If you ask Kristen Bell, her Good Place is working alongside her husband.
Her previous collaborations with her actor/writer/director hubby Dax Shepard have included her films "When in Rome" and "Veronica Mars," his film "Hit & Run," commercials for various Samsung products and that epic homemade African vacation video set to Toto's "Africa." And now, Bell's got a choice, bitchy role in "CHiPs" (out Friday), Shepard's latest on-screen and behind-the-lens project, playing the indifferent, almost-single-and-already-mingling soon-to-be ex-wife to his motorcycle officer Jon Baker.
And after a considerably great career year that included the success of solo projects, like her clever new series "The Good Place" and her film "Bad Moms," Bell reveals that she'd have no qualms if the couple worked side-by-side as often as they're able for the rest of their careers: for example, he even handpicked the hot, handsome actor she gets to make out with in front of him without batting a jealous eye.
Moviefone: I want you to walk me through this. Usually, you'll get a gig, and you've got to say to Dax, "I'm going to be kissing this guy in this movie, this is what the director needs from me." The situation's is a little different with this one. Did you get to pick the guy you get to kiss?
Kristen Bell: Sort of. Weirdly, Dax is very disconnected from sexual interactions on camera. He doesn't really think they count, and, in a way, they don't. But he very much encouraged me to try and suck off Josh Duhamel's mustache.
We knew we needed a babe. Josh is the No. 1 babe we know. We just called him out of the blue and said, "Would you do a day on 'CHiPs'? Can we write you in? Because we need a hunk." He said, "Of course!" We were very grateful.
Then I just adore him so much, and he played that part so sincerely. That's why it was so funny, because when you're hearing Jon moan in the background in pain and Karen is ignoring him, and Josh's character Rick is like, "Is he OK?" It's so real, it's heartbreakingly funny.
Were you testing Dax at any point to see how far you can go with this and see if I can get any kind of reaction?
I know for a fact I would never get a reaction. I could have put my hands down Josh's pants, and the only person I would have surprised -- or offended -- is Josh.
Does it work the other way around, when you see him do love scenes?
Sometimes. At one point on "Parenthood" I was like, when he was making out with Minka Kelly, I'm like, "Oh, you didn't let me know that this happened." And he was like, "Am I supposed to just announce it to you?"
It is a weird, touchy situation because you should technically tell your spouse, but at the same time, you don't want to make a big deal out of it. But you know what? I think that if he gets a freebie here and there, good for him. Good for him!
Do you guys have certain rules or philosophies about when you work together, like there's a professional mode you try to be in?
Because we're in the acting world, a lot more slides. We're allowed to have PDA. Yeah, if we were at an accounting firm or a lawyer's firm, we probably couldn't have as much PDA as we have on set. But because it's a community of artists, a lot more is taken with a grain of salt. We don't actually separate anything. I married him because I enjoy spending time with him, and I trust him. Those are the same reasons I want to work with him.I think a lot of people in Hollywood are afraid to work with their significant others -- they don't want to appear to come as a packaged deal always, or whatever. Do you guys feel that way? Or would you rather do almost everything together?
I would do everything together. I'm not sitting in the audience of my life. I'm not watching how I'm being perceived, I'm not tracking how I'm being perceived. I don't really care. I care if I wake up happy and I go to bed happy. So I could try to keep tabs on this idea of who people think I am, or where they think I fit, but it's all so meaningless, and it changes with the wind. I just care much more about being happy on a day-to-day basis, so I want to be with and work with my husband.
What is especially fun about working with him, just him as the creative artist?
That he creates a dynamic on set where the No. 1 priority is fun. He has a meeting, I guess it's about once a week, with everybody on set, where he calls everyone to a huddle and he says, listen, "We are here to have fun. First and foremost, we are making movies. Everyone wants to do this. We are the lucky ones, which means we have a responsibility to have fun. If you're not having fun, come see me, let me know how I can help. If you don't want to be here, you're welcome to go. God speed in everything that you do. But let's accomplish this day with having a lot of fun."
It makes me just levitate with pride to see the man I love conduct himself like that, and be an influence of joy over so many people.
Where do you fit into his world of being a gearhead with cars and motorcycles? Is there any place in there for you?
No, the blender confuses me! That is not my world. I have no interest. I like that he likes them. I watch a lot of motorcycle videos with him, and I smile, and I nod. I love him so much, and all of his cute interests.
Are you seeing your kids being drawn into that? As the protective mom, are you like, "Um, hey ..."?
Our oldest daughter just learned to ride a bike, yesterday actually. No, it's not something I hesitate on, because they wear their helmets. If they're interested in it, my hesitancy isn't going to make them uninterested in it. I think you have to follow the kid. They're not going to do anything too dangerous that I'd ever have to be worried about.
Do you see little actors in them yet?
Yeah, they both have a flair for drama. But I think all two and three-year-olds do. But yeah, they do both like to tell jokes, which is kind of cool.
Are they good at telling their jokes?
For a two and three-year-old, yeah. Like calling things different names, pulling the one-two switcheroo. Yeah, they're pretty decent at it.
What's the fun of playing a shitty person?
It's just so exciting to be that selfish. It also feels very wrong, and very, what's the word? It feels risky, and a little scary, which is what makes it fun. Because I would never act that way in real life, because I'm too worried about the consequences. But in pretend mode, there are no consequences.
You had a real high-wire act of doing that on "The Good Place." But keeping her somebody that we still are invested in, and talk about a payoff. That season was fantastic.
Oh, I'm so happy!
Tell me about finding how to indulge in her worst attributes, but still keep the audience invested in her.
That's what I love most of all, is seeing someone on paper who is inherently unlikable, and figuring out how I can force you to invest in her. How do I captivate you enough that you'll root for me, despite doing all these hideous things?
