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Jessica Alba talks about being Andi Garcia

Meet the Parents: Little Fockers
21 December 2010

Jessica Alba, 29, was born in California and started acting when she was a child, making commercials and making her feature film debut at 13 in Camp Nowhere. She starred in various TV series including The Secret World of Alex Mack and Flipper, an assignment that led to her spending almost a year in Australia where the series was filmed.

Her big breakthrough came when she won a starring role in James Cameron’s ground breaking TV series Dark Angel. On the big screen, she delivered a memorable performance as stripper Nancy Callahan in Robert Rodriguez’s extraordinary, critically acclaimed Sin City, which was adapted from co-director Frank Miller’s graphic novel of the same name.

Her numerous other credits include Fantastic Four, Into The Blue, The Eye, The Love Guru, The Killer Inside Me and Machete. She is currently filming Spy Kids 4: All The Time In The World.



OK, so you’re joining one of the best loved film franchises of modern times with Little Fockers. What was it like?

Little Fockers was like the best time ever – the most challenging, and the best time.


Why was it the most challenging?

Well Ben Stiller is by far, one of the best comedic actors out there. He’s one of the best of our generation and actually, I’d say he’s one of the best ever. He’s just brilliant and I’ve always looked up to him and I admired his work and having to go to work everyday knowing that I’d have to be head to head with Ben Stiller was pretty intimidating. And then we had Paul Weitz, who’s an incredible visionary as well, directing the movie so I had like two people constantly kind of watching and making sure that I stepped up to the plate. And then I did a couple of scenes with the group of people like Owen Wilson and De Niro, and then another scene with Dustin Hoffman. I mean, come on, that’s pretty challenging! (laughs)


OK, so it was challenging but I presume you like a challenge..

I certainly do (laughs). But yes, it was challenging and a little intimidating. I mean, come on, with that cast – they’re the best. And I certainly wanted to be a part of it because I admire all of their work and I love this franchise so I was honoured to be asked and I wanted to definitely add to the project by being involved in it and doing a good job, instead of people saying ‘oh, she shouldn’t have been in this one. It would have been better without her.’ (laughs)


And you were the new girl at school…

Yes, because everyone else has been part of this for the last decade, with the exception of my character, Harvey Keitel’s, and Laura Dern.  We’re the new ones, yeah.  So I just wanted to make sure that I was good.


Tell me about your character…

I play Andi Garcia and yes, that’s a bit of joke. She’s very bubbly, very outgoing, she’s completely unedited and she never thinks before she speaks. She says exactly what’s on her mind and she has that cheerleader kind of attitude. She’s a pharmaceutical sales rep, and the stereotype of pharmaceutical reps is like that they are like ex-cheerleaders, and drill team captains, and we play around with that in our story.


Were you ever a cheerleader yourself?

No! It’s hilarious because I was never that girl. I was never on a cheerleading squad. I was more like a loner, so it was fun to play one of those girls. So she’s very forthright and speaks her mind – in fact she doesn’t edit herself at all.


So does that mean you got some really, really good lines to say?

Yeah, and I threw in a lot of slang as well, because just as I’m getting a little bit older I’m realizing that there’s a generation of adults now, that are speaking a language that I just, I have no idea what the hell they’re talking about (laughs)

And so I thought it would be funny to do that. I used to be part of that group of people that spoke that language, and so I thought it would be funny if she did and if there was that sort of generational gap between Ben’s character and her character, where she was running her mouth and using phrases and different terms that he just had no idea what the hell she was talking about at all.


How does she fit into the story?

Well Ben’s character is a male nurse and my character, Andi, has been following his work because he’s running the nursing department at the hospital that he works at. He writes essays on things like bedside manner and patient-nurse relations and doctor-patient relations and how important that is. Normally drug reps go to a doctor to represent a drug but she goes to him because she thinks he’s so articulate and compassionate and she admires his work. And so he reps a drug for her, which is basically erectile dysfunction medicine for people who have heart problems (laughs). So there are a lot of laughs in that, let me tell you.


You’re working with some great comedians here. Is it difficult to keep a straight face sometimes when you’re filming scenes with them?

Well the things is that you can laugh at the scene when they’re doing their close up, but when you are in the scene with a wide shot, you can’t really break character. So, my goal everyday was to try and get Ben to break character and laugh.


Did you succeed?

I succeeded a few times, yeah.


Hey, that’s a badge of honour, well done…

Yeah, when you can take an actor out of the scene and make someone like Ben laugh, well, I consider that a job well done.


What about Dustin Hoffman? He’s very funny…

Dustin is the most supportive, sweet, loving, caring person. I’ve watched his movies so many times I can’t even begin to tell you and to work with him was just a dream come true. He’s a legend.


Talking of legends, this is the second time you’ve worked with Robert De Niro. Is it intimidating when you first work with him?

