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Best friends Kat Dennings and Beth Behrs are two healthy—and green—peas in a pod
Everybody’s favorite TV odd couple, Max Black and Caroline Channing, don’t lead the healthiest lifestyle on the hit Monday sitcom 2 Broke Girls. Between the calorie-dense fare at the greasy spoon where they work and the treats they whip up for their burgeoning cupcake business, it’s a small miracle that they haven’t packed on the pounds. That’s because the actresses who play the mismatched pals do take their health seriously; each finds small ways to eat and live better—and that makes for a happy lifestyle.
KAT DENNINGS (Max) Are the cupcakes on set a temptation?
Not anymore. I start stealing frosting only when my energy’s low. How do you stay healthy?
I just started doing an organic food delivery called Paleta. With the hours and mental energy we expend, I have to eat nutritious foods. There was a point when I was eating peanut M&Ms every six hours for energy, plus coffee and cola, and I was getting sick all the time! I feel so much better now. It’s like night and day. How do you reduce your carbon footprint?
I recycle. I try not to drive if I don’t have to, and I ride a bike. I can’t walk to work… I wish I could!
BETH BEHRS (Caroline) What simple pleasures or rituals help perk up your mind, body and soul?
I am a big fan of power yoga; I love yoga that is really intense and gets you sweating. What’s your healthy snack of choice?
Almonds are my favorite. I am not a good cook, so I really need to start learning how to cook healthily. Otherwise I go out to eat too much! How do you reduce your carbon footprint?
I am really into recycling. My roommate and I are very, very responsible. Also, I want to start composting! I have been doing a lot of reading on the topic. I don’t have an outdoor area right now in which to compost, but in the future, I would love to start.
2 FIT GIRLS
Whether you share Max’s sassy, cynical worldview or Caroline’s can-do spirit, there’s a workout that suits your personality. So, if you’re looking to stay fit over the holidays, order up one of these exercise routines—and hold the fries! Work Out Like MAX
CARDIO KICKBOXING: Since you’re not one to keep your feelings under wraps, this class allows you to vent while sweating up a storm. KRAV MAGA: Native New Yorkers know how to defend themselves. This self-defense system used by the Israeli defense forces is ideal for use on the street. Work Out Like CAROLINE SOCIAL DANCING: Group dance classes are a great way to socialize, make friends and potentially meet a guy who doesn’t take after your dad. Two to learn: jitterbug and jive. URBAN REBOUNDING: Because you know that what comes down always goes up, these fun and challenging mini-trampoline classes feed your optimistic, resourceful nature.
BY HUDSON MORGAN
PHOTOGRAPHY BY ANDREA VARANI
STYLING BY MIREILLE COMSTOCK
AFTER THE SMASHING FIRST SEASON of 2 Broke Girls, the new rule for rival shows might just become: If it ain’t Broke, fix it. As in, make the characters as funny and real as Max and Caroline, the financially challenged duo played so expertly by Kat Dennings and Beth Behrs. Make the humor as hard and heartfelt as in co-creator Michael Patrick King’s Sex and the City, with dialogue that dirty-dances right up to the line and often crosses it. And most of all, make it really, really successful—say, prime time’s No. 1 new comedy. Fresh off all of the above, Kat and Beth grabbed their favorite plus-ones, hopped a plan to Milan and sat down with Watch! at Four Seasons Hotel Milano to talk about the Broke Girls’ big break.
WATCH!: Viva Italia. Has either of you been here before?
BETH BEHRS: Never! Neither of us has ever been to Europe. We’re going to Paris tomorrow and then I’m going to Madrid and she’s staying in Paris longer. We’re super excited.
KAT DENNINGS: This is European Vacation.
WATCH!: How about a quick highlight reel so far?
KAT: I’m telling you, that osso bucco last night ruined my life.
BETH: It was sooo rich.
KAT: I told my boyfriend, “I’m actually going to die, I think. I should go to the hospital.” My heart was racing, I could feel the fat cells being born. I was like, This is the end.”
BETH: It was very decadent, but it was worth it!
KAT: Veal. Risotto. Butter. Cheese. Bone marrow. I ate so much. It took five years off my life.
WATCH!: Today’s photo shoot–was it different from other ones you’ve done?
KAT: It was very high fashion.
KAT: A lot of looks. Probably the most looks I’ve ever done. They tamed the shrew that is my hair.
BETH: I love that you have more of everything. Boobs, hair…
BETH: And I just have less. You’ve got the boobs and the hair that I want, and I just have the less of it all.
KAT: I have more skin. I would trade bodies in a second.
BETH: But we have boyfriends who like our less and more. We’re doing fine in the boyfriend department.
KAT: We’re doing great. They love us.
WATCH!: Other than eating, what else have you all been doing in Milan?
KAT: I realized last night that when I’m drunk I become the Anchorman. Why do I do that?
BETH: I don’t know, but I quite enjoy when you become the Anchorman. Who do I become?
KAT: You were so adorable! You were you.
BETH: Oh, man. Do I become Julie Andrews but, like, intoxicated? “Allo there!”
KAT: Were you drunk?
BETH: A little bit.
KAT: I just started drinking recently.
WATCH!: Drinking for the first time in your life?
KAT: I’ve been drunk before, but like twice a year maybe. I like wine and beer—no liquor ever.
BETH: I like wine or scotch.
KAT: I didn’t drink for so long that it takes no time to get me wasted. Shwasted.
WATCH!: Why didn’t you drink?
KAT: I just never wanted to. I was very against it. I still don’t think it’s a good idea to get super wasted on anything.
BETH: If you were drunk last night, you held it well because I wouldn’t have been able to tell.
