AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:
From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Audie Cornish. For much of her TV and movie career, Rashida Jones has played girlfriend characters who were funny, loving and kind. When she got the chance to write her own film, she crafted a complex character for herself who isn't always so kind - and not so skilled at understanding love.
The movie is called "Celeste and Jesse Forever." But as you'll hear in this clip, Celeste and Jesse are not forever, and they have a funny way of dealing with it - as their best friends not-so-gently point out.
(SOUNDBITE OF MOVIE, "CELESTE AND JESSE FOREVER")
ARI GRAYNOR: (as Beth) What the (BLEEP) are you two doing?
RASHIDA JONES: (as Celeste) What do you mean?
ANDY SAMBERG: (as Jesse) Yeah, what do you mean?
GRAYNOR: What do I mean? You two are not together. It's not normal, OK? You guys have been separated for six months. You're getting divorced, all right? And you spend every day together, hanging out as if, like, it's no big deal. Guess what? It's (BLEEP) weird.
SAMBERG: (as Jesse) Beth, I don't think this is the...
GRAYNOR: (as Beth) No problem - what you think. Just stick up for yourself.
ERIC CHRISTIAN OLSEN: (as Tucker) All right. You know what? Let's not play charades. It's (Bleep) weird.
JONES: (as Celeste) There's no charades...
SAMBERG: (as Jesse) No charades.
JONES: (as Celeste) ...being played here.
SAMBERG: (as Jesse) No charading.
JONES: (as Celeste) No. We are separated, and we're friends. You guys should be happy. We used to fight all the time. We don't anymore.
SAMBERG: (as Jesse) Yeah. You should be thrilled. You don't have to choose sides. It's the perfect breakup.
JONES: (as Celeste) Yeah. Everyone's cool.
GRAYNOR: (as Beth) Everyone is not cool.
OLSEN: (as Tucker) Not cool.
GRAYNOR: (as Beth) No one is cool here.
CORNISH: Yeah, everyone is not cool.
JONES: Everyone is not cool.
(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)
CORNISH: Which you find out, in the film, pretty quickly.
(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)
JONES: Like literally, everybody is not cool, not even them. I think they think - you know, I think Celeste and Jesse think that they can outsmart the natural course of getting over someone, arriving at a new phase in life. And the truth is, you can't.
CORNISH: Because Jesse lives in the back of their house. They're separated and...
CORNISH: For the first two minutes of the film, they look so in love.
JONES: And happy, yeah.
CORNISH: And the chemistry of it. Though, even though I knew the plot point was coming, when they said it...
CORNISH: ...I found myself being like, what?
JONES: Right, right. We wanted to do that on purpose because I do think that you start to realize why they're not together, through the course of the movie. But you know, we wanted to show a couple that maybe is not in love anymore, but there are still all these elements about their friendship that they don't want to lose. And so selfishly, they try to, you know, find a way to seamlessly transition into friendship, which is, you know - turns out to be impossible.
CORNISH: Now, their chemistry is so engaging - you and Andy Samberg, who plays the role of Jesse. He's really great in this. And it reminded me of another film, which I'll play a clip of.
JONES: (LAUGHTER) OK!
(SOUNDBITE OF MOVIE, "WHEN HARRY MET SALLY")
CORNISH: So as a student of the genre...
JONES: I mean, that's the biggest compliment you could possibly pay us.
CORNISH: And that, of course, is "When Harry Met Sally."
CORNISH: Billy Crystal and Meg Ryan.
JONES: Definitely a classic. Yeah. I mean, I would be lying if I said we didn't set out to borrow and steal from the best parts of that movie because I just absolutely - Will and I absolutely love that movie.
CORNISH: And oh, I should say, Will McCormack is your writing partner.
JONES: Will McCormack. Yes, yes. And we humbly set out to do what "When Harry Met Sally" did so well - was, they asked this question, can women and men be friends? I guess the answer is they can't because they end up together. But we were hoping to kind of ask a similar cultural question right now, you know, which is, can you be friends with your ex?
