Alison Brie Tells Molly Shannon About Baby Food and Sauna Blankets
This summer, Alison Brie stars in Spin Me Round, a twisted, alfredo sauce-soaked rom-com she co-wrote with her friend and frequent collaborator, Jeff Baena. The film follows Brie as Amber, a manager at a fictional restaurant chain who flies out to Italy for a corporate retreat that goes disastrously, hilariously wrong. For their Eat, Pray, Love meets Taken send up, Brie and Baena tapped cast members from their nunsploitation flick The Little Hours, including Molly Shannon, who recently called up her co-star for a steamy chat about saunas, sad songs, and her real-life romance with husband Dave Franco.
ALISON BRIE: Hi Molly!
MOLLY SHANNON: You look so pretty!
BRIE: Thank you, so do you!
SHANNON: God, and your house looks so gorgeous too. So let me start by asking you—because I think of you as a very disciplined actress, very prepared—did you have breakfast today?
BRIE: [Laughs] I did. I have a little bit of applesauce before I work out. I literally had one of those pouches for babies. I squeezed it into my mouth, then I did a little workout. Did you have breakfast this morning?
SHANNON: I did. Well, I just went swimming before our interview.
BRIE: You love to swim.
SHANNON: I love to swim, and I listen to books on tape. I have waterproof headphones, so I read and swim.
BRIE: That’s cool.
SHANNON: But going to the movie, it was so fun shooting with you in Italy.
BRIE: It’s funny how different our trip was from the characters’ trips. It’s like we were all having the trip that the characters want to be having. And eating delicious food all the time.
SHANNON: It was so special. But what I want to ask you is, so you’ve collaborated now with Jeff Baena on so many movies now. Horse Girl, Spin Me Round, The Little Hours, and now writing, for the second time, a full screenplay. What is the difference between writing and acting for you?
BRIE: I always had ideas in my mind, but I didn’t have the confidence to share them with anybody. My first breakthrough was watching my husband, Dave [Franco] write The Rental, with Joe Swanberg. He would come home everyday super charged. Then with Jeff everything just happened so organically. Dave and I live in the same neighborhood as Jeff and Aubrey [Plaza]. I was taking these really long hikes with them, and we’d talk about everything. I was finally like “I’m going to share this idea for a movie with Jeff,” because he’s not judgmental and he has a lot of kooky ideas.
SHANNON: That’s half the battle, being comfortable with someone. Now let me ask you, because this movie is about people who work in an Italian restaurant, did you ever work in food service?
BRIE: As a teenager, I worked at a place called 21 Choices in Old Town Pasadena which was, like, a frozen yogurt play on 31 Flavors. We would chop all the toppings. I just remember it being so stressful because we had a manager who would time us and be like, “You’re taking too long to make the toppings. You have to do it in under a minute!” You were supposed to smile and be “on” the whole time, just chopping and making conversation.
SHANNON: [Laughs] That sounds exhausting! So when you’re feeling maxed out, what do you do to take care of yourself?
BRIE: I rest. Back when I used to work on Community, we had notoriously bad hours. We would finish the week by shooting into Saturday morning. Dave and I take lazy Sundays very seriously. At the same time, this is going to sound counterintuitive, but I also think that exercise is like meditation for me.
SHANNON: That’s so good, I’m the same way. I do it because I have a lot of energy, and it calms me. I remember during The Little Hours, we would swim in the pool in that hotel and then steam together.
BRIE: That was great!
SHANNON: Have you ever done an infrared sauna?
BRIE: Yes! I love it.
SHANNON: I have a bunch of scripts to read for this new project I’m doing, and my plan is to just sit in an infrared sauna and read.
BRIE: I just bought a sauna blanket. It’s like a sleeping bag. You lie in it and you have to have on a sweatshirt and sweats, because it will burn you. I’ll just put my computer right on top of me, I have one little finger out and I’ll just read a script, or watch The Bachelorette. And then I get in a freezing cold shower for two minutes.
SHANNON: That’s very different!
