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Alison Pill on The Newsroom, Wedding Planning, and Aaron Sorkin Survival Kits

Photo: Angela Weiss/Getty Images

It’s been a busy summer for Scott Pilgrim breakout Alison Pill, who can currently be found romancing Italians in her second Woody Allen movie, To Rome With Love, and bungling pre-interviews on HBO’s The Newsroom. As Maggie Jordan, the flighty assistant turned news producer caught in a workplace love triangle, Pill is required to walk, talk, and fall down at lightning speeds — only one of which comes naturally to her. Vulture caught up with Pill to discuss her troubled relationship with gravity, her tricks for memorizing Aaron Sorkin’s famously wordy dialogue, and her wedding plans. (She’s marrying Jay Baruchel at the end of the summer.)

Congrats on season two. Do you have any sense of what’s going to happen, or what news events you’ll be covering?
No, and that’s sort of the fun of the episodes. As a cast we’ll get together and be like, “So, what do you think the next news event is gonna be?”, trying to figure out what the story line could be around that news event, and it never works.

Has anyone ever gotten it right?
I think we all figured there was going to be the Japanese nuclear situation. I’m trying to think if anybody got anything else right. I don’t think so. We’re not very good.

Do you find yourself reading the news now and trying to guess what will make it on the show?
Not when I’m not working on the show. It’s also sort of hard because we’re two years behind. So it’s hard, strangely, to remember the exact impetus of the moment that started whatever it is that we’re in now. Like, looking at the Scott Walker recall and the results of that — that’s still going on. We started doing stories a little bit on Scott Walker and on Citizens United and just seeing how that’s developing now is really interesting.

Were you a news junkie before you started doing Newsroom?
I have watched cable news, but I didn’t own a TV when I lived in New York. I was more reading papers, reading magazines; I’m much more print media.

You seem pretty engaged with the news on Twitter.
The Twitter thing started because I got really mad at the paper one day. We were almost finished shooting the show, and I got really mad at the Times. Not at the Times, but at the stories that were part of the Times about the state of the world. So I just got mad and joined.

Did being on the show inspire that at all?
Well, I also wanted to take whatever opportunity I could to say, “This is who I am, please don’t think it’s anything different.” Because [The Newsroom] was more of a higher profile thing than I’ve ever been a part of so intimately. So that was another reason, [an opportunity] to control.

Were you a Sorkin fan before you started Newsroom?
I was a huge Sorkin fan. The West Wing was on and my mom and I — it was our family time. There was not a show at that time during the week that I was as obsessed with seeing. Also, I think that The American President is one of the most divine romances. And I love Studio 60, what I saw of it.

How much did you see?
I only saw the first two, but I got them on some sort of DVD my friend had? It was either like a promo copy or something, because I didn’t have a TV so I didn’t order them …

What about Sports Night?
Oh yeah, fuckin’ love Sports Night.

So do you see Sorkin character patterns in your show?
Can I see Janel Moloney [Donna, from The West Wing]? Yes. The answer is yes. Of course I am; why wouldn’t I be? And that was sort of my first instinct. I think with any television show it sort of opens up and gets in your bones and different chemistry with different people plays havoc with whatever your plans are, and I think in the end it ends up being a very different show just because it’s different people. But yes, the Sorkinian archetypes are there. I think it’s a starting point, because if you drop these archetypes into anywhere it’ll be interesting because they’re good characters. And I also believe in the reality of the clumsiness, hysteria, and overall, like, craziness of these people. Women or male. I fully believe that it’s quite real. I know nobody thought it was believable about the [auto-complete e-mails], but I was like “That’s totally believable, I would totally do that.” Emily [Mortimer] and I were both like, “We’re relatively successful women and we cannot … I mean I would totally mess up with the e-mails and tripping and falling. If you followed me around with a camera every day it would be like, “My God! Oh, so that’s where that bruise came from.”

The Donna comparison makes me concerned for Maggie’s future relationship. I mean, we waited seven years for Josh and Donna.
Well, here’s the thing about serial drama: It works better when they’re not together.

I know, but still!
No, it’s the painful thing. And trust me, once you get into the Mac and Will of it all, you’re going to be wishing for them. There’s a lot of soul mates floating around the bullpen. And you just kinda have to go with the flow. Trust me, it is hard when I’m like, Man, Jim Harper and Maggie Jordan should just be together. From the word go, they were meant to be together. They’re soul mates, it’s done. I cannot guarantee it’s going to be an easy road.

Is there going to be an Amy Gardener character?
I have no idea. There begins to be an introduction of another person in the to-be triangle — um, it gets complicated.

Do you have any sort of special tricks that you’ve developed to learn the Sorkinese?
In our opening day — not really opening day, but the first day we had our read-through, Aaron had made sort of little survival kits for us, which included our script and a head shot of him. I was staying at this corporate-y apartment in L.A. and there was a mirror right by the sofa. I just put his headshot in the mirror. So whenever I was on the sofa, I could look at the television, but every so often I’d be looking and be like, Oh God! Aaron wants me to learn my lines. And that was my trick. I should just be like, Fucking do it, learn your goddamn lines.

Just the fear of Aaron Sorkin?
Not even fear, but the respect for: “You know what this means. Please do this well; you’re going to be upset with yourself if you don’t.”

Do you have a start date for next season yet?
No, I think we’ll start later fall. So I have time off, which is awesome.

So you have some vacation.
I think … well, I’m getting married this summer. So, while the time is vacation time, there’s also just a bunch of planning stuff.

Are you finding that stressful or is it a break?
Oh my God, it’s the most stressful thing you can do.

It’s more stressful than running Aaron Sorkin lines?
I would rather do live Aaron Sorkin than plan another wedding. Swear to God. Don’t do it. Anybody. Everybody should elope.

Alison Pill on Newsroom and Sorkin Archetypes