Kristen Schaal is one of those trusted comedic talents who, whenever she pops up in a TV show or film, you know she’ll leave an impression. See: her many appearances on The Daily Show, Last Man on Earth, her voice over work on Bob’s Burgers, and her latest film role in A Walk in the Woods, opposite Robert Redford and Nick Nolte.
The film is based on Bill Bryson’s autobiographical book of the same name and revolves around Redford and Nolte’s characters attempting to hike the entire 2,180 miles of the Appalachian Trail. Schaal plays a fellow trail hiker who is also a know-it-all annoyance. Screen Rant recently sat down with Schaal to discuss the delights of annoying acting legends Redford and Nolte onscreen, the pros and cons of being a reliable character actor/guest star, the second season of Last Man and when we’ll get to see a movie “written by Kristen Schaal.”
I have a question about the walking and talking and hiking. I know you guys are professionals but I’ve been hiking and it’s hard to walk and talk, let alone act while doing so?
The hardest job was the camera guy walking backwards up the hill, he would have spotters but it’s tough. I guess you do have to look out for the roots and the rocks, but after you do it a few times you get a feel for the trail a little better.
How much time did you spend pre-production and then on set with the guys?
It’s pretty fast. I just sort of got the call that it was happening and thought I couldn’t do it, and then I could, and then I was there for two days.
What was it like coming into the fun dynamic between Robert Redford and Nick Nolte?
It was so wonderful to get to be in their company. They had so many stories, Nick had a biographer on set because he was working on his biography so he was brimming with stories. “Oh, you’re from New York? I started in New York. You’re a comedian? I dated Vicki Lawrence!” It was nonstop wonderful, and Robert went to school at CU in Colorado, which is where I’m from. Redford went to CU for like a year and got kicked out or something for drinking all the time, I believe that was his story, which was so fun and he remembered The Hill and a specific sandwich shop, it was really nice. I wish I’d had more time, because in only having two days I couldn’t exactly ingratiate myself in to really pick their brains, so it was whatever I could skim off the surface that they were giving up. I feel like if I had had more time I could have gotten into their gospel a little bit more.
You’re great at popping up and being memorable, no matter how long you are on screen. What do you like about that space, coming in as the character actor or a be guest star?
It’s nice to get to be a part of the bigger picture and help tell the story, that’s really fun. But just recently landing this gig on Last Man on Earth, now I feel spoiled because I know what it’s like to be the heart of something and I think I like that better [Laughs].
Do you get to do any writing of your character on Last Man? Or do you just let [showrunners] Phil Lord and Chris Miller do what they do?
Well I let them, but I am allowed to contribute as much as I want which is great. I love being part of the process.
I see that you were around South Park for a little bit on the writing staff, is there one that shining thing you remember contributing or specific memory from that?
I don’t know if I can think of a specific instance, it’s hard being in a writers room, that one, and just in general it’s very uncool to give a shout out to a specific joke because, also who knows maybe you did it and maybe you just thought you did.
That makes sense. How did your friends and family react to your being in this movie? Especially being in one with Robert Redford and Nick Nolte?
Nobody really knows about it yet but my mom and dad are thrilled. They lit up, more than anything I’ve ever done, they were very excited and couldn’t believe it. I think they might actually go to the movie theater to see this one.
Where you are now in your career, how do you feel about the work you do voice acting vs live acting? It seems like voice acting would be one of the best gigs.
The thing I love most about Bob’s Burgers is that they are consistent. I would say that Bob’s has been my most consistent gig and the good thing about that too is that in showbiz you do sort of pop around from job to job and you meet a lot of people but you don’t really get your core family. Bob’s has been so special because all the voice actors on it I pretty much came up with in the New York stand-up scene. I just adore the show, so that’s the best part. I just know that I get to see them every year and they are feeling pretty confident they will have more seasons too, so we’re not taking it season by season, so that’s been the best part of my voice over stuff.
With Last Man, are you already back working on the second season?
Yeah, we had our first week this week, going on week two tomorrow. I’m excited.
In terms of where you are in your career right now, what for you would be icing on the cake work-wise?
I’m so fulfilled with Last Man and Bob’s, but I would really love to see something that I write get made. We are working on a couple things and its not even at a stage at all [to discuss]. I would be embarrassed to say.
Well at least now there are more female-friendly production houses? Melissa McCarthy’s production company? Meredith Viera’s? Adam McKay and Will Ferrell’s Gloria Sanchez?
Even with those female focused production houses, I feel like everyone who wants to make a movie, wants to make a movie that takes place on a certain type of budget and in a certain type of world. Nobody’s taking any imaginative risks. It’s very disappointing, I’m just bitter because lots of those people turned down this movie on writing [Laughs]. And now I have to write the thing that’s sort of like, “Outside of an LA coffee shop.” Ugh. It’s hard. I’ve sold a couple pilots but they just don’t get to the next step. Also everything I’ve sold is on the weird spectrum.
That’s great though.
For sure, but you’ll never see it [Laughs]. That’s what I’m coming to terms with.
More: Robert Redford & Nick Nolte Interviews
A Walk in the Woods is directed Ken Kwapis off a screenplay by Rick Kerb and Bill Holderman and stars Robert Redford, Nick Nolte, Emma Thompson, Mary Steenburgen, Nick Offerman, and Kristen Schaal.
In this comedy adventure, Robert Redford & Nick Nolte star as old friends who make the improbable decision to hike the 2,200–mile Appalachian Trail, and that’s when the fun begins. Based on Bill Bryson’s bestseller, the movie co-stars Emma Thompson, Mary Steenburgen, Nick Offerman & Kristen Schaal.
A Walk in the Woods opens September 2, 2015.