KAT: I was red! I was like, flushed!
WATCH!: 2 Broke Girls can get pretty risque.
KAT: Sometimes I can’t believe it.
BETH: The little Jewish boys episode! When the little Hasidic boy said, “How are you going to say anything with your mouth full,” we did a bunch of alternate takes that were cleaner, and that’s the joke that made it in! There was also a joke I had at the beginning of the season: “It’ll be nice to have my wad in his face for a change.”
KAT: They changed “mouth” to “face.” Remember? Face is actually more aggressive!
BETH: And dirty!
WATCH!: And they let you say that?
BETH: That’s what exciting to me. Kat and I get to do something that girls have never gotten to do on TV. That’s so cool, Kat! That’s something we get to tell our grandkids, like, “Dude, we were different and changed what we could say on television.” That’s crazy. Kat, what’s the dirtiest thing you’ve ever said on the show?
KAT: It was when we were trying to out-Oleg Oleg and we had to say the most dirty things. I don’t say dirty stuff. I swear all the time, but…not in a sexual way.
BETH: She’s not Max in real life. She’s very demure, poised.
KAT: Jewish nunlike! I don’t do sexual stuff, joke-wise. I’m straight-laced and you’re more of a wild child.
BETH: We’re the opposite from the show in terms of jokes. I’m dirtier with jokes. But in real life we’re both pretty nun-ish. A hot night is drinking a bottle of wine and watching a movie at our boyfriends’.
WATCH!: Kat, do people ever come up to you and start talking to you like a sailor?
KAT: I would be like, “Please step away, sir!”
BETH: “We’re calling security, sir. Don’t say vagina in my presence.”
WATCH!: Does the humor ever offend your parents?
KAT: Knowing your kids are making money at our age and working hard is rewarding for them. [Laughs.] And, you know, at least we’re not prostitutes.
BETH: It is Hollywood, though. Did you know back in the day that actors were on the same level of prostitutes?
WATCH!: Who’s the best person to confess their 2 Broke Girls fandom so far?
BETH: We had Amy Poehler tell us that she liked the show, and that was pretty crazy. Someone said Hasidic Jews loved that episode. Their friends were Hasidic Jews and thought it was the funniest thing they’d ever seen.
KAT: They were very respectful of the religion.
BETH: The thing about our show is, when we are pushing boundaries, it’s always coming from a real character place. The writers are so good; they never do it just merely for shock value because that wouldn’t be interesting. And I think sometimes people aren’t watching it well enough or just don’t recognize that.
WATCH!: Agreed. The criticism about stereotyping is pretty silly.
KAT: A racist show would have only white characters. That’s what a racist show is: pretending others don’t exist. We’re doing the complete opposite of that.
BETH: Also, it’s half-hour, and it’s called 2 Broke Girls! So, with a half-hour show you can’t flesh out everyone in the first season.
KAT: Friends went on forever and you know those characters in and out, but it took a long time.
BETH: On Will & Grace, Megan Mullally’s voice, like [high-pitched] “Hi, honey” didn’t even come until the end of the first season. You have to grow as a show, you know? Haters be hatin’.
KAT: Haters gonna hate.
WATCH!: Boom, well played. In the show’s pilot, Kat’s boyfriend makes moves on Beth. Would that ever happen in real life?
KAT: We’re both in committed, loving relationships, but we have completely opposite types anyway. I mean, I don’t really have a type. But you like a certain type, Beth, and it’s not a type I would like.
BETH: I’ve always liked men who are over 6 feet tall, burly, and could engulf you in a bear hug.
KAT; She likes bears.
BETH: Beth Behrs likes bears. There’s your headline! [Laughs.] In college, I dated not-bears. It’s a recent tradition.
WATCH!: Where do you see the show going?
KAT: I hope the girls get their cupcake business.
BETH: I’d like to see them start the business. It’d be cool if in a couple of seasons we actually started our own bakery. Or bought the diner and made that bakery.
KAT: I think the no-expectations rule is what to apply. I always kind of expect the worst of everything and then I’m like, “Heeeeeeey.”
WATCH!: Truth time. When are you going to get it over with and just make out?
KAT: We’ve already done it! They cut it out.
BETH: We kissed! The hoarder episode.
KAT: We run into Johnny [played by co-star Nick Zano] and his girlfriend on the street and I kiss him, I kiss her, and then I turn around and I kiss Caroline. But they cut it out! They said, “We’re going to save the kiss for something special and not just offhand like that.” And we’re like, “Oh, great.” So I wouldn’t rule anything out. [Laughs.] Maybe, at the end, we’ll get married.
LOS ANGELES — Kat Dennings has been daydreaming about turning herself into a perturbed porcupine. Well, not literally. But if the “2 Broke Girls” actress had her way, she would wear a leather jacket covered in sharp metal spikes when she mingles with advertisers on Wednesday as part of CBS’s upfront presentation.
Upfronts, an annual show-and-tell for advertisers, are important to networks trying to sell their fall lineups. That being the case, one should be on one’s best behavior. “But it’s a mob, and some people grab you, or at least that’s my experience,” Ms. Dennings said. “It’s kind of overwhelming.”
If Ms. Dennings, 25, felt manhandled a year ago, when “2 Broke Girls” was just another laugh-track CBS sitcom awaiting its debut, she is right to worry about what awaits her this time around. The series, which stars Ms. Dennings and Beth Behrs as waitresses with R-rated mouths, overcame early complaints of racial stereotyping and crude humor to become the season’s No. 1 new comedy.
Original episodes of “2 Broke Girls” attracted an average of 13.4 million viewers through April 29, according to Nielsen. (To compare, Fox’s “New Girl” ranked second among new comedies, attracting about nine million viewers.)
