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Not My Job: Scarlett Johansson Gets Quizzed On Captain Scarlet

Scarlett Johansson attends the premiere of Her during the Rome Film Festival at Auditorium Parco Della Musica on Nov. 10, 2013 in Rome, Italy.
Vittorio Zunino Celotto/Getty Images

Scarlett Johansson may be the most famous Scarlet(t) nowadays β€” she's starred in movies ranging from Lost in Translation to The Avengers. But back in the 1960s, she would have had some serious competition from "indestructible" Captain Scarlet of Captain Scarlet and the Mysterons, a British science fiction TV show.

We've invited Johansson to answer three questions about the other Scarlet.

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PETER SAGAL, HOST:

And now, the game where people who could be doing something better with their time inexplicably choose to join us to play a game called Not My Job. Scarlett Johansson has starred in movies ranging from "Lost In Translation" to "The Avengers." Her new film "Lucy" comes out this summer. Scarlett Johansson, welcome to WAIT WAIT ...DON'T TELL ME

SCARLETT JOHANSSON: Thank you.

(APPLAUSE)

SAGAL: We're very pleased to talk to you.

JOHANSSON: It's wonderful to talk to you. I'm so happy to be on the show, or at least over this strange, sort of, I don't know - it's like "Her." I'm getting the flashbacks now.

(LAUGHTER)

SAGAL: Yeah, I know. It is a little weird. You know, talking about being on the phone, believe me, we're disappointed you're on the phone, as well.

(LAUGHTER)

JOHANSSON: (Laughing).

SAGAL: Actually this is - I was, I was - you know...

(LAUGHTER)

JOHANSSON: (Laughing).

SAGAL: Oh, come on.

(LAUGHTER)

SAGAL: Give me a break. I can't even see her, OK.

(LAUGHTER)

SAGAL: Geez.

ROXANNE ROBERTS: We're just going to stay this Scarlett, all the boys here are practically incoherent, all right. So if they can't talk in any kind of reasonable way, Shelby and I will take over.

JOHANSSON: OK. All right.

SHELBY FERO: Yeah, well, you can take over. I'm just as incoherent.

(LAUGHTER)

SAGAL: You - I did notice that you actually started out - is it true that you were a child performer - that you performed as a child?

JOHANSSON: Yes, I was a - well, that sort of makes me sound like some sort of, I don't know, some sort of traveling show or something like that.

SAGAL: Yes.

JOHANSSON: I was - I started out making films when I was about eight years old, and I worked continuously, very thankfully, ever since then. I was kind of a jazz hands sort of singing, dancing kid. And then I, you know, went through puberty and you know, became kind of introverted. And it worked for me, actually. So I stuck with that.

SAGAL: We talked to Brooke Shields once, who also, obviously, was very well-known growing up, and she's told us that her mother had sent her to a high school over in New Jersey so she could have a semblance of normal life. Did you have that desire?

JOHANSSON: Is a high school in New Jersey a semblance of normal life?

(LAUGHTER)

JOHANSSON: Let's be honest.

SAGAL: But did you ever - I mean, you were in films from a young age. Did you ever say to yourself, oh, I wish I could, like, you know, walk down the street and not be recognized, or I wish I could go to a regular school on a regular basis as opposed to having tutors on a set or whatever the differences might have been?

JOHANSSON: You know, I went - I actually had a fairly normal childhood as far as schooling went and being able to go out with friends. And I grew up in New York City, and that's a tribute with any semblance of groundedness to growing up here. I think it kept me fairly normal.

SAGAL: It is good to be famous in New York because New Yorkers, like, don't care. In New York, not only will they not bother you if you're famous, they'll come up and they'll say, I don't care that you're famous.

(LAUGHTER)

JOHANSSON: Yeah, I think New Yorkers probably pride themselves on going about their business. And I think you see somebody who's a celebrity, but the person that's, you know, hailing a taxi in their underpants is way more interesting. And you see that, too, in New York. You know, you kind of see everything.

SAGAL: Speaking of New York, I also recently watched "The Avengers." And you've done three or four movies as the Black Widow.

JOHANSSON: Yes. I didn't know where you were going with that, exactly. I thought you were going to say, you saved New York.

SAGAL: I did. You saved New York, which is a good thing to do, speaking of the city being under attack.

JOHANSSON: Yes, I - so it's now my, let's see, fourth time wearing - suiting up.

SAGAL: You seem to be having an enormous amount of fun.

