The *Parks and Recreation *star talks about growing up as Hollywood royalty, hanging with Michael Jackson and going nude in the Apple store.
PLAYBOY: You star on Parks and Recreation and have roles in three movies this year, including this season’s The Big Year. And didn’t you go to Harvard? We’re all slackers by comparison, you realize.
JONES: It’s just who I am, I guess. I came out of the womb reading books and thinking about my next project. I’m a born nerd. There’s also this thing of wanting to make your parents proud.
PLAYBOY: But with parents like Quincy Jones and actress Peggy Lipton, shouldn’t you be lounging around your pool all day?
JONES: Look, I have parents who have accomplished so much. I have a father who came from nothing and conquered the world. The last thing I’m going to do is sit here and spend his money and try to look pretty. That’s not interesting to me at all. I’ve been acting professionally for 15 years, and I’ve had to prove myself. Someone may think, “Oh, everything was handed to her,” but it doesn’t really work that way. The nice thing about comedy in particular is that it’s a meritocracy. Funny people aren’t going to have you around because you know other people. You have to make people laugh.
PLAYBOY: Who makes you laugh?
JONES: Aziz Ansari is so funny, though nobody thinks he’s funnier than Aziz. He’ll ruin a take because he’s laughing at himself. I love that man. The Inappropriate Yoga Guy from YouTube is such an asshole in the funniest way. I also love the guy behind the My Son Is Gay? video. Crazy fun.
PLAYBOY: With all the improv on Parks and Rec, does the comedy tend to devolve into we-can’t-say-that-on-TV territory?
JONES: Often. We do something called fun runs. Once we have the scene in the can, we get an opportunity to do whatever comes into our heads. My patented move is to do a penis joke. In an episode of Parks and Rec last season, Amy Poehler’s and Adam Scott’s characters are going on a road trip together, and she wants to make it as unsexy as possible so she can avoid having feelings for him. I say, “Why don’t you make him a mix tape with, like, German glockenspiel music and Roosevelt’s great speeches on it?” Then I say, “Why don’t you ask him about his penis?”
PLAYBOY: Wait. What’s unsexy about a penis?
JONES: Well, A, everything, and B, it’s the last thing a guy wants a woman to be talking about when they’re on an awkward business trip together. They ended up keeping the line in the episode.
PLAYBOY: You’re single. Do men constantly hit on you?
JONES: On New Year’s Eve this guy came up to me really drunk and was like, “Oh my God, I love you. This is the best night of my life. I can’t believe I’m seeing you. This is amazing.” Then he goes, “What’s your name?” So that didn’t work out. We’re not getting married.
PLAYBOY: You’ve said in the past you’re not a big fan of marriage. Do you still feel that way?
JONES: This whole marriage-monogamy thing, in some ways, hasn’t worked for everybody. Statistically it’s pretty clear, since half of couples stay married. And then, of the people who are married, at least 25 percent have admitted to cheating. I think in the next 50 years relationships and intimate relationships will be redefined, because they have to be. I don’t know about polyamory and polygamy, but something’s going to shift. There are so many options now, so many outlets for people to meet and get together, so many distractions. I imagine we’ll get to a point where we can have meaningful relationships that are finite. We don’t get married till death do us part.
PLAYBOY: You play a bird-watcher in The Big Year. Did that require special training?
JONES: I had a bird-calling coach because I had to learn birdcalls. Turns out it’s one of those weird gifts that come naturally to me. It just came chirping out of my throat. I was hitting all these crazy Minnie Riperton high notes and started making all these shrieking sounds. If you can squawk into that two-octave-up, Mariah Carey range, which I somehow managed to do, bird callers think you’re some kind of god.
PLAYBOY: Any other secret talents?
JONES: I don’t know. Something that’s not completely nerded out? Not really. My activities tend to revolve around crossword puzzles, reading and playing piano and games with my friends. I enjoy traveling. Oh my God, I sound like Miss September. Turn-ons: crosswords and long walks on the beach. That’s hot!
PLAYBOY: You seem so wholesome. Were you ever really bad?
JONES:Well, in high school I never drank, I never smoked, I never smoked weed. I was president of the varsity club and was on the math team and then student government. I was in every activity. I saved all the bad stuff for college.
PLAYBOY: Give us one image, please.
JONES: Okay. Picture me with eight gay dudes, all of us wearing matching BVDs and sparkles on our faces, with glow sticks and pacifiers and backpacks and skater jeans, at an all-night rave, out of our minds somewhere in Rhode Island until eight a.m. Mostly, though, college was me trying to look cooler than I was. There were definitely some Carhartt jeans and backward Kangol caps in my repertoire.
