Lake Bell, the tall and lanky comedienne best known for her work on Adult Swim's "Children's Hospital" and HBO's now-defunct "How To Make It In America," proved herself to be a quadruple threat last week when "In a World...," her feature writing-directing debut (which she also co-produced and stars in), world premiered at the Sundance Film Festival to a rave response from the packed house at the Library Theatre.
The comedy, which stars "Children's Hospital" castmates Ken Marino and Rob Corddry, centers on Carol (Bell), an aspiring voiceover artist struggling to make a name for herself in a male-dominated industry where her father, a voiceover vet, rules the roost.
The day following the raucous premiere, a giddy Bell sat down with Indiewire to discuss her personal ties to the project (she tried to make it as a voiceover artist before landing on-screen acting roles), how to change the way our society speaks and the challenge of defining herself in Hollywood.
I want to get your sense of how last night went. Going into it you were visibly nervous, sweaty palms and all.
Yeah (laughs). I was definitely nervous, mainly because public speaking isn’t under my job description. I also didn’t want there to be any technical problems.
Which there were.
Which there were! And my heart sunk. But I promised myself that I would handle it with grace. Grace, grace, grace, grace… that was my mantra. But by the end of it, by the time we got around to the Q&A, I was so emotional, so filled with joy, because wisely I put all of my favorite people in the world in this movie. These are people who I’m friends with, who I work with on a daily basis, either on “Children’s Hospital” or on other things. Just to have them and my family there – it’s a nice thing. There are so many things in Hollywood where you’re insecure, trash-talking, and this was a night that was filled with earnest pride and love.
Now, you grew up as an aspiring voiceover artist. How autobiographical is the film?
When I first wrote draft one of “In a World...,” it was really different in the sense that I was going through some really profound conversations with my own dad and trying to figure things out and looking at the relationship between my father and my brother – observing. I’m interested in the human interaction there. You compile and collect all of these different experiences there and inject them into a different story with different kinds of characters. They then blossom and derail into different storylines.
Twenty drafts later, it is not autobiographical. But I did think I was going to be one of the great voiceover stars. Since I was a kid I’ve been obsessed with accents, languages and sounds. It’s something you can’t get away from. Someone can look amazing and beautiful and open their mouth – and if it’s an atrocity, it really throws you.
I’m also interested in that idea of blind voice, where in voiceover you can be anyone, you can be any race, any age, any weight. You can put all these building blocks onto your natural voice. When you start to study the voice you hear all the history of a person. That’s why I’m a radio listener. I always listen to plain old radio; I don’t plug in my iPod.
When I was 13, I was coercing the stewardesses to let me do the in-flight announcements. I did things like that. I used to have my little Dictaphone that I would bring around.
The best advice I ever got about writing was, "What do you want to see next? What do you want to talk about?" The conversation to me in the film that I like to look back to is the cultural conversation of this vocal virus that I think is infecting female generations: sexy baby talk.
Given that you live in L.A., you probably hear that sort of talk a lot.
Yeah, and it’s everywhere. I have friends in L.A., New York and even Kentucky who have it. It can go anywhere! I think Bravo culture for sure has helped inject that as a normal thing. But yeah, I think it’s really interesting that aspect of it, because not that people are uneducated, they’re just unaware of it. Or they’re taking it on to be part of a community or to be sexually submissive. Perhaps it makes them feel younger or sexier. I think it’s kind of a feminist issue!