It's just one of my favorite challenges, and I think that a lot of it is something I can't describe, that I can only sort of feel when I'm doing something that is likable, or emotionally interesting, or when I can bate someone to root for me. I can't really describe when I'm doing that, but I feel like when I'm reading characters, like when I read "[Forgetting] Sarah Marshall," or I read Eleanor from "Good Place," I inherently know where to place those things.
Were you watching closely the reaction to the finale? Were you keeping an eye on social media and that kind of thing?
A little bit. I looked at it the day after, and I was very, very happy with the response. Because I was worried people would figure it out.
How much do you know about what's ahead? Are you at full stop like the rest of us, or ... ?
More than I wish I did!
Mike Schur just pitched me Season 2 and possibly Season 3, then also threw out a couple actual endings of where it could go. I don't know if ending is the right word. He is an incredibly impressive individual, and it is very exciting to be a part of a show that literally has no boundaries, because you can do anything.
When we're having this pitch conversation, I'm like, "How are you even going to show that? What do you even mean?" The ideas are very big. They always relate to a lesson in ethics or morality. It always ties in with something greater. Its heartbeat is still comedic, and I'm just unendingly impressed with our writers' room for thinking of these weird, weird-ass ideas.
You mentioned the ethical conundrums that "The Good Place" brings up, and we're in interesting moment in the world, ethically, where I think we're all looking at what's right and what's not right. What do you think people can draw from looking at a character like Eleanor, who seems like a crappy person on the surface, but has redeeming features? How do we apply that to the world that we're living in now?
I believe in second chances. I think that's what this show also explores. I also believe in symbiotic relationships, and that the world has to be a compromise. And that it's very dangerous when you put one person's needs above another's, because there's that book they keep quoting, "What We Owe to Each Other." It's important and necessary for our survival for us to live a harmonious life, and I think as long as that's valued, everything can get better.
But that also requires listening to the people you disagree with, from both sides. My takeaway from the last year of Earth is, I've refused to be in an echo chamber. I don't believe people are inherently evil. I want to listen to people with opposing viewpoints. I want to understand why they believe that.
Because something we've forgotten is that most of us want the same things for our country. We want better education. We want better healthcare. We want everyone to be safer on the streets. So we just have to figure out the best solution. Not tear each other down, while also not accomplishing anything.
It's not easy to break out of those echo chambers, because I've been actively attempting to do just that.
It's still hard. But you have to do it. There is no solution if you don't do it.
And "Bad Moms" -- when I heard the next one was going to have the Christmas element, I'm like, that is genius on a story level, that's genius on a marketing level. What gets you excited about putting those characters in the holiday context?
Yeah! Particularly Kiki, because she's so easily stressed out, and she's such a people-pleaser. Those are the two things you need to put to bed in order to survive the holidays. I'm excited just to work with everybody again, but I think that's the only place it could go. It's the one thing that's bigger than the mom drama, is holiday drama.
Tell me about your opportunity to interview "Dateline's" Keith Morrison. Everything you hoped for and more?
Everything! Sweeter than I imagined. Absolutely sweeter, and more nervous than I imagined. He was very nervous, more nervous to be in the seat of the interviewee than I was to be in the seat of the interviewer.
You were ready -- that was apparent.
But I didn't feel it. Look at him. I was like, this is the guy to be interviewed by, and I've got to flip the script here.
Where did your Keith fandom begin?
We love true crime, and I think, over the last 10 years, we've watched a lot of television. We stumbled upon "Dateline." It's on every night of the week. It used to be our nightly show. That's kind of morbid, but it was also very interesting, and we just were captivated by this storyteller who his narration was incomparable to anyone else's, his vocabulary, his smoky pipes. It was just, you wanted him to narrate your life. So it's no surprise that he's the voice of Waze now. That's who you want to tell you how to get where. Yeah, and we just both slowly fell in love with him.
What was the fun fact that you walked out of there with about Keith?
That he's as in love with his wife as I am with my husband. Because we were talking about how lucky in love we are, and how that matters above all else, and he said the sweetest thing: because I've said he's my hall pass before, he said, "You know what my wife said to me as I left this morning?" He goes, "'Hey, you're nobody's hall pass.'" And I said, "God, I respect her so much. That's exactly what she should say to you. That is exactly what she should say to you."
You're going to take some time off in the fall. Can we expect a new vacation video from you guys?
If we get on vacation, I will do my damnedest! Yeah, we've blown it a couple times, because we've gone to places where we were like, "We should have looked up a song to do here." After we did it, we tried to make a commitment, but we blew it. We blew it.
You've been working so much lately. What do you want to do? What parts of your life to you want to connect more with or expand out with some time off?
I really want to learn to sew. Probably wasn't the answer you were expecting, but I do. I've been really thinking about how to research to buy a good sewing machine, because I really want to learn to sew. I don't know why. I just want to.
I love doing stuff with my hands. I do a ton of crafts with my kids. That stuff makes me happy. I'm feeling my nurturer-gatherer, want to like use glitter and sew at home. I don't know. I'll probably have a line of, like, kitten puffy paint sweatshirts on Etsy by the fall. I really want to learn to sew. And we really want to go on an RV trip with our family -- like, drive around the country.
If you don't shoot that -- come on! You've got to shoot that.
Oh yeah, we'll shoot that for sure, for sure, for sure! Yeah, we really want to take our kids in an RV.
There's not much I'm feeling I'm lacking -- other than the sewing machine -- because we go to the sand dunes a couple times a year, so he gets to off-road. That means we get to live in the motor home, which we love. We travel for work. We see cool places. I get to play dress-up for premieres. The other days of the week, I take my kids to school. So I feel pretty fulfilled.