PLAYBOY: When you were a kid, would the stars your dad produced, such as Ella Fitzgerald and Count Basie, hang out at your home?
JONES: Major musicians were definitely around, for sure. Nobody was cooler than Miles Davis. I remember his scratchy voice. Even the way he’d say “What’s up?” was cool. Frank Sinatra was another supercool cat. I went to see him in Vegas as a teenager, and my sister and I were having problems getting backstage. We finally did and told Frank about it. He was like, “Who did you have problems with? Who do I need to talk to? I’ll take care of it.” He was going to crack some skulls.
PLAYBOY: What’s your favorite Michael Jackson memory?
JONES: Michael basically grew up with us, so I have a million memories of him. We were at each other’s house all the time. He was definitely a little bit of an alien, for sure, and when I was young, it felt as if he was my age, not 18 years older, but with just a little bit more pep. Later, we’d go out on the town together. He always wore those surgical masks. Once, my sister, Michael, Emmanuel Lewis and I got in a car with Super Soakers and went by a movie theater and supersoaked the hell out of people waiting in line. They had no idea they’d just been supersoaked by the King of Pop.
PLAYBOY: You’ve dated a number of successful, famous men: Tobey Maguire, John Krasinski and President Obama’s young speechwriter Jon Favreau. Did you ever have sex in the White House?
JONES: Oh my God, no. I mean, have you been to the White House? People are sitting around watching you from every angle. They’re also, like, planning on how to keep us from economic collapse. They’re protecting our nation. They’re not having sex. Well, I mean, I know sex has occurred in the White House. Just not with me.
PLAYBOY: We’ve heard you may want to run for public office one day. Is that true?
JONES: I would like to. I’d love to be a senator, governor or even work for a nonprofit, just to do something for the public sector. Life is long and really unpredictable, but I’d like to do a lot with the time I have. My dad told me a long time ago to live life in love and not in fear. I know that sounds really vague and hokey, but it can be applied so often. When I make decisions based in fear, they’re always wrong for me.
PLAYBOY: You created a comic-book series about a fearless female CIA agent. Any plans for a Frenemy of the State movie?
JONES: Totally. I’m writing it right now for Imagine Entertainment and Universal. It lives somewhere between Legally Blonde and Batman — comic but a little dark. Well, more than a little dark in places. My dream casting would be Dakota Fanning a couple of years from now. She’s young and hot. I’m writing it with a guy [writing partner Will McCormack], and we go back and forth about how men and women look at comic books so differently. Of course, they look at life so differently. They look at each other so differently.
PLAYBOY: Help us out. What don’t men get right about women?
JONES: Okay, this may sound illogical, but if you say, “I understand” and rub her back, that’s all she needs a lot of the time. You don’t have to fix her problems. You don’t have to make it better. You just have to weather the storm. Even my most stable girlfriends are incredibly emotional, complex, dynamic creatures. That’s just the nature of who women are.
PLAYBOY: Before Parks and Rec you starred on The Office. Does it really have a future without Steve Carell?
JONES: It’s still a hilarious show, but Steve definitely made it the sensation it was. I honestly didn’t think I was going to make it when I first got there because Steve was just too funny. In one of the first episodes I shot, we had a crazy conference room scene in which he was doing some insane presentation and being outrageously hilarious. I cracked a couple of times and thought for sure I would get fired.
PLAYBOY: TV people often talk about the intimate relationship fans experience with them. You’re in their living rooms, so strangers think they know you. Does that get annoying?
JONES: It’s fine. People are mostly cool. They also sometimes misrecognize me. It’s not just the typical “Didn’t we go to high school together?” which does happen. It tends to be more specific. In my 20s everyone thought I was Fiona Apple. Now I’m either the wife from The King of Queens or somebody on Community. But I’m not going to sit here and complain about standing out. It’s part of the fun. And in L.A. it still doesn’t matter. I call up a restaurant and say, “It’s Rashida Jones,” and I still get, “Sorry, we don’t have another reservation for a month.”
PLAYBOY: If you could be anonymous for one day, what would you do?
JONES: Probably do something naked somewhere. Streaking through a large crowd has always been a secret fantasy of mine. Disneyland would be fun. Or maybe just showing up at the Apple Store naked and picking up an iPod shuffle and pretending nothing was wrong or different.