Perky, adorable, cute. Anna Faris has heard all the adjectives, thanks to roles in comedies The Hot Chick, The House Bunny, Yogi Bear, What’s Your Number, et. al.
Her latest (animated) role, Sam Sparks the weathergirl in Cloudy with A Chance of Meatballs 2, doesn’t do much to change her sunny rep. This time around, she and her geek boyfriend Flint Lockwood ( Bill Hader) are back to save the world from his invention, a machine that churns out food-animals (envision shrimpanzees, tacodiles and sushi-sheep).
But come Monday night, Faris gets to play against type in the lead of Chuck Lorre’s new CBS series Mom, as a newly sober single parent. We talked to Faris, 36, about the roles from her home in Los Angeles, which she shares with actor husband Chris Pratt and their 1-year-old son Jack.
You’re playing “Cloudy” heroine Sam for the second time. Did you ever have aspirations to be a meteorologist?
I have to say no. Maybe because I grew up in Seattle and the weather was pretty much always rainy and cloudy. I like the idea of being a reporter, you know, being on the street, roving. I do love Sam, though. It’s fun to play a gal who’s not just all about the boys. She’s smart and innocent at the same time. Usually smart is combined with cynical, but she’s optimistic and a little naive.
Along those lines, do you miss all the rain now that you live in such a temperate climate?
You know, honestly. I wish it would rain a little more in L.A.. In bad weather, you have a good excuse to sit inside and eat crappy food and watch movies. Nice weather is so guilt-making. It’s like, ‘Oh I guess I gotta go out; it’s so beautiful,’ when all you want to do is meet your friends and sit in a restaurant and be all cozy.
How’s voice work compared to costarring in a live action flick?
It’s a different process. You go into the studio and record pretty much all your lines in like three or four sessions. Then over the course of a few months you go back in for what we call effort noises: falling down a well, pushing or pulling or screaming. It’s amazing, really. Even though we as actors are promoting this movie, we’re such a small part of this incredible process. I’m in awe of these guys — the animators, writers, visionaries who are so thoughtful and creative and we just sort of bop in. Not being to work with the other actors is a little bit isolating but impractical. Bill and I tried to do a scene once and we were overlapping and laughing.
So is it more of a challenge to just use your voice to emote and flesh out a character?
Bill and I talked about this: You think this kind of work is more straightforward than it is. It’s a very particular challenge, especially when your character is enthusiastic all the time! I did drink a lot of Red Bull and coffee, but toward the end, the voice would start to go and the crew would say, ‘You need to get some peppermint tea.’
Can you talk a little about “Mom?” What’s it like being on a weekly TV show?
I adore Chuck Lorre, so this has been a dream. I am really loving this multi-camera format and live audience. It feels like you only get one or two chances so the pressure’s on. The rhythm is exciting. I love having a boss and coworkers and not having to say goodbye in a month like on a movie. I hope I’m not cursing myself!
How does it feel to play someone who isn’t so flighty or perky?
We’re dealing with some scary, relatable issues: addiction; financial stuff; raising a teenager; complicated relationships with men. It’s very fulfilling — not just in a comedic way but in an emotional way. I hope people embrace it because I feel so passionate about it. After I had a baby I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do next or where my career was going so this was a blessing. The hours are better, although the work is in a way much more intense, which I love. Sometimes I leave there feeling like I’ve taken the SATs all day. Oatmeal brain!