There are few things in this world that can make an Amy Poehler–Tina Fey collaboration even sweeter. One of those things is Maya Rudolph. This weekend Rudolph reunites with her Saturday Night Live castmates—and “Mom Jeans” skit costars—for Sisters, the long-awaited, riotously funny buddy comedy directed by Pitch Perfect’s Jason Moore and penned by SNL writer Paula Pell.
Poehler and Fey play the titular sisters, Maura and Kate, who return to their just-sold family home in Florida to clean out their childhood bedroom—then get sidetracked by the ill-begotten notion that they should throw one last high school–style rager before the new owners take over. They invite everyone they know—except Brinda (Rudolph), Kate’s high school nemesis, now an uptight realtor with a taste for statement fashion and a serious case of resting bitch face. Brinda’s idea of a good time may involve watching Game of Thrones while sipping on nonalcoholic wine, but she’s not about to let Kate get the last laugh. She crashes the party, and hilarity ensues (as does extensive damage to real estate).
We chatted with Rudolph—fresh off an impressive turn as a lounge singer on Bill Murray’s new Netflix Christmas special—by phone. Below, her thoughts on playing the villain, why she’s not threatened by Star Wars, and what she’ll be doing while Amy Poehler and Tina Fey host Saturday Night Live this weekend.
You get to play the bad guy in Sisters. Was that fun? Have you been the bad guy before?
It is fun! No, other than some crazy character I’m sure I’ve done over the years on SNL, I’m never that person in the story who comes in and the music changes dramatically. It’s so juicy to play those kinds of parts. We were all in on this joke together. When I was told that the character’s name was Brinda, I knew from years of working with Paula what that meant. All of it fell into place. We all chimed in on her outfits and everything.
Brinda wears some pretty major ensembles. Would you personally wear, for example, an enormous belt?
Definitely! Are you kidding me? If it was one of those amazing Alaïa belts with the laser cutouts? Yeah.
You’ve been very vocal lately about your love of mom jeans. I feel like Brinda’s wrestling belt sort of serves the same holding-everything-in purpose.
Yes. One hundred percent. I think it’s genius. Don’t get me wrong about mom jeans—they’re fantastic. It’s just that when we were young and beautiful and naive, we didn’t know they were actually a necessity because we all had these hot bods. So mom jeans sound like a negative thing, but it’s a fucking miracle.
Was there a part of Brinda that you were able to relate to?
Well, I think the truth about Brinda is that we are all insecure, and those early high school relationships have a large impact on our adult lives. Deep down, everyone wants to be invited to the party. Everyone. No matter what they say. Brinda is the epitome of that person who didn’t get invited to the party, and it’s heartbreaking. It’s our collective biggest fear. So, yes, I can sympathize with that feeling.
Were you invited to the party in high school?
I was invited to the party. I was there with, like, a beer hat on. I was having a good time.
Were you throwing the party?
I was not. I do not like to be responsible for everybody else having a good time. I grew up in L.A., so in high school it was so ridiculous and irresponsible. I hope my children don’t have the same experience. You would hear there was a party going on, half the time we didn’t even know who the person was. Just like, “Uh, there’s a party in Santa Monica? Okay, great, let’s go.” It was always at someone’s parents’ house and they were out of town. It was so messed up! I want to apologize to all of those parents right now.
Have you ever been at a party where a house got completely trashed, like in the movie?
Absolutely not. That is like Weird Science level. That takes it to a whole new playing field. That’s like the epitome of trashing a house. But I’ve definitely seen some really stupid things—like, “Oh, that’s fucked up!”
You have a brother, right? Did you long for a sister?
Yes! That’s why I have three daughters.
No, not at all. But it’s so nice to be in a house with women now. It’s wonderful. It’s going to get nuts in the teen years. I’m bracing myself. Growing up, I longed for a sister, and I had surrogate sisters. My friend Jennifer was my sister in so many ways. We grew up together. I have three friends who are triplets. They’re incredible. I would go to their house after school and we would all harmonize together. We’d sing together. It was like paradise for me. I was just bathing in semi-sisterhood.
Are you bummed that Sisters has to open on Star Wars weekend?
I gotta say, like everyone else my age, it’s an exciting time for me. Nothing about it is negative. Christmas is coming, Star Wars is coming out, our movie is coming out. It’s all good. There’s no question that a) It’s counter programming, and b) Not everybody’s going to get into Star Wars. There is a huge thirst for laughing. This movie delivers so hard-core that I’m not worried. In fact, I should even say, I don’t worry about these things. I do worry about a lot of other things.
What do you worry about?
Oh, God, don’t even get me started. It’s like Chicken Little. Are my children going to be nice people? How do we get rid of iPads and cell phones and all those things that I don’t know how to navigate in terms of their well-being? I don’t want them to be bullied on Facebook. Will we be able to breathe clean air by the time I’m a grandmother? You know, just things like that. Oh! Will we run out of water in California? That’s a big one. I worry about those things. But I’m excited about Sisters.
Can we talk for a second about A Very Murray Christmas? Your performance was amazing. Was that really fun? Are you in the market for more singing opportunities?
It was dreamy. Yeah. I mean, I don’t normally sing like that. That was out of my comfort zone. I really feel like it was a good exercise in pushing myself. It was so exciting. I was with Paul Shaffer, which I couldn’t believe, in Bemelmans with Sofia [Coppola] and Bill standing there and those backup singers, which to me is like a dream come true. The whole experience was really special. It was just so beautifully done and had such heart. Rashida [Jones] and I were talking about it afterward. She said, “Was that a dream? Were we both just in the same dream?” I said, “Yes. I think it was a dream.”
On the topic of specials and variety shows, is there anything happening with The Maya Rudolph Show?
Yes. Martin Short and I are going to be doing a series of varietal programs. And it’ll be an extension of that show that I did. It will be filming in May, and I’m pretty sure it’s going to be live.
Yes, very. Especially because Martin Short is the fucking greatest. You could not ask for a better partner, funnier human being, and kinder man. He’s a walking dreamboat. He’s so funny that it’s painful. I read his book and it’s almost like he’s Forrest Gump or something—he was there when everything happened. He’s also just a ray of sunshine. Even when you’re having dinner or talking about your sonogram, he’s so funny.
Which you presumably do with Martin Short all the time . . .
All the time. We can’t stop.
So tell me a little bit about your weekend plans. First off: Are you going to be at SNL this weekend to see Amy Poehler and Tina Fey host?
As an audience member or a performer?
I don’t know yet. Today’s read-through day. I don’t know what’s going on yet. The show is being carefully crafted in a lab as we speak. I hope I get to do something with the girls. I’ve actually never sat in the audience for Saturday Night Live my entire life. Which I have to do someday. Let’s hope it’s not this weekend . . .
What else is on your agenda?
I hear that Santa Claus is coming to town. I have a little shopping to do, and I’m very happy to be in New York for it.
Any cultural plans?
Yes! I want to go to MoMA to see the Picasso sculpture exhibit. Now I sound like an asshole, but I’m really into ceramics. My parents used to have this Picasso ceramics book when I was a kid, and I was in love with it. I started doing pottery after school in high school at this place called The Clayhouse. I would throw pots and make ceramics. When I glazed them, I would always base it on that book. I don’t know what I’m going to see at the exhibit, but I’m really excited. I missed the Frida Kahlo garden show in the Bronx, and I’m pissed off about that. I’ll do this instead.
This interview has been condensed and edited.