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Bev Cohn: Carey Mulligan

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.

Lisa Kudrow
Photo credit: Gilles Toucas

A Moment With Lisa Kudrow
By Beverly Cohn

isa Kudrow’s Phoebe Buffay made her television debut on Friends in 1994 and stands as one of television’s 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 in 2004?

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 wasn’t 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 what’s 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 that’s 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 they’ll live in New York City and have this glamorous life.

Lisa Kudrow with Jeff Daniels in Paperman
Jeff Daniels & Lisa Kudrow as husband and wife in "Paperman."
Photo Courtesy of MPI Media Group

Q: When you’re looking at scripts, what’s 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 they’re 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 they’re tricky, it doesn’t mean they’re 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. He’s a regular guy who lives in Michigan with his wife and kids who are his priority.

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 ‘don’t tell me you’re going to kiss her, don’t kiss that young girl. I can’t like you if you’re 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: I’ve worked with a lot of first time directors and it’s 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 it’s also part of the job to trust the director, in this case the directors, that while you’re 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 way.

Q: I’d like to ask you a personal question if that’s o.k. How do you balance your off-screen life as a wife and mother with your career as it’s always a challenge in Hollywood to have a successful marriage.

Kudrow: I can see it a challenge for any workingwoman and that’s just about everybody because we can’t 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. That’s why I like independent films because the shoot is not that long and I don’t have to be away as much. I know that’s not very artistic, but it’s 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 that’s one of the basic rules in acting.

Q: Is there something secret that no one knows about you? It’s just between us girls. (laughter)

Kudrow. That’s crafty. But, no. No big secret. (laughter)

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Let Bev know what you think about her traveling adventure.

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Thanks so much for those lovely tourism photos, especially of Ireland. I certainly enjoyed all the places you suggested, and am working towards my next vacation. Don’t forget Cuba. That’s an exciting place.

Rosalie, Los Angeles

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Enjoyed your article on Mira Sorvino. Such an interesting background – family, education, career and now human rights activist. I'm not a gossip mag fan so getting more meaty news about movie celebrities from you gives me hope that there are some inteligent life forms in Hollywood.

Peter Paul, Pasadena, CA

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Thank you, Bev. This reminded me to go see the movie, "An Education," which I had already almost forgotten about, having seen the preview a few weeks ago. I enjoy this actress quite a bit--she has a uniqueness about her and she pulls me in. I enjoyed this.

Sandeee, Seattle, WA

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Thank you Beverly,I really enjoyed reading about your intimate conversation with Forest, of whom I am a great admirer. I look forward to seeing the film "Our Family Wedding."

Yoka, Westlake Village, CA

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Thank you for the sending me the beautiful article you wrote about Ireland. We will use your recomendations for hotels in the Southern part. We plan to also go to Dublin and some other Northern cities so I will get some recommendations for these from others. After reading your article, I am getting more excited about going. I think we will be in Ireland for 8 days altogether.

Leah Mendelsohn, Santa Monica, CA

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Very much enjoyed Ms. Cohn's article about Munich, especially the visuals. Though it has been 25 years since my last visit, the piece brought back countless pleasant memories of the city and the people!! Many thanks.

Lawrence, Los Angeles

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Marianplatz and that general area is truly one of the best Christmas celebrations in the world. Between that and Oktoberfest (which I can only imagine) Munich is one of the greatest cities in the world for major annual events.

Christopher Dale, New York, NY

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Hi Bev, you have done some wonderful pieces on some great celebs...Great work. The travel articles are just wonderful too.

Scott Mueller, Huntington Beach, CA

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Your great Zurich article makes me want to go there for the holidays! I love the photos, too, especially the ones of you in the sleigh, the view over the houses and the zoo!

Anna Marie, Santa Monica, CA

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Lovely article! As a European, and having been to Zurich (albeit in summer) I can vouch for this lovely city. Great pictures, too!

Helene Robins, Santa Monica, CA

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Hi Bev,

Nice review, nice seeing you, nice website interface "...Talk to Bev" - Enjoy your Thanksgiving!

Richard D. Kaye, Marina del Rey, CA

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Hi Bev,

Your interview with John Cusack is very interesting. I always wondered why these actors/actresses always get top billing when really, if you think about it, the real work come from the animators, writers and tech whizzes who spend far more hours on the movie than those actors. I know, I know, it's the all about marketing. The names of these actors are what bring in the big bucks. Still, I think these actors are way overpaid for the "little" that they do.

I remember that once upon a time, the early animation classics never mentioned the voices behind the characters. I think it was only later when Walt Disney tapped into the voices of known celebrities like Walter Matthau in the Jungle Book or Zsa Zsa Gabor in The Rescuers that the voices became a marketing magnet.

Keep up the good work. I enjoy your interviews as you peer into the lives of the Hollywood celebrities.

Peter Paul of South Pasadena, CA

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