The show is so popular that some media buyers think CBS will risk moving “2 Broke Girls” to the all-important Thursday night lineup, pairing it with “The Big Bang Theory” to form a must-see comedy block. CBS declined to comment ahead of its Wednesday scheduling announcement.
Ms. Dennings has struck a chord on “2 Broke Girls” with her portrayal of Max, who has a murderous sideways glance and an offbeat, deadpan wit. Somewhere inside is a sweetheart, but it’s buried under a bawdy sense of humor. (Pity the ketchup bottle in a recent episode.)
“Kat is incredibly interesting because she’s the ironic indie girl succeeding in a big, broad comedy,” said Brent Poer, executive creative director at LiquidThread, a unit of Starcom MediaVest, the media buying agency. “You talk to the other networks, and they all say, ‘I wish I had that show,’ and Kat is a big reason why.”
Even so, casting such a young actress in an anchor role was a risky move for CBS, which tends to build comedies around established stars. But younger performers help draw the younger viewers that Madison Avenue pays a premium to reach: “2 Broke Girls” attracts the youngest audience of any CBS show except for “How I Met Your Mother.”
Broadcast television as a whole has been succeeding with what Hollywood refers to as “quirky girl” sitcoms — character actresses as leading ladies. Perhaps riding an entertainment pendulum shift started by the film “Bridesmaids,” entries include Fox’s “New Girl,” which stars Zooey Deschanel, and ABC’s “Don’t Trust the B—- in Apartment 23,” starring Krysten Ritter as an eccentric, manipulative roommate.
The new shows that networks will unveil this week are stuffed with similar characters. One prominent pilot stars Mindy Kaling, known for “The Office,” as an idiosyncratic gynecologist.
You get the feeling from spending time with Ms. Dennings that she’s not entirely comfortable with her breakout status. She calls herself “socially weird” and said that popping up at stylish restaurants or attending endless Hollywood parties would make her “vomitous.” She lives in the low-key Studio City neighborhood here.
“I think she just sits on her couch on the weekends, and that’s one of the things that I love about her,” said Michael Patrick King, the executive producer and co-creator of “2 Broke Girls.” “There’s nothing manufactured about her, and that comes through on-screen. People are responding to her because it feels like an individual has wandered into their living room.”
Ms. Dennings, pretty with a playful touch of Goth style, points out that she has never followed the early advice casting agents gave her: tighten up your teeth, dye your hair, lose weight, get a tan. Unlike many actresses, Ms. Dennings does not pretend that “2 Broke Girls” is art, insisting that Max is little more than a heightened version of herself.
“Take away the booze and drugs — I’m so not that girl — and it’s not much of a stretch,” she said over a cappuccino recently. “I basically thought that playing someone so close to myself would be less exhausting.” She paused for deadpan effect. “So much for that idea.”
Ms. Dennings said she was not initially interested in TV work, even though the small screen is where she got her start as a teenager, playing a girl on “Sex and the City” who gave Samantha a run for her oversexed money. (Mr. King, an executive producer of that HBO series, helped cast her.) But Ms. Dennings decided that movie roles were more interesting; she wondered whether she could remain interested in a TV show that, in success, would require her to play the same part for years.
And she was gaining traction in bigger movies, landing a role as Natalie Portman’s sidekick in Marvel’s “Thor,” for instance. “She more than held her own next to an Oscar-winning actress and a superhero, which is not easy,” said Louis D’Esposito, co-president of Marvel Studios. Ms. Dennings also played the female lead in “Nick & Norah’s Infinite Playlist,” a comedic romance that sputtered at the box office but won her strong reviews.
Then Ms. Dennings’s agents gave her the script for “2 Broke Girls,” which is set in a Brooklyn greasy spoon, a kind of modern-day “Alice.” “I read it, and was like, ‘Oh, no. It’s good,’ ” Ms. Dennings said.
CBS had been tracking Ms. Dennings for years, according to Nina Tassler, president of CBS Entertainment, who compared the actress to a young Candice Bergen. “Kat’s rhythms and timing are unique to her, and that’s rare,” Ms. Tassler said. “The difference is that she’s an actress doing comedy versus a comedienne doing comedy.” (Warner Brothers produces “2 Broke Girls” for CBS.)
Ms. Dennings, who lists knitting and painting as hobbies, grew up in the Philadelphia suburbs as Katherine Litwack, the youngest of five children; her mother is a speech therapist turned full-time poet and her father is a molecular pharmacologist. Her parents schooled her at home. Ms. Dennings said she finished all of her course work by 14. She then moved to Los Angeles with her mother to pursue acting.
“I’ve always had kind of an attitude so the rejection became fairly easy,” she said. “If you don’t like me, it’s your problem.”
Although she was not allowed to watch TV as a child, Ms. Dennings said she soaked up old movie musicals like “Top Hat,” a 1935 picture starring Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers. Bernadette Peters and Madeline Kahn remain two of her favorite actresses. She said she memorized segments of “Let’s Get Small,” Steve Martin’s 1977 comedy album, when she was only 3 years old and performed it for her parents. “I saw the reaction it got, and I was hooked,” Ms. Dennings said.
For fans wanting a closer look at Ms. Dennings, her blog is a kind of study guide. Listed are her “all time favorite things: cute fluffy animals, decorating, shell collecting, snow and presents.” She jogs, plays poker and eats frozen grapes — when she’s not killing spiders in her apartment or watching TV.
Mostly her blog posts reflect her dry, somewhat wacky sense of humor. “My lip is bleeding, and I don’t know why,” she wrote last July. “I don’t recall making out with a lawn mower. Although anything can happen when under the influence of ice water.”
