Half the fun of going to see a new installment of the Meet the Parents franchise is getting to hang out with the families you’ve grown to love over the past few years, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t room for more crazy characters. She isn’t a Focker or a Byrnes, but in Little Fockers, Jessica Alba steps in as series newcomer Andi Garcia.
Andi is a peppy drug company rep who asks Greg (Ben Stiller) to represent their latest product, Sustengo, an erectile dysfunction medication. The promotional campaign kicks off and Andi gets a little too close for comfort. When a chance meeting in a hospital results in Andi and Pam (Teri Polo) meeting face-to-face, Jack (Robert De Niro) grows increasingly concerned that Greg may not be a faithful husband and unworthy of the title “The Godfocker.”
This is a big production for Alba not only because she stars alongside some of the greats like De Niro and Dustin Hoffman, but also because this is her first attempt at slapstick comedy. Alba spilled on everything from face planting in an empty pool with Stiller to what it’s like being the new recruit on set and even addressed that whole debacle caused by comments she made about screenwriting.
Your character is so bubbly. When you went to work each day, was that something to look forward to or was it ever a drag having to pretend to be that excited?
Jessica Alba: Well, I was taking meth and speed and shooting Red Bulls. I was snorting it actually. No, I’m kidding. No I’m not. Yes I am. [Laughs] No, it was great because no matter what mood I was in, she was so enthusiastic and so happy and excited that it was nice. It turned every day into a funny, silly day. And also, I was kind of the joker, so I just got to make people laugh. If I could just make people giggle, that was fun. It was very satisfying.
As a married woman, what do you think about Ben Stiller’s character’s interaction with yours? Did he cross the line?
Not at all and I don’t think my character was trying to maliciously do anything. She wasn’t manipulative, she wasn’t malicious and I think that’s what made it so great was that she was just having fun and she was just in the moment and she wasn’t really trying to screw anything up. She was just a big fan, she just loves her job so much and she has no filter, she really doesn’t have any boundaries and she’s completely unedited and not self aware. She’s just a ball of fun, so it was fun playing somebody like that because it was very liberating. I might be a little bit of a control freak in my real life. Maybe.
How comfortable were you on set as the newcomer?
And it’s not like they had fruitful careers prior to this movie either, huh? [Laughs] It’s certainly a pretty intimidating group of actors, icons, my heroes and an incredible franchise and they do all know each other and they’ve known each other for so long that it’s almost so scary and intimidating, you kind of just have to let it go and just have fun and that’s exactly what I did.
What kind of guidance did Paul Weitz give you in terms of your character, specifically when she attacked Ben Stiller?
He was really great because I would go off into the deep end so much because I did really have fun and I really was kind of a clown. I’m inspired by Lucille Ball and Peter Sellers and the National Lampoon movies in the 80s, the John Hughes movies and I love that stuff; I love slapstick. So I would go way over there and [Paul] always made sure that I kept it grounded and we would always do a more grounded, more centered take once I went off the deep end.
This is going to be the first time a lot of people see you do slapstick comedy, so what surprised you the most about doing this type of comedy? Also, can you clarify the comments you recently made about screenwriters?
Oh yeah, that wasn’t true. Just so it’s clear, films don’t even get made and nothing ever gets a green light unless there’s great material, so that goes without saying and that’s always a #1 thing before you can get a director, actors or a studio even interested in anything. There was an article written recently where I was completely and totally paraphrased and things were taken out of context and mushed together and it just simply wasn’t true. It was a four-hour interview that got condensed into a page and a half for a fashion magazine.
So, that’s just not true and I have the utmost respect for screenwriters and in fact, the point of it was even when I was doing my first job where I was talking to dolphins in The New Adventures of Flipper when I was 13 – it was a fake dolphin, we had a great relationship [laughs] – when he would go off script, the dolphin, I didn’t know how to. He would squeak and I couldn’t squeak back. It took me like 15 years to learn to do that and lots of therapy. So, basically I was saying that I didn’t have the courage and didn’t really understand how to bring my own thing to the table and I would never veer away from the script, ever, no matter what. Even when actors would go off book, I didn’t know what to say. And in this, it’s encouraged. Once you got it and you say exactly what’s in the script, then it’s like, ‘Okay, we got it. It was awesome. Now let’s have fun and do something else, do something crazy.’ And so that’s what it was; it was amazing to think on your feet. I have so much respect for people who do stand up comedy, live theater, any sort of live performance. It’s hard and it’s hard when you’re on the spot and you have to have that back and fourth. It was like ‘Okay, this is Ben Stiller throwing zingers at me. I’ve got to throw them back! Oh my gosh!’ And so I just tried not to disappoint him because he was sort of the boss as well.
Did you use a stunt double for the scene where you two dive into the empty pool? That scene looked painful.
Oh! Spread eagle? All me. It was all me. I channeled my Dark Angel days. Who knew that was going to come in handy – in underwear – in a mud pit?
What do you find more challenging, the dramatic or comedic roles?
There’s definitely a vulnerability when you’re doing drama and you never know what’s going to happen next and you’re really open, but it’s the same in comedy actually. The thing about dramas, you can kind of indulge in the drama of the moment and no one’s really going to criticize you because it’s like, ‘Oh, that’s that. The angry emotion just isn’t right.’ No one’s going to say that. But if you’re not funny, that’s terrible. You know that right away. People either have the visceral reaction or they don’t and then you’re exposed and you’re open and you failed. So I think comedy might be more difficult – for me at least. But it’s fun when it works.