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Maid to laugh

Saturday Night Live star Maya Rudolph on why she just couldn’t say no to new comedy Bridesmaids

By (New York Times Syndicate)

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Published: Tue 19 Jul 2011, 9:07 PM

Last updated: Tue 7 Apr 2015, 7:10 AM

Is it just us, or is Maya Rudolph always pregnant or playing a pregnant character?

Rudolph (pictured far right) has played stork-on-the-way characters in A Prairie Home Companion (2006), Away We Go (2009), on Saturday Night Live and, most recently, in Grown Ups (2010). She has two young children, Pearl and Lucille, with writer/director Paul Thomas Anderson, and announced in March that she is pregnant with child No. 3.

“It’s a good excuse to eat a doughnut,” cracks Rudolph, the 38-year-old daughter of R&B singer Minnie Riperton. “I feel fine. I’m a veteran when it comes to pregnancy. I’m kind of powering through it now. I’ve got it on autopilot, to be perfectly honest.”

With her family expanding on a steady basis, Rudolph acknowledges that – to a degree, anyway – she has gotten pickier about the roles she’ll take on. That to-a-degree caveat, however, is more about industry reality than her own personal preferences.

“I’ve been pretty lucky,” Rudolph says, “but it’s not like my fax is spitting out offers all day long. I’ve honestly been blessed to be able to choose what I’ve chosen when I chose it. Sometimes I’m pregnant and sometimes I’m not.

“As long as I’m not unhappy or uncomfortable, I want to work.

“Also, I like being busy,” Rudolph adds. “It’s a good distractor. What else am I going to do? I’m already taking care of my kids, and I think they’re happy when I’m happy. So it’s important to try to do as much as you can and not make yourself – or anyone else, for that matter – miserable while doing it.”

Bridal glory

Rudolph’s latest project is Bridesmaids and, guess what, she’s not pregnant in the comedy. Instead she co-stars in the film as Lillian, whose impending wedding throws her best friend, Annie (Kristen Wiig), for a loop. As maid of honour, poor Annie must sort through her mixed emotions while contending with Lillian’s offbeat collection of bridesmaids (Rose Byrne, Ellie Kemper, Melissa McCarthy and Wendi McLendon-Covey) as the bridal shower and nuptials approach.

“I couldn’t say no to this one,” Rudolph says. “I loved the script and I love Kristen, as a human and as an actress. She wrote this, and I just love working with her. This has so much of Kristen’s humour in it, and it was so quickly relatable to me, just on a personal level. It was funny and out there, but at the same time realistic. It felt really close to normalcy in many ways.

“Going to work every day was really fun,” she continues, “because we knew what we were in for. We actually started the process in rehearsals, and improvised quite a bit. So on set there was a lot to look forward to. We knew we had a good script and could play with it. A lot of us had worked together before, from our days at (comedy troupe) the Groundlings and also on SNL. Having the Groundlings in common was great, because it was like we all went to the same comedy graduate school and could speak the same language.

“And, even if someone hadn’t gone to the Groundlings, it was the kind of set where you could be comfortable, have fun and know that you could play,” she concludes. “And that shows on the screen, I think.”

Screen fixation

Rudolph plans to take a break after the birth of her third child, but she already has completed several other projects that will keep her on the screen for the next year or so. She has lent her voice to Zookeeper, a comedy in which the animals at a zoo decide to break their no-talking rule in order to help their romantically challenged zookeeper (Kevin James). Also wrapped are an untitled television pilot for a proposed series in which she would star with Christina Applegate and Will Arnett, and the big-screen comedy Friends with Kids, which reunites her with Wiig and adds Megan Fox, Jon Hamm and (writer/director/co-star) Jennifer Westfeldt.

“I play a friend with kids in Friends with Kids,” Rudolph says, laughing. “It’s what happens to people when their friends start having kids, how that affects your relationships. But I’m the primary friend with the kids, so that’s easy for me to play.”

Though she has amassed an impressive array of television and film credits, Rudolph remains best known for her long stint on Saturday Night Live. She appeared on the ensemble show from 2000 to 2007, scoring big with original characters and spot-on impressions of such public figures as Paris Hilton, Whitney Houston, Condoleezza Rice and Anna Nicole Smith. Even after her departure, Rudolph continued – and continues – to pop up on the show as a surprise guest for an occasional sketch.

“I can’t tell you how much I loved doing SNL,” the actress says. “It’s the combination of the creativity and the live performance and the pressure that I actually miss the most. Even if I was having a (crummy) show, somehow on Saturday night I would perk up, just running from sketch to sketch, dashing behind paint cans and having three people unbutton you and glue you and unglue you and put your foot into a shoe you can’t even see because you have two minutes to get to the next set.

“It was invigorating and I was completely addicted to it, and it’s something I’ll always love and miss.

“It was a hard thing to give up,” she admits. “When you’re there you think, ‘I can’t do this forever’ and ‘God, I’ve really got to stop doing this at some point.’ And when you’ve left, you think, ‘I miss it’ and ‘I really want to be doing it.’ It’s a completely unique place and, once you’re not doing that show, you’re not doing anything like it ever again. It’s unlike anything else and, even though it’s been on for 35 years, really, not a lot of people can say that they were a part of it. It’s a pretty small family.

“Fortunately I manage to sneak in every once in a while,” Rudolph concludes. Ian Spelling,

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