Following her appearance in The Social Network, Rashida Jones has updated her Hollywood status with choice roles in The Big Year and The Muppets this fall. But after cohosting the GLAAD Awards, the 35-year-old Parks and Recreation star hopes to add more gay fans to her rising profile by playing a lesbian lawyer opposite Zooey Deschanel in Our Idiot Brother, a dysfunctional family comedy in theaters August 26.
By Brandon Voss
The Advocate: You hosted the Los Angeles GLAAD Media Awards in April with your Parks and Recreation costar Amy Poehler. How did you get that gig?
Rashida Jones: I think they asked us because Bob Greenblatt, our new boss at NBC, was being honored. And possibly because there’s always a subtle lesbian love story happening with my character and Amy’s character on the show.
What was the highlight of your night?
I met Dolly Parton, which made my year. She’s the greatest.
Did you feel the love from the gay crowd?
It was a very warm, receptive room. It might’ve been because everybody was drunk, but I’ll take it. We managed to make some jokes at their expense, and they were really good sports.
You thanked honoree Ricky Martin for years of fantasy fodder, adding, “Come back any time, boo.” How did you take the news of his coming out?
I took it pretty personally. I felt betrayed. No, I was actually really happy, because I know it’s incredibly difficult for a pop star to come out — especially as a Latino, a community where there can be a lot of homophobia. What he did was incredibly brave. But he’s a hottie, and I like thinking he still wants to have sex with me.
So his being gay doesn’t spoil the fantasy.
Oh, trust me, the fantasies are still there and not going away. You can fantasize about anyone, and the truth is that they’re probably not thinking about you anyway. So, no, his coming out has not come between us.
Are you typically shocked when someone comes out?
I’m never shocked. If there weren’t still such a stigma, half of the acting and music community would come out. Luckily, there’s less of a stigma every day.
During the ceremony you also played a gay soldier in a brief skit spoofing the “don’t ask, don’t tell” stalemate. Was it important for you to bring some political commentary to your hosting duties?
Absolutely. We were making fun of bureaucracy, especially as it affects the gay community. I’m so happy that “don’t ask don’t tell” has been repealed, because it’s such a ridiculous notion, but it just shows that things take a long time. There’s still a lot of change that needs to happen in this country.
Among your other philanthropic efforts, you were a vocal supporter of Obama’s presidential campaign. Do you feel a responsibility to use your celebrity for political statements?
I waver on that. Sometimes I hear myself and think, Shut the fuck up. Your job is to act, and that’s all people want to see you doing. But it’s nice to be able to use this stupid thing I’ve been anointed with to put some focus on somebody else.
You also participated in Marc Shaiman’s Prop. 8 – The Musical.
That was probably one of the most enjoyable days of my life, and I’m happy that so many people saw it. I really wanted to be a part of pushing back on all the hatred that allowed Prop. 8 to pass. I have a lot of close friends who had to scramble to get married before that passed, and it’s just so silly. Celebrities or not, people should speak out and say what’s unfair. The fight for marriage equality shouldn’t be some secret, hidden agenda; it’s something everyone should know about.
Because your parents are Quincy Jones and Peggy Lipton, did you have any famous gay people coming over to the house when you were growing up?
I do have very vivid memories of David Geffen, Sandy Gallin, and those guys coming around. They were so powerful, and I remember always thinking that they lived such beautiful, luxurious, sophisticated lives, so I had a very positive association with gay men from an early age. My mom’s best friend, Alan, and his boyfriend were always around too. I never had a moment where I discovered being gay as a thing; I only had a moment of discovering that it might not be everybody’s bag and that there were people out there who discriminated against it. For me, gay people have always been aspirational.
Maya Rudolph told The Advocate that because she was of mixed race, she gravitated toward gay people due to their shared outsider perspective.
I can completely relate to that. I would never claim marginality, and wasn’t really aware of my race when I was a kid, but I did have a hard time figuring out where I belonged when I went to college. I wanted to be a part of the black community, but it didn’t feel like I quite fit in there, and the other kids I wanted to hang out with didn’t necessarily want to hang out with me. So my social circle did end up being very gay, and my best friend was a gay man. Maybe the groups we originally wanted to hang out with weren’t accepting of us, but we all liked each other, so we were like, “Fuck it. Let’s all just hang out together.”
