The Hot Seat: Jenna Fischer

The actor and future mom still mouths off to her own mother.

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Illustration: Dan Park


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A Little Help follows a family during a period of tragic transition. Your character, Laura, acts like a misunderstood adolescent around her mother, even though she's in her thirties.
I go home and I take this tone with my mom, this sort of bratty-teenager tone. I hate that I do it, but I do. I wanted to do that in this movie, where the sisters really talk to each other like they're irritated with each other, all the time.

It's great to see a character who is as plagued by her parents when she's an adult as she probably was when she was a kid.
I think, How can I segue into this mature relationship with [my parents]? Then I'll get home, and within 24 hours, I've regressed, somehow. [Laughs] Maybe other people are more successful.

I don't think so! Were you considered popular and effortlessly pretty in high school, the way Laura was in this film?
No. Not at all. That was possibly the most foreign concept I've ever had to play as an actress. I was always... I wasn't nerdy or anything, I was just sort of invisible. I went to an all-girls school, and as I found my voice, I was very political and very into changing the world. I had a lot of ideas about feminism. In the lunchroom, I would set up little lectures about the subliminal advertising in commercials that is keeping women down. I was never into parties, and dating did not come easily to me. In the movie, to have people talk about me like that, was weird.

There's a scene in which Laura says to her son, Dennis, "You are such an asshole to me."
That is why I wanted to do the movie. It was that scene. That line. It was so real, that moms can have these moments where they break. They don't do it right all the time. They scream at their kids. I love that in this movie, a mom was allowed to have an ugly moment with her kid.

You're pregnant, and you've been playing a lot of pregnant or motherly ladies recently. Pam, on The Office, recently popped one out.
It's funny, when I played Pam on The Office, pregnant, for the first time, I had to wear a pregnancy suit. It would press down on my bladder, and I would have to go to the bathroom all the time. Everyone would say to me, "Oh, this is practice for your real pregnancy!" I just want to say to all those people who are like, "this is practice": I have found my actual pregnancy and carrying an actual pregnant belly to be easier than a prosthetic belly. It was almost like a wet suit. It would take a good ten minutes to go to the bathroom. So if you had to pee, you had to anticipate—do I have ten more minutes in me? Maybe that was a good thing, because it did prepare me for an actual pregnancy: It made me more miserable than a real pregnancy did.

A Little Help opens Fri 22.

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