Kristen Bell Breaks Down Her Career, from ‘Gossip Girl’ to ‘Frozen’ | Vanity Fair

published on July 2, 2020

– I would get feedback
from an audition like,

"Well, you're not pretty
enough to play the pretty girl,

"but you're not quirky
enough or weird enough

"to play the weird girl"

And I was like okay, so
does that just mean like

I can't be an actor?

Like what does that mean?

That was what I was getting feedback on

on every single audition

[calm instrumental music]

Hi, I'm Kristen Bell,

and this is the timeline of my career

– Lookin' for trouble?

– [Blond Man] Should you
been in bed, Schuster?

– Don't think you're gonna
bum any beer off of us either

– Yeah, get your own

– I was living in Michigan
and had already discovered

my love of theater and music
and acting so I was auditioning

for anything I could get my hands on

and this movie called "Polish
Wedding" came and shot

in Detroit with Claire
Danes and Gabriel Byrne

and I was cast as like
disgruntled teenager number one

And I was very nervous but I
was also incredibly excited

and tried to keep my cool
'cause at that time, and still,

Claire Danes is just so worship worthy

She's just such an incredible force

But I tired to play it really chill

Yeah, I had braces, I
was in the background,

I think we were like smoking
and drinking on a street corner

and that was my first film experience

– I just wanted to talk to him

He wouldn't even come and see me

He said he would come and see me

– In 2004, I was living in Los Angeles

but I had trained theatrically in New York

and this David Mamet movie
came up and I spoke Mamet

He's one of those playwrights
where you kind of have to

known the way he writes, it's
very specific, and I was like,

"Oh, I would love to do that
'cause I'm in that world

"I've studied the way that he writes"

And I auditioned and I think I remember,

even though I had been in
LA for like a year or two,

I remember saying to the casting director,

"I just moved here from New York,"

to try to appear more
exotic and attractive

I think I said that for a few years

when I lived in LA [chuckles]

– I used to sit there

The only reason I was
allowed pass the velvet ropes

was Duncan Kane

He used to be my boyfriend

– I did "Veronica Mars"
right after I did "Spartan"

We shot the pilot of
"Veronica Mars" in San Diego

The show got picked up and we
shot for the next three years

in San Diego and I commuted
from Los Angeles to San Diego

every Friday and Monday

So Fridays we shot really
late and I drove back to LA

at around seven or eight in the morning

and then I left for work in San
Diego at four in the morning

on Sunday

And I did that for three
years, which was difficult

but I do feel like I earned
my stripes on that show

putting in a lot of effort

My high school experience
was different than Veronica's

but everyone, every
human being on the planet

can relate to feeling like an outcast

Sometimes, it's actually even the people

who seem to fit in the most
that feel the most left out

And "Veronica Mars" was
kind of where I discovered

that I could do comedy
because prior to that

I was doing guest stars on TV shows

and they were all really dark roles

and I was very much like into acting

and they just wrote these
beautiful sassy one liners

on "Veronica Mars" that were
the things you wish you said

Like when you get in bed at night

and you sort of punch yourself and you go,

"Oh, I should have said that to that guy

"That would have been the perfect zinger"

– Do you even know how to play poker?

– No, but it must be really
hard if all you guys play

– That was the language
Veronica Mars spoke in

so it was very empowering
to play this girl

that was wise beyond her years

and always fought for the underdog

I think discovered a
lot about my personality

and who I wanted to be
through playing Veronica

– Hey, Upper Eastsiders, Gossip Girl here

and I have the biggest news ever

– I'm a big fan of just
saying what you need

in a polite way

And the CW had just
canceled "Veronica Mars"

and I was saying, "Oh okay,
I need to find a job"

And I had heard that they
were doing this pilot called

"Gossip Girl" and I realized
that the cast was probably

five years younger than I was at that time

but there was a narrator

and that she was sort of a
substantial portion of the show

and I just called Dawn Ostroff and said,

"Hey, so remember last week

"when you canceled 'Veronica Mars'

"can I just be this narrator
and stay in business with you?"

And she said, "Yeah, that sounds great

"Let me check"

And then they offered me the part

which was so much fun 'cause I think

that was the only role that
I've never gotten a note on

I walked in and they said, "Just
make this sassy and catty"

And we all know what that
voice sounds like in our head

And over the however many
years I did that role,

I don't think I ever got an adjustment

I seem to be a part of these
projects that keep coming back

which I'm thrilled about

because I've had a pretty good experience

on every project I've worked on

And I like the fact that
it can be these reunions

and we all get together again

I don't know what the new
"Gossip Girl" is going to be like

or look like but I'm
excited to do it again

Dust off the old sassy voice

– Peter

– Hey, hi

– What are you doing here?