BRIE: [Laughs] It’s good for your circulation.
SHANNON: Your skin looks so good, it must be working. So, your character in Spin Me Round goes to Italy, and she’s hoping to fall in love. Do you have a favorite romantic comedy, or one that inspired you while writing the script?
BRIE: Well, my favorite movie is The American President starring Annette Bening and Michael Douglas. I’ve seen it over 100 times.
SHANNON: It’s amazing.
BRIE: Though we were doing a send up of a more traditional movie like, Eat, Pray, Love. But when the trip is not quite going the way Amber thinks, her mind goes to another place. Like, “Well, if it’s not Under the Tuscan Sun it’s Taken.” We wanted to play a little bit with the misconceptions that Americans have about traveling abroad, and the ways that we can go overboard in either direction.
SHANNON: Remember the laundry lady that we met? Alison and I had this woman who would clean our clothes in a little shop outside of our hotel. She did not speak a word of English, and she could clean anything.
BRIE: “La lavanderia!”
SHANNON: I called her the magic laundry lady.
BRIE: I would come in with my phone trying to translate, and say two broken sentences to her, then she would respond with a monologue. And I’d just sit there going, “I don’t understand, I don’t understand” in Italian. And she would just keep talking. It was so endearing. When I said goodbye to her, I ended up translating “Goodbye forever.” And she put her hands on her heart and we hugged for so long, I thought I was gonna cry. We loved her. She really took care of us.
SHANNON: An angel. Do you have a song that makes you cry?
BRIE: I do, but it rotates. What’s yours?
SHANNON: I like “Annie’s Song” by John Denver.
BRIE: Yeah! It’s funny when a happy song taps into something.
SHANNON: What’s your happy song?
BRIE: It’s called “Marathon” by Tennis. It always makes me think of Dave because we listened to it in New Orleans the night that we met. Unbeknownst to him, for weeks after, while we were just texting and getting to know each other, I would just put that song on and get this drop in my stomach, thinking of this new boy I met. I still get that feeling, even though we’ve been together over 10 years.
SHANNON: What did you do for your first official date?
BRIE: It’s hard to pinpoint it because we met in New Orleans and had a crazy weekend together there, and then we had five weeks apart. Our first real date was in New York, where he was shooting a movie and I was going to sing with my band. He came to my hotel with wine and cheese and crackers, and we went to Central Park.
SHANNON: That’s so sweet. I didn’t know you had a band.
BRIE: I briefly had a cover band with my two best girlfriends. All three of us would sing Hall and Oates and Bruce Springsteen songs.
SHANNON: That’s so cool!
BRIE: It was something that we did to bide our time waiting around for acting work. We wanted to feel like we were in control of something. Writing has been filling that hole for me. Now, you’ve done so many different types of things, you just wrote this incredible book, you’re working on White Lotus, but you’re also doing The Other Two and I Love That for You, which Dave and I love so much.
SHANNON: Oh my god, thank you! [Laughs]
BRIE: I’m blown away by your ability to do it all. Is there any strategy?
SHANNON: I just go with the flow. I really love being a mom, so that’s my main thing. So it just depends on if it feels fun or not. Simple as that.
BRIE: That sounds healthy.
SHANNON: Do you prefer shooting in LA, or do you get excited to shoot out of town?
BRIE: I definitely prefer shooting in LA, because while I don’t have kids, I have cats.
SHANNON: Yeah, and home!
BRIE: When I was younger, it felt really exciting to go shoot something on location. Even staying in a Holiday Inn, I would just feel like “I’m acting, I’m out on location!” [Laughs] And now, it’s more like “I don’t know if I want to be away from home for so long.” This is why Dave and I are writing more stuff together, because then we’re like, “We’ll write it together, we’ll shoot it together. If we go on location, we’ll go together! We’ll bring the cats!”
SHANNON: That’s amazing.
BRIE: I could just gab with you for hours, but I don’t want to take any more of your time. Should we wrap it up?
SHANNON: Yeah, great! This was so fun!
BRIE: Yes! Bye, Molly!