Lizzy Caplan is one of the most adorable and hilarious stars of a show you probably don’t watch on a network you may have never heard of—yet. Party Down is about catering waiters. It features a former cast member of The State as their often pathetic, ex-alcoholic boss. It is perhaps the most pitch-perfect examination of the service industry ever made. Episodes in the second season, which premiered April 23rd, revolve around goth rock concerts, awkward funerals, and failed orgies. Caplan plays the crush-worthy Casey, a struggling actress/waiter who staves off hatred of her job by landing small roles in Judd Apatow projects and the cruise ship comedy circuit. In real life, Caplan is a not-so-struggling actress who you may have seen in Cloverfield, or Hot Tub Time Machine, or in brief spurts of Freaks & Geeks, or The Class, or flying through the air naked on True Blood. Here she is on Fred Savage’s temper, African-American cats, and cutting off your own arm if it gets trapped under a boulder.
A lot of the news around Party Down has been that people keep leaving the show. Jane Lynch last season, Adam Scott now. How do you feel about other shows picking off parts of the cast? It’s not fantastic. It’s obviously pretty brutal for everybody involved, including the people that have to leave. When we didn’t have Jane, we were very freaked out about that—but there was a silver lining. We got Megan Mullally, who’s amazing. Hopefully if we do a third season, we’ll get a great replacement for Adam. It’s just pretty heartbreaking. I do not like it.
Why would you say Party Down has a low profile? Part of me thinks that people don’t know what Starz is. To be honest, if I say ‘hey, it’s on Starz’ people say, ‘is that a porn network?’ They literally think it’s like Spice Network. I have to explain that it’s not. It’s a normal network. How can the word get out there more? It’s really unfortunate that we’re not on the Spice network. Is that even still around? That’s what the boys would watch in junior high. But part of the reason why being on Starz is so awesome is because it’s under the radar. We don’t have thirty Starz executives sitting behind the monitors, like you would on a regular network show, weighing in and giving a lot of their opinions. We are left alone to do whatever we want, which in television is kind of unheard of. The only reason why its unfortunate is because of course, people don’t even know if they have Starz. It’s very frustrating trying to get people to subscribe to a pay network to see your television show. That being said, I think when people discover this show, it’s one of those things where you feel like you’re in this in-the-know club.
Have you ever waited tables or been in the food service industry? I was bus boy at two restaurants. I never moved up to waitress, which is pretty much the biggest embarrassment of my whole life. But I loved it. Working in a restaurant, especially in Los Angeles, is a very fun place to be. For the most part everybody is an actor or a writer and they’re very entertaining.
Most of the set up for each episode is that the crew is put in a variety of bizarre circumstances, like Tom Lennon’s failed orgy.. What’s the weirdest social situation you’ve found yourself in? It doesn’t have to involve swingers. I’m not a big goer-outer in general. But I think that [the] parties I always find strangest—you’re in the buffet line at somebody’s Christmas party, and Nicole Kidman’s there, and all these super famous people up close. That always bugs me out. I don’t want to give the impression that I’m at these parties all the time, because I’m certainly not, but it reduces everybody to a strange ogling fan in the background.
And this is a swingers party? And then we all have sex with each other!
If you Google your name, quite early in the results happens to be Nude scenes from True Blood. Does that bug you out? I thought about that before going into it, but the opportunity to play a character that’s so different than anything else I’ve ever played before was impossible to pass up. Plus, I’m not that embarassed about it. I know that I probably should be, but I think the whole thing is pretty funny. I’m fortunate enough to have friends and family that just make fun of me for it and refuse to take any of it seriously. I think maybe if I had kids, maybe that’s when it gets bad.
I couldn’t help but notice your hairstyle changed. You gained bangs that you didn’t have in the first season. I’m happy to hear that. I’m really digging a little deeper with my character. This year, she has bangs.
After a lot of soul searching, you decided to go that route? I did a three-week meditation course and I focused only on whether or not my character should have bangs in the second season. I listed the pros and the cons, and the bangs won.
You recently said we need “girl stoner movies.” Can you elaborate what a girl stoner movie would look like, and what part you would play in that genre? I think so many of the epic stoner movies of the past ten years—like Hot Tub Time Machine even, or any of the Judd Apatow movies—I think you could just insert a girl playing the main role, and not change it all that much. I’m driving to a wedding right now, but other than that, my friends and I don’t sit around and plan our weddings and talk about how we’re ‘gonna really lock down a man.’ So many female driven comedies have to do with that. I think girls do exactly what boys do a lot of the time, and we don’t need to feminize them in this weird 1950s way.
This is one stupid thing I wanted to ask you. Wikipedia says you have a cat named Lisa Turtle. Is this total bullshit? I do have a cat named after the Saved by the Bell character.
What is it about her that you related to so much that you needed to name the cat after her? Well, she’s African-American and beautiful. So of course I was going to name her that.
The cat is? Well the cat is black. But the person is African-American. So whatever PC way to say that…
Have you come across Screech’s memoir? His sex tape?
He wrote a memoir—Behind the Bell. Maybe for my birthday I’ll be lucky enough or receive a copy of that. The only thing I saw was [that] he says stuff about Fred Savage kicking a director in the knee, and throwing a temper tantrum…Fred Savage directs half of the Party Down episodes, so the thought of a mini Fred Savage kicking somebody really tickles me.
I can’t picture how is it working with him. It’s pretty hilarious. Luckily Fred is pretty good at making fun of himself. He’ll regale you with tales of the Emmys in 1989, what he was wearing, who he was sitting next to. You have to make fun of him—the kid from the Wonder Years!
Does he still look like a little kid? He’s probably 33 or something now. He’s got two kids and a wife. He’s a man. It’s bizarre.
I diverted myself a bit. If they were going to make a do-over of Saved by the Bell, who would you call dibs on as far as characters? That’s a very good question. I mean—I think that I would want to be A.C. Slater. He had the dance moves, he had the greasy wiglets, and he later went on to have a very illustrious career as a television host. I think he’s a hero to all of us in America.
You’re also in the new Danny Boyle movie, with James Franco. I play his sister. But a lot of the movie is James Franco dealing with his arm being trapped by a boulder in a cave.
It’s a survival type thing? It’s based on a true story–that hiker, Aron Ralston. He had to cut off his own arm because it was trapped under a boulder.
Are you a city person? Born and raised in LA. People talk a lot of shit about LA, but there’s many wonderful things it has to offer—you have to dig a little harder for them, as opposed to New York, where it’s all there right in front of you. The idea of moving here from another part of the country—that seems impossible. I don’t know how people do that. And everybody does it. I can’t imagine having to come here and conquer the city. I had a very suburban upbringing even though I grew up [in the city.] But now that I do this for a living, you notice how every single waiter is an actor. Everybody you meet is trying to break into the business.
Is it tough to see that many people having their dreams crushed? Some days when I decide to look at it that way it’s a very depressing place to live. The streets are just soaked in broken dreams. But other days you can look at it in the more optimistic light: people are coming here to pursue creative endeavors.
In terms of work, what’s on your wish list? I’m trying to be really patient right now for the first time ever, and not let my desire to work overshadow my desire to find material that I really like. After I go and shoot the Danny Boyle thing I’m trying to take my time and digest options instead of running to work on something I don’t care so much about. That’s my manifesto for 2010.