Actress Kat Dennings became an indie “it” girl in ‘Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist’ before setting small screens on fire with her role on ’2 Broke Girls.’ Here, she reveals why she loves talking dirty, hates being sexy, and enjoys doing laundry
BY LISA BUTTERWORTH
PHOTOGRAPHED BY SHERYL NIELDS
KAT DENNINGS is a hugger. I know this because it’s the first thing she does when we meet at Le Pain Quotidien on a typically mild evening in Studio City, Los Angeles, right before she apologizes for being late. “I’ve been at a photo shoot all day, and don’t be scared, I still have crazy makeup on,” she says before lifting her Ray-Ban sunglasses to reveal her mesmerizing blue eyes, dramatically ringed in sparkly black liner and shadow. They’re a wild contrast to her ultra-casual look-jeans, T-shirt, scarf, headphones—and demeanor as she drops her bags and slumps into the chair across from me. As it turns out, I’m lucky she made it to our interview at all. “I don’t have any gas in my car. The little orange dot came on last night on my way home,” she says. “[But I was like] fuck it. It’s two in the morning. I’m going home. ‘You better not die.’ I’m always talking to my car when there’s no one on the road, like, ‘Hold on, you asshole! Fucking hold on! I gotta get home, I gotta go to sleep.’ That’s the state of me right now.”
And it’s no wonder. The week’s been a big one for the 25-year-old actress. Her new sitcom, 2 Broke Girls, premiered two days earlier to over 19 million people (though she didn’t even get to see it air, since she was filming), and her face is plastered all over L.A. to promote it; I passed her gigantic mug on at least three billboards just on my short drive across town to meet her. With an audience of that magnitude, 2 Broke Girls is a bona fide hit, which means Dennings is busier than ever. In addition to working on the show all week and doing a photo shoot for InStyle all day, she’s swooped in for our interview only to have to run out in 30 minutes for another one. Her BUST cover shoot is the next morning, and she’ll got straight from there to the CBS studios for an appearance on The Late Lat Show with Craig Ferguson. She is understandably exhausted.
“You’ll have to humor me,” she says. “I’m out of my mind right now.” But that doesn’t stop her from being sweet, chatty, and extremely enthusiastic about everything, whether it’s coffee (“I love coffee. I could not live without coffee. It would be a disaster”) or John Waters (“He’s a genius”). Oh, and food. “I’m stoked,” she says perusing the menu. “I realized in the car that I hadn’t eaten today.” When our server comes to take our order, Dennings’ signature self-deprecation comes out. “I’m gonna get…hmmm.” Our waiter stands patiently while she contemplates her options. “Could I be more annoying?” Dennings asks. “Uh…um. I hate myself. Wait..” Another few moments go by before she says “OK” with purpose and settles on a veggie sandwich. Since I stuffed my face with an enormous chocolate croissant while I was waiting for her to arrive (to which she exclaims, “Good for you!”), I ask if she’ll feel weird if I don’t eat while we chat. “It won’t make me feel weird,” she says. “Nothing makes me feel weird.”
I get the sense that this is true. Kat Dennings has made a career out of playing the “weird” girl, who, for me-and I’d guess for the typical BUST reader—is often the most relatable character in a movie. In The 40-Year-Old Virgin, she rivaled Catherine Keener’s magnetism as her angst, newly sexually active daughter. And in The House Bunny, she stole scenes as an acerbic punk. But it wasn’t until she starred in 2008’s Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist that Dennings unleashed the full power of her subversive charm, working her way into the hearts of indie girls everywhere. In the “one crazy night in New York” romantic comedy, she plays the sassy, smart-mouthed lead with an endearing vulnerability. As she falls for Michael Cera’s Nick, ditches her douchey ex-bf, and has her first O thanks to Nick’s nimble fingers, it’s hard not to fall for her.
In fact, Dennings has been flying under the radar as Hollywood’s go-to alternative “it” girl for the past six years, and it’s easy to see why. Her dark hair, gap-toothed grin, and non-skeletal figure represent the antithesis of your typical starlet. Her charming sarcasm and offbeat humor simply seal the deal. But now, with a starring role on a prime-time network TV sitcom, I can’t help but feel like the secret of Kat Dennings’ awesomeness is out. Especially since Max, the young waitress she plays on the Laverne & Shirley-esque 2 Broke Girls, shares her easygoing, wry, feminist-y attitude. And though the show’s location (a diner in Williamsburg, Brooklyn) is obviously a set and the premise is slightly far-fetched (Max befriends a riches-to-rags heiress, and the two plan to open a cupcake bakery), Dennings plays a character who seems totally real. Max works two jobs to barely make ends meet, shops at the Goodwill, wears a Run DMC T-shirt to bed, and has an acrid wit about her. It’s a part that seems made for Dennings, which might not be too far from the truth. “I was the spoiled brat who got offered the role, straight up,” Dennings says. “I read [the pilot], and I was obsessed with it immediately.”
Some of her excitement about the gig, in addition to Max’s coolness and quirks, comes from the fact that the jokes she gets to make are surprisingly crass for a show that airs on CBS before the kids have gone to bed. For example, when her roomate/ co-server, Caroline (played by Beth Behrs), shows up to work after her shift was supposed to start: “You can’t be late again,” Max says. “I’m already worried about being late…every month!” Or when Caroline asks her to open the back door: “We’ve known each other two days and you’re already asking for the back door?” The humor lies mostly on Dennings’ delivery, which is good-naturedly sly and comically casual. “I think that’s totally awesome,” she says of Max’s indelicate tendencies. “And I think a woman saying stuff you’d usually hear coming out of a truck driver is just such a great shock to your brain that it’s interesting . Like, I kinda get hooked on saying it.”
