On the small and big screens, Rashida Jones has racked up an impressive list of credits in comedies like The Office, Parks & Recreation, Celeste & Jesse Forever, Our Idiot Brother and Web Therapy.
This TV season, she’s putting that experience to use behind the scenes as an executive producer on the new NBC romantic comedy A to Z (Thursdays, 9:30/8:30c), which kicks off this week.
We asked the lovely daughter of music producer Quincy Jones and actress Peggy Lipton of Mod Squad fame about producing, acting, singing and more.
“Eight years ago I was going to quit acting and go back to school and I was totally fine with that. I got lucky that things have opened up for me.”
How did you get involved with producing A to Z?
I got lucky enough to meet with [creator] Ben [Queen] and jumped on board immediately. This feels like a natural progression of the things that [writing partner/fellow exec producer] Will [McCormack] and I are interested in writing about and producing. What’s great about the show, besides the fact that it has this romantic hook and there’s all these cultural references, there is something that makes the relatability of the relationship at the center of the whole thing, and that’s the thing that’s probably the most important to us.
How do you juggle this and acting?
I have people that I work with that are very understanding, really good partners.
What do you get from producing that acting doesn’t give you, and vice versa?
As an actor you’re kind of at the bottom rung in terms of what kind of creative leverage you have. It’s great, you add a lot to what other people are doing or making, but ultimately you’re not calling the shots. Producing is not so much being in control; it’s about having a vision. Having read a lot of scripts and been in a lot of things, and on some level understanding what my taste is and being able to execute that. The meeting of the minds is nice, seeing how people talk things through and make decisions. As an actor your job is to stay present and as a producer your job is to not stay present, you have to look deep into the past and future and make sure everything you wanted to execute is happening.
You’ll be back in front of the camera in the TBS cop sitcom Angie Tribeca next year.
I’ve always wanted the opportunity to do really silly dumbass comedy. And Steve and Nancy [Carell, writers-producers) are so inherently collaborative, I think that’s why I was attracted to the project. I don’t know if I could ever just shut my mouth, not because I think I have any authority or better ideas, but I’m trained now to speak up a little bit more about what I think about the creative process. So it’s great for me because they’re so open to my input. They want me to be involved. You know, my career has been so surprising because eight years ago I was going to quit acting and go back to school and I was totally fine with that. I got lucky that things have opened up for me.
What are you proudest of?
It changes every time I do something new. This has been such an incredible opportunity to work as a producer for a network that I’ve long loved and worked for and respected and grown up on. I think being on Parks for five years is probably my proudest accomplishment because we were on the bubble the whole time and relied so much on the critics to push us through. It wasn’t traumatic even though we didn’t know if we would be on the air. We stayed a family.
You’ve sung in several of your roles. Plan to do anything more with music?
I always think about music. I’m very precious about my relationship with music obviously because my dad is a musical master so it’s important to me that I’m really, really skilled before I do that professionally and present it to the world. But I love it and it’s something I always think about…