CORNISH: And is it a generational thing, this idea of somehow outsmarting your heartbreak? And I ask that because this is actually not the first time I have heard of this. In my own life, I had friends who separated and thought, well, we're going to have this very genial separation.
JONES: Yeah, for sure. I mean, I think we're still figuring out what it is, to be in a modern relationship. And it's changing so much. And I think people are feeling like they can be the ones to define what that relationship is - whether it's an open relationship or, you know, being with somebody for 10 years and having children, and then meeting the love of your life after that; or living together when you have broken up, and seeing other people.
In a way, this is a story about your first love. And what do you do with the love you feel for your first love? I mean, can you take it with you? Can it still be a part of your life? Can you integrate it into your life? Do you have to let them go forever, to move on? It's complicated. And I absolutely - it's something I relate to strongly.
CORNISH: Now, as we said, you co-wrote this with Will McCormack, but you've also written a graphic novel. And I'm interested in how you got into writing because your dad is Quincy Jones, a big record producer - and a million other things, I think. And Peggy Lipton, your mom, is an actress. When did you sit down and really start writing seriously?
JONES: Really, not until four years ago. I'd always wanted to do it. I actually just recently found a thing I wrote in the third grade. It was like, what do you want to be when you're older? And I talked about wanting to write movies - which I must have buried deep in my subconscious because I don't remember ever having that as a dream.
And in college, I had a lot of friends who were writers and wanted to be writers, and I felt intimidated by them. I just didn't know if I had any gift or voice, and I had no confidence about it. And then, just kind of out of necessity - I was in a holding deal with acting, and I thought, maybe this is the time.
And I just said to Will, let's just sit down; write every day. And if something great comes out of it, great. If it sucks, nobody ever has to see it. But if we have something, let's see if it's good; and let's give it to friends and see what they think.
CORNISH: I want to ask about that holding pattern with acting because in doing some research about you, I've seen those words before; where it seems like you're almost going to walk away from acting, and then get pulled back into it - namely, after college, right?
JONES: Yeah. Well, after college, I moved to New York and, you know, was auditioning. And I got one job in a year, which is - weirdly - kind of good, odds-wise. But I was really surprised by how hard it was. And then...
CORNISH: What were the kinds of things casting directors would say to you?
JONES: It's probably the same for everyone. It's like, I didn't really fit into one thing. I was too quirky to play a lead girl, but I was too exotic to play the - like, stable best friend or - you know. I just never fit.
CORNISH: You mean, being biracial, they were like, no one will know what you are if we put you on screen?
JONES: It wasn't that black and white - pun intended. But it was like - there was definitely a thing that was like, I would try out to play women of color and they'd be like, you're not dark enough. And then I would try out to play like, surfer babe. And they'd be like, you're too exotic; we want somebody who kind of looks like a girl next door.
So - and my personality maybe doesn't match what I look like, or something. I don't know. I mean, I think every actor has the story where they don't fit in - until they do. And that's fine. And I still got work, and I was able to support myself. And then when I was 30, I just had a major lull, where I just wasn't getting any work. And I considered going back to school, and got some applications for grad school. And then I got "The Office," and that kind of changed everything for me.
CORNISH: So what's next for you? I mean, now that you've opened up this avenue of screenwriting, what do you want to pursue?
JONES: You know, Will and I are still writing; we adapted my comic book. And I just filmed another movie in London. And, you know, I'm just going to try to play it out. I think I probably have to go play some pretty serious, dark parts. I might need to play like, a murderer or a drug addict soon because I've been so dependable and reliable and pragmatic for so long that...
CORNISH: In your roles, as well as your life role.
JONES: And in my life. Yeah. Maybe I need some adventure in my life, too. I'm not going to murder anybody; that's not what I'm saying. But in my roles, I think it would be nice to try to expand a little bit and challenge myself, and see if I can do something different.
CORNISH: Thank you for the clarification on the murder bit. I appreciate that.
JONES: Yeah. I don't want intent to be dropped on this show.
CORNISH: Well, Rashida Jones, thank you so much for talking with us.
JONES: Thank you. Thanks for having me.
CORNISH: Rashida Jones. She co-wrote and stars in the new movie "Celeste and Jesse Forever."