‘Despicable Me 2′ and the benefits of leaving ‘SNL’

This article appeared in The Guardian, published in June, 2013. Interview by Tim Lewis.

What’s the “acting” process on an animated film such as your new movie Despicable Me 2? How much time do you spend with your co-stars Steve Carell, Russell Brand and Steve Coogan?

None. None with any of the other actors ever. That’s just how it’s done. It’s bizarre. I don’t know if it’s a timing thing or scheduling or if the animators are working on a specific character one at a time; I honestly don’t even know. But sometimes you’ll go in for four hours, and then two months later you’ll go in again for half an hour and a month later you will go in for seven hours. It was almost two years of recording in a studio by yourself. It’s very random, but it’s really fun, because it’s very freeing and you can do a million different takes. And you don’t have to worry about hair and makeup.

In the film, you voice a new character, Lucy Wilde, who Steve Carell’s Gru falls in love with. You’re saying that all that chemistry was created in the editing room?

I know. I’m almost ashamed to admit that we weren’t in the same room because people just think that we’re doing these scenes together and we’re not. Ever. Not one time. In real life I think I ran into him, but not on the film.

The trailer for Anchorman: The Legend Continues was released this week and you definitely appear to be in the same room with Steve Carell in that. It seems like your two characters…

Find each other.

What else can you say about the movie?

I can say that we find each other and it’s a good thing. And that’s about all I can say about it. They are really not giving too many secrets away about the movie. They want it to be a surprise thing.

What did you think of the script?

I said yes before I even read it, to be honest. I was such a fan of the first one, so I really would have done anything in the movie, walked around in the background. It wasn’t even like work; it was really fun.

We haven’t seen that much of you in films since Bridesmaids, which of course you co-wrote [with her friend Annie Mumolo] as well as starred in. Were you prepared for the success it had?

Noooo! You can never predict that stuff. That was our first thing and I knew that we had a great time making it. I also knew that a lot of people know Paul Feig as a director and of course [producer] Judd Apatow, so people were going to see it and I was terrified. It was the first film I’ve starred in, so it was more nerves than anything. Yeah, we were shocked.

You’ve said that while Bridesmaids was not autobiographical you share quite a few similarities with your character. What do you think people responded to?

I don’t know, I can’t answer that. I have people say a lot of different things: sometimes it’s the humour or the friendship or feeling like they are losing their best friend because she’s getting married or the mother-daughter relationship. The movie is all of those things to me. We just wrote a movie that made us laugh and we wanted to have a lot of female characters in it.

You have already ruled out making a sequel to Bridesmaids – has it been daunting starting a new screenplay?

Of course you feel pressure and what I’m working on is very different from Bridesmaids. I don’t know what people will expect, but I want to be able to do different things in different genres. I hope people will be open to that.

We should expect a new direction then?

Yeah, for sure. A lot of actors don’t want to do just one thing. People associate you with how they know you. For me, it’s comedy – so when I say I’m doing something dramatic, people are always a little surprised. But to me, it’s like, “I’m an actor, I do a bunch of things.” I started onSaturday Night Live and most people know me from Bridesmaids, so of course it makes sense that they would see me as somebody who just does comedies but I hope that I get the opportunity to do everything.

Your next film, Girl Most Likely, seems to fit that description. It’s about a failed playwright who has to move back home with her mother, played by Annette Bening…

It’s a darker comedy. I can never find the right word, because you don’t want to say “dramedy”, just because combining words never works. Annette Bening is obviously and not surprisingly amazing in the movie. She’s the best. It’s probably one of the highlights of my career working with her.

You left Saturday Night Live in 2012 after seven years. Has it been hard to let go?

I miss the creative aspect of it: you are constantly writing, constantly on your toes. It’s like your brain is in the best shape ever – and then when you leave, you feel a little like your mind is slowly dulling, because you’re not having to fix things and solve puzzles and create on a minute-to-minute basis. But it’s long hours and it’s all-encompassing. Having been gone now for a while, I do have more time, I’m getting a little more sleep and I see daylight more for sure!

So you’re taking it easy now?

I wish I had more free time. I always feel like such an asshole when I say I don’t have any free time but it’s been a little bit of a crazy year, it’s been unusually busy.

One of your projects was the new series of Arrested Development, in which you play the young Lucille Bluth. Was that difficult to turn down?

Oh yeah, it’s one of the best shows on TV. But it’s nerve-racking when you’re going into a show that you’ve been a fan of. It was like showing up on the set of Anchorman: you think, “I know all these characters, I’m coming into their world.” You have to do a good job.