Autumn Reeser: The TV Squad Interview
It's always a nice change of pace to interview someone and not have it feel like you're doing your job during the conversation. For some, that's a tall order and others make it easy. Autumn Reeser made it too easy. I could have talked to her for hours on end glossing on just about any topic and I'm pretty sure she could have matched me in conversation no problem.
Despite the fact that she had been up doing phone interviews and radio spots since early in the morning, she was still just as bubbly and energetic as ever when she called me last Wednesday morning from California. A welcome surprise since I was just starting to adjust to being awake and had barely downed a cup of coffee when Ms. Reeser called me almost 20 minutes ahead of our scheduled appointment. Now maybe it's just me, but that's impressive. You've got to respect someone who shows up to work early and with the way her career is going, you can tell that phoners and radio interviews aren't the only thing that she's putting effort into. With her recent bump to series regular on FOX's The OC, things are looking mighty bright for Reeser. Also bright? Our conversation, which as I said, was far too easy to be called work.
Jonathan Toomey: Hello?
Autumn Reeser: Hey, Jonathan. It's Autumn Reeser. I'm totally calling you early... I hope you don't mind.
JT: Hey that's fine. I've been sitting at my desk for about half an hour, just having some coffee.
AR: OK, good. Wow... where are you?
JT: I'm actually in New York, so yeah, I'm on the other side of the country.
AR: Oh my god, I got worried, 'cause yeah, here's it only seven.
JT: I mean... you woke me up. How dare you! (slight pause) So how are all the phoners going for you this morning?
AR: (laughing) Good, it's really good. I did a bunch of radio. A radio tour. So yeah it was good. I love doing radio.
JT: OK, so have you been doing a lot of promotion for your new film coming out, Palo Alto?
AR: It's actually, I've been doing a lot of promoting for the new Chrismukkah episode.
JT: Well I guess we might as well get all the obligatory OC questions out of the way then. So I mean, the biggest one I have then is how has it been for you transitioning from a minor player on the show to one of the featured cast?
AR: Um, I mean, I think it's an actor's dream to have that happen to them. I think that that's the wonderful part. It's been wonderful but it's also been very hard. It's a lot more work than I expected. That's all. It's just a lot of work, but luckily, you know I like to work.
JT: Your expanded role, you know, it happened in the wake of a very popular character's death when Mischa Barton was killed off at the end of last season. So after her exit from the show, I know from fans, there was a lot of outrage. There was a lot of negativity. Did any of that affect how you tackled Taylor's expanded role?
AR: No, but you know I think I'm playing her differently this year than last year for a number of reasons. One, because she's more of a leading character and you need people to follow your character as opposed to when you're playing a smaller part, you know a real side-barred character. Your job is to affect the main characters, is to make things happen in their lives. Whereas when you're one of the main players, you want the audience to follow along with you as things happen to you. So you play them slightly differently. And then it worked out also because Taylor went away to France, went and got married and kind of had a lot of hard things happen to her in her life. So she is different because of that.
JT: So do you think with the way you're playing the role slightly different, as you said, do you think you're winning over those fans that had some negative feelings about the loss of Marissa?
AR: You know, I'm certain there's people who never came back, you know they were so angry they never came back to watching the show. But overall, the fan response seems to be that if you're not coming back to watch then they were never a real fan to begin with. You know, if you were just watching it for one person. So I think the response has been really good from fans actually.
JT: Well speaking of the response, because this is a good segue to this question, has the cast heard anything from FOX regarding the season length? Because we're still sitting at sixteen episodes, ratings have just been kind of so-so, but they're going up even though you're still in the tough match-up with Grey's Anatomy. And FOX even started an online petition to gauge fan's support. So do you think a full season order is on the horizon for the show?
AR: I know we're only doing sixteen this year. I mean they had to tell us because the writers had to able to write a conclusion to the show.
JT: Right, they need to know so they can wrap it up properly.
AR: Exactly, so we're only doing the sixteen and who knows what's going to happen because it's kind of something I have no control over. I'm taking meetings on other things, um, it'd be great if it went another year. But you kind of like have to just let things go how they're going to go. So often it has nothing to do with what you're doing as an actor, you know, because they put us up against Grey's Anatomy which is a tough spot for any show to be in.
JT: But that's something that you're used to rolling with by now. I mean you've been an actor for a while now.
AR: Yeah exactly. I don't really pay attention much to that side of it because it's not something I have control over. I have control over doing the best work I can do and that's it.
JT: Right, so why let it bring you down?
JT: Alright well let's move on here. I know you've developed quite the resume when it comes to sitcoms especially. You've had roles in George Lopez, Grounded for Life, and more recently Complete Savages. So with so much experience in that department, did you find the role of Taylor, when you joined the cast of an hour long drama, to be a challenge?
AR: Yeah it was because I really wanted her to be funny, you know? And she's written funny and to incorporate that to an hour long show is different than doing a sitcom. But I actually really, really enjoy comedy in an hour long format because I like the idea that you can be more subtle with it...
JT: (interrupts) Right, you can stretch it out, play jokes out.
