When it comes to bloodlines, it's hard to beat Rashida Jones' -- she's the daughter of music industry legend Quincy Jones and actress Peggy Lipton ("The Mod Squad," "Twin Peaks"). A Harvard graduate, the hyper-articulate 36-year-old is a talented singer, model, comic book writer ("Frenemy of the State") and philanthropist (Peace First, an organization promoting nonviolent conflict resolution). She's also an actress who has appeared on TV ("The Office") and in numerous films ("The Social Network," "Our Idiot Brother"). Now, with "Celeste and Jesse Forever," opening Friday, she takes on a new role: as co-screenwriter (with Will McCormack) of a film in which she stars, playing a type-A woman divorcing her husband (Andy Samberg), who also happens to be her best friend. She spoke with Newsday contributor Lewis Beale.
"Celeste and Jesse" seems in some ways to follow the old "When Harry Met Sally" template, which is, can men and women ever truly be just friends?
The "When Harry Met Sally" question was kind of answered. We wanted to ask if exes could be friends. I think the answer is yes, but there has to be time to process the hurt. And the hope is that you date someone you could be friends with.
Your character is kind of a nasty career striver. Is that what you were going for?
She was designed to be unlikeable; we pulled out these idiosyncrasies and made her unbearable, because we wanted to have some place to go. There is a special kind of woman who has a type-A personality and has decided she knows the best way to live life.
What was it like writing your first screenplay?
The easy part was nobody had any expectations, no one was waiting to see what you're doing. And that never happens again. If you have a hit, they want to see your next screenplay, and if you have a flop, no one cares. Everything else about writing is hard, it's time-intensive, there is no shortcut. It's one of the more difficult things I've ever done.
You're so multitalented. Is there anything you're particularly good at?
I have friends who are destined for a certain career, and I'm envious of that; they have such focus. I'm pretty good at a lot of things, and to get to that next level, I have to work. I feel like most people: you do things you're kind of good at, otherwise you wouldn't do them. I have a father who is a genius, and I'm not offended -- that's not what I am. My only hope is to get better at everything. Although I'm really good at sleeping, when I get a chance to do it.
One of the things you seem to be good at, but haven't spent much time pursuing, is singing. You've appeared on a number of albums, and contributed to several TV series soundtracks. How come you don't do more?
I love singing, and I have a deep reverence for musicality. I feel strongly if I want to do that as a career, I want to immerse myself in it. I feel like it is such a big world, and is so important to me, and my dad is so good at it, I'd want to go back to school and learn musical theory.
It's hard for a regular person to grasp the kind of celebrity you grew up around. What was it like?
I don't know what it wasn't like. My house was filled with music, friends, family. My parents loved having a good time, they had a lot of parties, everyone from the Brothers Johnson to George Benson, to Michael Jackson and Sarah Vaughan showing up.
You were also part of a biracial family -- your father is African-American, your mother Jewish -- which was not all that common 20 or more years ago. Now there's a biracial president. Can you talk about the changes you've seen regarding multi-racialism over the years?
Like anything, it's all progress, but it's so different from when I was a kid. My parents had friends with biracial kids, the [Sidney] Poitiers, the [Sidney] Lumets. Now you see same-sex parents, biracial kids; it wasn't as prevalent then. There's still a bit of ignorance surrounding biracial -- are you black, are you white? I still get a lot of ignorant comments. Now I care less, but it used to be people were making a judgment about my family and invalidating me. Now, I can tell them to go educate themselves. I know what I am, but I do think there's a long way to go.