I went on a date with this guy and then, before I knew it, he started masturbating.
No one could’ve predicted just how successful Parks and Recreation would go onto become four years ago including its primary cast, which at the time had yet to fill the role of a certain moustachioed breakfast enthusiast. Perhaps we, too, gambled when we put Rashida Jones on the cover of our spring 2009 issue. Nothing was certain. The show would get off to a rocky start. The ratings less than stellar. Now in its sixth season with an armload of trophies to its name, fans are about to bid their farewell to Jones (and Rob Lowe) who recently announced she wouldn’t be returning for another season. Blame nostalgia because here we revisit our past cover story in which Jones and her Parks and Rec co-star Aziz Ansari shoot the shit, covering everything from wanting to cast Johnny Depp on the show and Kanye West—their new texting buddy, unbeknownst to him.
Quick: Who’s the hottest Jewish Harvard grad of all time? If you said Alan Dershowitz, you were close (he’s second). The correct answer is Rashida Jones, daughter of hot Mod Squad actress Peggy Lipton and the only woman in history to have played three different characters named Karen (on Freaks and Geeks, Stella and The Office). Since her stint on The Office, Jones (you might have heard of her father, Quincy; he invented Michael Jackson) has quickly established herself as one of the smartest, funniest women in show business and a double threat to boot, with small-screen (NBC’s Parks and Recreation) and big-screen (I Love You, Man with Paul Rudd) projects all over the place this spring.
In February, her Parks and Recreation co-star Aziz Ansari caught up with Jones over a meal at Lucques in Los Angeles. The pair chatted about Christian Bale’s temper, the philosophy of comedy and awkward bouts of masturbation during first dates. They also giddily text messaged Kanye West.
Aziz Ansari: What do you have coming out in 2009 that you’re excited about?
Rashida Jones: I Love You, Man. The movie you and I did together. And I’m planning on turning my guesthouse into a dance studio. That’s kind of a dream of mine.
A.A.: Whoa, you already have a guesthouse? You’ve already made it big time. What’s your favorite thing in your house?
R.J.: I have this wallpaper that I love! It’s magnolias.
A.A.: That’s such a girl answer. Mine would be, like, ‘My big-screen TV, bro! And I got this awesome receiver. And Dolby digital surround sound!’
R.J.: I have a fifty-incher in my bedroom. Oh, that sounds terrible.
A.A.: That does sound bad. I don’t know if this is cool to talk about, but are there any other movies that you really wish you’d got?
R.J.: There were things I wanted so bad, and I’m so happy I didn’t get them when I saw the outcome.
A.A.: Any you want to talk about? I guess you don’t want to slag anyone off.
R.J.: No, but I will say I did a workshop in New York like six or seven years ago with Sofia Coppola for Lost in Translation, and I played that part for a month. She was kind of researching it. And I would have loved that part; I mean, Scarlett Johansson did such a good job.
A.A.: No! You dodged a bullet on that one. That movie is crap. That’s like a bullet called Lost in Translation was coming towards you and you got to get out of the way, Matrix-style, boom! Totally dodged a bullet on that. But I did hear that you’re doing all the voices of Transformers 2. That must be really exciting. What’s it like doing the voices of so many different robots? Why did they just cast you for that?
R.J.: Well, technology is such that these days you don’t really have to hire a bunch of people for it. So I do all the lines in my voice, kind of half asleep, and then you just speed it up, slow it down and put effects on it. Like, I don’t really do anything. My voice has a special quality that when you morph it, it just sounds really good.
A.A.: That’s awesome. Well, speaking of Transformers 2, what blockbusters are you looking forward to? Watchmen, Terminator Salvation…
R.J.: Is that the movie Christian Bale freaked out on? That made me so sad. God, I would have pooped my pants if I would have been on set.
A.A.: Yeah, the Christian Bale freak-out. I hope you’re ready because I’m that intense on set. You know, there was an incident on Human Giant when someone brought the wrong flavor of Nutri-Grain bar to my trailer, and I broke both of her legs.
A.A.: We’re about to work on [Parks and Recreation] together. If there was anyone you could get on the show…
R.J.: Johnny Depp.
A.A.: Oh yeah! You and Amy [Poehler] said you would want Johnny Depp on the show. What part would he play?
R.J.: Well, the love interest for both of us.
A.A.: Both of us? I’m down!
R.J.: Not you, dude. Me and Amy.
A.A.: Oh! OK…so Johnny Depp comes in and is he playing someone or is he Johnny Depp?
