may not give us a hint at which way the Oscar winds are blowing, but they’ll definitely give us a host for the first time. The Good Place star Kristen Bell will emerge from the Good Place, er, Bad Place, to emcee the celebratory night that hands out awards for acting achievements in film and television, as chosen solely by those people in front of the camera. EW rang up Bell to hear about her plans for the big night, which kicks off Sunday at 8 p.m. ET/PT on TNT and TBS.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: You’re making a bit of history here as the first host of the SAG Awards. To open the show, will you address the camera from various tables as different personas and in different disguises?
KRISTEN BELL: God, I hope so. I wasn’t going to before you mentioned it, but now I’m going to borrow your idea. We are still working out how to present the show because there is no road map. We know what people enjoy on other shows but every audience is different. I think we’re just going to be taking a lot of chances. Though I will say the most exciting part for me is that being the first host, you don’t even have to say “the first female host.” Just “the first host,” which is something that doesn’t happen every day.
What did you think of the decision to have a host this year?
I thought it was a great idea. When shows are narrated, it tends to be interesting and funny, and it leads to more jokes and a more informal vibe. I can’t really put my finger on why they asked me, but I’m thrilled that they did, and I hope to keep the night just lively and fun and interesting. We’re in a room full of people that I admire — and are friends with many — but really I think it’s the only show that doesn’t have a host. So I respect their initiative to change up the format and try something new.
What were your first thoughts when they asked you to host?
Sheer terror was where it started, which more easily than I’d like to admit made its way into flattery. In truth, it was a pretty easy yes. I do a lot of things that make me nervous. Those things always end up being really fun and risky, but what’s the point if there’s no risk and no taking of creative chances? I thought it would be fun. I like talking, and I do it a lot — a lot. I’ve hosted the CMT awards three times, and I really loved that; I hosted the Independent Spirit Awards. I’m very comfortable with the teleprompter, and I’m a pretty decent party pumper, which I believe are the only two qualifications.
I’m sorry, did you say “party pumper”?
Party pumper, yeah!
You say that you haven’t worked out exactly what you’re going to do, but how will you approach the night in terms of a hosting strategy?
I’d like to be slightly unpredictable — not to the point that would make anyone uncomfortable, but I tend to gravitate toward quirkier things, and I hope to include some of my personality in the show. I also have a reverence for the organization being what it is, and the fact that they have an established show and I don’t want to come in and completely change everything they’ve ever done. It’s turning out to be collaborative. They want to take a lot of chances and make a lot of changes, but I also want to have respect for what the show is, and what the organization is. But I do hope to keep it very fun and lively. It’s going to be a lot of women this year. A lot of women. Out of respect for the changes that are happening in the business and the topics of conversation that are happening currently, we want that to be something that is honoring women, and I don’t want to take anything too seriously. A lot of topics, people have asked me if I’m going to broach. I don’t think it’s really my place to broach a lot of negativity, but we want the night to be really uplifting and celebrate a lot of women and celebrate a lot of women that maybe haven’t had as much of a spotlight as they should have had in recent years.
You’re referring to sexual harassment and #MeToo. Does that mean you probably won’t wade into politics, either?
I probably won’t. The topic of sexual harassment is one that deserves a lot of attention and respect, and I don’t necessarily know that this is the place to address very serious topics. But it is the place to celebrate people who deserve to be celebrated. And acknowledged. And empowered. The boys are definitely invited, but it will be a ladies’ night.
Which category most intrigues you? Laura Dern, Nicole Kidman, and Reese Witherspoon are all nominated for Big Little Lies…
It’s so comical to me that it’s any sort of a competition. First of all, to be acting in movies and television is already such an incredible accomplishment, and then to be in something that everybody watches is another incredible accomplishment, and then to be acknowledged for it, but then to finally win — it’s like there’s so much joy along the way, I would be hard-pressed to think that any of those women would be upset if they didn’t win and instead would just celebrate their opponents. But for me, I keep a really tight eye on everything Game of Thrones. I’ll be darting from the teleprompter over to try to make eye contact and make plans after the show with some of the characters.
You have an amazing talent pool at your disposal. Any hints you can drop about who might participate in the bits?
I’m hoping people will want to participate, but we are not going to put anybody on the spot. I’m not the type of comedian, if you can even call me [that], to pick people apart, so hopefully everyone will know that. Whoever is going to be participating will be celebrated.
Might Mr. Danson make an appearance on the stage?
He’ll be cleaning up my dressing room for most of the show. He doesn’t know that yet. I’ve got a lot of tasks written down I want him to take care of during the show. Onstage, we’ll see.
Is there anyone else you’re rooting for?
If there were a fire, what table would I go to first to rescue people? Game of Thrones. That’s a fact. Other than that, I’m happy for whoever wins.
The SAG Awards air Sunday at 8 p.m. ET/PT on TNT and TBS. Be sure to check out the PEOPLE, Entertainment Weekly & TNT’s SAG Awards® Red Carpet Live here, starting at 5:30 p.m. ET/2:30 PT from Los Angeles.