Interview: Lisa Kudrow of ‘Friends’ Fame on Mothering in New Film ‘Bandslam’

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CHICAGO – Following Lisa Kudrow’s wildly successful, 10-year run as Phoebe Buffay on 238 episodes of “Friends,” the 46-year-old Encino, Calif. native is hardly the spacey blonde from 1997’s “Romy and Michele’s High School Reunion”. In fact, she earned her degree in psychobiology from Vassar College in New York.

But since her Emmy-winning “Friends” fame and in speaking with her today, you now get the sense that she’s splitting her time between TV work (i.e. with 27 episodes of “Web Therapy” over the past year), various films and perhaps most important mothering.

Lisa Kudrow as Karen Burton in Bandslam
Lisa Kudrow as Karen Burton in “Bandslam”.
Photo credit: Van Redin, Summit Entertainment and Walden Media

HollywoodChicago.com Oscarman Rating: 3.5/5.0
Rating: 3.5/5.0

Kudrow’s latest to hit theaters nationwide on Friday is a music film called “Bandslam,” which also stars Vanessa Hudgens (who was rumored to audition for the “Twilight” sequel “The Twilight Saga: New Moon” and starred in the film “High School Musical 3: Senior Year” as well as TV’s “High School Musical 2” and TV’s “High School Musical”), Alyson Michalka, Gaelan Connell and Tim Jo from writer and director Todd Graff.

So, why’s she in this battle-of-the-bands film for high schoolers?

Vanessa Hudgens stars as Sa5m in Bandslam
Vanessa Hudgens stars as Sa5m in “Bandslam”.
Photo credit: Van Redin, Summit Entertainment and Walden Media

“I look to see what the story is, who the characters are and how well they’re fleshed out in the script. I fell in love with the Will character (played by Gaelan Connell) in ‘Bandslam,’” Kudrow said in an interview with HollywoodChicago.com.

She added: “I liked that he knew a lot about music. That was his only way to fit in for the first time ever. He was smart enough to know he didn’t really fit in – and knew why he wouldn’t – but couldn’t turn himself inside out to try to fit in.”

Kudrow continued: “But you just knew he’d be OK. There wouldn’t be the anxiety of: ‘Oh, god. Is this kid going to kill himself?’ It was just about how heartbreaking and hard it can be under normal circumstances to be a teenager in high school.”

These days, playing Will’s mother in “Bandslam” was anything but a stretch for Kudrow. Along with her film and TV work and being married to advertising executive Michel Stern, she lives in Los Angeles where they rear their 11-year-old son, Julian Murray. But Julian and Will don’t yet share many similarities by virtue of their age gap.

“During childhood,” Kudrow said, “kids can say something insensitive to your child and you want to throttle them. You get really protective. You want to step in and take care of them. Mostly we want to fix what we couldn’t do for ourselves when we were kids. We want to tell someone off on your kid’s behalf. All those instincts were in this script.”

She added: “This is especially so when the relationship is changing with your child and certain things aren’t appropriate any more – like walking in when they’re taking a shower (which is a scene in the film). How come it was OK to do that last week but you can’t do it now any more and forever more?”

Gaelan Connell stars as Will Burton in Bandslam
Gaelan Connell stars as Will Burton in “Bandslam”.
Photo credit: Van Redin, Summit Entertainment and Walden Media

While Kudrow relates to the film’s theme of her character protecting Will, she also understands that there comes a time when you’ve got to give your kid space. But there exists a competitive period, she says, while the transition is under way.

Alyson Michalka stars as Charlotte Banks in Bandslam
Alyson Michalka stars as Charlotte Banks in “Bandslam”.
Photo credit: Van Redin, Summit Entertainment and Walden Media

In a scene when Will’s friend, Charlotte (played by Alyson Michalka), unexpectedly shows up in his bedroom just when he needs help the most, you have two women competing as his protector.

Kudrow said about the scene and related to her real-life son: “I’m the one who helps. When did you show up? It’s weird. It’s this slightly jealous thing. I don’t know how I’m going to be when Julian has his first girlfriend. She’ll want to display some ownership of him over me. But I’ll be all right eventually.”

While Kudrow continues her career beyond “Friends,” though, she still carries Phoebe’s comedy and sarcasm with her. For many, that will be her career’s seminal character and the face that she’ll forever etch into the minds of her audience.

When asked what comedy is to her these days, Kudrow said: “Comedy comes out of things that are surprising and confusing – like when someone’s unaware of things. That’s always funny to me. I always carry [comedy] around with me. I can’t help it. Yeah. But you need to look like it’s not rehearsed even when you’re doing takes. That’s what makes comedy hard – that kind of spontaneity.”