Talking dirty in front of a live studio audience every week wasn’t the only draw for Dennings. As she explains what intrigued her about playing Max-which, if all goes well, she could be doing for years—it’s clear that finding strong female characters is a priority for her. “[Max is] the girl who can hang with dudes and holds her own but not have to be sexy. I hate that. I’ve always hated that, when I read scripts about, like, how a girl uses being a girl to get her way, or she’s trying to be sexy for men,” she says, pausing only to take a big bite of her sandwich. “’Cause all women are sexy—the end. And you can use that power if you want to, but there’s a certain even more powerful element to not using it; just leading with other things— how smart you are, how funny you are. So I think that’s very empowering for women, and I think it’s really good for men to see a girl like that on TV.”
It makes sense that the show’s main female character is strong-willed and a tad raunchy, since the sitcom was co-created by comedian Whitney Cummings, who Dennings believes based the role on herself. The production is also backed by a staff of notable female writers, including Morgan Murphy, blogging phenom Molly McAleer, and former Groundling Liz Feldman. “That was a real priority for Whitney when they were looking for writers,” Dennings says, leaning forward at the table. “It didn’t have to be women, but they wanted to make sure that whoever they got thought women were funny—funny and powerful.” When I mention it’s unfortunate that there may be writers out there who don’t think that, Dennings gets animated. “There are! It’s so sad,” she says. “It’s not like a girl-power thing, it’s an equality thing—saying women are just as funny as men, women can be funnier than men, and I’m OK with that.” She adds that the estrogen-fueled set makes for an awesome working environment. “It’s just a great energy. It feels good, being surrounded by smart women—comforting.”
It’s not, however, a completely lady-run operation. The show is produced by Michael Patrick King, whose last project was a little series called Sex and the City. It’s a strange course of kismet for Dennings: King gave the actress her first big break on a season 3 episode of SATC way back in 2000. Dennings played a snotty, entitled teen who hired Samantha to do p.r. for her bat mitzvah. Though that was her first recognizable role, Dennings had been working toward a career in front of the camera for years. “I feel like I popped out of the womb wanting to be an actor,” she says, swiping a thick layer of eye makeup with her finger. “It has no ties to my family at all, so it came out of nowhere.” Dennings grew up in the suburbs of Philadelphia, with her speech therapist mom and molecular pharmacologist dad. “We didn’t have much money, so we’d go to the library, and I’d get movies like Top Hat, An American in Paris, Gilda Radner stuff—you know, classics,” she says. “I was like, ‘Whatever that is, that’s what I want to do. I don’t know what it is, but it’s just…me.’ And then I just ran with it.” Dennings’ brother had a friend who was doing some acting, so he introduced her to his manager. Dennings worked the connection, getting auditions and work in New York and L.A., eventually moving with her family to Southern California.
Her parents still live in town, and when I ask how she plans to spend her next rare bit of free time, she tells me visiting them is one of her top priorities. The rest of her day-off to-do list sounds remarkably familiar. “Truthfully: sleep, do laundry, clean. That’s usually all I do,” she says, sucking down the last of her mint lemonade. “And I enjoy it. I really like home things. It makes me feel normal, like I have a center of some kind.” Nurturing that center doesn’t always involve getting groceries or making home cooked meals, though. “I clearly don’t go food shopping,” she says. “I have a jar of marinara sauce in the fridge, that’s it. And I usually get home late and I don’t even remember eating it. Then I wake up and see a plate of marinara sauce next to my bed, and I’m like, Did you eat marinara sauce? With a fork? What the fuck is wrong with you? That’s not food.”
Cooking may not be her forte, but she is crafty as hell. “I knit, I paint, I draw,” she says, leaning back in her chair. In fact her love of art almost took her on a very different path. “I was gonna go to art school for classical illustration,” she explains. “I was getting a portfolio together. Every piece of art I’d ever made was on the floor where I was living. I go away for a while, come back, and a pipe had burst or something. It was flooded. Everything got destroyed. Every single piece of art I had ever done,” she says. “I didn’t go to art school. I took it as a sign.” But Dennings finds other ways to express her creative tendencies—she happens to be a master of budget décor. A DIY upholstery tutorial she wrote for Zooey Deschanel’s website HelloGiggles.com involves nothing but fabric and a buttload of safety pins. “My whole living room [cost] $80,” she says , proudly. “My chair and couch, the whole thing.”
Dennings’ DIY mentality and general cool makes her a natural BUST cover girl. But I had to find out about her views on the F-word. When I lead into my question by telling her that she strikes me as someone who is actually representing BUSTy gals in the media, she interrupts with vigor. “Oh, P.S., I love BUST,” she says, pointing a finger in the air for emphasis. “As soon as I got this [interview request], I was like, Yes! I don’t care what it is, I’m doing it.” So I’m not entirely surprised by the answer when I ask whether feminism is something she ever considers. “I absolutely think about feminism,” Dennings says. “The way I view feminism—and I know there are a lot of different things going on—but, at it’s purest form, to me, it’s very positive, supportive, nurturing, empowerment thing. I mean, God, who isn’t a feminist? If you don’t think women are as good as men, you’re not a good person.” Before I interject with an “Amen, sister,” she continues. “I like to think that most of the population of people worth being friends with are feminists, if that’s what feminism means. Again—it probably means something else. I’m gonna get someone angry, setting me on fire for this, but I think it’s a positive, beautiful, and good thing,” she says. “Supporting women is the point. It’s the point of life. Women are life. You have to support us.” I have an overwhelming desire to high-five her. Perhaps that’s why I’m not paying close attention when out server swings by the table with our check. Dennings slips him her credit card before he even has a chance to leave the bill. When I marvel at her swiftness and try to protest, she simply cackles, and exclaims, “Too smooth! ‘Too smooth Dennings.’ Put that in your article.” As our time comes to a close, I ask if she has any upcoming projects we need to talk about. She rolls her eyes. “I don’t even know what day it is,” she mutters, as she gathers her stuff to leave. “I’ll have to IMDb myself to see what I’ve been working on.”
