‘Party Down’s Lizzy Caplan Is No Crazy Cat Lady

by | April 23, 2010 at 2:14 PM | Interviews, Party Down

Lizzy Caplan in Party Down (Starz)

Lizzy Caplan in Party Down (Starz)

Let’s get one thing straight: Lizzy Caplan is not a crazy cat lady.

Last year, The New York Post’s Popwrap ran an interview with Caplan under the headline: “Lizzy Caplan: ‘Yes, I Named My Cat Lisa Turtle,’” a banner that made Caplan, and perhaps her cat (named for Lark Voorhies’ character on ‘Saved By The Bell‘), cringe. “It was pretty embarrassing,” Caplan admits. “I really like to be advertised as a crazy cat lady,” she adds sarcastically.

So how has she attempted to debunk the perceived label? “In order to shed that image I tried to let her [Lisa] out so she could get eaten by coyotes and I’d be catless. [Pause]. But she just won’t leave.”

For the record, Caplan is joking about giving her cat up to coyotes. But it’s this acerbic wit, self-deprecating humor, and deadpan delivery that has made Caplan the break-out star of Starz’ bumbling cater waiter comedy, ‘Party Down,’ and landed her roles in the high-profile time-traveling hit ‘Hot Tub Time Machine,’ and the upcoming Danny Boyle film, ’127 Hours.’

That’s no small accomplishment for the ‘Freaks and Geeks‘ and ‘Mean Girls‘ star, who’s joined in ‘Party Down‘  by an illustrious cast of comedic characters, including Adam Scott (‘Step Brothers‘); Ken Marino (‘The State‘); Ryan Hansen (‘Veronica Mars‘); Martin Starr (‘Freaks and Geeks’); and starting this season – Megan Mullally (‘Will & Grace‘).

On ‘Party Down,’ Caplan, a Jewish comedic actress, and former waitress, plays Casey Klein, a struggling Jewish comedic actress, and (cater) waitress. The irony of it is not lost on the 27-year-old. During one scene this season, Casey is turned down for a role because producers believe she’s “Too Jewy.”

“I’m sure that was the real reasoning behind a few missed opportunities, but they’ll never come out and say: ‘Too Jewy,’” she says of her own experiences in Hollywood. “But I’ve definitely heard ‘Oh, they want a bombshell girl, like a standardly [sic] beautiful girl.’ Which is great. Love that. It makes you feel pretty hideous and overweight.”

As those who saw her strip down as the V-drinking, Jason Stackhouse-loving Amy in HBO’s ‘True Blood‘ can attest, hideous and overweight she is not. But down-to-earth and busy, she is.

Caplan was enjoying a rare day off in Los Angeles when we spoke. Shooting had recently wrapped on ’127 Hours,’ and she’d just come off a guest spot on the CBS pilot, ‘True Love.’

When asked what she’d been up to during her day of leisure, Caplan confessed: “I’ve been sleeping. I can’t seem to sleep enough. That’s probably the most exiting thing to happen to me today. Oh, I also dropped my phone on the tile floor.”

Below, Caplan dishes on what’s in store for Casey this season (Fridays 10/9c), discusses her merciless teasing of Kevin Arnold (director Fred Savage), and shares her love of pigs in a blanket.

Casey seems to be the only one in the group who’s actually ambitious and talented. Are we going to see that develop over the season?
Yes. Casey achieves more success in this season. That’s all I’ll say. She achieves a modicum of success.

We’re left to believe that her boat/cruise trip didn’t exactly pan out.
Yeah…the trip on the boat. I’m not sure what level of success you can get from doing stand up comedy on a boat, but it doesn’t work out for her and she’s back catering. Everyone is back catering.

Everyone is back except Constance [Jane Lynch], who doesn’t return until the last episode, right?
Yeah, the very last episode. Did you see the first five episodes?

I did.
You’ve seen more than I have. I should watch, but I kind of like watching them when they’re on the TV.

Watch the season two premiere now!

Do you watch with friends or do you prefer to do it alone so you can agonize over your performance?
A little bit of both. If I can pull off watching it myself first, I’m much more enjoyable to watch with other people.

Do you really agonize over your performances?
For sure, although I’ve gotten a lot better. I think I’ve gotten more used to it, I guess. It’s not great. It doesn’t provide comfort.

There’s a line this season when Casey is talking to her agent and says “I’m not mom material. I’m acerbic 20-something. Funny but f**kable waitress.” Do you relate to that at all on a professional level?
I don’t think I’ve ever played a mom role before and I’m really scared of doing that for no real reason, because I’m 27 years old and plenty of 27-year-old’s have children, and that’s not strange.  But in my brain I’m 14 and that seems way over the top for me.

So we won’t see you playing a mom any time soon?
I don’t think so. I don’t know. I hope not. Cut to two years from now where I’m breastfeeding.

You have bared a lot more than just a breast on-screen in the past.
You just have to attach a small child, though. Then I can die a successful actress.

Ryan Kwanten and Lizzy Caplan in True Blood (HBO)

Ryan Kwanten and Lizzy Caplan in True Blood (HBO)

Was it tough for you to do the nude scenes in ‘True Blood?
I think because it was the first time – and the only time that I’ve done it – so it was terrifying. Then after we shot the first take of the first scene it was really surprisingly easy.

Did you do anything to prepare for it?
I required many, many pep talks from many, many friends to get to that place, but there’s something comforting about the fact that every girl gets naked on that show. So, I didn’t really stand out that much. I’ve yet to watch the second season, though, which I really want to. I have it on my TiVo. I did hear that a lot of girls who went on the second season didn’t have to get naked, and in my season everyone was doing it.

