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October 6, 2015

Maya Rudolph Talks Oprah Inspiration and Getting Into 'Up All Night'

by Maggie Furlong, posted Sep 13th 2011 1:00PM
Maya Rudolph, 'Up All Night''Up All Night' was my favorite new comedy of this fall TV season. Note that I say "was" ...

You see, I went on and on about how perfect the show is for the comedic talents of all involved, most notably stars Will Arnett, Christina Applegate and Maya Rudolph.

But then they went and made some changes, turning Rudolph's character Ava into a talk show host -- even more scattered than she was as Reagan's (Applegate) PR boss-slash-pal originally -- and hiring Nick Cannon to play her show sidekick. That's when my declarative "is" became a hesitant "was" with 'Up All Night' (premieres Wed., Sept. 14, 10PM ET on NBC; moves to its regular time Wed., Sept. 21, 8PM ET).

And my hesitation is warranted: the rejiggered pilot that was sent out isn't quite firing on all the same funny cylinders that the original was, and it definitely drags in spots. The brief glimpse of Nick Cannon's character inspiring his "audience" to cheer and clap made me cringe. And most of all I just worried that Rudolph was being pigeon-holed into a character more worthy of a 'Saturday Night Live' skit.

BUT ... there's a silver lining. A few actually. 1) Rudolph was amazing in almost every 'SNL' skit she did; 2) pilots are never really great or necessarily indicative of what's to come; and 3) I still like the off-kilter comedic moments from all the stars, when they can squeeze them in.

I caught up with Rudolph to get her take on the new show, the changes that have happened -- and, according to her, are still happening -- and the perils of having famously played the most famous talk show host in the world already. (Sorry, but if Oprah deems your Oprah impersonation awesome, then it just is.)

She also talks about tackling hair extension woes, confronting coworkers with halitosis and the 'Ghostbusters' funnyman she'd love to come guest star.

There have been a couple of changes made to the show, but Ava becoming a talk show host was the biggest. Are you enjoying that?
It's pretty fun so far. I mean, the possibilities are endless, which is a great thing. And I like that presentational "on" personality ... it's another great layer to be able to play, to play somebody who's got guests. It's fun. I like that kind of stuff, and it definitely feels like something that I know how to do. I think it plays well for our show because when Christina's character has to go to work, it really is a high-paced environment and something that requires a lot of her attention.

Yeah because you're also high maintenance like her child.
Yes. Big time.

And now Nick Cannon is joining you on the talk show couch ...
Yeah, now Nick's on the couch, which is good. She needs a cute, funny, well-dressed person to play off of. I think everybody does.

Do your characters get along? Rumor has it she's a bit jealous of his popularity ...
I don't know yet. That's sort of what I thought in the beginning, but I think that's changing, too. Our show is in its pre-pubescent phase -- our voice continues to change [laughs] -- so that was kind of the thought at first, but I think now he's kind of getting his own fun stuff to do.

Was it a requirement that everyone involved in this show had to have a small child of their own?
Yeah, even Nick's got babies. He's got twins! Jesus, I may be crazy, but I don't have twins. That's hard. But I also think it's really amazing. If you can have twins, then you can get it all done at once. It's hard in the beginning, but like, you have an extra baby. [Laughs] Yeah ... I should've just had triplets.

Reagan and Chris are the new parents on the show, but Ava is single, so it's not all babies, babies, babies.
Yeah, I think that my character is definitely one of those working women who put career first, but then I think you'll see that she's got questions of her own. Do I want to settle down? Some people don't want to have kids, they don't want to settle down. Everybody's got their own trajectory. I think that's something that's good to look at, too -- it's not just a million people with children on the show.

Christina Applegate & Maya Rudolph, 'Up All Night'
So we might see Ava's softer side?
Sure. We definitely do ... I know because I've already filmed that, so we're good. [Laughs]

Was making her a talk show host just an amazing way for NBC to bring in boatloads of stars from their other shows to be Ava's "guests"?
I don't know because I haven't heard about any big guest stars. Her show is a daytime talk show, but it's still getting its sea legs. So it's definitely not 'Ellen' or 'Oprah' level, in terms of celebrities. I think that's what she wants, and I think that's what she's aspiring to be, but I think until she can get there, she's still working on the tougher issues. Like hair extension disasters. [Laughs] That's a hot topic and it never goes out of style.

So more like a Wendy Williams or Tyra Banks?
Yeah, more like a Tyra Banks, I think. She can get good guests, but she's also got other topics, too ... although Tyra is Tyra, let's be perfectly honest.

Beyond hair extensions, what do you want her to tackle?
I definitely want her to tackle confronting coworkers with halitosis. I think that's important. [Laughs] I think a lot of people need help finding the right way to do that. This is what the show is for ... it's gonna help a lot of people.

Is it hard to resist launching into your amazing Oprah impersonation while playing over-the-top Ava?
Let's be honest: I would love to play Oprah forever. It's so much fun to play somebody who everyone loves and everyone treats as royalty. She's this woman who is completely loved and powerful -- she is omnipotent -- and it really was an exciting character when I was doing it on 'SNL.' And I was really grateful that Oprah liked it as well ... she had me on the show to celebrate us doing her, which was like the biggest compliment ever. But it's Oprah -- there's nothing higher, there's nothing better. I feel like people are expecting me to play that here, but we had to create our own character. I think like anything that you love, it's hard not to sneak traces of it in where you get the chance. Also just the genre of daytime talk shows, we have so much to pull from. But I think if people are expecting me to scream "Macarooooooooons!" they might be disappointed.

After the success of 'Bridesmaids,' I feel like all of you ladies could pick your projects, yet almost all of you are on TV. Is TV the place to be for multi-tasking actors?
I guess so. You know, I think everybody right now that I know that's involved in TV is involved in really good stuff where they're able to show the best of themselves, and they're working with great people. For me, personally, I was waiting to do something that I thought was right for me, that was going to be creatively fulfilling. Yeah, you do get a lot of freedom to do both -- if you're doing TV then you can do movies -- but it's a long schedule. It's like shooting a movie for nine months!

Well hopefully you'll still find time to do both. For the show, knowing that you've worked with so many amazing people, do you have a dream guest star?
Dead or alive? Let's be honest, we want them to be alive. [Laughs] That's tough ... but anytime Bill Murray wants to get off his golf cart and come be on our show, I don't have a problem with that. But I think it'll be a while until we get to the place where I can pick up the phone and say, "Hello Bill. Would you like to be a guest on my daytime talk show?" He'll say yes, right? He owes me a favor ... I towed his car once.

Um, are you kidding?
Yes, I'm kidding. [Laughs] He doesn't owe me anything.

Tell us: Are you excited to see Maya Rudolph and the rest of the cast back on TV?

'Up All Night' premieres Wed., Sept. 14, 10PM ET on NBC, before moving to its regular timeslot Wed., Sept. 21, 8PM ET

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