AR: Yeah exactly, I really like it. So the format of the show was kind of my ideal to work on at this point in life in my career. It's exactly what I wanted to do. So I was so happy when it [The OC] came along.
JT: Now you've been doing indie films lately too. So is film something you prefer over TV? Or is hour long drama what you want to stick with for the time being?
AR: I would love to do more films. I really like the whole process of doing that. I like how close you become to everybody. I've got a film airing this month actually. I think you know about that?
JT: That's Palo Alto right?
AR: Oh no, Palo Alto I shot over the summer and I don't know when that'll get distribution. I have a film airing on Starz called Our Very Own. I shot that about two and a half years ago and it's just a great little small town drama. So that will be on for the next couple of months. We actually got an ensemble acting award for it at the Saratoga Film Festival.
JT: Very cool, congrats. Um, before I forget, I have to ask you another sitcom question that I've been dying to hear about. You had a guest-starring role in the second episode of It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia. The episode, "Charlie Wants an Abortion," you played a pro-life activist. You got involved with Mac in it. It was absolutely hilarious.
AR: (laughing) Oh thank you.
JT: You're very welcome. Now two seasons of that show are done though. It's known for being edgy. Nothing is really off-limits. But you were a part of it in the very beginning, at that very experimental stage. So what was it like being there, when FX had just given that show a shot?
AR: It was so much fun. I mean those guys created this show, wrote it, are starring in it and it was just suddenly like boom: they are on a set, doing their work. You know what I mean? It was just such a cool experience and they had like no money. So we were all in these like itty-bitty little trailers and I got horribly sick at one point. But it was so much fun because that character is so nutty.
JT: Oh she was crazy and that show is built on such a small budget and what they do with it is just amazing.
AR: It's great. They're such talented guys [Glenn Howerton, Charlie Day, and Rob McElhenney] and I loved it.
JT: The scene where you started throwing eggs? It was just fall out of your chair funny.
AR: I was so excited when I read that because I was like, "Oh my god! I'm a scream! This will be great cause she'll be vicious." (laughs)
JT: Are there any other shows on TV that you wouldn't mind guest-starring on or having a one or two episode stint? You know? What are you watching right now that interests you?
AR: Oh my gosh, I would love to guest star on Entourage.
JT: That'd be great.
AR: Totally, I think that would be such a fun show to guest-star on. But it hasn't been on in a while.
JT: To play a fake reality of yourself?
AR: Yeah or I'd rather just play like a character other than myself. I'd rather play, I dunno, some kind of crazy yoga chick. Or a girl who works at The Coffee Bean. What else though... I love Heroes. It's not really a show that you could just, I dunno. They don't have that many guest stars.
JT: And they'd have to come up with a power for you. So you're really into that show?
AR: I like it a lot. I like the guy that plays Hiro [Masi Oka]. He's funny. And Hayden [Panettiere] is brilliant. She's just so compelling to watch.
JT: Agreed. She's a fantastic actress and the whole not being able to get hurt thing? Well that's just fun.
AR: Oh my god, exactly. But yeah, I like that show a lot. Um, but what else. (long pause) I used to watch a lot of reality shows like America's Next Top Model and Top Chef.
JT: Speaking of models, you were recently ranked #57 on the Maxim Hot 100. (Autumn starts to laugh hysterically) You're laughing! Were you surprised by that?
AR: It was just this whole other kind of weird side that's come up to my career, with "Maxim" and "Stuff." It wasn't something that I ever expected because I was always the skinny, kind of awkward girl. It was kind of like I spent all of junior-high being like, "Why don't I have boobs?" I feel like I didn't grow up until I was 25, so I kind of feel like I've hit puberty. (laughs again) It was weird. It was kind of like this whole thing, "Really? Really." Plus I had such a great time doing the photo shoots.
JT: We'll you've certainly been busy. But what about your dog Gatsby when you're doing all this work? I've heard you two are pretty attached and that you've, let me get this straight, thrown him a party?
AR: Yes... I am. He came to work with me yesterday. He's so cute and I just love dogs. I'm such a dog person. I dunno, I just feel like it really enriches your life, to have something to care for.
JT: And the party?
AR: When he turned one, I threw him a doggie birthday party. I invited eight of his doggie friends and it was a Great Gatsby theme. It was called "An Afternoon Lawn Party" and it was all decorated in green and daisies which is very Great Gatsby-esque. The dogs were running around and everyone got a doggie bag (laughs) when they left. It was really fun and I think I'm going to do it again this year.
JT: Here's a question. You hold the distinction of being the person who got murdered in an episode of CSI. What was it like being a dead person? Especially because those shows, all three of the CSIs -- they always looks so realistic. So what was the process you went through to you know, look dead?
AR: It was so cool. I totally took pictures of it. I had three giant stab wounds in my chest. Actually shooting the murder was a lot scarier than I thought it would be. I was so freaked out of my mind the whole next day. Serious. I was really, really disturbed by it. I guess because I had never shot a death scene before.
JT: I remember reading somewhere that you like scrapbooking and have a few pages dedicated to that episode you were in.
AR: I do. I scrapbooked a page. There's pictures of me lying on the autopsy table. My mother is not happy about that. She just passes right by that page.