Alison Brie, familiar to fans of TV's "Community" and "Mad Men," has been asked to do a lot of things before as an actress, but never play British. And in "The Five-Year Engagement," the request was a bit more specific than just play British: She had to be believable as Emily Blunt's sister. So, to prepare, Brie immersed herself in Blunt, watching everything she'd done, listening to tapes of her speaking, following her around all day — stalking, basically. Anything to nail a part, right?
Did shadowing Emily so much to get the voice right ever get weird?
It looked like I was "Single White Female"-ing her a lot of the time. (laughs) If someone had taken a picture from across the room, it would've been weird — like her just laughing and talking, and me next to her just [staring intently], whispering what she was saying. But it didn't get weird, no. Not with Emily. Sometimes when we'd all be out, she'd have me do it. "She does a great me!" I was like, "Great..."
Were there moments when you'd say something and she'd ask, "Do I really sound like that?"
No, no. I think she'd more correct me, like, "I don't sound like that."
You have a standout scene toasting the happy couple — and weeping uncontrollably. How much of that was improvised?
It was very collaborative. I remember we got to set that day, and [director] Nick Stoller came up and he was like, "You know, we're not totally sold with what we have in the script for this, so whatever ideas you have, we'll all just kind of work on it today." So there's definitely a lot of different versions of that. There's one with me dancing, doing the robot. It always involved me crying and sort of not being able to get through crying. Nick was like, "What other ways ... try to make yourself stop crying!" And apparently the way that I make myself stop crying is talking in a creepy, low voice. Good to know about myself!
You also have a very adult conversation with Emily in which you talk like Elmo and Cookie Monster from "Sesame Street." How long did they make you go with those voices?
Long! We did the scripted version, and then we improvised — I mean, for hours. And Emily and I definitely had the tea with honey just coming in every half an hour or so. I was losing it, and when I lose it and start laughing, I laugh to the point of crying and it's a whole makeup reset, so everyone's like, "Noooo!" Emily would just look at me and go, "Alison, do not cry. Do not cry!" Which would make me laugh more.
The supporting cast is full of NBC sitcom actors, like Chris Pratt, Mindy Kaling and Chris Parnell. Plus Emily is married to John Krasinski from "The Office." Did you all ever gang up on Jason Segel, since his show is on CBS?
No! No, not at all. I think it was a ploy on his part, he kept us pretty spaced out. I didn't have any scenes with Mindy. They didn't have us all together to gang up on him. He kept us apart so we couldn't.
Alison Brie also has plenty of small screen work, appearing on the critically acclaimed "Mad Men," which just launched its fifth season, and "Community," which despite its extremely loyal — if small — fan-base is in danger of cancelation.
On "Mad Men":
On creator Matt Weiner saying the show's seventh season will be its last:
"Right, right, right. But I'll believe that when I see it. (laughs)"
On how far ahead she knows about what's coming up on the show:
"Not far. We're in the dark constantly. It's for the best. I would hate to have too many secrets."
On increased anti-spoiler measures behind the scenes:
"People always ask us, like, 'What do they say to you? Because none of you ever spill anything!' And actually now there are confidentiality agreements that have to be signed, but the first few years we didn't sign anything. I don't remember ever signing anything. It was just Matt more would just talk to us and be like, 'It ruins it for the fans. Why would you want to do that? To be on the show is so special and to know these things is so special, and then to watch it for the first time is a great experience, so why ruin that for anyone?'"
On the relief of being back on the air after near-cancellation:
"We've had some very dark months when 'Community' was on hiatus and other things were up in the air. So it's always kind of nice to take a minute and enjoy when it's all working out."
On making plans with the show's status in limbo:
"It's kind of funny to look at the next few months of my life and it's just so much in the air. You kind of tentatively plan everything. 'Well, you could be doing this, but if this happens we could be doing this.' We're all really pulling for it. I feel pretty optimistic about it happening just because that's how I prefer to feel about it. And since there's no way of knowing you might as well be optimistic about it rather than feeling bad about it all the time."
On wanting a new ratings system:
"We have such a strong fan base, if not a large one, and I just think a lot of that doesn't translate into our ratings because a lot of our fans are watching the show online. We have to stop judging our show based on ratings. It's so archaic, the system right now, and I don't know why nobody wants to point that out. It's a conspiracy. (laughs)"
On co-star Chevy Chase's feud with boss Dan Harmon:
"It's just not something that I'm focused on right now. I'm really more focused on getting a fourth season. When I think about the show at all, I'm more just crossing my fingers and focusing all my energy on the pickup."