Dennings throws on her sweater and picks up her bags, heading out to her next interview. Just after she leaves the restaurant, a bus drives by bearing a huge 2 Broke Girls ad on its side, with Dennings’ adorable face covering half the vehicle’s façade. I don’t think she notices, and she probably wouldn’t even care even if she did. But for a closing scene, Michael Patrick King couldn’t have planned it better himself.
KAT DENNINGS IS WEIRD
The bombshell 2 Broke Girls star finally found the spotlight she deserves—so why does she keep telling everyone how strange she is?
BY LAUREN BANS / PHOTOGRAPH BY TERRY RICHARDSON
Kat Dennings is hammering home that she’s a weirdo the way other actresses cake on their down-to-earthness and frequently indulged desire for In-N-Out burgers. “I don’t think I’m a weirdo in a bad way, there’s just a lot going on in my head,” she says. To be fair, she’s fielding a question as to why she’s called herself “weird” in just about every medium available—there was her recent tweet (“People are weird. Boys are weird. Men are weird. Love is weird. You are weird. I am weird. Life is weird. Weird is weird. Look, a MINOTAUR!”), multiple posts on her blog proclaiming her oddball status (“As you are undoubtedly aware from reading this endless omnibus of redonkulousness, I am kind of a weirdo” and then, just minutes into in our phone conversation, she labels herself “a weird one” yet again. Now she’s talking like she almost has it: “Maybe it’s a movie thing? I want to see as many movies as I can and I covet a lot of weird influential movies. I have a lot of favorite authors…Douglas Adams and Charlotte Bronte and Richard Brautigan. I get obsessed. That could be it—how I get obsessed with things. Though I think if I could put my finger on my exact weirdness I’d be able to change it.”
Change it? That would be a mistake. The 25-year-old star of CBS’s uncharacteristically lascivious 2 Broke Girls is swooned over for her deadpanning anti-ingénue persona as much as her anime sextoon proportions. Dennings was a natural fit to play Broke Girl Max, a tough, quick-with-the-quip diner waitress who charms with brassy lines like “Hey, when you get a second, stop looking at my boobs.” (True to form, Dennings sees Max as “a cross between Danny Zuko and Cartman.”) Michael Patrick King, the show’s co-creator and more famously the man behind Sex and the City’s epic run, pretty much molded the character specifically for Dennings. “I don’t think there’s anybody else like her so we basically hunted her down for this,” King says. “She has a kind of amazing outsider edge. It made everything else fall into place.”
Actually it wouldn’t seem illogical to assume that Dennings’s biggest roles—the wisecracking, indie-rock-loving teenage outsider in Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist; the caustic maneater with many a piercing in The House Bunny—were custom made for her, too. Dennings genuinely seems to be the brashly cool, funny girl she’s constantly cast to play, the type of girl for whom the term “girl crush” was invented. Just don’t call her quirky. “I hate that damn word!” Dennings shouts. “Quirky is what a guy would call a girl he doesn’t understand.” Noted. We’ll stick to weird.
By Lauren Bans
Photos by Terry Richardson
Kat Dennings has the sort of anime sextoon proportions that Russ Meyer might have built a film around. She’s got the requisite take-no-shit attitude, too, making her bones playing badass girls: the brash outsider in Nick & Norah’s Infinite Playlist; the pierced sorority sister in The House Bunny; and now Max, the snarky hipster-hating diner waitress on CBS’s uncharacteristically lascivious sitcom 2 Broke Girls – a character the 25-year-old instantly fell in love with, because she saw her as “a cross between Danny Zuko and Cartman.”
With a résumé like that, you could anoint Dennings as some sort of queen of quirk. But that would be a mistake. “I hate that damn word!” she shouts. “Quirky is what a guy calls a girl he doesn’t understand.” She would not, however, be offended if you called her weird. “I don’t think I’m a weirdo in a bad way. I just have a lot going on in my head,” she says. “If I could put my finger on my exact weirdness, I’d be able to change it.” That, too, would be a mistake.
Click image for more stills from ‘And the Break-up Scene’.
KAT DENNINGS TALKS 2 BROKE GIRLS, RENEE AND THE THOR SEQUEL
The new comedy series 2 Broke Girls, premiering on September 19th, is about two young women who waitress at a greasy spoon diner and strike up an unlikely friendship in the hopes of launching a successful business, if they can ever raise enough cash. Sassy and streetwise, Max Black (Kat Dennings) works two jobs just to get by, while uptown trust fund princess Caroline Channing (Beth Behrs) is having such a run of bad luck that she finds herself picking up shifts at the retro-hip Williamsburg Diner. At first, Max sees Caroline as yet another in a long line of inept servers that she must cover for, but she’s surprised to find that Caroline has as much substance as she does style, and the two girls from entirely different worlds become friends.
During a recent interview, actress Kat Dennings talked about what led her to make a weekly series commitment, that she loves how real her character is, how lucky they are to have such strong comedic forces behind the show, and how being in a business as risky as acting had often led her to wonder where her next paycheck was coming from. She also talked about playing a bi-polar girl in the indie drama Renee, and how her TV contract will allow for her to go do the sequel, if she ends up in Thor 2. Check out what she had to say after the jump:
Question: What led you to make a weekly series commitment?
