Jenny Slate on Her Approach to Acting: "I Don't Ever Leave Myself Behind"

Jenny Slate on Her Approach to Acting: "I Don't Ever Leave Myself Behind"

V sat down with the actor and comedian at the Sundance Film Festival to discuss this summer's pre-cell phone family drama Landline.

V sat down with the actor and comedian at the Sundance Film Festival to discuss this summer's pre-cell phone family drama Landline.

Photography: Sharif Hamza

Styling: Ellie Grace Cumming

Text: Sara Zion

“Don’t be gross, don’t be rude.” That’s Jenny Slate’s seemingly simple motto, but it’s actually a powerful statement that speaks to Slate’s quirky vulnerability both on and off screen. It’s also a huge part of what makes her relatable and entertaining. “I don’t ever leave myself behind,” says Slate. “That’s not the way I perform.”

In Landline, Slate’s second feature with director Gillian Robespierre, following 2014’s indie darling Obvious Child, the actress takes on the role of Dana, a lovable but neurotic New Yorker. Written by Robespierre and Elisabeth Holm, Landline depicts a Manhattan family dealing with, as Slate describes, “the ruptures within their [familial] structure [and] relationships,” brought about when Dana’s sister, Ali (Abby Quinn), uncovers their father’s extramarital affair. Set in the pre-cell phone New York of 1995, the narrative follows both sisters and the family matriarch (played by the inimitable Edie Falco) as each reacts to the news. “We’ve set up these three different women who know the same life, but come from different points and are in a cycle of affecting each other,” Slate notes. She appreciates that the film doesn’t play on clichéd female characters, underscoring that the proliferation of oversimplified portrayals of women is “offensive,” and that she actively avoids roles that are “tired tropes of boring women.”

Slate brings that same philosophy to interviews: she’s refreshingly candid when asked how it felt to play a newly engaged woman in Landline while concurrently ending her real-life marriage of almost four years. “When you get divorced, your entire belief system is destroyed,” she confesses. For many, it may not seem ideal to take on a project focused on life-defining relationships while ending such an important one, but like the film itself, Slate chose to remain unpredictable. “The thing that comes with me is the need to totally tear things down,” she concludes. “Because when you can obliterate people’s expectations and replace them with something new and functional, that’s when you make progress.”

Landline will be released in theaters July 21.

JENNY WEARS TOP AG JEANS SKIRT DKNY P/F ’17 SHOES STUART WEITZMAN TIGHTS JONATHAN ASTON

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