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Alison Brie on Mad Men and Community

On Community, Alison Brie is the often-squealing, wide-eyed Annie Edison, who last week found out her budding romance with Joel McHale’s Jeff Winger might not take off as she’d planned. On Mad Men, she’s Trudy Campbell, the often-Charlestoning, super-preggers foil to Vincent Kartheiser’s Pete. Brie, who sadly won’t be joining the full-time cast of Mad Men anytime soon owing to her Community schedule, also explained the origin of her now-notorious Nerve sex essay (just don’t tell her dad).

Did you start out as a comedienne?
Not originally. In my personal life, I’m hilaaaarious! I was always a bit of a jokester. My sister and I would put on these little SNL-esque sketches at family barbecues, which were actually a little dirty — though we were only about 8 and 10, so our idea of dirty humor was, like, hot dogs as wieners. Our parents got a great kick out of them. But I was gearing toward dramatic work, in high school and at Cal Arts. I thought I probably had a more dramatic look, I’m not sure why — maybe it came from teachers. But the first TV show I ever booked was a guest spot on Hannah Montana. And then I booked Mad Men pretty quickly, so I thought, Well, here’s the drama. But even there, Trudy is more comic relief. It’s nice to think that I can do both.

Both Annie and Trudy are such fully formed characters, and both clothing and voice seem to figure heavily into that. Is that true for you?
I think you’re totally right. For Trudy, she’s obviously very fashionable and it puts into perspective how she spends her days, and for Annie, watching how her clothing evolved over the season was a big part for me to see how she was maturing, discovering herself as a woman, maturing sexually, discovering boys. The shirts got a little more low cut, the sweaters are a little tighter. But it’s as much an outside-in process as an inside-out process. With Trudy, especially with the period undergarments alone, you hold yourself differently, and with Annie it was a lot of thinking about her self-consciousness, how she’s not a person used to being looked at.

Knowing you’re no Wasp, your Wasp affect on Mad Men is particularly fabulous.
Honestly it just came sort of naturally with the way the character was written; I didn’t totally realize I was doing it until Vincent Kartheiser started making fun of me. He does this impression of me, “Ooooh, you’re Truuudie Campbell!” And I’m like, I do a voice? Both characters are a bit affected …

There’s an alarmingly strong reaction to the Jeff-Annie relationship — including a site called “Milady/Milord — the Jeff/Annie Community.”
Yeah that one’s pretty intense. But I kind of love it. I’m not gonna lie. The weirdest ones are really just inappropriate more than anything, and those come on Twitter. I’ve definitely been asked to send someone underwear. That’s as creepy as it got.

We’ve heard about a Claymation Christmas episode. Will that be the topper to last season’s paintball episode?
I think just in terms of the whole outlook in the season, the ante has been upped. It’s not just about having huge fantastical episodes, which there are, but in general I think the whole nature of the show and how silly we can get is being pushed more and more. The Apollo 13 episode — where we kind of go to space, so to speak — that’s going to be one of the more ambitious episodes that we’re all sort of hoping will have a similar if not better feel to the paintball episode. And the Halloween episode, which we just finished, is scaled up. It’s definitely a full-on horror-movie episode and really well done.

It seems like you guys hang out a lot as a cast. Who are you close with?
Danny [Pudi] is probably my closest buddy on set. We are trailer neighbors; our trailers conjoin at the bathroom wall. So we tend to check in every morning, and we both live in Pasadena. We have conversations through the wall when we’re both in the bathroom. That’s as close as you can get with someone, maybe?

Your memoir, “Homosexual Schmomosexual,” about the time you tried to sleep with your gay best friend in college, was great — especially considering the repressed nature of both Trudy and Annie.
I’m glad you’re bringing it up, because it wasn’t written for Nerve originally — it was written for a show at the UCB theater called Worst Laid Plans that was then adapted into a book. They call it “Vagina Monologues meets Car Crash,” and it’s true tales of terrible sex, embellished for comedic-performance purposes. I performed it a few times. I am a very open person, so I wasn’t really ashamed of any of that stuff. It didn’t even occur to me the implications that would go along with it; I was shocked the day it was picked out and highlighted on Nerve’s website. And the reaction surprised me as well. To me, it’s just a really funny story, but I realized all of a sudden that, taken out of a comedic context, it’s very graphic! And the parts people seemed to latch onto the most were the parts I had embellished most — the intro and maybe the conclusion. It was awkward and shocking to suddenly see these headlines — anything on the Internet automatically looks pervy and weird, so when I saw things like “Alison Brie is a Freaky Freak!” I had to call my mom. She just laughed. She saw the show the first time I performed it. I still haven’t told my dad yet, so I hope he doesn’t read this!

You’re also in Scream 4. What can you tell us about it?
I mostly work with Neve Campbell. My character works for her, and she’s a little go-getter, sort of like Annie in eight years but bitchier. She’s sort of a hybrid of Annie and Trudy. I was really into the Scream movies as a teenager, and I remember they shot some of the second one in my hometown, south Pasadena, and I’d drive by and see them shooting late at night and my friends and I thought it was so cool. It’s really come full circle. I was obsessed! I own Scream the original on videotape, and my friends and I made a parody called Yell. I could probably recite 90 percent of the lines. I didn’t tell them this, of course.

Alison Brie on Mad Men and Community