KAT DENNINGS: To be honest, things were actually picking up. I was getting really exciting things, and Thor was just coming out, and I was doing really interesting projects, but I got to a point where I have done so many small films, and I’ve worked really, really hard, and then they just disappear. Four months of your life never get seen, and you start to feel tired. This came at the right time for me because I had just finished the most intense shoot of my life, in a really amazing way. It was an intense, complete physical transformation, and I was really drained.
And then, this literally fell into my lap. I was feeling like, “What do I do now? I can’t do another one of these films for a really long time. I want to do something where people will definitely see it because I’m a hard worker, and I want people to appreciate it. Not because I want people to look at me, but because I’ve been doing this since I was 10 years old.” TV wasn’t something I had intended to do, but when this came, and it was Whitney [Cummings] and Michael [Patrick King], with Michael giving me my first big job, it almost seemed like a gift, at just the right time. I was like, “God, this is exactly the answer to everything I’ve been wanting.” I’m just really lucky that this came along.
With so many films going on, both indie and blockbuster, were you hesitant about doing a TV show?
DENNINGS: I’m just in a really lucky place where I’ve gotten to work with amazing film people and amazing directors, like Kenneth Branagh, and amazing casts. This is just something different. It’s something cool and new, that I haven’t gotten to do before. If this goes for eight years, I’ll be thrilled. I love who I’m working with. I love this show because it’s real. It’s more like a half-hour movie than a half-hour sitcom. It’s very fresh.
What did you like about this character?
DENNINGS: I just love how real Max is. I’m from Pennsylvania, so I was in New York a lot and my brother lives in New York. I’m very familiar with New York girls, and I just love how gutsy and real they are. Max is so hard working. All she has to think about [is] her jobs and her rent. She’s never really had a moment to relax. It’s nice to watch that journey unfold.
What is your line for when sarcasm becomes too mean?
DENNINGS: I think it’s a personality thing. I have friends who are so sarcastic, but I never view it as mean. It’s just an intention thing. Hopefully, as the show goes on, Max’s soul will start to come out and you will know her as a person. What’s so great about a show that’s on every week is that you really get to know these people. As people get to know Max more, if she says something that could seem mean, they’ll know that it’s not because she is a good person.
You’ve got two strong comedic forces behind this show, with Whitney Cummings and Michael Patrick King. Were you familiar with their work before this?
DENNINGS: Yes, I was heavily immersed, as a matter of fact. I’ve always been a huge fan of Whitney’s. She’s so funny. And, I was actually on an episode of Sex and the City when I was 14. I played Jenny Brier, the blowjob, Bar Mitzvah girl, in the episode called “Hot Child in the City.” It changed my life. Really, it did. I was a home-schooled kid, living in the forest, and I didn’t even have cable. I’m serious. We had to get cable to watch that episode, and all my little home-schooled friends and their moms saw Kyle MacLachlan’s ass. It was pretty incredible.
When is the last time that you were broke?
DENNINGS: Well, things have been going well, as of late, but acting is one of the most risky businesses you could ever be in. You literally do not know where your next paycheck will come from, and there have been moments where I haven’t worked for a year. I’m a very safe spender. I save everything. I save all my money. My parents raised me like that. It’s never been an emergency, but there have definitely been times where I’ve been worried.
Do you have any regrets over having started in the business so young?
DENNINGS: No. I asked my parents, from the time I was 4 years old, if I could be an actress and they were like, “Absolutely not! You’re going to college and you’re going to be a normal person.” But, I wouldn’t stop. I wouldn’t let up, and I was very passionate. I was a smart kid. I wasn’t a rebel. I wasn’t difficult. I was just really passionate about this one thing. When I was 10, they were finally like, “Okay, you can try it for a month. If you don’t like it, we’ll stop. If you like it, we’ll go for another month.” To have their support was something that not a lot of actors get to have. I’m so lucky they have been amazing.
What do they think of your success?
DENNINGS: They’re very happy.
Did you study comedy at all?
DENNINGS: I haven’t actually studied acting at all. As a required thing, when I was 10 and I signed with this manager, she made me take her husband’s acting class once, which was enough. Acting is something that I couldn’t recommend to anyone because the odds of it working out are so insane. I don’t know how it worked out for me. I had no connections to this industry. I had no ins anywhere. I was just a normal kid. It’s amazing that it’s come this far. I’m so thrilled.
What was it like to play a bi-polar character in Renee?
DENNINGS: It’s based on the true story of this girl, Renee Yohe, and the organization To Write Love on Her Arms. It’s an amazing organization with a lot of cool young people behind it, and it was started for her. It’s about her journey and how she gets to that point of recovery. It’s an indie film, but I think there is distribution. They’re still editing it.
Will you be able to be in Thor 2?
DENNINGS: Marvel is so secretive; we never know anything until the last minute. But, one of the things that happened when I signed for this show was to make sure that I could still do films on my hiatus, so they would absolutely work that out. I did Thor before I did this show, so they would find a way to work everything out, if I was in Thor 2.
What do you like to do for fun?
DENNINGS: I don’t know. The time I had behind shooting the pilot and our first week of shooting was the only vacation I’ve ever had, since I was 10 years old. I’ve been working this whole time. I’ve never had that much space between jobs. This was the first time I’ve had space to do anything, or to take any kind of vacation. I had all these ideas, but I ended up just staying home, reading books, watching movies and seeing friends, which was the best vacation. My mom calls it a stay-cation.
What was your life like, growing up?
