TV's Top Talent This Emmy Season
By Scott Huver
The acting lesson Community’s Alison Brie is eminently qualified to teach a class in: making an unlikable role downright lovable. “It turns out that’s one of my specialties: taking seemingly bitchy characters on paper and turning them into real people you might actually sympathize with,” laughs Brie.
The actress evolved and softened her often-uptight, over-achiever character, Annie Edison, in the show’s second season by tapping into her own inherent fervor for exploration. “Annie’s best quality is she fully commits to anything she’s involved in,” says Brie. “She’s very ambitious, but her ambition doesn’t really have a clear direction yet—she just points her arrow in whatever direction and then goes full force. Some of that comes from my own enthusiasm for the job.
“I can relate to her. When I first went to college I was the same way,” she says. “You don’t know who you are then, so you try on a bunch of different hats and see which one fits the best. Maybe that’s why Annie is so fun to play—she seems buttonedup and prudish, but she’s also game for anything, which is funny.”
Similarly, Brie’s recurring Mad Men performance as initially spoiled Trudy Campbell morphed into something more moving, humanizing her character’s weasely husband, Pete. “I’d just try to see things from her perspective, rather than judging her. My own dad was like, ‘God, she’s such a little brat!’ I said, ‘Oh, great—the only note I’ve been getting is to just be myself, so thanks a lot, Dad!’”
Of her ongoing stints on two of TV’s best series, Brie says, “I have yet to really play a surface character. I wouldn’t want to take a step backward now—the bar has been set pretty high.”
PHOTOGRAPHS BY WILLIAMS + HIRAKAWA/ICON INTERNATIONAL INC. (POEHLER); JEFF LIPSKY/CPI SYINDICATION (HAMM); KEVIN LYNCH/CONTOUR BY GETTY IMAGES (Macdonald); JEFF LIPSKY (NOBLE); ART STREIBER/SHOWTIME (Duchovny); MR PHOTO/CORBIS OUTLINE (BRITTON); CHRIS HASTON/NBC (BRIE); JUSTIN STEPHENS/AUGUST (COLFER)