– Came here to murder you [laughs]

– I did not actually read the script

before I auditioned for "Sarah Marshall"

I remember Judd Apatow was the
biggest thing at that moment

in comedy and everyone was
pining to work with him

'cause he was just producing
such great material

And I had gotten an audition at 10 am

on a Saturday morning but I
was shooting "Veronica Mars"

in San Diego so I got the
sides that I was to memorize

on a Thursday night, then I
worked on "Veronica Mars",

memorized it during my lunch break,

and then drove to Los Angeles on no sleep

and just walked right
in to the audition room

It was mostly a blackout
for me 'cause I was so tired

but somehow managed to book that role

And then when I finally
ended up reading the script

it was the same caliber
that you're used to seeing

from a Judd Apatow production

and just fell in love with Jason Segel

and Nick Stoller and Shauna Robertson,

all the people who made
that movie beautiful

And the funny thing about that was

I was shooting "Sarah Marshall" in Hawaii

and I got a call that
"Veronica Mars" was going

to be canceled, it wasn't
going to be picked up

for another season

And one day later, I shot the
scene where Sarah Marshall

says, "My show has been canceled

"I'm washed up and I
don't matter anymore"

So I was able to draw on
a lot of personal feelings

for that scene

– I'm really freaked out right now, okay,

because seemingly the only actresses

that actually can survive are
the ones who show their cooter

and excuse me, but I refuse to do that

I have a little dignity

and I don't have the frame
to support plastic surgery

I would tip over And
I'm not gonna do that

I'm not going to exploit myself

– The cool thing about that movie I think,

what I learned from that was
I really gravitate towards

playing characters who are
inherently unlikable on the page

and figuring out a way to
get you to root for them

because everybody has
something likable, relatable,

identifiable about them

Even the people that are
written like you know

terrible human beings on a page

When I read Sarah's part I thought,

"Oh, this girl, you know her
ego is huge, she's a narcissist

"but she's still a human being"

And the way Jason Segel wrote
that movie was so special

'cause he gave his character

a lot of character defects, as well

So there were reasons that
you believed he and Sarah

were falling apart

But after that movie, I sought out roles

that had a lot more
dimension in the characters

– [grunts] Please tell
me I'm almost there

Does the air seem a bit
thin to you up here?

– I was only cast in that movie

because I had auditioned for
"Tangled" and was not cast

and the casting director
Jamie Roberts had said,

"You're not right for this

"but I think you're right
for something else"

And right after my audition for "Tangled"

I sat down with Chris Buck, who
was our director on "Frozen"

and he said, "You know,
in about three years

"I'm gonna be doing this movie

"and it's gonna be called
'Anna and the Snow Queen'"

And at that time it was
something totally different

And he stayed in contact with me

I mean he's really the whole
reason that I have this part

He stayed in contact and
they kind of built the role

around me and asked us to
share a lot of personal stories

about how we wanted these
two girls to interact

to get a really strong
real sisterly dynamic,

which is why I was able
to make Anna so spunky

But I think what feels
best about that movie

is that because I was
involved since its inception

and was like the first one cast,

I think that I was really
able to shape that role

into a love letter to my 11 year old self

Most princesses that you see on screen,

or at least the ones
that I did when I was 11,

they weren't nearly as clumsy as I was,

they didn't talk too much,

they didn't wear their
heart on their sleeve

as much as I did and they just
weren't as weird or quirky

and I really wanted to represent

all the little weirdos out there

I mean I used to eat my
dinner next to the dog,

like in a dog dish with my face

when I was like five,
six, seven years old

So I was like, "I like my
dog better than you guys

"and I'm gonna eat down here"

It's just, you know, a
little off the beaten path

[upbeat techno music]
♪ I don't care ♪

♪ You're on a ♪

– All the cliches about parenting are true

that's why they're so annoying
[calm instrumental music]

and that's why they're cliches

but parenting is really hard

and I had just started to experience it

and I got a call from Mila
Kunis, who is a friend,

and she said, "I'm doing
this movie called 'Bad Moms'

"and so are you"

And I was like, "Okay, great"

So she was the one who
brought me onto the project

She's like, "Just trust me,
you'll read it, you'll love it"

And she was right

It poked fun at all the
things that I was experiencing

at that time

The like drop-off culture
and how gross kids can be

and it was everything
I needed at that moment

so I was very excited to
be a part of that movie

because I was going through
those exact same things

in my life

Whereas when I was doing
"Veronica Mars" I was 25 years old

playing 16, this was a project

where I was actually
experiencing all those things

at those moments

And this sort of like mom
vibe has very much become,

I think, who I am or
at least what drives me

with looking for roles
that, I guess, show women

in the forms of womanhood
and motherhood simultaneously

and yet that dissonance that can be there

– Every person gets to live in
a home that perfectly matches

his or her true essence

– Cool, so I guess that's
why my house, for example,

is this adorable little
cottage whereas other people

might have homes that are bigger

Like that one

– [Michael] Exactly

– Mike Schur and I met
when I was 18 years old

in the halls of "Saturday Night Live"

where he was the head writer
and where one of my friends was

an intern in the set design department

And I was like, "Ooh,
can I come with you?"