DENNINGS: Part of the reason why I relate to this show so much is because we didn’t have any money when I was growing up, and I used to get all of my films from the library. My mom would get me classic movies. I actually wasn’t allowed to watch TV, as a kid, except for PBS and Sesame Street.
How did you become an actress?
DENNINGS: I grew up in Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania, and my dad is a scientist and my mom is a speech therapist. It came out of nowhere. I would watch these films, and I just took that little kid wanting to be a movie star thing way too far, and actually ended up doing it. My brother’s friend from karate was on Pete & Pete sometimes, and I met his manager. She sent me on auditions in Philly and then in New York, and then I started getting commercials. When I got Sex and the City, it just changed the things I was able to get. And then, I eventually moved out to L.A. and somehow wound up on 2 Broke Girls.
Why were you home-schooled?
DENNINGS: At that time, my parents were disenchanted with the school system, and rightfully so. I was also a weirdo. I didn’t always look like this. I’m an actor now, and all that weirdness growing up has just somehow worked.
This Fall, Kat Dennings returns to TV in the Michael Patrick King comedy, Two Broke Girls. Read her interview here, then check out more quotes and photos in the September issue of NYLON, on stands now.
Your show takes place in Brooklyn, but you film in LA. What’s that like? The studio we were filming at has “fake New York” sets, and they look so real. It’s really creepy. When you watch it, it really feels like they’re in New York… And that’s actually a Michael Patrick King thing. He can really infuse [the show] with New York spirit. And this is a very different New York than Sex and the City.
Yeah. Not as glamorous
No. This is Brooklyn… I’m familiar with the whole Williamsburg scene, and I think it’s depicted pretty well… But Zach’s Diner looks so much like the Double R Diner from Twin Peaks.
Oh my god! I just started watching that. It’s so good!.. Season 2 starts to wane for me a bit, because I can feel Lynch stepping away. I can feel him being like ‘fuck it’. Because Season One is all Lynch, then Season Two is a little bit of Lynch. It feels different. But it was too much for me, because I had a viewing marathon. I spent like three days just [watching] Twin Peaks. I saw no one, did nothing except watch Twin Peaks. I slept on my couch because I was too scared. It was insane.
Tell us about your new show, Two Broke Girls. They hired one of my friends, Molly McAleer, to be a writer, and I am so excited. Do you know her blog, Mollshewrote? She’s fucking brilliant! I’ve been a fan of hers, and then we found each other on Twitter, because she’s friends with my brother’s best friend from Brown. It’s a whole thing…. And she told me that they were hiring writers… I called [the producers] and I was like “Hire Molls McAleer. TRUST ME!” and they did! Because she’s brilliant.
How would you describe your character? She’s very tough and very Brooklyn. She’s been broke her whole life basically, so she’s a really hard worker. She’s really committed and she’s very smart, and very sharp. Her whole life revolves around paying her rent, but she has this sort of secret joy she gets from making cupcakes, and she sells them at the diner and makes a little bit of side money through that. So she’s a very complicated girl.
Do you think being broke makes her bitter? Maybe, but it’s funny because when she meets Caroline, played by Beth, she’s bitter toward her because she’s rich and whatever, but she’s broke now. And that kind of evens the playing field. and then she sort of opens up and realizes that.
Have you ever been like that? I mean, I always sort of resented people who just got handed stuff. You know what I mean? I can’t even name any names, but there’s no one in my family who has anything to do with acting. There’s no one in the business. I ice-picked my way up. I had no connections; no nothing. So I can relate to that with Max, because we didn’t have a lot of money we didn’t have any “ins” with anything, so it’s just pure luck and tenacity that I got anywhere, and that’s kind of where Max is coming from. So I can really relate to that, and I’m an East Coast girl so I can relate to that. I love diners. I’ve never been a waitress… But I’ve done some pretty ghetto acting jobs in my life.
So how did you ice-pick your way into the business? My brother’s friend growing up, his friend from karate class – for real – sometimes had a guest spot on Nickelodeon shows like Pete and Pete. So I was like, “How do I do this?” And he introduced me to his manager, who’s in Philly, and she signed me, and I started going off to auditions in New York, and I just started getting stuff, like commercials. I was just the funny-looking kid in Philly, outgoing and whatever. And then I just kind of kept getting stuff. I didn’t really realize that was unusual. I got, like, two commercials in a month or something. But I was in New York almost every day. It was real a financial commitment for my parents, and a real time commitment for me and my parents, because they completely supported me, which was amazing. And then weirdly, Michael Patrick King hired me to be in an episode of Sex and the City when I was like, 13.
Tell us about that. It’s called “Hot Child in the City.” I played a Bat Mitzvah girl who hires Samantha to be my publicist… But isn’t that weird? [Michael Patrick King] kind of gave me my first big job and now he’s kind of giving me another gig.
Why did you decide to do a TV show? It’s more like a film with the relationships. Because I was like, “If I’m doing this, it has to have some kind of truth to it.” Otherwise I’m just selling out, you know? So that’s what people can expect, more real investment in the people, which I think doesn’t happen that much [on TV].
Do you watch a lot of TV? Actually, I definitely watch Cupcake Wars… and I watch shows that are already on DVD. The Nanny is my favorite. Golden Girls… we’re talking about classics right now… Twin Peaks obviously, and My So Called Life is my number one… God my first boyfriend looked just like [Jordan Catalano].
Really? Lucky you! Yeah. He was so beautiful… I saw [Jared Leto] at a NYLON party… He looks like he’s 20 years old!… Not a wrinkle on his skin. It’s crazy. [I think] he’s drinking virgin blood from Transylvania…. I met him. I think he’s really nice!