As Jenny on FX’s “The League,” Katie Aselton frequently engages in the foul-mouthed, trash-talking fantasy football obsession more commonly associated with the other, hairier half of humanity.
In “Black Rock,” her second film as both star and director, the 34-year-old Aselton (“The Freebie”) also puts a female face on a traditionally male story. The thriller, opening Friday, is a genre piece about survival in the woods—but doesn’t feature a bunch of buff dudes and their bubbly girlfriends.
Aselton, Lake Bell (“Children’s Hospital”) and Kate Bosworth (“Straw Dogs”) play women who set aside their personal issues to fend off unhinged military vets who have been home from the service only a few weeks. Living together in a house during an unglamorous shoot, the female cast members bonded in a way Aselton has never experienced before.
“What we were going through was so incredibly intense and emotional and challenging, and we were doing it together, getting through it together,” she says over the phone from L.A. “We were shooting in the ocean. We were shooting on the ground of the woods … By the time we got to those final scenes, we really had evolved into these very primal beings just trying to survive.”
Aselton, a Maine native married to her “League” co-star Mark Duplass, talked about her ass-kicking abilities, how friends should deal with a falling out and how Jenny and her husband Kevin (Steve Rannazzisi) on “The League” would handle a deadly situation.
You’ve long wanted to be a Bourne girl or Bond girl, but have never been called in for roles like that. Why have you had that fantasy, and why haven’t you been called for that part?
Truthfully, it’s less of a Bond girl, ‘cause they all die. They get to look all sexy, which would be obviously an honor, but they don’t get to do any of the real fun, action stuff. I like strong girl roles and we don’t get to do that very often, but the idea of doing a “Bourne” movie or, like, a “Run Lola Run.” Something like that is so appealing when often you get sent very emotional roles. It’s fun to kick some ass sometimes.
When they make “Salt,” why aren’t they calling you?
Because there is Angelina Jolie out there in the world, and that’s OK too. She does some great ass-kicking.
I feel like you could kick as much ass as she can.
I might be able to at some point, but she’s built herself up to her ass-kicking level, and I’ll work on it.
In “Black Rock,” your character and Lake’s character have had a big falling out. How should people deal with these situations in real life?
I am a big fan of dealing with issues when the issues are happening. I don’t like letting things go because I let things fester, and if I don’t talk about it immediately it all of a sudden becomes much worse. Because then I have full conversations in my head and no one gets to argue their point.
What’s an example of that?
You get into an argument with a friend and then stop talking, and I will go home and be like, “Oh my God! Do you know what she’s doing right now? She’s doing this and that and this and that.” It’s escalated in my head and made it worse than it ever [was when it] started … When you have an issue, you deal with it, and then you get past it.
What if you come up with a great line the next day and have to call someone and say, “The jerk store called, and they’re running out of you”?
Well, that’s not a great line, first of all. So I would recommend holding that. I don’t think it’s smart to zing when you’re dealing with someone you love.
I agree. Have you not seen that “Seinfeld” episode?
I have. I’m totally just teasing you. When you have those moments, hold them; enjoy them. … One time I very passive-aggressively tweeted something knowing full well that the friend I was in the argument with would see it. That was such a horrible idea. Passive-aggression is the worst tactic ever, and I totally resorted to it and have been known to resort to it when necessary. And I’m not proud of it.
Why do you think women are often so hard on each other?
I don’t know. It bums me out, though. I wish we wouldn’t be. I think it stems from insecurity. When men get insecure, they project overconfidence. When women get insecure—and these are obviously grand, sweeping stereotypes, and I don’t mean to offend anyone, I’m sorry--but when women get insecure they tend to lash out at each other and tear down the people around them because it builds them up. Which isn’t really necessary because I think if you build up the people around you, they pull you up when you need it. So I wish [women] would be nicer to each other.
To what extent would the conflict go away if women just lived in a house together and shot an extreme movie like “Black Rock”?
Oh, I promise you, if it was the wrong women, that experience would be a completely different experience for everyone involved. I think it would have to be a combination [like] Lake, Kate and myself. Really our personalities just gelled. I don’t think you can just take three random girls and say, “This is what we’re going to do” and then have it be a great experience.
How do you think Jenny and Kevin would deal with a “Black Rock”-like situation?
[Laughs.] I think Kevin would run into a hole in the woods and start crying. And I think Jenny would do exactly what my character does and kill some people.
So were you unconsciously channeling her as you constructed that character?
No, I think they’re both super-strong ladies in their own ways. They have different qualities, but they’re not afraid to not back down to men. So I like that about them.
That’s a funny image of Kevin sprinting away.
He totally would. You know he would. He would be naked and crying in the woods somewhere.
There must be some moments during “The League” when it’s weird to have your husband there while you’re married to someone else onscreen. Can you recall a time that was particularly strange?
Mark and I are very comfortable with what my role is on the show and the fact that we are actors and this is required of us at times. I think more than anything it makes Steve more uncomfortable and the co-stars more uncomfortable than it makes us uncomfortable.
How do you know that?
There’s specifically a time in season two or three, I think two: It was a big party for Ruxin (Nick Kroll) and Sofia’s (Chicago native Nadine Velazquez) anniversary that happened to be on Jenny’s birthday, and we were at this party and we were all sitting at this table together. Kevin did something very romantic for Jenny and said something very nice. So he comes back and I am supposed to give him a kiss, a very loving kiss. It’s supposed to be a very nice moment. We had to keep doing it, and finally the directors called Steve back to the monitors and they were like, “Will you stop kissing her like she is your sister?” He goes, “I can’t, ‘cause Mark is right there!” So we’ve gotten a lot better about it. It’s become very much not an issue, but it was definitely something for him to overcome.
“The League” is set in Chicago but doesn’t shoot here. Are there any inconsistencies you’re aware of that amuse you?
Yes! It has been made very aware to us, and the bar that they always show us at, they show the exterior of the bar and obviously we’re not shooting inside that bar. I’m blanking on the name of it.
Gibson’s, yes! So when we were there for the live show, our hotel ironically was right across the street from Gibson’s, so we all went in. The inside of Gibson’s is very different from what we portray on the show. [Laughs] It’s a much classier joint, and they serve huge pieces of cake with big steak knives. It’s insane. They don’t mess around with their cake at Gibson’s.
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