This summer, pint-size powerhouse Alison Brie plays both a permed wrestler and a profane nun. Read on as she plies her razor-sharp wit on wrestling moves, nude scenes and cat cafés.
You’ve been in the business for more than a decade. What surprises you most about the way Hollywood works?
I guess it’s that everybody cheats on their husbands and wives. It always bums me out. I mean, it makes sense on some level because there’s such an immediate intimacy to what actors do. You shoot scenes with people where you’re falling in love with them or making out with them or pretending to have sex with them. So I understand. And you can be away from your loved one for months at a time, and hackers are making it more and more difficult to send sexy photos to one another, so what are you going to do? But it still really shocks me.
You recently married Dave Franco. What was it like meeting his brother James and the rest of the Francos for the first time?
Well, I met their mom before I met anyone else in the family, and she is so wonderful and sweet that our joke for a long time—and it’s true—is that Davey’s mom and I said “I love you” to each other before he and I had said “I love you.” The Francos are just a very humble, laid-back, close-knit family, and my family has a similar vibe.
You’ve described your parents as reformed hippies. Was there a lot of herbal medicine around when you were growing up?
Well, there’s still a lot of pot. On Thanksgiving, we all smoke tons of weed. I mean, not tons of weed; we go through phases. Some Thanksgivings, I’ll bring a pot brownie, and we’ll be sneaking into the closet and having bites of it. At this last Thanksgiving, it was just my parents and my sister and then a bunch of our friends out back with vape pens. It’s been fun introducing my parents to the new weed technology. They both have their pot cards now, though. I used to be the keeper of the weed; now they’re on their own.
In your new Netflix comedy, GLOW, you play a 1980s pro wrestler. What’s your killer move?
We did wrestling training for four and a half weeks for the show, working 10 to 14 hours a day on not killing ourselves. The hardest move is a basic back bump, which is any time you fall on your back onto the mat. You get back-bumped whenever you’re clotheslined, which is when you run into someone’s arm and fall backward. I would much prefer to be body slammed than clotheslined, even though someone’s lifting you off the ground and slamming you down. At least they’re sort of helping to place you in a good position.
My favorite move is the suplex. It’s when you have someone in a headlock, and you put your head under their arm and then flip them all the way over, and you both back-bump on the mat. With all wrestling moves, you learn the foundation, and then you have to just go for it. There’s no in-between. You have to trust that you know how to do it.
What did you make of all those high-waisted jeans and Amish-looking dresses?
I feel like women’s fashion in the 1980s was about women entering the workplace and trying to hold their own with men. They wanted to wear outfits that made them sort of look like men, so they wore clothes that gave them these big shoulders, making their body shape totally different. And they cinched the waist, making them big on their bottom half too. The hair was huge. There was a lot of makeup. It’s like everything was an attempt to make yourself bigger.
You get naked in the first episode of GLOW. Did you train for that too?
Oh absolutely. I definitely did some push-ups and sit-ups in my room to pump up the right muscles beforehand. I’ve passed on a lot of projects that had nudity, but I was obsessed with getting GLOW. Nudity is apart of the show, and I had no hesitation. I love the character. I understood why they wanted it. Getting naked on camera is like ripping off a Band-Aid. The hardest part is the transition from being in your robe to being naked on set. Once I was naked, it kind of reminded me of my nudist days from college and that feeling of, Oh yeah, I love my body and this is fun and silly and it’s fine.
Your nudist days from college?
Mostly it was a lot of lingerie and body paint. I wore this Victoria’s Secret thing with a little black thong under a black lace long-sleeved minidress. It was see-through lace—you could see the panties—but also long-sleeved because, you know, I’m very demure.
Cal Arts was sort of clothing optional. I don’t know what it’s like now; even in the four years I was there, they had started to crack down. My freshman year, the Erotic Ball was still happening. Everybody was in different states of undress. There were tents with TVs playing pornography. And I seem to remember a live sex performance.
Now, in The Little Hours, you play a raunchy nun who smokes and says "fuck’’ a lot. How was it donning the habit?
The movie is a comedy, but wearing the habit was pure depression. It robs you of any sexual identity, and it is the least sexual thing you can do, though people do have nun fetishes. The part that goes on your head is heavy and pulls your neck back, so I was getting neck cramps every day. But the movie is pretty boundary-less when it comes to comedy, which I love. There’s a big scene with a lot of naked witches dancing in the woods around a fire, and that’s kind of madness. I think I felt the most guilt when we were shooting a scene where we’re yelling at the groundskeeper, and we were all sort of unleashed. A lot of the movie is improvised, and at the encouragement of our director, we kept calling him a dirty Jew and referred to him stealing like a little Jewish rat. Being Jewish, I just kept thinking, Oh my God, my mom’s going to see this.
Who makes you laugh the most these days?
Kristen Wiig, always. And Nick Kroll. I pull up clips from the Kroll Show, and I just die. The other day, I was referencing “Pleep Ploop,” a sketch on the Kroll Show; it’s a parody of The X Factor, and it’s one of my favorites. I also like to listen to The Last Podcast on the Left with Ben Kissel, Henry Zebrowski and Marcus Parks. They talk a lot about serial killers and their histories. They make jokes about and do impressions of the killers. You kind of have to be into their sense of humor.
