Amy Sedaris appears only very briefly in the 2014 Tribeca Film Film Festival drama “Goodbye to All That” as the cat-loving boss to Paul Schneider’s lead character. But like anything the actress and author stars in (including her recent appearance as a broker from hell in Comedy Central’s hit new comedy show “Broad City”), she walks away with the most memorable performance.
Indiewire caught up with Sedaris — best known still to this day for creating and starring in Comedy Central’s beloved comedy series “Strangers with Candy,” which she helped adapt into the 2005 feature-length film of the same name — to discuss her scene-stealing role in “Goodbye to All That” (the directorial debut of “Junebug” screenwriter Angus MacLachlan), her guest stint on “Broad City,” and how she thinks her friend Stephen Colbert will fare as David Letterman’s “Late Show” replacement.
Like many of the indies that you’ve been in in the past couple of years, you show up for a scene or two and end up stealing the whole darn thing. In my estimation anyway.
Nigel, I’m hanging on to every word, go on!
[laughs] Do you go into these projects with that intention?
Well, sometimes I’ll get a call from my agency. I never aspire to do film and so usually my agent calls me and says so and so sent a script and they really want you to look at the part of Mary, or whatever — and I’m like, “How long is it?” I want to be in and out. I like small parts.
It’s fun because lots of times I don’t even have to read the whole script because my scene has nothing to do with the rest of the movie, and it’s usually cut. So with this I know Angus, and I was a big fan of “Junebug.” He just asked me to come in. I work in an office [in the film], and I had that little cat monologue, so I really liked it. I went and worked on it for a day, and it was great. Next thing I know the movie is out.
About not reading the whole script: Have you ever been surprised by a film you’ve starred in after seeing the finished product?
That’s a good question. I can’t think of anything right now, but maybe “Bewitched?” I don’t know. Sometimes I will read the whole thing, like with David Cross’ movie, “Hits.” I did a small part in that, and I read that script and I really laughed. I thought it was really, really funny on the page. I haven’t seen the film yet, but I laughed really hard at the screenplay. And I had a tiny part in that.
I love the process of it all, but it’s hard for me to see a final product. But when it’s tiny, like what you’re saying sometimes, I’ll look at myself for a second, and go, “I can get through this.”
I hope you caught your episode of “Broad City.”
I haven’t seen “Broad City” yet, but man did I have a good time. One thing about “Broad City” was that I went in the wardrobe department, I wear a size five shoe, and they hand me a size eight. I was like, “This is perfect! I’ll bring my own neck brace.” Whenever I do something I bring my bag of tricks, so I always like to have something of my own when I perform. Just a little something.
What did you bring to “Goodbye To All That” that wasn’t in the script that you initially read?
Not much. With Angus it was completely written. He is, I guess, a cat person. He had all the cat stuff in there. We had bits where we had more cat on my clothing, like cat fur. I think that scene got cut, but it was pretty fun. Like the character turns around, she’s got this big clump of hair on her back, and it was pretty fun.
How do you go about molding your form of your comedy to whatever tone the director’s trying to set with his or her film when you work on these independent projects?
Well, it’s hard because I guess that’s why I always shy away from them. I like having a broad character, like in “Broad City” or “Strangers With Candy.” I think I would be perfect for a U.K. show.
I’m always like, “Why’d you hire me?” It’s just so hard to pull back, or you pull back a little, and then you feel like you’re not doing much. I always like to have some kind of weird character. I need something to hide behind so it’s weird if I don’t have that.
But I try to grab on to something. In this case that character had the cat thing, and we were in a small, small closet in the scene, so we had those boundaries. When you’re up in someone else’s face, I think that’s really funny.
But it is hard for me to do. It’s almost like you’re standing there, almost trying not to put out any power or any energy whatsoever. That’s excruciating, that’s brutal to me. I just worked on a project where that happened, where I was like, “Oh my god, I’m not doing anything. I’m literally just standing here counting to ten.”
Was the broker you played in “Broad City” broker based on anyone you’ve dealt with in the past?
No, it was an invention. But one thing I noticed about brokers – I had a friend who bought a house upstate, so I went with him on a couple meetings, and they were always leaning up against something, like they had their foot up on a rock or they’d lean against a tree. I just liked the way they dressed. Say it’s a Saturday at 10 o’clock in the morning, that’s your day off, and they show up in their denim outfit. They want to look presentable yet casual, but I noticed they were always leaning. They just need to prop their foot up on a rock or lean up against a tree and wait. So that’s the only thing I knew about realtors, really.
She’s the kind of character that just can’t get it together. She isn’t going to keep that job very long. Me driving a car, I mean my god. No one let’s me drive. That was a lot of fun, driving that smart car. With a size 8 shoe on, I was like, “I’m going to kill somebody.”
What kind of car do you drive?
I don’t drive. That’s what’s so funny. I used to. When I lived in North Carolina I would drive, but those days are over. Nobody will let me get behind the wheel.
Did you hit anything driving in “Broad City?”
I did not. I was really good.
You’re close to Stephen Colbert, having worked with him on “Strangers With Candy.” Are you psyched to see him take over for David Letterman?
I am. I’m still grieving the idea of Letterman leaving, to tell you the truth. It’s the end of an era. He’s just the best, and I just love watching him and how he does his show. It’s just the most comfortable show to be on because literally, for me anyway. I could just go on there and talk about anything and sit down. You don’t have to try to be funny, you don’t need a bit and you feel safe in the chair. I love that. I’m just going to miss it so much. But Colbert is perfect. He’s perfect to replace Letterman. I think he’ll do a great job.
You’ve been going on Letterman since 2002, if I’m not mistaken.
I think, yeah, four times a year. So lucky. If someone cancelled they would pick up the phone and I could be there in a heartbeat, which was always a lot of fun just because you could be like well, I didn’t have any time to prepare, so it was nice to have a little excuse.
Think you’ll play a similar role in Colbert’s show?
It’s weird, because I know Stephen. Even when I did his show now on Comedy Central, it’s different because he’s a character and you’re not being a character, so that’s kind of odd. But also just because I feel like I know him, so it just changes things a little bit. So I don’t know what tricks he’s going to have up his sleeve – what he’s going to change or keep from the format. I have no idea. But at least I know he can do it. He can talk to anybody about anything. He’s got a really high reference level. He’s got that southern hospitality. He’s got charm. So there isn’t anything he’s not going to be able to do. And I think with all his writers and stuff they’re great. Paul Dinello writes on the show, and I think Paul really brings a silly side to Stephen, so I’m just glad that they’ll be working on something like that together.
When Letterman announced his retirement from the show, you were one of the first names to pop into my head as a replacement. Would you ever want to host a show like that?
I think I would be good at the sit down and talking to people because I ask a lot of questions, and I’m genuinely interested. But coming out and doing a monologue, I don’t think that’s my thing. I don’t think I would be very good at it at all. But I think I would be okay as a sidekick or interviewing people. But then again, what am I going to ask Condoleezza Rice? You know what I mean? People like that come on the show, forget it! “What size shoe do you really wear, Michelle Obama?” It’d be awful. I can’t imagine doing that every single night. An hour show to fill? That’s a lot.