Alison Brie on How Mad Men Changed Her Life

Photo by Eric Ray Davidson

For eight years now, Alison Brie has been flexing her versatility as an actor across television and film. From shows such as Mad Men, Community, and Bojack Horseman to films like her impressive starring role in Leslye Headlund’s upcoming Sleeping With Other People, Brie has proven herself to be as multitalented as she is hard working.

As the defiant Trudy Campbell on Mad Men, we’ve seen Brie deliver her most dramatic performances—something we’ll be sad to miss as the show begins its final season this Sunday. To give you a taste of Brie’s experience on the show, we’re pleased to share a preview of forthcoming feature on her in the upcoming Spring issue of the newly relaunched BlackBook Magazine

Having been on Mad Men for nearly a decade, how does it feel now that the show is coming to an end?

It was totally incredible to be a part of Mad Men from the first season to the last. I can’t believe I got to stay on the show the whole time. It will forever inform all other work that I do. It was my first real acting job after college, outside of regional theater, and it taught me so much about nuance. It was like a clinic for acting in a television drama, with Matthew Weiner as professor.

I just feel very grateful that I got to be on it for so long. It taught me a lot about stillness and subtext—all that stuff I learned about in college studying theater, but now having to apply it differently when it relates to film and TV. Shooting an episode of Mad Men really feels like shooting a movie, you know? The things I’ve learned on the show, and also the work ethic and professionalism, have come with me into every other job.

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Did you find it difficult to juggle such disparate roles as Annie on Community and Trudy on Mad Men

I feel like for three seasons the shows would shoot simultaneously. There were days where I’d literally shoot Community in the morning and then drive over and shoot Mad Men in the evening. It was an awesome exercise, but not difficult because the shows are so different; so it’s really easy to go from one to the other and not confuse the two. Putting on the Mad Men wardrobe alone I feel like I’m totally transformed into that era, into that character, because the costume design is specific and well done that it was easy. If they’d been super similar, it would have been more of a challenge, whereas this just felt like…I’m living a dream!

It’s always nice to have some downtime amidst craziness, but at the same time I find it hard to not infuse a little bit of myself into every character I play, probably because you are the same set of skin and bones and vocal cords every time. Also, as much as I really respect the work and all that, I also think it’s fun! We’re playing make believe at the end of the day. I try to take it seriously in the moment, so I’m just connecting between.

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With both of your long-term shows ending, is it freeing to know that now your career is wide open for new projects? You’re already taking on such varied roles in film and TV.

It’s been very exciting, and kind of a relief. It’s interesting having worked on Mad Men for seven years and Community for six years, looking at these two shows coming to an end, there’s always the nervousness of like, will I ever work again? I’ve been doing these things for so long. So it was really amazing to spend the last year cultivating some other stuff, some other sides of myself, and being able to do some awesome film work. It’s really great to hear you say that I take on different roles because I definitely do, and it’s not always easy. I’ve been very lucky to have been afforded opportunities to work on some characters that are different and projects that are different.

Most of your upcoming movies are comedies with an edge—do you want to continue down that route or pursue more dramatic roles as well?

I definitely still want to pursue drama. I’ve definitely felt the withdrawal of Mad Men being over, not having that drama fix. I love drama, I love thrillers, so I would still like to look for work in that genre.

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