Oh, and anything with cats. We have two cats, Harry and Arturo. My brother-in-law named them because
they originally belonged to him. We often film our cats—mostly doing nothing—and send the videos to each other throughout the day. That is certainly something that other people do not find entertaining.
You had a long stint playing Trudy Campbell on Mad Men. Were you surprised by how successful the show became?
I remember watching the Mad Men pilot, which I wasn’t in, after I had shot maybe one episode. I remember thinking, Oh my God, there’s no way this is going to last on TV. I was kind of like, Well, at least it’s really good and I’m in the first season and that’ll be great. You never know.
You’re also known for your work on Community. Do you have a favorite Chevy Chase story?
Oh jeez. A classic Chevy Chase moment is him walking into a room with the rest of the cast, making jokes. Donald Glover is doing a bit. Everyone’s cracking up, and Chevy points at Donald and says, “That’s not funny. This is funny.” And then throws himself over the back of a chair, leaving everyone sort of stunned. Chevy definitely has a set idea in his mind about what comedy is, and maybe it hasn’t changed in a long time, but he’s still game for anything.
You started your career as a children’s party clown. How often did the dads hit on you?
Not much when I was a clown, but definitely when I was a Powerpuff Girl, because the costume was very revealing for a children’s party costume. It was this tiny dress—shockingly short—with a giant head that strapped on. I kind of couldn’t get a feel for what was going on around me, but I knew I was being ogled.
Your first real acting gig was a role on Hannah Montana, correct?
Yeah. The show hadn’t even aired yet, so nobody knew who Miley Cyrus was. I didn’t know who she was. Even at the first table read, I remember seeing Billy Ray Cyrus and wondering, Why is he on the show? What is happening? Miley was super sweet—a sweet, goofy teenager. I don’t think she would remember me now, but I’m still a big fan.
I understand why people like my feet, because I do find them to be very cute. People constantly request photos of my feet.
Back to ogling: Do you know there’s a Tumblr account devoted to your breasts?
There’s a fascination I can’t really explain. My mom was the first one to point that out early in my Community days. She was like, “I was reading a bunch of message boards, and people seem very fascinated by your boobs. I don’t know why. They’re not that big.” I was like, “Mom, I have great boobs. How dare you?” It’s humorous to me that people have had a fixation with my boobs. By the time I’m ready to film a full-nude scene, I am the most muscular I’ve ever been and my boobs are the smallest they’ve ever been. It’s sort of like a fuck you to the boob-fetish people.
You also have a following of foot fetishists. How do you figure that happened?
I understand why people like my feet, because I do find them to be very cute. But I can’t totally make the leap to sexualizing them. People constantly request photos of my feet, and they also send me photos of my feet when I’ve worn minimal heels or have gone barefoot. Somebody explained to me that it’s because feet are the only part of your body that you can’t change or alter, so it’s really you. I found that to be quite beautiful. But then your mind just cuts to someone jerking off on their feet, and that image is ingrained in your mind forever. Why would you put your dick between two feet when you could put it in a warm vagina or a butthole?
Well said. If you could work with anyone in showbiz, who would it be?
Quentin Tarantino, definitely. His movies have been such a big influence on everything I like about filmmaking. I saw Pulp Fiction at way too young an age—my dad would stand in front of the screen during the gimp scene. Then in high school, I was obsessed with Reservoir Dogs. And then in college, it was Kill Bill Vol. 1 and Vol. 2. The music, the humor—it’s just so much fun.
This is the Adventure Issue. What’s on your adventure to-do list?
I want to jump out of an airplane. I want to go to Japan because it has amazing cat cafes and other things that I hear are great. What else? Win an Academy Award. That’s about it.
What is the most adrenaline-pumping, death-defying thing you’ve ever done?
Probably wrestling. I mean, I’ve never felt so much adrenaline in my body, and like I said, you have to literally dive headfirst into some of these moves. With an audience there, you feel nothing. You’re invincible. It’s a real rush. If GLOW is able to stay on for a few more years, I would be ecstatic, because shooting it is the best.
And finally, what’s the most regrettable part you’ve taken on?
I mean, I hate to shit on movies and stuff that I’ve done, but I played the lead in a B horror movie called Born. The entertainment value is high, but people will watch it because I’m in it and say, “Why did you do that to me?” I play this character who gets sort of…it’s implied that she’s raped by a demon and impregnated with this demon fetus. So it’s like Rosemary’s Baby, but then she gets possessed by the demon fetus and murders people and eats their body parts.
I was right out of college, it was my first movie, and I was going to be the lead. I think I actually got a kick out of the heightened drama—the fact that I was coming out of theatre school to play this part where there are actual scenes of me talking to myself and fighting myself because I’m possessed by a demon fetus—
And all the while you’re like, “What’s my motivation here?”
No, I was like, “I got this.” I was super cocky.