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Interview: Single Parents’ Leighton Meester

by Charles Trapunski

What a fun experience in which Brief Take was selected to participate, during a recent afternoon at the Corus building!

As we are big fans of Leighton Meester from films like Country Strong and The Oranges, following her journey in music, and of course, now into her TV work in the funny sitcom Single Parents (which recently entered its second season, featuring Meester among a group of parents that form their own little system of support, also starring Taran Killam, Kimrie Lewis, Jake Choi and Brad Garrett, among others). The network sitcom is a showcase for the real-life Mom to highlight her comic chops, and Meester is a revelation as Angie D’Amato in Single Parents.

The following is a condensed and edited version of our lively seated interview with the lively and multitalented Leighton Meester.

Brief Take: Nice to meet you, Leighton!  You were in Toronto for the premieres of The Oranges and The Judge at TIFF, correct?

Leighton Meester: Yes, definitely The Oranges. I didn’t come for The Judge, but once with my husband, Adam Brody, when he was here filming Shazam!

BT: Let’s talk about Single Parents. What’s coming up for your character, Angie, and what do you enjoy most about working on the show?

LM: The people. I really enjoy working with Taran (Killam), I’ve learned a lot from him. Being able to work on and craft a character, I guess, based on my own experiences, and how I see her and so much of what I’ve said has somehow seeped into the character, like I think that she should be a metal fan, she’s into metal, and little things that ended up coming in like old dating stories that I have told them have sort of seeped in as well, it ends up sort of becoming kind of like real life.

In season two, Angie’s sort of opening up. She’s guarded and has walls up for good reason. I mean she had to be the mother, father, everything to this kid, and had sort of built up her ex to be this terrible person in her mind and her kid relied solely on her, and suddenly, there is someone else there that is maybe threatening that position that she has…you know, it’s challenging for her, but maybe it’s forcing her to look outside herself and the narrative that she’s created for so long. And also all the silly crazy things, like we have a house fire, I come face-to-face with a live possum…things like that.

BT: Was Angie as you had pictured from the start or did you craft the character a little bit over time?

LM: I would say that it happened over time, but some of it started off…I had sort of an idea, but really, it’s more over time. Like things that I have brought to it, but also what the writers have as well. A little bit early on I said: “Oh, maybe she should be into heavy metal…” Big mistake! Because now she’s really into heavy metal and I’ve gotta listen to it all the time! It really is a perfect backdrop for what Angie does, which is rage. She rages. [laughs]

BT: It’s cool to see that Adam is the father of your child both in real life and on Single Parents. We had the chance to talk with him recently and he was such a fun interview. Would you feel ready to play Angie if you weren’t a parent in your life?

LM: Me, personally, no I wouldn’t. [laughs] I feel like my experience as a parent has a huge, huge role in me actually being able to do this and to understand what we are doing. But I also feel like I can grasp playing someone who’s not a parent, but it just makes it a lot easier for the serious, harder stuff, but also for the silly, funny stuff that comes along with being a parent. I mean it’s got a lot of laughs, so yeah! [giggles]

BT: Did you picture at the beginning of the series that you would bring Adam into the fold?

LM: Very early on I did mention that he would want to do the show and they were like: “Oh, would he want to do it?”, I was like: “Yeah, I think so”, and then J.J. [Philbin}, the showrunner, she was like: “I have the idea for season 1, the last episode of the season we’re going to meet Graham’s Dad, and he’s working at drive-thru and Angie goes and finds him and…” And I was like: “Oh, that’s great. Who were you thinking?”, and she was like: “My dream would be….Adam”. And I was like: “Whoa! Okay!” Like I never would have thought that’s who it would be, but that actually makes total sense”. It was nice!

BT: How have you enjoyed your interactions with Graham, your son on the show played by Tyler Wladis? 

LM: Well, he’s older than my kid, my kid’s four, and also, she’s my kid, so I know every little good and bad thing and when we’re working, they’re little professional kids. He’s easy to talk to. Like when I talk to him, I feel like I might as well be talking to a 20-year-old – he’s very mature, obviously we don’t talk about everything that you would talk about to an adult, but he’s so sweet and kind and lovely. I feel very protective of him. [laughs]

BT: What has the work you do with Feeding America meant for your own life and for your character as well?

