EDITORíS NOTE: The following interview originally
appeared in the April 22, 2010 edition of the Santa Monica Mirror and
the edited version is being reprinted as a courtesy of that publication.
Photo credit: Gilles Toucas
A Moment With Lisa
By Beverly Cohn
isa Kudrows Phoebe Buffay made her television debut on Friends
in 1994 and stands as one of televisions most endearing, memorable
characters. Her purity and ability to put a positive spin on the most
negative situations won a place in the hearts of millions of viewers
around the world. Kudrow was the first cast member to win an Emmy and
also garnered two SAG awards for her continuing excellent performances.
She has gone on to appear in a number of independent films, her latest
being Paper Man, in which she plays the wife of a failed middle-aged
novelist (Jeff Daniels) who has an invisible companion. He strikes up
a questionable friendship with a young woman played by Emma Stone, who
also has invisible companion.
Q: Was it difficult making the
transition from television to film after Friends, which ended
Kudrow: Even while I was on Friends I did films
and because of The Opposite of Sex, an independent film released
in 1998, in which I played a character that wasnt anything like
Phoebe, I was asked to play roles in other films.
Q: Is your technique for developing a character the
same for television and film?
Kudrow: Yes. You go by whats on the page and see
all kinds of messages in the writing, aside from when they boldly let
you know such things as strong character traits. I always find little
clues to support more layers in the person and to me thats the
fun work about being an actor.
Q: Do you write out a biography on the character?
Kudrow: No. I just think about it as things come up.
For Paper Man, for example, I just imagined about when they first
got together. He made her laugh a lot and she really thought she would
be this fantastic vascular surgeon and he was going to be this successful
novelist and theyll live in New York City and have this glamorous
Jeff Daniels & Lisa Kudrow as husband and wife
Photo Courtesy of MPI Media Group
Q: When youre looking at scripts, whats
the first thing you look for and what attracted you to Paper Man?
Kudrow: The first thing I look for is how it all washes
over me is the story tracking, do I buy the characters, do I
see who they are, are theyre enough layers to make them interesting.
I saw that in Paper Man and I really wanted to work with Jeff
Daniels who was to play my husband. That was really exciting to me.
Also, I like stories about marriages that are tricky and just because
theyre tricky, it doesnt mean theyre doomed.
Q: Did working with Jeff meet your expectations?
Kudrow: Oh yes. He was very professional and not terribly
precious about acting, but takes it seriously. Hes
a regular guy who lives in Michigan with his wife and kids who are his
Q: When you read the script, were you concerned about
where his relationship with the 17-year-old Abby character would go?
Kudrow: Reading the script I was sort of on pins and
needles wondering dont tell me youre going to kiss
her, dont kiss that young girl. I cant like you if youre
going to be that guy.
Q: Two of the characters have imaginary friends. Did
you have one as a child?
Kudrow: Not actually. I did imagine that The Beatles
or The Monkees, mostly The Monkees, were with
me everywhere I went.
Q: How did it work out taking direction from the two
first-time directors Kieran & Michele Mulroney?
Kudrow: Ive worked with a lot of first time directors
and its been fine. The Mulroneys wrote this together and had the
same vision. They were careful not to give mixed signals. They would
discuss what was needed after a take and one of them would give notes.
They seemed very much in sync and if they had any arguments, it happened
off the set.
Q: Were you totally satisfied with your performance?
Kudrow: I was satisfied. I think its also part
of the job to trust the director, in this case the directors, that while
youre doing it, if something needs to change, they will to let
you know. They gave notes that would change something a little bit and
turn it into something else that was fun and exciting and another way
to look at it. I thought they were really good and imaginative in that
Q: Id like to ask you a personal question if thats
o.k. How do you balance your off-screen life as a wife and mother with
your career as its always a challenge in Hollywood to have a successful
Kudrow: I can see it a challenge for any workingwoman
and thats just about everybody because we cant afford to
not have both people in the marriage working. For an actor, especially,
films are not shot here in California where most of us live, so you
have to choose your projects carefully. Thats why I like independent
films because the shoot is not that long and I dont have to be
away as much. I know thats not very artistic, but its practical.
Q: At what point did you decide you wanted to act?
Kudrow: As a kid I wanted to be an actress, but put
that all away in high school and college and then after college it was
like a drum banging in my had and I realized that I had to pursue it
before it got too late.
Q: Did your stint with The Groundlings prepare
you for your acting career?
Kudrow: Yes, because in improvisation, you have to listen
and respond immediately and put yourself in the moment and thats
one of the basic rules in acting.
Q: Is there something secret that no one knows about
you? Its just between us girls. (laughter)
Kudrow. Thats crafty. But, no. No big secret.