As an actress, when did you become aware of the gay audience?
I’ve been angling for a gay following for years. I don’t know if it’s official, but if doing this interview is declaring that I have one, I’d just like to say, “Thank you very much. I’m deeply honored.”
The lesbian community is abuzz over your role as Cindy, a lesbian lawyer, in Our Idiot Brother.
I have heard that, yes, and I actually looked to my lesbian friends for approval of my portrayal of a lesbian. That’s crazy, of course, because there’s such a large gamut that lesbians run, but they gave me the thumbs up.
How did you create Cindy’s butch look?
The director, Jesse Peretz, had a clear idea of what he wanted aesthetically, and then Chris Peterson, our costume designer, dressed me like a boy he would be attracted to. He said, “If I’m not attracted to you by the end of our fitting, I haven’t done my job.” I wear these insane glasses and dress super-ironic preppy, but I didn’t want to do anything too cartoonish or stereotypical. When I first saw myself in the movie, I thought, Ooh, that was a bold choice I’m not so sure about. But then I was OK, because I feel like the actual character wasn’t as informed by her sexuality as the look was. For me, it was less about Cindy being in a lesbian couple and more about her being the one in the couple who’s the more stable and consistent caretaker.
Do you know a Cindy?
Cindy was based on a girl that Jesse knows, but there were a couple people that I looked to for inspiration, like my friend’s girlfriend who works in non-profit. But the Cindys I know are out in L.A. as opposed to New York, so they’re a little more rocker. My Cindy’s a lawyer, so she’s more conservative and professional.
Was Zooey Deschanel, who plays Cindy’s girlfriend, your first same-sex kiss?
Yes, on and off-screen. I was like, “Oh, my God, girls are so pretty and soft. No stubble burn! What am I doing with guys?” [Laughs] I haven’t dipped back since, but I was very appreciative of the experience.
Is Cindy your first lesbian role?
Well, I played a lesbian who was losing her heterosexual virginity in East of A, a movie that came out for a day.
You also played a feminist in If These Walls Could Talk 2.
Yes, so I was close to lesbians. I was lesbian-adjacent.
Much like in your popular series of FunnyOrDie.com PSAs with Natalie Portman and various animals.
[Laughs] That’s true! I really have been tiptoeing around it, haven’t I? I basically rolled around in bed with Natalie Portman and some pussies. I’m sorry, but that’s what was happening.
You worked with gay power couple Dan Bucatinsky and Don Roos as a guest star on their online series Web Therapy with Lisa Kudrow, and you’ll also appear on the show when it moves to Showtime starting July 19. How was that experience?
Dan and Don are my two favorite people on the planet, and I mean that; I’m not being hyperbolic. They’re hilarious, they’re self-effacing, and they’re incredibly talented and smart, but what I really like about them is that they’re just good people who have a family and who just happen to be gay. There’s something that’s transcendent about the way they work, the way they love each other, and the way they live their life. I think that’s the most positive thing that can happen for the gay community.
Your character, nurse Ann Perkins, briefly romanced Rob Lowe’s state auditor on Parks and Recreation. Did you see his shirtless Vanity Fair cover? That’s some good stuff for a 47-year-old straight man.
It’s ridiculous. I don’t know who he made a deal with. And I made out with that man. OK, fine, it was for a TV show, but I still made out with him, so I give myself props. He’s so foxy. But the older I get, the more I learn that if you live a life that’s aligned with who you really are, that will be reflected in your outside appearance. Rob Lowe — or “RoLo,” as I like to call him — is such a great person. He’s filled with joy, he loves what he does, he’s a great dad, he’s been through a lot, and he’s been humbled by it, so he deserves to look that good.
Speaking of good-looking guys, you also appear in this summer’s Friends with Benefits, which, according to Mila Kunis, had no shortage of nudity on set. Did you happen to see Justin Timberlake’s junk?
Sadly, I did not. I have a tiny, tiny part in that movie, so I was nowhere near him or his junk. I missed out on seeing his junk in two movies now. I really need to get on that.
The Advocate, June/July 2011 issue; extended online version.