LM: Well I don’t know how much it informs my character, because I’m not really sure how that would change her, but I think that she is a very giving, generous person. And as for me, I have felt completely in awe and inspired by all the different opportunities that I’ve gotten working with Feeding America. It’s amazing the work that they do and I feel lucky to be a small part of it. It’s definitely important and I think that we kind of lose sight of it, but to put things in perspective, I mean you can use your connections or friend groups or if you have a social media following to talk about it, but actually going and volunteering, giving your time and being face-to-face with people is really the thing that I think that has given me the most enlightenment and perspective, in particular on the situation there in Los Angeles.

BT: How has your experience with surfing helped refresh your perspective?

LM: It’s tough, because I leave my daughter to go to work and sometimes that’s hard. But surfing is actually something that lets me do something that doesn’t have to do with work and doesn’t have to do with kids and it doesn’t have to do with anything but me and something that I like and that I want to do. Which, as a mom, especially one that works, you don’t get a lot of time to do anything like that. And it’s also working on a skill that, again I don’t get paid for it, it’s not something that I grew up doing, it is very humbling to be in the ocean, which is very powerful, and have a skill on which I am working trying to get better. It is so relaxing and also it refreshes me to be able to sort of disconnect.

BT: What was your experience like on the show The Orville? You got to sing a little bit.

LM: Oh yeah!

BT: It was a funny and particular moving episode.

LM: Yeah! It was great. I liked working with all those guys. Scott [Grimes] with whom I was doing a lot of my scenes, he’s a great musician, a great singer. He’s very wonderful, really fun to play with. Seth [MacFarlane] is very creative, very collaborative and also a very good musician. It was very fun to collaborate together and I think it’s fun and funny and kind of makes you think. Like, we were talking, because my thing is almost like I’m in the past, but they make me a computer program thing, it makes you think about all the different ways that something can happen, like: [questioning voice] Is there time travel? It’s really interesting. But yeah, that show’s great!

BT: You are a multi-hyphenate. Do you like having different professional pursuits?

LM: I think so, and yet especially when you put being a Mom into the mix, like I don’t feel like I’m doing anything all that well because all I do the rest of my time is try to be a Mom, so it’s hard to find time for everything. I feel good as long as I have time for even a small part of it. But being happy at work is a huge part of what makes me happy in life, but the number one thing in life is that my kid is good and happy and healthy. That’s it, that’s number one.

BT: Do you have role models?

LM: Yeah, I do. I’d say, I don’t know if this counts, and I don’t know if this is because he’s always on my mind, but really Adam. He’s saved my life. He’s made me feel so deserving of all the good things in life that I have ever wanted and he helped me to have those things. He’s a really strong, supportive, encouraging person and he’s number one. He’s great.

BT: In interviews, you often talk about cereal. But then we rarely get to the good part – which one is your favourite?

LM: Oh, what is the favourite? Oh my God, well….

BT: I’m big into cereal.

LM: Oh, then I’ve got to hear what you like.

BT: It changes over time.

LM: I know, I’ve definitely gotten a little bit more sophisticated. Ask me a few years ago, I would have said Cinnamon Toast Crunch. Now….I’m a little bit more like Life. Life cereal—Do you have Life cereal up here? [sees look of disappointment] You are not into Life?

BT: Having trouble placing the consistency of it.

LM: It’s like there are little squares and it almost looks like Shredded Wheat but…you know what, it looks like Chex, but it’s flatter and has sugar in between. It’s very good. Chex is good, too.

BT: Yes! Got it. I’ll say Honey Nut Cheerios.

LM: Honey Nut Cheerios is A+, no problem there. I got no problem with it.

BT: A classic.

LM: You know what I never had growing up, but I love now?

BT: What’s that?

LM: This is nasty: Lucky Charms.

BT: No way! Not at all nasty.

LM: Lucky Charms. I mean it’s marshmallows for breakfast. But it is very good.

BT: But you’ve got the non-marshmallow part too. 

LM: [quickly] That’s good, you gotta have…each.

BT: That’s the balance.

LM: It’s true, that’s the balance for which we are all searching. [laughs]

BT: What are your hopes for the series?

LM: I really love playing this character. I love the people with whom I work, I love the show itself, but in particular, I love this character. I would like to continue to explore where she goes and what she does. I’d like to see all the different adventures that she goes on with Will, I would like to see what weird people she dates, I’d like to see her dealing with Graham’s dad and all that, and all the other silly things that we do. And I don’t know, I hope that it goes on forever. I love it! [laughs]


Single Parents airs Wednesdays at 9:30 ET/PT on ABC and Global 

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