And we had met a few times because we both

were children there

And then throughout the
course of the next 15 years,

I'd run into him and I
always just adored him

And then when he started to create

the best television out there

with "The Office" and "Parks"
and "Brooklyn Nine-Nine",

I was always desperate to work for him

but I didn't think he remembered me

And then one night I got a call
on my voice mail that said,

"Hey Kristen, it's Mike Schur

"I'm not sure if you remember
me but I have this project

"and I think you need to be a part of it"

And I was like freaking out

And we sat down for lunch,
for like a four hour lunch,

and discovered we were
both very preoccupied

with what it means to be a good person

So it was just like all
these stars aligning

of me finally being
able to work with Mike,

getting the opportunity of my dreams,

having it be the subject
matter of my dreams

and living out the happiest
four years I've had

[audience laughing]

– Being on stage feels like someone else

but also more yourself
than you've ever felt

This was the brainchild of a documentarian

named Jason Cohen who came to Will Gluck

at Olive Bridge Entertainment and said,

"I have this crazy idea

"and I just want to reunite
musical theater casts

"because I've polled
people and in any room,

"95% of the people were a
part of their high school

"musical theater"

And especially right now,
there are very few things

that bring us all together,

that we've all experienced, right

We always talk about how
much we disagree in America

or on earth

Well, I'm different 'cause of this thing

We all know what high
school feels like, right

Everyone has that pit in their stomach

when we say high school

And almost everyone was a
part of their theater show

So we thought what if
we reunite millennials

and baby boomers and
just capture that spark

of reintroducing yourself
to someone you already know

And the show actually turned
out better then we thought

because there's this electricity
when you see people who

can relive moments from
their high school better

They almost have that
Veronica Mars ability

because it's a human story

more than it is about musical theater

but people have made amends
or stood up for themselves,

rekindled love, come out of the closet

It's like all these beautiful
things wrapped up in one

and I'm very, very proud of it

It's funny I was so concerned with acting

in the beginning of my
career and I feel like

as it's gone on non-scripted television

that tells more human-interest
stories is what I have

been gravitating towards
the last couple of years

Hello Bello came out of this idea

that my husband and I had where
we both grew up in Michigan

but when we had kids we
could walk into any boutique

and buy any baby product we
felt was great for our baby

and not look at the price tag

And we just, in the pit of our
stomach, knew that was unfair

and we wanted to fill a void in the market

where you could bring
sort of premium products

to all parents

They wouldn't have to
chose between their baby

and their budget

And I think one thing I've
learned is that I've always seen

problems in the world but
now that I have this career

I realize I can be leverage

I can walk into a company and say,

"I see a problem in the marketplace

"and I would like to fix it

"And you can fix it with this,

"and you can say Dax and I are involved

"and we will have integrity
behind the mission

"and it will be a good company"

And it has so far

I mean, we just turned a year

but we've given over
a million diapers away

and to 70 different organizations

We made sure going in

that we have a 20% first
responder discount,

like all of these things

that when I'm going to bed at night,

I wanna see happen in the
world I'm able to leverage

because of having done
some movies and television

And the company doesn't go
away like the movies or TV does

so we just turned a year old
and we're celebrating by,

we're giving parent expecting
or new in America and Canada

a free pack of diapers, like on us

And everyday that I sort
of live that mission

through this company I
feel more and more excited

to take on more business opportunities

and, I don't want to say less acting

but if this was where my
career ended acting wise,

I think I'd be okay with it

I remember early on getting feedback

that I wasn't enough in either category

Like I would get feedback
from an audition like,

"Well, you're not pretty
enough to play the pretty girl

"but you're not quirky
enough or weird enough

"to play the weird girl"

And I was like okay,
so does that just mean

like I can't be an actor?

Like what does that mean?

That was what I was getting feedback on

on every single audition

But, I think as I've grown
older those boxes have changed

and they've almost gone away

and it's like this huge gray area now

of all these beautiful
stories that you can tell

that have dimensional people

that don't have to be one thing

It's not the '80s where you
have to have the popular girl

and then the nerd who gets the guy

It's not that anymore

And I'm really grateful for that

and I think it opens up
a lot of opportunities

for everyone to play and pretend,

which is the most fun part

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