If you managed to make it to 2010 without seeing the name “Alison Brie,” then it’s clear that you weren’t watching the right TV series. Between playing Pete Campbell’s wife, Trudy, on Mad Men and the start of her six seasons as Annie Edison on Community, Brie took TV by storm and became a regular fixture until the end of both shows in 2015, by which point she was already a year into voicing Diane Ngyuen on Netflix’s BoJack Horseman. Of course, during the run of that critically-acclaimed animated series, she started doing double Netflix duty, also starring as Ruth Wilder in G.L.O.W.
While in the midst of all of this small-screen work, however, Brie has also managed to carve out a consistently strong movie career, one which continues with Spin Me Round, which premieres today in theaters and on AMC+, and reunites her with writer/director Jeff Baena. During the course of her rapid-fire promotional junket for the film, Brie discussed her many collaborations with Baena both in front of and behind the camera, the comedic chemistry of Spin Me Round cast, coming to terms with the cancellation of G.L.O.W., and her continued hopes for that oft-discussed Community movie.
Decider: I had a chance to watch the movie last night, and I have to say that it’s been a long time since I’ve seen a comedy that kept me guessing so much for so long.
Alison Brie: I’m glad! I take that as a very high compliment.
Oh, for sure. Normally I’d ask how you found your way into the film, but it’s pretty obvious at this point that Jeff [Baena, director and co-writer of Spin Me Round] has a stock company of players and regular collaborators.
Yes! Yes, that’s true. And, you know, this is the fourth time I’ve worked with Jeff on a film, but this is the second time collaborating as writers and co-producers on something. So I also found my way into the film just by creating it!
Absolutely. And I’d love to believe that the idea came to you while you were having lunch at Olive Garden, but…
No, you know, it’s actually an idea that Jeff had after we shot The Little Hours. He read an article about a very similar program that a certain Italian food chain runs out of the States in which they send managers to Italy for, like, a fully immersive program to experience food and culture. But the article sort of revealed that the program was a little bit lackluster, and the managers just stayed in dorm-style housing and didn’t go out or see much of the countryside and learned how to make a Bolognese and…that was it! And I think he found that idea really funny, just this expectation that you’re going to go on, like, a really life-changing trip, and that just totally falling flat. And then we really just kind of mined that for comedy and just sort of extrapolated to the wildest of conclusions.
As always, it’s a great comedic ensemble that Jeff’s pulled together.
Yeah, it’s a great group. We’ve got some repeat offenders in Molly Shannon and Aubrey Plaza and Fred Armisen, and then a bunch of people that I have admired for a long time. A lot of them I knew personally and some I didn’t, and…it was just a great group. Everybody’s comedic sensibilities melded really nicely. It was just such a talented group of actors and improvisers and comedic actors, but also really thoughtful actors. Every one of these people in this movie – and you look at, like, Zach Woods and Tim Heidecker and Ben Sinclair and Ayden Mayeri – they’re so committed to character, and everybody brought so much. One of the most exciting parts of the process was really seeing the way that these actors brought these characters to life and then stayed so committed to those characters through all of these awkward interactions and situations that we just put the characters in.
I know you and Aubrey Plaza were both on NBC at the same time, you with Community and her with Parks and Recreation. Did you know each other at the time?
Very obliquely. [Laughs] I think we were constantly in the same rooms and at the same NBC parties, and I have to imagine that we sort of met in passing. But we really didn’t know each other well until we made The Little Hours together.
In regards to improvising, I’ve long since given up trying to guess what’s improvised and what’s scripted in a project, but were there particular scenes in this film that tended more toward improvisation than others?
Yeah, you know, not as much of this film was improvised as you might think. All of the other films I’ve done with Jeff have been fully improvised in terms of the dialogue, and this one was actually fully scripted, and we had written everything out, but… I mean, I can highlight some scenes. There were certainly areas where we found room for the actors to riff. Like Molly in the hallway with me, when she’s yelling at me. Molly when she doesn’t want to put her cigarette out. The scene with Zach Woods when he kind of goes off the rails, and he and Ben Sinclair have it out. There were a lot of great improvised moments in those scenes.
The scene with Molly when you’re trying to take your video call from the States…
And she’s borrowing clothes? Yeah, a lot of that was scripted, but then Molly found some amazing moments that she added to the scene, like when she asks to take some hangers, which I just think is so funny. [Laughs]
Do you foresee another collaboration with Jeff in the future? Have you already been talking about the next thing you’re going to do together?
You know, we don’t have any ideas simmering right now, but… You know, who knows? I think our entire collaboration has come about really organically, and when the moment an inspiration strikes, then we’re really just open and in tune with each other about it. So time will tell!
I will say that when I posted on social media that I was going to be talking to you and included the movie poster, someone immediately retweeted it, saying, “I haven’t heard of this until now, but MY GOD LOOK AT THE POSTER and now I can’t wait to see whatever it is.”
[Laughs] I appreciate it! I love the poster. You know, while we were shooting, we had a group text chain with all the actors, and on that chain Jeff would often take pictures of actual romance novels that we would find in the hotel or other places, and then he would superimpose different actors’ faces onto these romance novel covers…like, from everyone in the cast! So it’d be Ben Sinclair and Ayden, it’d be Debbie Ryan and Fred Armisen… And basically, just based off of that, he was, like, “We have to have the poster be like this.” And we did!
I wanted to quickly ask you about a couple of other projects. I for one am still upset about the fact that G.L.O.W. didn’t come back.
[Sighs] Me, too. It’s the great heartbreak of my career. But it will forever live on as, like, this great thing. I loved working on it – maybe more than anything I’ve worked on! – and I miss it a lot. But I feel very grateful for the time I had on the show.
Oh, it was great. I was just so prepared for season four, and then it felt like the rug was ripped out from under me, so I can’t even imagine how the news was for you.
Yeah, it was surprising! But it was sort of eclipsed by the shock of everything that was happening globally. [Laughs] You know, so in a way it was almost like it put things in perspective.
Of course, I’m required to ask about Community and if the “six seasons and a movie” prophecy will finally be fulfilled. Is it still in talks?
It’s in talks! But I don’t have any updates, so… Fingers crossed! [Laughs]
Since G.L.O.W., you’ve worked predominantly in film. Do you still keep an eye open for other TV projects as well as films?
Absolutely! I love working in television. I’m always looking for the next TV thing.
To ask one of my stock questions, what’s your favorite project you’ve worked on over the years that didn’t get the love you thought it deserved?
Oh, wow. That didn’t get the love it deserved… “Goes through the catalog.” [Laughs] It’s hard to say, because… I mean, maybe because of social media and stuff, you have such a thru-line to the fans, and I think I’ve been really lucky that fans have discovered things and they’ve had a real place in their heart for them. Maybe to me, a movie that I really loved that I worked on was Sleeping with Other People, with Jason Sudekis and directed by Leslye Headland.
That was a really magical experience making that movie. I had so much fun doing it, and I think that it later sort of find the love, but…that’s sort of what I’m saying about social media. I do think it found the love from people who’ve watched it, but certainly when we put it out, it didn’t feel like it got very much attention!
Lastly, I don’t know if you’ve paid any attention, but whether the Community movie gets made or not, there is definitely an online demand for a rom-com starring you and Joel McHale.
Well, let’s hope [the rom-com] is the Community movie!
This interview has been edited for clarity and length.