R.J.: We want to keep the tone of the show. All that’s important to me is that we make out. In the tone of the show.
A.A.: Well, this is an open invitation to Johnny Depp.
R.J.: Anytime, anytime. He has a home.
A.A.: You’ve been in show business for a while, and you’ve had a couple of notable Hollywood romances. In the early 2000s, you were engaged to your Transporter co-star Jason Statham, and People said you guys broke up because he was always acting like he was being chased and would drive up to 70 mph on city streets, and it felt dangerous. Now that sounds like more of a plus than a minus. What’s the real story? Why did you break up with Jason Statham?
R.J.: First of all, I will always love Jason. He’ll always be in my heart. Second, you’re a dude; that’s why that sounds awesome to you. It’s not awesome to me.
A.A.: Was it a cool Audi like in Transporter?
R.J.: It doesn’t really matter. It could be a car. It could be a public form of transportation, which is even more scary.
A.A.: So you weren’t tough enough to handle the dangerous lifestyle Jason Statham lived on a daily basis.
R.J.: That’s the true story.
A.A.: Tell me about how you got into acting. You graduated from Harvard. That’s pretty prestigious. What did you study?
R.J.: I studied religion and philosophy. I didn’t want to be an actress; I wanted to be a lawyer, maybe a judge, maybe the president of the United States. It didn’t work out, and I started doing plays at school. I thought there had to be a division between extracurricular and your job; your job had to suck a little bit for it to be your job. Then I thought, ‘Why? Screw it. This is fun.’ And then I graduated and was like, ‘Oh, wait, this is not fun.’ The audition process is brutal.
A.A.: The thing about comedy that I’ll always remember is that it’s the business of rejection. You had to be ready to be rejected. And it always seems to go in waves. Like, you have a wave where things are going well and then a slump where it sucks.
R.J.: Comedy is kind of like the Tao. Not to get too philosophical, but comedy is a measure of whatever the climate is in that particular culture. Sometimes it’s raw. Sometimes people don’t want it to be so cynical. Sometimes they want it to be dark. Sometimes they want it to be fun and fanciful and fancy-free. That’s not a real word, but you know what I mean. I’ve been a comedy nerd for so long. I used to be obsessed with stand-up in New York.
A.A.: Did you ever see me do stand-up in New York?
R.J.: No, why would I do that?
A.A.: Clearly you’re not obsessed.
R.J.: I don’t think we were there at the same time.
A.A.: We were there at the same time! Well, you’re like twenty years older than me.
A.A.: Rashida is not really twenty years older than me.
R.J.: So I was obsessed with David Tell and Jordan Rueben. He’s a good friend of mine, and the most crippling observation for me was that those were, like, the darkest guys I’ve ever met in my life. They’re so funny, but they’re super sad underneath. I did stand-up once in my life. It was in Rififi’s. We decided we were going to do dating horror stories, and I had some pretty graphic ones. There was this tiny 10-year-old girl in the front row and mine included masturbation and that kind of shit.
A.A.: Whoa, let’s talk about that. What kind of date involved masturbation? Let me guess what the story was: It’s a blind date. You get there and he’s stunned that he starts masturbating right there. No, no! It’s a blind date, you get there and you’re so stunned by the guy’s good looks that you start masturbating right away. Wow, that’s a crazy date!
R.J.: The crazy part is that there was a priest there, too [at Rififi's]. And I did it and people were like, ‘Oh, she’s part of some carnie family.’
A.A.: That’s super disturbing when you have something dirty to tell and you have a little kid in there. So, do you not want to talk about that horror story? You talked about it on stage. You’ve got to talk about it now.
R.J.: I went on a date with this guy and then, before I knew it, he started masturbating.
A.A.: No! He was masturbating on the date?
R.J.: We were making out, and he was masturbating.
A.A.: Oh, so not, like, at a restaurant and his right hand disappears. So what did you do at that moment when you realized he was masturbating?
R.J.: I felt very violated. I disengaged and it literally became me watching him.
A.A.: So he just kept going even after you stopped making out? So you just were like, ‘I’m not down for this,’ and he jut kept going? That’s insane. That’s like a worse-case scenario. What’s the best-case scenario?
R.J.: Ugh, I hate dating. It’s so weird. Something fun, off the beaten path. I don’t know. Karaoke is fun. Not like I’ve ever been on a karaoke date. I don’t know…something competition-orientated. Like video games.
A.A.: Rashida, are you in seventh grade right now?
