Call me Maeby: A chat with ‘Arrested Development’ star Alia Shawkat

Alia Shawkat plays the disenchanted Vanessa Walling in “The Oranges,” which is in theaters now.

The sarcastic, know-it-all daughter is the kind of character 23-year-old Alia Shawkat feels comfortable playing, after having spent years in the skin of such a girl on Fox’s acclaimed and subsequently canceled sitcom, “Arrested Development.” Since the show has resumed production for Netflix six years after it went off-air, rabid fans are dying for clues about the new season. Until they air, audiences can tide themselves over with Shawkat’s turn in the sophisticated ensemble comedy, “The Oranges.” In the film, Shawkat stars as a promising young designer, Vanessa, who is living at home years after college graduation, getting caught up in the maelstrom of drama that occurs when her father (Hugh Laurie) falls for their neighbor (Leighton Meester), who just so happens to be Vanessa’s age.

Your character in “The Oranges” seems stuck, dare we say, in a state of arrested development. Why do you think that is?

I think that stage after college is an awkward stage for a lot of people. You don’t know what you’re going to do. Your parents have enough money to be like, “You can stay here,” and your parents don’t kick you out. You almost wish your parents kicked you out so that you could get a bad job and figure out what the f– you’re doing. … I think she has a very regular life in New Jersey, which I used to have in the summers in high school: You just, like, smoke pot. You’re in a suburban town and you just drive around and go see movies. It’s a very relaxed, almost retired life. But when you’re that age and you don’t feel like you’ve done anything creative, or anything to feed your soul, it feels hard.

Since you’re shooting “Arrested Development” after six years away, has the dynamic changed?

I think so. It’s such a unique experience. In what world do you get to work with the people you worked with six years ago? It’s been really great. We’re all so excited. The writing is better than ever, so everyone has a really good attitude.

Do you have a sense of how the series is building up to a movie?

I think we’re taking it one step at a time. We’re shooting these [episodes] and then seeing how it does. There’s no real plan. We’ll see how well these do and then hopefully we’ll make more.

What has it been like to be back on the “Arrested Development” set?

We’re shooting till mid-November. It’s been f—ing awesome. We keep looking at each other going, ‘This is so weird!’ I was a teenager when I was on the show, so me and Micheal [Cera] in particular are like, ‘This is so weird.’ I feel like a teenager in a weird way, but I’m not rushing back to the school room in between takes. I’m actually getting to hang out with everyone. But my same insecurities of a teenager have started to come back — like being kind of awkward and not knowing how to talk to the adults. I was like, ‘I’ve done a lot of s— these last six years. I know who I am, kind of.’ I should be able to be comfortable, but it’s getting better. … It’s some of the most fun I’ve ever had.


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