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'Broad City' Breakout Ilana Glazer Can Do Drama, But She'll Never Be the Next Claire Danes

Photo of Nigel M Smith By Nigel M Smith | Indiewire April 9, 2014 at 1:03PM

As anyone who's helped turn Comedy Central's new series "Broad City" into a hit for the network can tell you, Ilana Glazer is one of the funniest women on television. And like all great comedians, she can do drama too.
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Ilana Glazer on the set of "How to Follow Strangers"
Ilana Glazer on the set of "How to Follow Strangers"

As anyone who's helped turn Comedy Central's new series "Broad City" into a hit for the network can tell you, Ilana Glazer is one of the funniest women on television. And like all great comedians, she can do drama too.

Created by Glazer and her co-star on the show Abbi Jacobson, "Broad City" first began as a web series before morphing into the Amy Poehler-produced phenomenon that recently got green-lit for a second season. Prior to embarking on the Comedy Central show, Glazer acted in Chioke Nassor's "How to Follow Strangers," a delicate indie that's now enjoying a second life on VOD thanks to her newfound fame. For her "Broad City" fans, Glazer's subdued performance as Ellie, an introverted young woman who falls for a stranger she commutes with daily, will no doubt surprise. Ellie is so shy she stalks her crush home without making herself known. Playing an outsized version of herself in "Broad City," Ilana is the type to enter a bar and touch herself to get a man's attention.

READ MORE: Why 'Broad City' is the Anti-'Girls'

Glazer took an early morning break from writing the second season of "Broad City" to talk about the micro-budgeted indie. (Watch the film on iTunes here.)

I was majorly thrown watching you in this. I went into it expecting broad physical comedy a la "Broad City," but you're much more subdued in this. You have some major dramatic chops!

I really appreciate you saying that, I mean I really, really appreciate you saying that.

Was this comfortable territory for you?

No it was not comfortable territory for me at all. It was so challenging. But I think the only way to see if you can do it, is to do it. So I'm so grateful for the opportunity, I am still so grateful for that opportunity. I still am like, that is so cool that he thought of me for this role and saw this in me -- that's a good director who sees something like deep inside. I mean he really made me feel like an actor. That experience made me feel like "Oh, I can act." It was really hard, it was really challenging. And not in my comfort zone, at all. But it was a great experience. And that was really the way that I wanted to start my dramatic acting body of work, you know?

Ilana Glazer on the set of "How to Follow Strangers"
Ilana Glazer on the set of "How to Follow Strangers"

For me at that time it was great timing. It was before we made the pilot for "Broad City," and I am still so grateful for the way that timing worked out. I remember being so up in my head during it, but he's a really gentle and thoughtful director.

It's clear you're an ambitious gal, based on your success with "Broad City" and willingness to dive into uncomfortable territory with this indie. How far removed is "Broad City" slacker Ilana from real-life Ilana?

The character is close to me, but you are right that I am much more responsible and goal oriented in my real life than in "Broad City." But in every character that you play... I mean I don't think I'll ever be the type of actor or performer per se who transforms, you know? Like Claire Danes transforms into Temple Grandin, I'm not gonna do that. Even Ellie, is a part of me, you know?

I write "Broad City," so I connect it to me. Ilana was born out of Ilana Glazer. As well as Ellie, in "How to Follow Strangers" -- Chioke wrote it with me in mind, and I connected to her.

Ellie does some questionable things in the film, like stalking the man she has a crush on. Are you one to follow a crush home?

I've definitely stalked a crush, but not in person like that. But definitely have online stalked, and thought about until I couldn't' think about the person any more. But in real life, I'm kind of a compromise between Ilana and Ellie. I do get nervous, like very nervous. I mean I do have a lovely, lovely boyfriend, and I even get nervous around him. Like the way that I met him in Washington Square Park, and we just like sort of walked up to each other and said "Hi." I do put it forward, but it's not so like "err err err," it's more just like, "Do you wanna do this or not, because I'm very nervous if I get your rejection." So it's really a compromise between the two in real life.

Many are discovering this indie because of your work in "Broad City." Do you feel any pressure 'cause of that... to make your fans happy?

It's exciting. It's a good movie and people should check it out. I mean it is what it is. The pressure in general, I'm not really processing, I'm just trying to make more stuff. I think for me that's like a productive way of dealing with the weirdness you're describing. But regarding "Broad City" and pointing people to "How to Follow Strangers"... I'm just stoked for them. For them, I think it's a cool surprise.

Watch the trailer for "How to Follow Strangers" below:


This article is related to: Ilana Glazer, Broad City, Television, Interviews, How to Follow Strangers, Comedy-Drama, Comedy