We’re bringing in the laughs today with actress Ari Graynor, aka TNP’s new woman crush. A super-talented actress and star of Showtime’s I’m Dying Up Here, Graynor is as fun in person as she is onscreen. With spots on TNP favorites like The Sopranos and Bad Teacher, Graynor is no slouch at making people laugh. We caught up with her in advance of her show’s premiere (out June 4 on Showtime!) to talk about everything from acting with Melissa Leo to journaling every day. She let us in on her most memorable moments on set, favorite snacks, and her ‘pre-coffee’ coffee. Read the full interview below; it’s the perfect way to jazz up your Thursday morning…
From start to finish what would be your ideal food day?
Is this a realistic ideal food day? Or is this like the ideal eating in “Defending Your Life” where you can eat buffets of food calorie free? Here are some things I like eating right now, and we can figure out how many ideal days they add up to later: the soft scramble (with greens instead of hash) from The Elk; the off menu Spaghetti Pomodoro at Cafe Altro Paradiso and maybe their burrata, too; the steak and market vegetable plate from The Spotted Pig; a burger from Corner Bistro; and something sweet, it honestly doesn’t matter what.
How do you practice beauty from the inside out?
This is the life-long question isn’t it? The truth is, I really go in waves with healthy food and exercise. The most consistent thing I do to feel my best is daily writing. I experience beauty in myself when I feel rooted, open, and calm. It’s the starting place for everything else, and that comes from getting as much extraneous noise out of my head as possible. I write it all down, no judgements, no filter and often dialogue with myself through it. I never cease to be surprised by how much wisdom and comfort we innately have. I’ve found I just need to give myself the space to listen.
What are your morning and nightly beauty routines?
It took me a long time to be an adult in this department and, not to brag, I finally am one now. I’m currently using all Biologique Recherche products with pretty much the same routine morning and night. I wash with Lait Vip O2, use their miracle P50 exfoliating toner, a few drops of serum, and the Creme Dermopurifiante lotion. My facialst Karine says to mix the Masque Vivant and Mask Vip 02 with a little baking soda and use every morning. She is right about this; it makes your skin look great. If I’m not working, I often just get lazy and forget.
How do you always start your day? What’s your go to breakfast?
I start with a cup of “pre-coffee.” “Pre-Coffee” is a cup of coffee, but it’s really just there to wake me up before my actual cup of coffee. It’s a slightly watered-down Keurig cup that opens my eyes enough to go out into the world for my real cup of (black) coffee from my local joint, which I then enjoy like a normal person. That, or I’ll just brew the Chemex. No matter what, the answer is always coffee.
How do you get into character?
With Cassie, there was a lot of stuff I did beforehand: research about standup, about the ‘70s, about stand up in the ‘70s, reading, watching, joke writing, working with my unconscious and my dreams, doing a lot of writing. Then when it is time to go to set, I get as quiet and focused as possible, and empty my brain of all that other work and just try to be present and allow for something real to happen. And, you know, the high-waisted jeans help.
What’s been the most surprising part of playing Cassie [in I’m Dying Up Here] thus far? The most challenging?
I’ve played a lot of bigger “characters” in the past, people that lived in slightly heightened realities, and this show is so real and so nuanced. Cassie and I are very different in many ways, but she’s probably the closest character I’ve played to myself. Ironically, it’s much harder to let what is closest to you be seen, to be still and to trust that what you’re doing is enough. That, I’ve found, is a challenge.
How do you prepare for a long day on set? How do you unwind after a scene?
I try to get as much sleep as possible, although there’s nothing like a 4 AM wake up call to have you up all night thinking, “I have to fall asleep, why can’t I fall asleep, when am I going to fall asleep?” I’ve also found it useful to give myself extra time in the mornings, to leisurely get up and read or write or meditate and have coffee. (It always comes back to the coffee, doesn’t it?)
At the end of the day, it just depends. Sometimes, I never want to speak to another person again as long as I live and just want a snack and to be comatose on the couch. Sometimes I want a glass of wine and a post mortem of the day with another human. We are mercurial beings, actors. Hard to predict, but that’s half the fun.
What’s been the best part of filming I’m Dying Up Here? What’s the funniest thing you’ve heard on set?
The best part of filming is definitely the cast. We really became a gang. Oftentimes, in the big group scenes, there was very little difference between what was happening on camera and off. Either way, we’re basically sitting around making fun of each other.
Getting the chance to act with Melissa Leo, to be in a scene with her, is a masterclass. She so deeply inhabits her character there is no room for artifice. I’ve never wanted to show up more than when I’m sitting across from her. As far as funny things on set go, there are a bunch of active standups on our show and if I repeated any of the jokes I heard, I could be in danger of stealing material, and then I’d never hear the end of it. But I will say, there are a couple of very strong cast impersonations going around.
Who’s someone you haven’t worked with, that you’d still like to work with and why?
So many: Steve McQueen, Richard Linklater, Nicole Holofcener, Mike Mills, Spike Jonze, Paul Thomas Anderson, Kenny Lonergan, Tarantino, Mia Hanson Love to name just a few. I think the dream is to work with people who have true creative vision, to collaborate and explore and make stuff with the people you respect and admire most, and friends. I’d love to make stuff with my friends.
What is the app you can’t live without and why?
Waze; it’s so unsafe with all those left turns, but I’m completely reliant on it. And Petfinder, because I am desperate for a dog.
What is the issue you feel most passionately about right now and why?
I honestly think I spend the most time thinking about the general collapse of political morality and societal humanity as a whole. I know this sounds like an insane thing to say with everything that’s going on but, underneath women’s reproductive rights, healthcare, the refugee crisis, climate change, everything Trump does, nuclear war etc., it all comes down to a couple of guys in a room making a decision. There is something about that that makes the overwhelming nature of these issues tangible. How did the people in these rooms become who they’ve become? What kind of experience could have changed the way they see things? Where did moral responsibility go and how do we rebuild it? How do we invest in the true nature of humanity again – not in a hippie dippy way but in a fundamental way – in education, in schools, in communities, in stories, in books, in movies, in “content,” in this time we’re living in? Because otherwise everything else is a Band-Aid. I just always come back to…a couple of guys in a room…
What’s the best advice you’ve been given? The worst?
Jim Carrey told us it was our responsibility to alchemize the pain into something beautiful. He meant it in relationship to I’m Dying Up Here, but I think it’s pretty great life advice. The worst? “Boot and rally.”
What are your favorite cities for food? What restaurants do you go to in each?
New York, Los Angeles and anywhere in Italy. I can’t name restaurant names right this second because my mind is still stuck in a spiral about what issue I feel most passionately about.
Who do you swear you were in a past life? Why?
A girl separated from her tribe on a big prairie who survived for a bunch of years alone with a pack of buffalo. I know this because a psychic told me.
In the same vein as ‘what is the new black’ what’s ‘the new potato’ right now?
Pew Notato is the New Potato.
*Ari Graynor, photographed in New York, NY by Danielle Kosann