The Must List - Movies

AMY SEDARIS
Must 'Stranger' Among Us

AGE 45   WHY HER  The Raleigh, N.C.-bred funny gal has been cracking us up since 1999, when she first wiggled into her fat suit as Jerri Blank, the ex-con junkie whore-turned-high school freshman in Comedy Central's hilarious cult series Strangers With Candy. Now Sedaris brings Jerri's nicotine-stained overbite to the big screen with this month's Strangers prequel, featuring cameos from Sarah Jessica Parker and Philip Seymour Hoffman.  VERY SPECIAL INSPIRATION Like the series, Strangers the movie is a warped take on earnest after-school specials: Released from prison, 47-year-old Jerri hopes to earn her comatose daddy's love by winning the Flatpoint High School science fair. Sedaris, who co-wrote the movie with costars/co-creators Stephen Colbert and director Paul Dinello, also pays homage to 1982's classic just-say-no flick Desperate Lives, in which Helen Hunt takes a flying PCP leap out of a window. "Jerri smokes a little pot and the next thing you know, she's hallucinating and is like, 'Flesh for sale!'" says Sedaris.  HALF BAKED Sedaris runs a homemade cupcake-and-cheese-ball business out of her kitchen in New York City. "Today I made $20," she says. "But I always have a job!"  "THE TALENT FAMILY" When Amy and her brother, best-selling author David Sedaris, were putting on plays together in the '90s, they bestowed this title upon themselves as a joke. Still...there's something to it. "Coming from a large family, you're competing for attention, so all of us were always entertaining each other," says Amy, the fourth of six kids. "I've always liked to pretend and dress up—my first wig was in third grade. I'm doing the exact same thing that I was doing when I was 3."  NEXT Strangers hits theaters June 28. In October, Sedaris will release I Like You: Hospitality Under the Influence, a book of "jackpot recipes" and tips for entertaining. She's also wrapped small roles in several indies, including Jeff Garlin's I Want Someone to Eat Cheese With. "Those are the best parts: Pop in, get a laugh, and you're out!"

PHOTOGRAPHS BY TODD OLDHAM


Jerri Girl    (from the online edition of Entertainment Weekly)

''Strangers With Candy'' star Amy Sedaris and EW's Missy Schwartz talk about everything from imaginary boyfriends to the joys of fat suits

Amy Sedaris figures she's been playing variations of Jerri Blank — her ''boozer, user, and loser'' alter ego from the late Comedy Central series Strangers With Candy — for almost 15 years now. ''This thing,'' she says, donning Jerri's comically exaggerated overbite, ''I've done forever. So I have a lot of characters who look like Jerri.'' Perhaps, but none as beloved as the ex-con/junkie/whore who makes her big-screen debut this month in the Strangers With Candy prequel. Written by Sedaris and fellow costars/co-creators Stephen Colbert and Paul Dinello (who also directs), the movie follows a just-released-from-prison Jerri as she becomes Flatpoint High's proudest 47-year-old freshman. ''It's always interesting how other people react around her,'' says Amy, 45, the younger sister of best-selling author David Sedaris. ''She's like a chipmunk leading real people around.'' Over a series of interviews that took place in Sedaris' cozy Manhattan apartment, on the New Jersey Strangers set, and on the phone, we chatted with the zany Raleigh, N.C., native about fatty suits, the real-life Jerri, and imaginary friends.

ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: You shot the Strangers movie in summer 2004 and premiered it at Sundance '05, where Warner Independent Pictures picked it up. Last fall, WIP decided not to release it and eventually, ThinkFilm bought it. The process must have been frustrating.
AMY SEDARIS: When it didn't come out when it was supposed to, I was like, Oh well — it'll come out when it's supposed to come out. It's like one of those freaky seeds that we planted and it's going to pop up when we least expect it.

David Letterman's company, Worldwide Pants, produced the Strangers movie. He's obviously a big fan of yours, since you're a regular guest on his show. But you once told us you'd never met him outside the chair.
Last time I did the show, I was standing back in the wings walking back and forth, and I heard this voice say, ''How are you doing?'' I looked up and it was him! I was like, ''Oh my god! What are you doing here? What are you doing here?!'' I freaked out, scared him away like a little ghost crab. One of the things I was going to say to him when I got out there was, ''I'm so happy I've never met you outside this chair.'' Because I'm genuinely happy to see him when I go on. I don't like it when talk-show hosts come backstage and say, ''Hey, don't worry, we'll do this and that.'' 'Cause I really want it to be real.... [Letterman] asks me to do the show maybe four times a year, when they're in a pinch. I'm on the secret list of people they can call at the last minute. I'm better at last minute.

