Elizabeth Banks may be best known as a bawdy film star (Zack & Miri Make a Porno, Role Models) amongst some demographics, but she has had great success crossing over onto the smaller screen in Scrubs and now 30 Rock, as well. Banks took some time out of her busy production schedule (she has three movies readying for releases and six more in development!) to chat with Starpulse about her career, her role as cable news reporter Avery Jessup, and even the benefits of Twitter over Facebook.
Banks has a knack for comedy, though she has taken a few more serious roles in her day. She admits that most people are born with comic timing, so they have a lifetime to hone it and really be the best they can be. "I think I was born with a little bit of comic timing and the sense of humor. And I have just sort of an openness to laugh," Banks shared. "But it's like there are all these rules to comedy, and the amazing thing about 30 Rock is that they break a lot of the rules—or they explode them!"
On 30 Rock, Banks' role has been rumored to be modeled after very specific individuals. She is a high-powered, conservative reporter who catches the eye of Jack Donaghy and may finally be his true match. Banks admitted Avery is "an amalgam of many, many characters," not just one as gossip sites have liked to report. When asked to name some names, Banks added that she loves Maria Bartiroma: "It was sort of based on her in my mind a little bit but also all the guys. You know, I love the idea of the countdown; I thought it was very Keith Oberman, so that's [also] who I was sort of impersonating."
30 Rock is a pretty collaborative environment, as far as television staffs go, and Banks said she was a big fan of Tina Fey's before taking the role. She also enjoyed the openness of the production's atmosphere. For example, Banks had a joke on her Twitter page about Chris Rock referring to her as Chelsea Handler. That joke made it onto the show subtly when Avery and Jack attended a black-tie affair in the episode "Lee Marvin vs Derek Jeter." Avery (Banks) posed on a red carpet for photographers, some of whom didn't recognize her correctly and shouted out "Chelsea! Chelsea Handler, over here!"
"I'll tell you what—I get called Chelsea I get confused with Chelsea Handler often enough that we felt like it was a funny joke to put in the show," Banks laughed.
And since Banks brought up Twitter, it had to be asked why she, like so many celebrities, have gravitated toward the minimizing outlet for expression. " I just like having a direct connection to my fans," Banks stated simply. "I actually read most of the Tweets [people send me], but you know, I'm a busy person, and I don't have the time to respond to everybody. The great thing about Twitter is that there's no expectation to respond, whereas if you’re on Facebook, it’s like 'why don't you friend me, you bitch!?' And I don't really want to be called a bitch on Facebook anyway, so I'm not going to do that anymore!"
Banks said she's "very happy going back and forth [between movies and television] right now" so she doesn't anticipate settling down on a series any time soon. She enjoys guest spots, like Avery or even her recent turn on Modern Family because she "really love[s] playing multiple characters" and is not quite ready to commit to just one.
"The main difference between television and movies," Banks pointed out, "is that when you make a movie you know the beginning, middle, and end of your character's arc. You always know where you're going; you know how the story ends. But when you make a TV show, they could decide tomorrow that I—you know—get hit by a car or have a brother or am a lesbian. You just have no idea what they're going to throw at you." For Banks, the mediums provide a good mix to keep her on her toes and always interested in the work.
Banks has also recently gotten involved in Edward Norton's Crowdrise non-profit efforts to raise money for LA's BEST and Partners in Health. Her next film project is The Next Three Days with Russell Crowe, in which Banks plays a woman accused of murder who gets broken out of prison by her husband (Crowe) and ends up on the run.
30 Rock's season finale airs Thursday, May 20th at 9:30 pm on NBC.
Story by Danielle Turchiano
Starpulse contributing writer