JOHANSSON: It is. It's a great job. I have an amazing cast of incredibly talented actors who make me look like I know what the hell I'm doing. And she's sort of a grey kind of a character. She doesn't have the same moral compass as the super hero in our minds.

SAGAL: Yeah, yeah. Moral ambiguity. You get to kill people with your thighs, Scarlett. That's pretty cool.

(LAUGHTER)

SAGAL: Have you actually learned, like, any actual combat skills? Could you, in fact, beat somebody up if there were a real-life situation?

JOHANSSON: Of course I could.

(LAUGHTER)

SAGAL: Really?

JOHANSSON: Oh yeah.

SAGAL: I wanted to ask you, actually, 'cause those comic movies are great, but I recently saw "Her," the movie in which you appear only as a disembodied voice. And it is really amazing. The movie, for people who haven't seen it - and you should - is about a relationship between Joaquin Phoenix, who is a person, and Samantha, who is an operating system who does not have a body, who is only a voice - Scarlett's voice. And you - I found out later that you actually did it all later, right?

JOHANSSON: Yeah, we actually, like, built this little, kind of, vocal prison booth thing that was just a little, a very contained area where I had just a stool and a stand and you know, that was it. I think it helps in some way because, you know, when you're doing a vocal performance, there's a different challenge to it. You know, you've taken away the other tool you have as an actor, which is, you know, your body and your face. And so you become hyperaware of the nuance of your vocal performance in a way that's really - it's really something.

SAGAL: Well, I want you to know that not only did I find the movie heartbreaking, ever since I've seen it, I've looked at my own phone with a real sense of disappointment.

(LAUGHTER)

BILL KURTIS: I think I remember seeing Scarlett. And I was proud of you at this time, because you're really a tough New Yorker. You were on the red carpet. I don't know whether it was the Academy Awards, or...

JOHANSSON: Are you talking about when Isaac Mizrahi grabbed my breasts mid-interview?

KURTIS: Yeah.

(LAUGHTER)

ROBERTS: You can't...

SAGAL: Wait a minute.

LUKE BURBANK: You don't...

SAGAL: Hold on. Hold on. Slow down.

(LAUGHTER)

KURTIS: Scarlett's going to describe it.

SAGAL: Scarlett, please, could you tell the story of what happened with Isaac Mizrahi, who has been a guest on the show, I should say? Go on.

JOHANSSON: You just want to hear me say grab my breast.

SAGAL: I'm sorry. I'm sorry. I did not hear you clearly enough. What are you suggesting?

(LAUGHTER)

KURTIS: I'll tell you, she almost slugged him.

SAGAL: Well, what happened, Scarlett?

JOHANSSON: (Laughing) Well, just that. I don't know how else to put it, really.

SAGAL: So you're standing on a red carpet...

JOHANSSON: You know, it's just - it was such an incredibly strange and out-of-body experience. I mean, the last thing that you ever expect when somebody's interviewing you is for them to grab your breast. But I guess maybe my dress invited that sort of thing. I don't know.

ROBERTS: No.

SAGAL: Did Isaac, who's a fashion designer. If you don't know, Isaac's a very flamboyant individual. He - did he explain why he was doing this or did he just like Hong Kong? I mean, what was he doing?

(LAUGHTER)

JOHANSSON: Yeah, I guess he just sort of had a kind of a like brumsky sort of moment. And he retreated and we went to commercial break. It was very strange.

SAGAL: What you say to somebody - what do you say to him after that when you're in the commercial break?

JOHANSSON: I think I just said something like, oh, that was strange. I'll be seeing you later. No, I do not know.

(LAUGHTER)

SAGAL: Might be barking up the wrong tree there.

SAGAL: I publicly humiliated him later on, actually.

SAGAL: Scarlett Johansson, what a pleasure to talk to you. We have invited you here to play a game we're calling...

KURTIS: Indestructible Captain Scarlet.

JOHANSSON: Oh.

SAGAL: You may be one of the most famous Scarlett's in the world now, but back in the '60s, you may not have been able to hold a candle to "Captain Scarlet And The Mysterons," a British science fiction TV show. I'm going to ask you three questions about Captain Scarlet. Scarlett, get two right and win our prize for one of our listeners, Carl Kassel's voice on their voicemail. Bill, who is Scarlett Johansson playing for?

BURBANK: Janel Hader (ph) of Ecuador.

SAGAL: Before we begin, have you ever come across Captain Scarlet?

JOHANSSON: No. No, I have not.

