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Kristen Bell on Whale Rape, Sloths, and Toe Fetishes

Kristen Bell. Photo: David Livingston/Getty Images

In her latest movie, Big Miracle, Kristen Bell helps save the whales. And in her current TV show, House of Lies, the actress swims with sharks. Meanwhile, there is a video going around the Internet of her freaking out over a sloth. What’s the deal with Bell and animals? Vulture phoned the actress to get her insight into mammals, including her thoughts on Republicans and toe fetishes.

So that video going around of you freaking out over a sloth …
Dax [Shepard, her boyfriend] brought a sloth to me for a few hours as a birthday present. I’ve always loved sloths. It was one of the best days of my life almost to the point where I couldn’t handle it — it was that exciting. I lost my mind.

Are sloths indeed lazy?
It depends on how you look at it. They can’t be lazy, because they’re never not lazy. Their metabolism is so slow. They live in the trees. And they have to shimmy down a tree, which of course takes hours. They poop, like, once a week. And they have to rub their bum on the ground to get their digestive system running.

What’s the most interesting thing you learned about whales making Big Miracle?
[Pause.] What I learned …

For instance, I’ve heard that female whales get around — they aren’t monogamous.
Whales rape. They do. I don’t know if that’s the only way sex happens in their species, but I do know it takes two or three males to corner a female in order to impregnate her, which I personally consider rape [laughs]. You want the species to survive, so there’s cognitive dissonance there.

Your dad was a news director. What did you learn from him in playing a reporter in this movie?
I wish, in retrospect, that I had asked him how this event [based on a real 1988 Alaskan whale rescue] affected him. And I’m embarrassed to say that I didn’t. I grew up going to the station with him and being able to play with the TelePrompTers, knowing the behind the scenes of news directing. And it’s very similar to acting. He had a lot of hesitancy because he knew the rejection that was possible. He had been the one forced to reject people.

In addition to the sloth video, you’re apparently also newsworthy this week for the erroneous headline “Kristen Bell Enjoyed Sucking Toe,” in reference to a House of Lies scene.
I was asked how uncomfortable it was getting my toes sucked. And I said, “It wasn’t as uncomfortable as I anticipated.”

How does one prepare for that type of scene?
Well, obviously a pedi is mandatory. It’s much like any preparation of intimacy on-camera: You have to do everything you can think of. In order to make him comfortable, I brought a bowl and a sponge and a wash cloth and washed everything right in front of him. Because I would be thinking, Is this girl gonna have toe jam? What’s going inside that shoe?

Do people check out your feet now?
I don’t know that people look at my feet. I have seen comments on Twitter or otherwise about my foot or feet in general. I don’t realize it was as much of a fetish. Feet are pretty gnarly. It’s rare that you come across a nice set of toes.

Quentin Tarantino has a well-documented foot fetish. Maybe you can parlay this into a film role.
Does he love feet? He embraces it? Oh my gosh. Wow.

House of Lies also had you dancing in your underwear on-camera. Was that worse?
The only thing more vulnerable than dancing on-camera is dancing in your underwear. Your moves are immortalized. Especially because it was supposed to be erotic. Not my forte. I can do cute till the end of the day, but sexy is a whole different thing to embrace. I’m not Christina Hendricks. And I’m not even dancing to music — they laid that in after. You couldn’t imagine how awkward that was: no music, I’m in my underwear, and there’s 40 stinky crew members in the room. But I kind of just had to go for it.

How much do you know about your character’s background ahead of this show?
I was really only given what I needed for each episode. Jeannie was not a huge role in the pilot. I had been told, “Oh, she’s gonna have this great story line.” Truth be told, that’s what everyone tells you when you start a show. But I like the show. Even if I was just there to support Don Cheadle’s character, I was fine with it. But you do learn a hell of a lot about Jeannie in the upcoming episodes.

The show will continue to tap into her moral ambiguity?
Yes, you learn why she can be so inviting and cutthroat. You learn why she’s kind of obsessed with Marty [Cheadle’s character] but wants his job. She has a past that she’s ashamed of, and she cannot come to terms with things in her life until she works those issues out. And I have sympathy for that.

Looking ahead, will you be visiting your old TV character, the chilly robotic caterer Uda Bengt, in a Party Down film?
I think they’re working on it. I don’t know that I’ll be a part of it because I wasn’t one of the main characters. But I still am very close to all those guys, and I know that they want it to happen.

It’s not a Party without Uda!
That’s what I said!

I noticed that you’re playing Supergirl in an upcoming comedy called Movie 43. As a comics-nerd crush object, is that fulfilling any childhood fantasy for you?
I think my reason for loving superheroes is having Comic-Con fans because Veronica Mars was such a cult hit. It’s exciting to me to have such an original group of people like what you do. There’s nothing mainstream about the Comic-Con fans; they are just more interesting. I like a little bit of weird and a lot of originality and a lot of heart. And that is a definition of a geek.

On a more serious note, you were very active in the last campaign for Barack Obama. Do you have plans to be as involved during this campaign?
I’m a Democrat. I know that. If I’m there, it’s to support the Democratic party. I will be there.

Is that to say you’re currently hoping the president has a second term?
[Giggles.] Over the clown race? Yeah. Yeah. I’m hoping it’s Obama.

Who is the alpha clown in the clown race?
Oh God, you’re gonna get me into so much trouble. Here’s what I do know: I don’t share the same views as a lot of the GOP candidates. I genuinely don’t want to offend anyone. My goal is for more equality for everyone. And I’ll get shit from my publicist if I run my mouth.

Kristen Bell on Whale Rape, Sloths, and Toe Fetishes