Comedy Central canceled the Strangers series in 2001...
It's funny — they still haven't told us it's canceled. Isn't that hilarious? So I'm like, ''What, they cancelled us?!'' [Laughs]

Well, assuming the series really is canceled, what was your reaction to the idea of reviving it as a movie?
For a while there I thought to myself, ''It's a mistake.'' And then I was like, ''Oh God, I don't even know if I could do it. I don't even know if I'll be able to do the character the same way.'' Which is one reason why I wouldn't have minded changing everything. What I wanted to do is: Jerri gets out of jail and goes straight to social services or wherever and they assign her to a parole officer. I wanted to do a 90-minute movie on paperwork. Because in every book I've read, they're so f---in' mean to you because you're a convict. And you have to wait and wait and wait and wait, and then you get to the desk and it's the wrong desk. ''Oh no, you gotta go over there.''

You've done a lot of smaller roles in big movies like Elf and Maid in Manhattan. As the star of the Strangers movie, do you consider yourself a bona fide actress now?
No, not at all. Paul [Dinello] was like, ''Oh, it's pretty hard when you have to shoot around the main character.'' I'm like, [slips into her Jerri voice] ''Thanks, Paul. Great.''

The inspiration for Jerri came from a real person, right? Florrie Fisher, from a 1970 anti-drug documentary called The Trip Back?
Yeah. Paul found the documentary, and it's 20 minutes of rant. You watch it, and for 20 minutes you feel like you're getting yelled at. Because she's right in your f---in' face. When I saw that, I thought, That's what I want to do. I wish I could sound like her. [Editor's note: you can watch Florrie's 20-minute rant here]

Is she still alive?
She's got to be dead. Gotta be dead. But, man, if she was in the movie, it would be a whole different thing. She's got a really good look. I'd love for her to play Jerri Blank and I'd be her mother or something.

And Ricky, your imaginary boyfriend, have you seen him lately?
Only on holidays.

Where is he now?
Argentina. When Letterman asked me that one time — ''Amy, where does he live now?'' — I think he wanted me to say, ''In my head.''

What does Ricky do?
He was a grip. He was workin' on Evita — that's when we met. It all happened because I had an American Express card and somebody charged all this [stuff], and it was in Argentina. I thought, Argentina? I had a Christmas stocking with the name Ricky on it, and I thought, There it is: Ricky is a grip, he's working on Evita, he lives in Argentina, and he [made all the Amex charges]. I remember sayin' that to the people at American Express: ''This is what I think happened.'' [Twirls her finger by the side of her head.] Cuckoo! Cuckoo! [Shrugs] People either get it or they don't. When people are like, ''Do you think you're crazy?'' I'm like, ''No. I'm probably the most realistic person you're ever going to meet in your life.''

And Ricky's doing well these days?
Ricky — he's doing fantastic. He seems to be doing good, you know, since we lost the baby and everything.

Oh, your imaginary baby, Hercules?
Yeah, lost the baby. But that's cool, that's cool.

How awful. How did you lose him?
I just lost him. That's all: I lost the baby. Anything after that is just gonna sound horrible! [Laughs]

You're known for dressing up ''ugly'' and wearing fatty suits. Why do you love that so much?
I like to pretend — that's what I've always liked doing. My first wig was in third grade. I have to physically feel different and look different, and I'll be like, Okay, I know that person and I can have fun with it. If it's just me, I don't know what to do with it. It's just boring. And a lot of actors will be like, ''Oh, you're just hiding behind that.'' And I'm like, that's okay. When I look ugly, then I can play pretty. If I have the fatty suit on, I can act sexy. If I didn't, then I couldn't act sexy.

Do you ever wear your fatty suit out for fun?
No, never. I had it made to fool my dad. [Editor's note: Read David Sedaris' account of this stunt in ''A Shiner Like a Diamond'' from Me Talk Pretty One Day.] I love things that aren't in proportion. It's just fun to be in another kind of a body. And Girl Scout uniforms, too. I was doing some project for somebody, and I had to dress up like a Girl Scout because I still had my uniform and stuff. So, I was walking to the theater, and yeah, I got a lot of [lewd calls and stares]. I'm like, ''You f---in' pervert!'' It's so gross. But I don't like to go out and be in character. Maybe years ago, but it's not something I would do now.

Tell me about the book you have coming out this fall.
It's called I Like You: Hospitality Under the Influence. Now, now — when I say influence, I mean all the people I've been influenced by. [Laughs]] I'm working with these two young [graphic designer] kids, and they're really fantastic, really cute. [One guy, Lenny] comes to my house, and I have dinner waiting for him. He sits here and he works until like 11:30 or 12, and then his girlfriend will start working with us this weekend. I keep telling her, ''Oh, Lenny and I didn't work together last night,'' when he clearly tells her that we did. So I'm trying to break them up. That's my goal.

Didn't you try that with your friends Sarah Jessica Parker and Matthew Broderick too?
Yeah, but this is gonna work. 'Cause they're young, they'll fall for it.

Do you think you'll ever return to TV regularly?
I want to do a television show based on my book. So I've been working on it. But I want it on a station that nobody watches, [where] no one's going to project like it's gotta be funny. If something's funny, then I'd rather put it on the Hitler channel or something.

© 2006 Entertainment Weekly