No stranger to portraying some of Hollywood’s fiercest funny-women, Christina Applegate has never before shined as brightly – or elicited as many laughs – as she did this season on NBC’s freshman comedy, Up All Night. The Emmy-seasoned actress (she grabbed gold in 2003 for her guest-starring role as Rachel’s kid sister on Friends and later scored two Lead Actress nods for Samantha Who?) drew inspiration from her own personal experiences to bring life to Reagan Brinkley, a smart, witty and refreshingly grounded working mom. Might Emmy voters once again fall for Applegate’s onscreen charms? The TV vet is modest when it comes to discussing her own kudos odds, but isn’t shy about showering her co-stars (Will Arnett and Maya Rudolph in particular) with heaps of praise.
TVLINE | You’ve starred in countless comedies throughout your career, but Up All Night‘s Reagan seems to stand out as the most… you.
Reagan greatly differs from everything I’ve done – Samantha Who?, Anchorman and [Married With Children's] Kelly Bundy… She’s closer to me than anything I’ve ever done. They actually write [Reagan] a lot from having conversations with me, from her core beliefs to the rhythmic way in which she speaks. In that way, it’s a much easier job than I’ve ever had. [Laughs]
TVLINE | So, come clean: Are you as crazy-competitive as Reagan?
Yes! [Laughs] Everyone in my life thinks I’m competitive because I want to win, but it comes from me wanting everyone to have a good time. And when I see that people aren’t enthused, I try to make it really uncomfortable for everyone so they get enthused and want to play hard.
TVLINE | Traditionally in television, the “competitive” woman is also the “bitchy” woman. And yet with Reagan, it’s endearing and something that her husband actually embraces.
A lot of times when you see couples on TV, the comedy comes out of them fighting and bickering. We wanted to show a different kind of partnership, which is that they’re best friends. It’s very similar to what [creator] Emily [Spivey] and her husband have… The funniest scenes between Chris and Reagan are when they are a quirky little team – and they’re a little nerdy! [Laughs]
TVLINE | You come from a traditional acting background, while your co-stars have pasts in improvisation. Would you say that’s an advantage? Or do you feel more pressure to be funny?
Will and Maya do improv a lot. It’s just not something I’m as comfortable [with] as they are. But it’s great to watch, and I’ve learned a lot from both of them. There have been a lot of things that have just come out of my mouth that have ended up in the show off the cuff. [Laughs] I try to get in there. Most of the time writers can be incredibly precious with their words and you don’t want to mess with it too much – in fact, they don’t like it – but [on Up All Night] they do like it. If you can improve upon it, then by all means do so. I always like the page to be really good, though.
TVLINE | The show also had a number of big-name guest stars in Season 1. Do you think that helped keep things fresh?
We love it! We love when [the show is] simple and just us, but we really love when someone else comes in that we get the opportunity to work with. I was so thrilled to have Blythe [Danner] play my mother; she was the only person I wanted from Day 1. I said, ‘Call her, that’s the person I want. I don’t know what we have to do, but get her out here and make sure she is my mother.’ [Laughs] There was also Megan [Mullally], who I’ve always wanted to work with, so that was really a joy… and Molly [Shannon], too. And then we have someone come in and surprise us, like Chris Diamantopoulos, who played Julian. After he left, we said that we had to have him back – a lot! And he ended up providing a great deal of comedy for the show.
TVLINE | Looking back on the season, what would you say are Will and Maya’s Emmy-worthy moments?
I always enjoy scenes between Maya and Chris. And there’s one where she’s driving her own limousine and she keeps messing up the windows; it was just really well performed. If and when she gets nominated for an Emmy – which, if anyone from the show is going to, it’s going to be Maya – that should be her submission. And Will is funny in every episode, so he could pretty much put any of them in.
TVLINE | And, of course, we can’t talk Emmy-caliber performances without mentioning Carly and Delaney Prince, the toddler twins who play your daughter, Amy.
Ours would win an Emmy, hands down! They put all the other babies to shame, I’m sorry. [Laughs] We all lose our s–t when they do what they do… They amaze us. [They] should win a Baby Emmy.
This story first appeared in the pages of TVLine’s print sibling, Awards|Line. The specialty Awards|Line editions canvass various facets of the Emmy and motion pictures awards season including deep coverage, analysis and interviews with the leading contenders and industry players.
- Maya Rudolph