No yo-yo diets, or crazy exercise?
My only way to prepare for things like that – or wearing some revealing outfit – would be to try to work out beforehand. I’m embarrassingly lazy, so sometimes I don’t get that done. Spray tanning makes everything look a lot better. It’s like you’re wearing a body suit.

Do you think it works for the cast of  ‘Jersey Shore?
[Laughs] They get to be like that all the time! It’s magical.

Would you do a nude scene again if you got the right role?
I would definitely do it again, but I have said no to doing it since then. Mostly because I’ve been doing comedies and I don’t really think I’ll be doing it in a comedy.

Adam Scott, Ryan Hansen and Lizzy Caplan (Starz)

Adam Scott, Ryan Hansen and Lizzy Caplan (Starz)

You’re one of the only non former ‘Veronica Mars’ actors on ‘Party Down.’ Was there any kind of hazing ritual they put you through?
[Laughs] Well Ryan Hansen still talks about Veronica Mars like it was yesterday. Sooo lame.

Sounds just like his character.
I know. They would have a Veronica Mars-only lunch table, and I was forced to sit on the curb, which was not nice. And they’d all wear Veronica Mars t-shirts each day. Every break we’d have they’d just be watching old episodes of Veronica Mars and I was never allowed into that clubhouse.

So how’d you break into it, then?
I didn’t. They don’t talk to me. Ever.

Andrea Savage was originally cast as Casey in the pilot, and she returns for an episode this season. Was there any cattiness between you guys?
Oh yeeeah. So tense! [Laughs] No. Party Down is one of those sets where everyone, I think, has the greatest time. Andrea Savage, I believe, is no exception. I’ve since hung out with her socially and she is a wonderful, awesome, talented, super funny chick. She would have done a great job as Casey, but she went ahead and had…a baby.

The nerve.
I know. Can you believe it? It’s funny because her baby is so beautiful and awesome. Now she gets to shoot an episode of Party Down and go home to her baby, and I get to go home to my cat.

Megan Mullally and Lizzy Caplan (Starz)

Megan Mullally and Lizzy Caplan (Starz)

Has Jane’s [Lynch] absence been felt this season, or has Megan [Mullally] filled that void?
Megan is incredible and an amazing human as well as an amazing actress. She really just hit the ground running and was awesome from the first episode. Of course we’ll miss Jane, it’s impossible not to, but we’re happy for all her success because she’s very, very deserving. I think that the difference in character – although they’re both very upbeat – Megan brings a totally different thing to it. And in the final episode with Jane there’s some pretty hilarious tension between the two of them. I’m really happy they put that in. Occasionally we would call her Jane, but she didn’t seem to mind.

It’s hard to say who has better – or weirder – chemistry this season, you and Megan, or you and Adam.
Well get ready for the big lesbian scene.

Are you joking or are you serious? I can’t tell.
I’m joking. God, I wish. She’s a really fun actress to work with because she’s so good. All I really have to do is stand there and she would just spin around me doing crazy stuff. She made me look really good by doing all the heavy lifting.

Fred Savage has built a name for himself directing comedies, but do you sometimes get flashes of Kevin Arnold?
Of course.  It’s hard not to think about him as a 30 + year-old Kevin Arnold, which is mildly scary. Kevin Arnold should be a child forever.

How do you find him as a director?
He’s an awesome guy and a really good director. He knows the funny, which is good for us. It’s difficult not to make fun of him for being Kevin Arnold, but I think he handles it really well. When we were shooting one of the seasons, the Winnie Cooper [Danica McKellar] actress got married and I wanted him to get upset about it. But he didn’t care. It was so weird.

Why is he so…well adjusted?
Why was he not lusting after her? I really wanted him to go to his trailer and cry for a couple of hours, but it just rolled right off his back, like a profesh.

Do you think this role has given you cred with the cater waiter crowd?
I would hope so. The few parties I’ve been to with cater waiters, I don’t know if any of them watch the show, which is a bummer. I imagine holing up in the kitchen with them and talking about the grind.

Do you have a favorite episode?
I think the most fun one to shoot was the Steve Guttenberg episode, partly because it was the only episode where it was just us with a few other people there, as opposed to a big party scene. There was a little retreat/summer camp vibe. We all had a great time.

Did everyone call him The Gutte?
Yeah. That guy’s amazing. He’s so funny in that episode.

Watch the episode ‘Steve Guttenberg’s Birthday’ below:

You worked with Tina Fey on ‘Mean Girls,’ which begs the question: where’s your ‘30 Rock’ invite?
[Laughs] Where is my 30 Rock invite? I don’t know. I would love to do 30 Rock. That show is hilarious. Tina Fey could not look more gorgeous on that Date Night poster, either. Oh. My. God. When we did Mean Girls she was a writer and she was acting, but she was not comfortable being an actress; it’s just not what she wanted to do at that time. Since then she’s become a major movie star and she very much looks the part.

There’s been some backlash lately that Tina Fey isn’t really representing feminism. What do you think?
It’s a little absurd to me. Tina Fey created that show on her own and has turned herself into, I think, one of the most inspiring feminist icons of our day, so suck it people.

What’s your favorite hors d’oeuvre?
I like a mushroom situation in a puff pastry.

No cocktail weenies for you.
Actually, a close second would be pigs in a blanket. I was trying to impress you with that mushroom thing. I’m a big fan of finger foods. Whatever vehicle I can use to get more ketchup and mustard into my stomach.