SAGAL: Oh, excellent. That puts you in the perfect position to play this game. Here we go. Here's your first question. "Captain Scarlet And The Mysterons" was filmed using a fantastic new special effects technology. What was it called? A - wowovision, B - supermarionation, or C - six-dimensional touch vision?

JOHANSSON: Oh, gosh. I'm like flop sweating. Is that one of the answers?

SAGAL: No flop sweating.

(LAUGHTER)

JOHANSSON: I'm going to go with B.

SAGAL: You're going to with B - supermarionation?

JOHANSSON: Sure.

SAGAL: Yes, in fact it was supermarionation.

(APPLAUSE)

SAGAL: This was a variation on the technology that they used to make the Thunderbirds - same guy - used sophisticated marionettes that actually looked mostly like talking Ken Dolls.

All right. Two more questions. The marionettes used in the show were quite an advance over TV puppets, much more lifelike and expressive. But there was one limitation to them. What? A - if the operators made the marionettes smile too much, their heads fell off...

(LAUGHTER)

SAGAL: ...B - they could not walk at all, or C - the hips on their bodies were so narrow, their pants would always fall off on camera?

JOHANSSON: Oh, gosh. I guess I'm going to go with maybe A?

SAGAL: You're going to go with A, if you made them smile too much, their heads would fall off?

JOHANSSON: Why are you saying it like that?

(LAUGHTER)

FERO: It might be a hint.

SAGAL: How am I saying it? I don't know what you mean?

JOHANSSON: They cannot walk at all?

SAGAL: They cannot walk at all. Is that your choice?

JOHANSSON: Oh, god. Somebody help me. All right. I'm going to go with they cannot walk at all - they couldn't walk at all.

SAGAL: You're right.

(SOUNDBITE OF BELL)

SAGAL: That's it right there.

(APPLAUSE)

SAGAL: The marionettes looked ridiculous while walking, so in the future world in which the show takes place, there are a lot of motorized office chairs.

(LAUGHTER)

SAGAL: It's really quite funny. All right, let's see if you can go for a perfect here. Like James Bond, Captain Scarlett also has his trademarks. One of them is that he almost always did what at the end of each episode? A - describe his busy day fighting evil to his dog, Captain Billy, B - have his signature cocktail, the Scarlatini, or C - he dies?

(LAUGHTER)

SAGAL: End of each episode.

JOHANSSON: Um, this is an English show, so it could be C.

SAGAL: It could well be. That suits their mood, as you clearly know.

JOHANSSON: Um, I'm going to go with A, he describes his busy day to his dog, Captain Billy.

SAGAL: I would have loved that as a child when I loved this show. Well, Captain Billy. No, it actually was C, he dies.

JOHANSSON: No.

(LAUGHTER)

SAGAL: Pretty much at the end of every episode, he dies. But not a problem because he had been made indestructible by the alien Mysterons.

ROBERTS: Oh, it's in the title.

JOHANSSON: How anti-climactic.

SAGAL: You know, really, it's so funny. It's like, so there's this big evil thing, and he's fighting the big evil plot. And he foils the evil plot. And they kill him. Roll credits. And then the next episode, it's like, well, that was shocking.

(LAUGHTER)

SAGAL: And now you're back.

ROBERTS: Did you actually watch this as a kid?

SAGAL: I loved this show as a kid.

FERO: That's a really great show.

JOHANSSON: Really? That sounds - that explains a lot about you...

SAGAL: Yeah.

JOHANSSON: ...I'm sure.

(LAUGHTER)

SAGAL: Bill, how did Scarlett Johansson do on our quiz?

KURTIS: Scarlett got two out of three, which means she advances to the World Cup finals.

SAGAL: There you are.

(APPLAUSE)

JOHANSSON: Thank you.

SAGAL: Scarlett Johansson's new movie "Lucy" opens July 25th. If you can't wait that long, I don't blame you. Check around on the movie "Under The Skin." It's available on demand. Scarlett Johansson, what a pleasure to talk to you. Thank you so much.

JOHANSSON: And you. thank you so much.

SAGAL: Aw, thank you for being on the show.

(APPLAUSE)

SAGAL: Thank you.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "CAPTAIN SCARLET")

COLIN FARSEY: (Singing) Captain Scarlet. Though the Mysterons plan to conquer the Earth, this indestructible man will show what he’s worth.

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We'll be back in a minute with more of WAIT WAIT ...DON'T TELL ME from NPR.

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