Yeah, the first time I ever did a scene with Bob was actually on Machete, I was kind of terrified, and I told Robert Rodriguez that I was really scared and he’s like ‘it’s fine, just do this and this and it will be totally cool’ and it was. At the end of the day, he’s like an actor’s actor, and he wants to find the scene and he wants the scene to be the best it can be, and he is playful in that and open and generous. He’s not intimidating at all – it was just me projecting that on to him because, basically, I’ve watched him for my whole life.


Did you get many scenes to do with him in Little Fockers?

Not really, just one. But he’s part of the Tribeca Film Festival and after the movie finished they asked me to be on the jury and I spent more personal time with him than I have on screen. And he’s great because he has lovely kids and a lovely wife and he’s very family orientated.


Where did you film Little Fockers?

We filmed for a few days in Chicago, but it was primarily in LA.


And did you get to do any scenes with Ms Streisand?

I didn’t unfortunately, but man, she’s incredible.


And what about Owen Wilson? Did you know him before this?

I had a couple of scenes with Owen. And I knew him personally as well so that was a kind of trip to work with him (laughs).



Is it easier or harder to work with friends?

Actually I think it’s more intimidating to work with someone who is your friend, harder than working with somebody you don’t know. When you are friends you are just friends, that’s it, and you accept them as they are. But if you suck in a scene it’s like ‘oops!’ There’s a different type of criticism. But you know, Owen is a great guy and he made it very easy. He’s a comedy class act.


Is comedy hard to do?

Yes, comedy is the hardest thing to do.


Why is that?

Well, acting in other things, it’s subjective what works. If it’s an emotional scene in a drama or a big scene in a horror movie, it’s subjective whether the scene works or not. But with comedy if you don’t make people laugh you have screwed up. It’s hard.


Can you tell on the day if it’s working?

Usually if I hear chuckles from the crew, it works.


Everybody always assumes that if you’re making a comedy there are lots of laughs when the camera stops rolling. Is that the case?

No, you can’t stay ‘on’ and joking around all of the time. Everyone kind of fades it and saves their energy for the shot. I mean, we hang out but it’s just casual and it’s not like everyone is trying to one up each other and be the funniest person there. And you know, usually comedians are kind of shy and introverted.


You’ve done most genres now – drama, comedy, horror. Are there any left that you haven’t tried?

Action (laughs). I don’t think I’ve done a straight up action movie.


But is that part of the appeal, doing vastly different things?

Yeah, for sure, before I had my baby, I was just focused on being as diverse as possible, and I didn’t focus so much on the film maker, it was just about the part and doing diverse work, and doing stuff that was going to be distributed globally. And after I had my daughter, I had less of a business sense about my work and it’s really just about the filmmaker, so that’s my focus now. And I don’t know what’s up next, it could be a little tiny million dollar movie, or it could be something big or small. I don’t really know.


And so it’s more about striking a balance between work and home?

Yeah for sure it’s about balance, and also it’s like, if I’m not going to spend time at home with my daughter, I want to evolve as an artist and as a creative person, and so, if that’s not going to happen, then I might as well just stay home with my family. 


Did you watch both previous films in the series?

Yeah. I love those films.


They’re very funny but they’re also very clever in the way that they capture that dynamic of when two very different families get together…

I think everyone can relate to this family dynamic, having the more conservative versus the more sort of unconventional family. I mean, I’m married and I’ve been in relationships, and the family dynamic is always really tricky, you never really know what’s going to happen, and you always have family members saying and doing inappropriate things and you cringe. It’s very funny but it draws on a truth.


I guess good comedy does have that kind of ring of truth to it, it sort of tells us something about ourselves…

Yeah for sure, and I think everybody can kind of relate to those moments, of like my Mom will say these things – and I know it’s coming and she’s allowed to – but there are times when you just want to say ‘oh Mom, no!’ And usually it’s just funny. But that’s what these films play with, that dynamic when two, very different families get together.


And does Little Fockers honour that tradition and tap into that dynamic?

Yeah, I mean, I’m not part of the family dynamic, in the movie, my character isn’t, but she certainly adds to the tension between Ben’s character and Bob’s character. 


So just sum it up for me, what was it like doing Little Fockers?

It was the best time ever. It really was and everyday I came home knowing that I’d had a great day at work. You really have to bring your A game when you are working with those guys and it was the most fun thing to do, to be able to do comedy every day. It was the kind of film that made me want to act in the first place. I loved it. Every day was just a blast.


We’ve talked about you being one of the new guys on set but the director, Paul Weitz, was taking charge after Jay Roach directed the first two. How did he do?

He’s amazing and you know, his work speaks for itself. He understands timing, so well and what’s great about Paul is that he always gives the characters depth and they’re just always rounded out, and so regardless of how outlandish or crazy or goofy the comedy was, he always grounds it in reality.  So it makes every character accessible.


What’s next for you?

I just finished shooting Spy Kids 4 in Austin, Texas. It was great working with the lovely Robert Rodriquez again and it was nice being on a kids’ movie because you don’t work the same hours (laughs). It was a very civilised shoot. And it was totally fun.



Jessica Alba Photos | Little Fockers Film Page