Dressed in black and silver with her hair slicked back and deep aubergine lipstick, sitting in a mid-century house on the winding roads above Sunset Boulevard, Rashida Jones pops a cherry into her mouth. “It’s been a while since I’ve done this,” Jones proffers, the crew on set waiting with baited breath. Her eyes show determination, as her lingual challenge is brought to fruition. Jones draws from her mouth a neatly knotted stem. “I can also do bird calls,” she says. “This one’s a California quail.”
A graduate of Harvard, Jones has been making us laugh on The Office and Parks & Recreation as one of the funniest women on television, but with this summer’s Celeste and Jesse Forever, Jones is making a move into leading lady territory. “I knew that I had more in me than just the supportive friend or girlfriend,” says Jones. “If there was going to be a time when I was going to do it, it was going to be now. I was either going to blow it, or not.”
Co-starring Andy Samberg, Elijah Wood, and Emma Roberts, Celeste and Jesse is more than a mere laugh-fest, exploring the relationship between a couple who’ve been together forever, and who’ve been co-depending way too long to know how to justly break ties. In a manner much less depressing than Blue Valentine, this is what happens when best friends become lovers, grow up, and drift apart.
The film is also Jones’ first screenwriting credit, another feather in her cap that already includes comic book author, backup singer, composer, and model. Her career is a multi-disciplinary patchwork, and this is something that only certain people (like Steve Martin, David Bowie, and Tina Fey) can pull off.
As for the genesis of Jones’ virtues, one would be remiss not to look to the powerful mélange of DNA contributed by her dad, the multifaceted Quincy Jones, and by her mother, Mod Squad bombshell Peggy Lipton. The impact of growing up in houses where Miles Davis and Ella Fitzgerald were regular guests should also be taken into account.
Despite the gamut of industry leaders present in her upbringing, Jones was definitely not desensitized to the power of celebrity. “John Travolta came to the house,” Jones relays, the emerald elements of her hazel eyes intensifying, “And because Grease was the only thing we ever watched, it was game over. That’s all we cared about. We freaked out, ignored him, ran in the other direction and turned red.”
Now, as an adult, Jones chooses someone less song-and-dance as her ultimate dinner companion. “Albert Einstein was always on that ‘dinner list’ for me—just because of the facial hair.” Jones’ signature sarcastic sweetness gives way to an additional, more meaningful logic to her choice. “I just started working with the International Rescue Committee, which Einstein founded with his friends. He had such a complicated relationship with something he was so good at, and had a huge moral dilemma. I’d just love to have known what it was like to be him and to have to make those decisions.”
With her acting and writing careers in full swing, the 36-year-old Jones describes her personal life by acknowledging its absence. “It doesn’t look like anything right now,” she says with a false pout. “Luckily, I have that thing where my personal world and my professional world are intertwined. I’m friends with all the people I work with on Parks & Rec. And my writing partner is my best friend. So when I go back to Parks in August, I don’t have to think, ‘Ach, I’ve got to go back to my job.’ I get to go play and be stupid with my friends.”
If work is her playground, Jones has been given license to traverse the different leagues of film, complementing her small screen gigs with indie outings (Monogamy, Our Idiot Brother) and studio flicks (The Social Network, I Love You, Man, and The Muppets). From here, she’s off to London for a month, and, while the Olympics are raging in other parts of the city, she and Nick Frost (Shaun of the Dead) will be filming Cuban Fury, a comedy about salsa dancing.
As she chats about the intensive salsa training, Jones snacks on tortilla chips, a delicious gourmet variety that is ironic only for the lack of salsa dip. She marvels at Frost’s immense popularity in the U.K., salivates at the amount of London’s High Street shopping she’ll be able to do, and professes a love for Kate Moss (“She’s like a walking piece of art”). It becomes clear that when Jones talks fashion, it’s coming from an active relationship. Few know she once worked with Teen Vogue as a contributing writer, appeared in commercials for The Gap, and corresponded for Vibe TV.
There is seemingly no major topic on which Jones hasn’t had some relevant involvement; even politics is in the ballpark, the actress having hit the campaign trail for Barack Obama back in ’08. On the subject of Jones’ patriotic involvement, Amy Poehler’s character on Parks & Recreation levels the following observation at Jones’ character in Season 4: “Your ambiguous ethnic blend perfectly represents the dream of the American melting pot.” It’s a funny joke in that it plays both on-screen and off.
Will Jones be getting involved in this year’s race? “I absolutely am. Anything I can do. I feel like there is this weird thing where celebrity involvement in political campaigns kind of goes together like peanut butter and chocolate. Sometimes it’s good, sometimes it’s bad. I wouldn’t overexpose myself in the name of the President, I just want to do what I can to help.”
As Jones prepares for the photo shoot, it’s hard not to notice that she is no longer wearing very many clothes. Jones, though, is not fazed, comfortable in this setting, perhaps even aware that her see-through top has strategically placed sequins that will blind you should you look in the wrong (right?) direction. Perhaps it’s time, again, for the reader to feign ignorance of the images spread over these pages, to instead think hard about Jones’ Harvard education, considerable brainpower, and involvement in charitable causes.
But, on the landing, overlooking the living room that oversees the city of Los Angeles, are a couple of tied-up cherry stems. An hour ago they had no knot.
Stylist: Britt Bardo
Hair: Rob Talty
Makeup: Mélanie Inglessis
Manicurist: Beth Fricke
Beauty Notes: Triple touch compact by Sensai. Essence Absolue by Shu Uemura Art of Hair.
This article originally appeared in Flaunt Issue 123 – The Nether Issue.