Megan Amram is not just the writer of The Good Place’s latest episode, “Jeremy Bearimy,” nor is she simply an Emmy-nominated actor for her role in An Emmy for Megan. In “Jeremy Bearimy,” Amram also has a cameo appearance as a street busker who receives a wad of cash as Jason and Tahani run through the streets giving away all of Tahani’s money. (“Now you can buy a bigger chin-guitar!” Jason tells her.)
Earlier this week, Vulture spoke to Amram about her surprise cameo and totally legitimate career transition into becoming a professional violinist. And, big news for awards-watchers out there: Amram also said that she’d consider going for a Grammy (“It’s no Emmy, but it’s still very exciting”), assuming she can find a category that would allow her to submit a very short classical music performance.
You give a really virtuosic violin performance in these few brief seconds, and I just need to know everything about how it came to be.
I was very excited that you picked up that it was me. It was not my idea, which I only say because it’s my episode that I wrote. And I thought it was going to look so narcissistic if it was like, “I’m an auteur, and so I put myself playing violin in my own episode.” I’m just glad that 20 years of violin lessons paid off for this. My mom can finally rest easy that all of the years of hearing demon noises coming out of my child violin helped me.
I was a child cellist, so I understand the demon noises.
It is crazy! I was like, “Why would you ever let a child play a violin?” I’ve been playing since I was 8 years old and I’m still bad! It’s a very hard instrument! And it took until I was 15 before it was like, not the worst sound? You should have to be 21 to play the violin.
So whose idea was the cameo, then?
Before the episodes, Mike Schur, all of the production designers and the costume designers, the writer, and director all meet and figure out the uniform vision for the episode. We were talking about these small roles we had in this episode, and one of them was this violin-playing busker. Kirston Mann, our wonderful costume designer, whom I’ve worked with since [Parks and Recreation], knew that I played violin and was like, “Megan should do it!” And then I was embarrassed. But Mike was like, “Oh yeah, sure!”
Presumably, he’d seen your performance in An Emmy for Megan.
Yes, everyone at The Good Place was a huge supporter of An Emmy for Megan. Some people appeared in it. At least one actor on The Good Place tried to kill me in An Emmy for Megan.
So An Emmy for Megan was like an audition reel for this role.
Obviously, I’m trying to transition into comedy violin playing, so this was a really big step. But I will say, for as small of an amount of time as I am in the episode, they didn’t re-dub my playing, which I was very proud of.
That’s a big deal!
I know some professional violinists who’ve played on TV or movie sets and they’ve been re-dubbed afterwards, and I was like, “Wow, I’ve saved the production millions of dollars if I’m doing the calculations right.”
They could’ve stuck Joshua Bell in there.
They could’ve had anyone. And they picked me, probably just one of the top five violinists in L.A.
I have to say, I think it really makes the episode.
The role I was born for, I think. I sometimes play violin on my Instagram, but I don’t usually play in public because I make the weirdest faces when I do it. It’s not on purpose and it’s not cute. It’s like I am having spasms, basically, because I’m concentrating so hard — because, again, as I mentioned, I’m bad. But while I was shooting this very small role, I was extremely nervous that I was going to be making these faces and it would be an unusable shot.
When I was playing cello, I was told that I looked like I was very into it. If someone says that to you, it means that you look weird.
You see violinists with symphonies or cool rock violinists or whatever, and they always look very elegant. I don’t know if there’s a class that they took that’s like, “How to Look Good Playing the Violin”?
I did not get that class.
You were also in an episode of Parks and Recreation, right?
Yes, I played a character named Viv the Hipster, and I was trying to buy Ron’s cabin in the woods as an ironic home. The internet makes GIFs out of everything, and I’ve been very excited to see a few GIFs of me as Viv. Other than the fact that it set up the world for the destruction of, you know, democracy and free speech and that kind of stuff, the internet is also good. Because people make GIFs.
Is this the next big step in your career, after Viv the Hipster?
Well, this role, I don’t have any lines. Probably because they’d be distracting from all of the actual actors with how good I could say the lines. But I think this is just going farther to show that I am a triple threat: comedy writer, actor, and violinist. The classic triple threat. If there’s any comedy roles where acting is minimal — around about three minutes, maybe — and you need a mediocre violinist, I just want to situate myself as the person in Hollywood that you think of first.
I think you’ve nailed it down.
Do you have big dreams for your next on-screen appearance?
Well, as you mentioned, I made a web series called An Emmy for Megan where I tried to win an Emmy. I was nominated, so I am an Emmy-nominated actress, forever. But I do think a Grammy is something that is very enticing to me. It’s no Emmy, but it’s still very exciting. And I have this burgeoning violin career. I’m a professional violinist now — I was paid to be on the show, and I played violin. So I think that there’s probably some sort of dumb, short-form classical music category in the Grammys that I could maybe put out an album to try to win.