We’re all waiting for Community to come back with its new season on Yahoo, but until then you can see Gillian Jacobs in a new movie. Life Partners opens in theaters on Friday, but it’s already available on VOD. The film tells the story of Paige (Jacobs) and Sasha (Leighton Meester), two best friends who grow apart when Paige gets engaged. Their nights of watching America’s Next Top Model together give way to wedding planning and Paige’s fiance (Adam Brody) teasing Paige about never having seen The Big Lebowski.
I got to speak with Jacobs by phone before Thanksgiving about Life Partners, the upcoming season of Community, and her new endeavor in directing. She is directing a documentary short for ESPN and FiveThirtyEight. We had fun discussing all of her current projects in the works.
Nuke the Fridge: You have seen The Big Lebowski, right? That was just acting.
Gillian Jacobs: Oh yeah, that was definitely acting. I love it. Of course, I love it. Who doesn’t love The Big Lebowski?
Nuke: Were you amused that that was a huge plot point in Life Partners?
Gillian Jacobs: Yeah, I love it when characters are totally pop culture ignorant.
Nuke: Was Life Partners a hiatus movie for you?
Gillian Jacobs: It was, yeah. I shot it on my Community hiatus.
Nuke: Is it getting easier to find movies that fit in that period?
Gillian Jacobs: Sometimes it’s difficult to time something out perfectly, but we’ve been doing 13 episodes a season on Community and that gives you some more time actually to do movies on the downtime.
Nuke: You have a potty mouth in Life Partners. Is it funny that a lot of the movies you do tend to be R-rated when you were on a formerly network TV show?
Nuke: Was that moment with your mom where Paige realizes she doesn’t listen herself, and that subtle change in your expression, an important moment for you to get to do on screen?
Gillian Jacobs: Definitely. I thought that that was a really insightful moment and ultimately a lot of the times the things we dislike most in our parents, we discover in ourselves. So it’s good to come to that recognition. Hopefully it allows us to become better people and have more compassion for our parents as well.
Nuke: I think not only our parents, but generally the things we complain about that other people do are things we actually do ourselves.
Gillian Jacobs: Totally.
Nuke: Was Life Partners a chance to mix some comedy and drama?
Gillian Jacobs: Oh yeah, I thought it was a nice tonal shift there. That’s kind of what life is like, right? So it’s good to do projects that mix the two.
Nuke: What fun did you get into with Leighton on the set?
Gillian Jacobs: It was just a very goofy, silly, loose atmosphere on set in general so it was really fun for all of us. I feel like we as a cast and crew became really close while shooting it. So it was a fun set.
Nuke: Did the guys fit in just fine too?
Gillian Jacobs: Yeah, it was a very happy family, I’d say.
Nuke: Since Life Partners has been available on VOD, what feedback have you gotten so far?
Gillian Jacobs: I think people really like it and really seem to relate to it and want to watch it with their friends or call their friends after watching it and tell them to check it out, so it’s been a very positive response.
Nuke: Which is more your sense of humor: Life Partners, Community or something really crazy like Bad Milo?
Gillian Jacobs: Oh gosh, all three I guess. I like weird stuff and I think Bad Milo is pretty much as weird as it gets and I think Community is the smartest comedy I get to do all year. Life Partners feels like me and my friends hanging out.
Nuke: Do you hang out and watch Top Model?
Gillian Jacobs: I don’t watch Top Model so much anymore but I do feel like I watch a lot of Bravo.
Nuke: What are the good Bravo shows right now?
Gillian Jacobs: Gosh, so many. The classier, highbrow ones are like Top Chef and then you can watch all the Real Housewives and many things in between.
Nuke: I got a chance to see The Lookalike where you do a really dramatic performance. Was that a great opportunity to show that side of yourself too?
Gillian Jacobs: Yeah, it’s not so often you get to play two characters in one film.
Nuke: Was it a fight to be seen in that sort of role?
Gillian Jacobs: I feel like previously to Community I’ve played much more roles in that vein so not to myself, but I’m not sure quite how other people see me. I used to do a lot of roles similar to that.
Gillian Jacobs: How dare you?
Nuke: It is on Netflix so I really owe it to you to watch Gardens of the Night.
Gillian Jacobs: Yeah, you do.
Nuke: I heard you’re going to be directing something?
Gillian Jacobs: Yes, a short documentary for FiveThirtyEight.com.
Nuke: What subject is it going to be on?
Gillian Jacobs: It’s about a woman named Grace Hopper who was one of the first ever computer programmers starting out during WWII working on a secret computer called the Mark 1 that was at Harvard. After that she worked for one of the first commercial computer companies and eventually became a rear admiral in the Navy.
Nuke: Did you discover this subject yourself or was it offered to you?
Gillian Jacobs: I was approached with the subject matter and I had never heard of the woman before, so it was really exciting to get to learn all about her and teach myself about early computing and what computers in the 1940s and ‘50s look like.
Nuke: Who is still around from that story to interview?
Gillian Jacobs: Unfortunately, not a lot of people but I got to speak to two biographers that wrote books about her, a woman who made a documentary about these women who were her contemporaries working on a different secret computer. So people were knowledgable about her but unfortunately most of those people have passed away.
Nuke: So has directing been something you’ve wanted to do for a while?
Gillian Jacobs: Yeah, I think you’re always looking to expand your career, challenge yourself in different ways, go out on different limbs so directing is a really exciting opportunity.
Nuke: Would you ever consider directing something that you would also star in?
Gillian Jacobs: Further down the line, maybe but I think right now it’s easier to direct when you’re not actually acting in it. I don’t want to challenge myself that much right away.
Nuke: Are you into season six of Community already?
Gillian Jacobs: We just started shooting yesterday.
Nuke: How was the first day?
Gillian Jacobs: It was a good first day, very good first day.
Nuke: The show has persevered losing Chevy Chase and Donald Glover. Now without Yvette Nicole Brown, how different and how similar is Community still?
Gillian Jacobs: I mean, I guess we’ve just gotten used to change over at Community, losing cast members, being cancelled by NBC, even just changing lots this year. It feels much more fluid and thankfully the show can withstand those changes, but we certainly miss everybody that’s left.
Nuke: Does it feel very different on Yahoo?
Gillian Jacobs: Not really. We moved lots but that wasn’t because of Yahoo, but no, no. It still feels like the same show.
Nuke: Is Britta any closer to getting her sh*t together?
Gillian Jacobs: Probably not.
Nuke: Is that funny that the longer the show goes on, the longer it takes for her to develop?
Gillian Jacobs: Well, we’ve got to make some concessions to the fact that it’s a TV show that’s going into its sixth season and it’s based around a college. So maybe they aren’t as focused on their studies as they used to be.
Nuke: Any fun stuff coming up you can share for Britta?
Gillian Jacobs: Oh, we’re going to finally meet her parents which is exciting. I think we’ll learn a lot more about Britta through meeting them.
Nuke: Have they cast the parents yet?
Gillian Jacobs: They have. Lesley Ann Warren and Martin Mull.
Nuke: Have you met them yet?
Gillian Jacobs: I have not but I’m very excited to.
Nuke: In success, would you consider a seventh season of Community on Yahoo?
Gillian Jacobs: The hashtag says #sixseasonsandamovie so I think the next goal after this season is a movie, right?
Nuke: Yes, but I imagine in success on Yahoo, a seventh season might be possible.
Gillian Jacobs: Who knows? Only stupid people count Community out at this point.