Jillian Bell has that kind of face. You want to be her friend. Or maybe she looks like that friend from high school. In person, she will talk to you about shopping or shoes or the fact that something weird happened making her latest movie.
In “Brittany Runs a Marathon,” the Las Vegas native plays a woman facing a scary medical diagnosis. Her blood pressure is too high and she must lose weight, so she starts a running program. Her goal becomes even bigger. She decides to run the New York City Marathon. Bell and company actually shot scenes at the finish line of the real thing.
“It was so beautiful,” Bell, 35, recalled. “Strangers kept coming up to help me get over the finish line. By this point, I was sobbing and had to say, ‘Thank you and could you please move out of the frame, so you’re not in this shot.’ ”
It’s a big 2019/2020 for Bell — known for “22 Jump Street,” “Idiotsitter” and “Workaholics.” She will also star in a remake of “Splash” with Channing Tatum, plus she has a role in the upcoming “Bill &Ted Face the Music” opposite Keanu Reeves.
On the small screen, she voices Violet Hart in her new Fox TV series “Bless the Harts,” debuting Sept. 29.
Review-Journal: What is your idea of a great Sunday?
Jillian Bell: Just relaxing. Maybe I’m going out to eat with friends. Or shopping. I also really like to do puzzles. A friend got me into it and it’s really challenging.
What does Hollywood make of the one who grew up in Vegas? What line do you hear the most?
When you grow up in Las Vegas, you’re asked, “What hotel did you live in when you were a little girl?” I always say, “Not a hotel. I was raised in a motel.” It’s a different twist.
What was one thing from your teen years you couldn’t have experienced elsewhere?
After the prom, I went to see Blue Man Group at a casino. Don’t all proms feature dinner, dancing … and a show?
In your new movie, you play a 28-year-old New York City woman who is overweight. Her doc tells her that her blood pressure is dangerously high.
She needs to drop weight and she can’t really afford a gym. She figures that the street is free, so she starts to jog. But it’s almost impossible for her to even make it down one block at first. The thing is she won’t give up. It’s a different look at a transformation story.
Why the New York City Marathon?
This isn’t about the miles, but a woman who is in her late 20s and decides to make a major change in her life by setting this huge goal. It’s really about a woman taking charge of her own life and then what happens to her will, her friends and her career. The film asks the question, “What happens when you decide to put yourself first?”
Why this film?
The script was undeniable. It terrified me and moved me. I laughed and I cried, which I know sounds cliché, but it was true. It was just one of those special movies that was beautiful, emotional and transforming. When I read it, I could relate to Brittany almost immediately. I definitely like to be silly and do comedies, but there was such truth in using comedy in this case to hide pain in life.
You dropped 40 pounds making this film.
I decided to go on a real weight-loss journey and not because they asked me to lose weight to do this film. I lost the weight because as the face of Brittany, I wanted to understand her wholeheartedly. I also wanted to relate to her physical journey. So, I wanted to run. Of course, I started on Pinterest looking up “Couch to 5K.” I had my sister make videos of me running, which when I started wasn’t always pretty. I needed someone who help me learn how to move when you’re first starting out as a runner and how that movement is different later on when you really have your running form down.
What were you like as a girl growing up in Vegas?
I always had a wild imagination. And I loved comedy. I never had that fear of people watching me. I even started an improv team at my high school and I’d go to Second City at the Flamingo to watch shows on the weekend. I’ll never forget Jason Sudeikis actually taught me in an improv workshop on a Saturday. Later, when I was hired at (“Saturday Night Live”), he said to me, “You look familiar.”
What was a tough audition?
I’ll never forget auditioning for “Curb Your Enthusiasm.” Every person in the lobby waiting to audition was pacing and looking really nervous. In that moment, I knew I could either freak out and lose my (expletive) or go in there and say, “Larry,” as many times as possible because Larry David was there. During the audition, he’d say something and I’d say, “Okay, Larry.” It sounded like I was more together and I got the role.
Tell us about “Bless the Harts” created by Emily Spivey (“Saturday Night Live”) and co-starring Kristen Wiig and Maya Rudolph.
It’s about a family from the South. Emily Spivey drew me to the material. I’m such a huge fan. Anything she asks me to do, I’ll do it. Other than that, the writing was so specific. If you gave me a million scripts, I could always find her voice. It’s so funny and unique. I play Violet, a dry, sarcastic teenager with a punk goth look. She says what the audience at home might be thinking about that wacky family, but she also loves them so much. She’s also cooler than most of us including me.
What would be a dream gig?
Maybe a horror movie. I’d love to play a witch.