R.J.: I think it’s so weird to sit across from someone. Essentially we’d be doing the same thing [we are now], only without the tape recorder. And you wouldn’t be taking notes; you’d be taking mental notes.
A.A.: I do record all my dates. That way I can go back later and decide what to do for the second date. Then I masturbate to those recordings.
R.J.: So I’m helping my little sister plan her sweet sixteen birthday.
A.A.: I didn’t know you had a little sister. Who does she want to get? Usher? Lil Wayne?
R.J.: She wanted Tokio Hotel.
A.A.: What kind of music do you listen to? What do you have in your car right now?
R.J.: Kanye West. He’s a big comedy watcher. He watches The Office. He came up to me and was so sweet about the show. There’s no one who frequents my iPod more often than Kanye. His last three albums are the tightest.
A.A.: I’m going to text him right now and tell him to come over here. It would be a three-way interview. Rashida, Kanye…
R.J.: Are you serious? You guys really text each other? Can you tell him I say hi?
A.A.: We’re going to do this right now.
R.J.: This is such a douchey moment.
A.A.: Well, he invited me to play basketball, and I was like, ‘I don’t really play basketball, but I really like food, so let’s go out to eat.’ And Kanye said sure. I texted him over the weekend because my friend was playing basketball with him. So I said, ‘Hey, man, I heard you were playing basketball with my friend. We should have a rematch.’ But I didn’t get a text back…I don’t know if he likes me. Should I text him now and be like, ‘Hey, I’m with Rashida?’
R.J.: Yes! And then, if he texts back, you know that you and I are a wonderful power-activate-Kanye formula.
R.J.: I’m so nervous!
A.A.: So nothing back from Kanye. I’m really putting my relationship with Kanye on the line with this. He’s like, ‘Who the fuck is Rashida Jones? Don’t ever call me!’
R.J.: Don’t look at your phone. He didn’t write you back. Oh my god, you’re such a girl.
A.A.: Oh! Text! Text! Kanye texted us back. He said he’s at the Justice party. Justice is really good.
R.J.: Well, I personally feel like it was an invitation. Ask him where it is.
A.A.: What if tonight you start going out with Kanye? During this interview? I’m leaving this recorder going all night.
A.A.: You’ve been in the business for a really long time. You were on Freaks and Geeks.
R.J.: That was a lot of fun because I got to wear a Journey iron-on T-shirt that was actually from 1980 that had never been worn. My name was Karen Scarfoli, and I was kind of a fat-ass bully.
A.A.: You were beating up on Sam the geek for no reason.
R.J.: I just thought he was a geek, and I wanted to fuck with him.
A.A.: You were pretty thug in that show. What else did you have fun doing?
R.J.: I’ve really been liking the weird Web thing I’ve been doing. Wainy Days and Web Therapy with Lisa Kudrow. She plays a really, really bad therapist. It’s really fun. She’s so cool. I’ve also done a bunch of Funny or Die videos [with Natalie Portman]. It’s so awesome because we thought of it on a Tuesday at 4, and we literally shot it the next day at noon.
A.A.: And you can just do it on the Internet. You don’t have to get it approved and all that.
R.J.: I feel like that’s been lost in the studio process. You lose that organic feeling, and I love that there’s an antidote for that. So did you write Kanye back?
A.A.: No, what should I say to him?
R.J.: You’re literally a little girl. Say, ‘Oh, I heard about that. We might go to that, actually.’
A.A.: OK, I’m going to send it. There we go! Sent!
R.J.: Should we talk about how short the cast [of Parks and Recreation] is right now?
A.A.: Right now our cast is me, Rashida, Amy and Aubrey, and we’re all under the height of five-foot-seven.
R.J.: We’re going to shoot it on one of those mini-sets. Like in Mr. Rogers, with the puppets.
A.A.: You’re on a TV show and probably a lot of men have crushes on you. Do they hit on you? Or do they just get scared and not talk to you?
R.J.: Drunk people yell at me a lot. Like, ‘KAREN! THE OFFICE!’ Usually people are pretty sweet.
A.A.: So we should text Kanye and tell him, ‘I’ll text you if we roll through’? Like we have the balls to sound cooler than Kanye..
R.J.: In my early twenties, I was all about hip-hop.
A.A.: I’m 25. What were you like when you were 25?
R.J.: I was annoying. I had a little bit of success. I was in Boston Public. I was dating a DJ. I went out a lot. Now I like quiet nights at home reading. Like a 90-year-old person.
A.A.: He texted me back. Are you ready for this? Kanye said ‘coool’—with three o’s!