You’ve been to Austin before for SXSW right?
Yeah, I was trying to remember when I was here last. I think it was two years ago? Three? I don’t know.
You strike me as someone who would thrive in Austin, just given the tagline of the city, “Keep Austin weird.”
Keeping it weird? Yeah. It’s fun. I love it here. I like the spirit of it all.
Is this the first press you’ve done since “Parks and Recreation” wrapped for something that’s not related to that show?
What’s that like?
It’s fine, yeah. It feels normal because I’m used to being on a hiatus right now. I think this time next year, that’s when things will get really weird. I just keeping thinking in my head that I’m going to go back to “Parks” in the summer. But that’s not happening because I graduated — and now I’m a real person.
So you haven’t come to terms with the fact that it’s over?
Uh, I have… of course. But I don’t think I have fully processed it. I think I’m still a little bit in denial.
Did you want it to be over or are you sad?
I am sad, just because I liked going to work every day with those people. So that I will miss so much. But I think it was the right time. Feels like the right time to move on. Bittersweet.
Do you have a lot of time off now?
No! I had one day off. I just go from thing to thing and drive myself crazy.
Basically when we were wrapped, I went right into production on this movie called “Dirty Grandpa.” So I’m still shooting that right now, that’s not finished. That’s a kind of bigger budget.
What do you hope or think will change in terms of your workload now that “Parks” is over?
I have no idea how to predict what will happen. “Dirty Grandpa” is not an indie comedy. It’s a studio movie. So that’s kind of new for me. I haven’t really been in a big studio movie in a while. That’s really fun. I’m thinking maybe that could be a new thing if it works out. I don’t have a plan. I would be on television
again. But I’m very hesitant to dive into anything just yet. I want to make sure it’s the right thing.
What would make you take the leap back to TV?
Just the material, if it’s good. And people. I think television is so much about who you’re working with. I mean, everything is. But that especially, because it’s so much of your life that you’re with these people. So if you pick good ones, it’s a pretty awesome experience. But yeah, I have no idea what’s gonna happen after May, pretty much.
In “Fresno,” you play a personal trainer. Are you a fitness junkie? Was this an easy role to prep for?
I would not say I am a fitness junkie. I am more athletic than people know, I think. I play a lot of sports. My character is a Krav Maga instructor, so I was really psyched about that, because I got to take Krav Maga lessons. I just told the director, if I’m gonna play this part, I really want to learn. I like to move my body.
So the Krav Maga aspect of your character was already in the script?
Yeah, that was in the script. But that’s one of the reasons I really wanted to do it. I thought it would be fun to play a Krav Maga instructor. It’s a really different kind of character for me.
Do you still practice it?
No. Not once. But I want to. I started, so now I have a base. I’ll learn more.
The climax of “Fresno” takes place during a bar mitzvah in a hotel, not as nice as this one. Have you ever been to a bar mitzvah?
I’ve never been to a bar mitzvah! Actually as we were shooting that I was saying to everyone, this is the first bar mitzvah I’ve ever been to. I didn’t grow up with a lot of Jewish friends, I guess. I grew up in a very Irish Catholic community, so bar mitzvahs were few and far between for me. I’m still waiting to get invited to a real one.
So you grew up in Wilmington, Delaware. I’m Canadian, so I’m not really familiar with the area.
Which part of Canada?
I love Toronto. I loved working there.
What did you shoot there?
Oh yeah, of course. I love that movie because it was a love letter to Toronto! It didn’t use Toronto as a sub for New York.
I know. That’s why I love Toronto, because I was in that movie and we shot in all those locations, and I really had the best time ever. I want to work there again. I’ve been trying to work there again.
I just gotta get my ass in some kind of movie over there or something. The food is so good over there, too. Everyone is so nice. There’s so much to do. The city’s so clean. The best city ever.
Aw, thank you. Well, I moved away, so, what does that say?
Yeah, fuck Toronto! [laughs]
The reason I brought it up is because, like the characters that you populate, you’re from a smaller city.
I would say Wilmington is probably bigger than Fresno, it’s more of a medium-sized city. But the community I grew up in felt very small town. Everyone knew each other, everyone’s family’s knew everyone else’s family’s. So I do know that vibe, for sure.
Your character, Kelly, is really content with where she is.
Yeah, Kelly is just chillin’. She’s got her class going. She’s got her shit together.
Unlike you, who clearly wanted to get out of Wilmington.
I mean, I didn’t really want to get out of Wilmington. I just wanted to go to New York and pursue acting, so I just had to get out of Wilmington. I love it there, my whole family is there, still. It’s a really pretty town. I don’t have anything against it.
I’m not a big sports guy, so I don’t watch the Super Bowl, but I did watch your Super Bowl ads for Newcastle Beer. Or were they pre-ads?
It was like a campaign for an ad. So the idea was to almost do an ad for the ad. To try to get people to participate in the actual ad. I don’t really understand it.
They were hilarious.
Thanks! It was fun, I got to milk a real cow.
Did you really milk it?
Yeah, I milked the shit out of it.
Did someone train you on set?
Yeah, there was like a cow milker trainer that was standing there and he just told me how to work those udders.
Did you get any milk on you?
Yeah, it got all over me. I tasted it, too. I just got right in there. It tasted like disgusting milk.
April on “Parks and Recreation” really grew up over the last season of the show. How did you feel you grew as a performer over the course of making it?
I feel really lucky that I got to stay with the character for that long. It’s really fun to play a character that you know so well, because you can add so many layers and make choices that you’d never have thought you would make, otherwise. It taught me a lot. I learned so much working on that show.
I guess the biggest thing it taught me is that, some people can fall into a trap of just doing the same thing, over and over again. I always tried to challenge myself to find different, weird layers to April that would be more challenging for me and surprising to the audience, to keep it fresh. That was something that I always, as an actor, tried to challenge myself to do. I think it’s easy to get lazy and not make choices. So for me that was the fun of it, toward the end of the series, to try to make different choices and really think about how that character is growing up. Because the time between 20 to 27 or whatever, that’s such a major time when people actually turn into adults. That was really interesting to me, to track that for her and keep all of her weirdness.
READ MORE: SXSW: How Natasha Lyonne and Judy Greer Escaped the Hollywood Boys Club for ‘Fresno’