Prior to making it in Hollywood, Kudrow’s life could have taken a decidedly different direction if not for the encouragement of actor and comedian Jon Lovitz.

A friend of Kudrow’s brother, Lovitz inspired the 5’9”, blonde-haired and green-eyed Kudrow to audition for the Los Angeles improv theater group The Groundlings. The rest is history, but it’s not a history Kudrow initially pictured for herself.

“I didn’t see Hollywood coming in my life at all. At some point, I just got overwhelmed with dropping everything I was doing to do acting. It felt that urgent, though, and I had to give it a shot,” Kudrow said while reminiscing about being 21 years old and just out of college.

She continued: “It worked out, but it took 8 years. My family was getting worried – for sure – about me having a career with stability. They thought: ‘So, what do you think you’re gonna do? Actually? Really?’ My mom felt like I could always go back to medical school, but not any more.”

Left to right: Tim Jo, Alyson Michalka and Charlie Saxton star in Bandslam
Left to right: Tim Jo, Alyson Michalka and Charlie Saxton star in “Bandslam”.
Photo credit: Van Redin, Summit Entertainment and Walden Media

As for the dynamic between the trio of Vanessa Hudgens – who initially wanted the part of Charlotte and thought she’d turn down the role of Sa5m (yes, it’s spelled that way) if she got cast for it instead – with Alyson Michalka and Gaelan Connell, Kudrow said: “It looked like three friends who were working.”

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She added: “You saw three very professional actors at work. They didn’t need to be wrangled just because they’re young. They knew they were at work. They’d say: ‘Ok, everyone. Action.” They wanted to go over things again and again, look at the notes and do things right.”

What ultimately challenged and rewarded Kudrow the most in “Bandslam”?

“Some of the scenes were very well written. It was nice to play those,” Kudrow said. “It was challenging to get over my own embarrassment to have someone like Ryan Donowho (as the drummer character Basher Martin) who was so cute to pretend he had a crush on me. I had to be cool with it. I was the bait to get him to join the band. I was the hot mom.”

“Bandslam,” which stars Lisa Kudrow, Vanessa Hudgens, Alyson Michalka, Gaelan Connell, Tim Jo, Ryan Donowho, Scott Porter, Charlie Saxton, Lisa Chung, Elvy Yost and J.W. Wright from writer and director Todd Graff, opened nationwide on Aug. 14, 2009. The film is rated “PG” for some thematic elements and mild language. It has a running time of 111 minutes.

Note: Since “Bandslam” is being released by “Twilight,” “The Twilight Saga: New Moon” and “The Twilight Saga: Eclipse” production firm Summit Entertainment, Friday’s opening of “Bandslam” will exclusively feature a brand-new, full-length theatrical trailer for “The Twilight Saga: New Moon”. A sneak preview of this new trailer can be watched now here.

HollywoodChicago.com editor-in-chief Adam Fendelman

By ADAM FENDELMAN
Editor-in-Chief
HollywoodChicago.com
adam@hollywoodchicago.com

© 2009 Adam Fendelman, HollywoodChicago.com

Anonymous's picture

They're still friends

They’re still friends. Courtney Cox and Lisa Kudrow were at a childrens charity event together not so long ago and Jennifer has said in many interviews how much she admires Lisa. Courtney Cox and Jenifer Aniston are best friends thats for sure. They were just at the premiere for Courtney’s film ‘Bedtime Stories, Jennifer and Courtney say they see each other weekly.

Anonymous's picture

The lady with Lisa Kudrow in

The lady with Lisa Kudrow in the Nintendo DS commercial Lynn “Brown” Kogen. She and Lisa are friends (Lisa was in Lynn’s wedding) Lynn wrote for Friends. She is married to Jay Kogen (writer/producer for Frasier, Tracey Ullman, Simpsons).

Anonymous's picture

I’m aware of, Lisa Kudrow

I’m aware of, Lisa Kudrow is touted as a “Terri Garr look-a-like” sometimes in the press and on the web, but i’m not aware that they are related in any way. I’m not sure how you’d find this out either.

GiovannyF's picture

Lisa in Bandslam

Ever since she star in Friends,Lisa Kudrow is undeniable one great artist. And I think she did a great mothering role hear. This is what we call VERSATILITY. Well I heard that Bandslam is set to possibly be one of the hit movies of the summer. Bandslam is about a high school garage band determined to win a battle of the bands (cliché), wherein the geeky kid falls for the popular female lead singer (ostensibly cliché), and the band performs pop-rock, especially Cheap Trick’s “I want you to want me.” (Really cliché.) In the end, the band is signed to a record deal by an established music personality (aggressively cliché), in this case David Bowie.

jasmine123's picture

Entertainment

yes it is true that Comedy comes out of things that are surprising and confusing.

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