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ODETTE YUSTMAN on 'YOU AGAIN'

Contributed by Michael J. Lee, Executive Editor for RadioFree.com
August 27, 2010

In the comedy You Again, a former social outcast named Marni (Kristen Bell) is shocked to discover that her brother is engaged to her old high school nemesis Joanna (Odette Yustman). Though the situation is awkward and precarious enough when the first family gathering is arranged, the tension and bitterness climb to another level when it turns out that Marni's mother (Jamie Lee Curtis) and Joanna's aunt (Sigourney Weaver) had a high school rivalry of their own that ended disastrously. Sparks fly and subsequent wackiness ensues when two pairs of enemies from two generations square off in the midst of an impending wedding day.

In this interview, Odette shares some of her own high school experiences, and talks about working on You Again with an ensemble of veteran comic talent.

Catch Odette in You Again, now playing in theaters everywhere...

MEDIA: So do you actually have a mean side?

ODETTE: I'm very nice, I'd like to say. [laughs] But probably my family sees the mean side of me, or my fiance, or my brother, or people that are the closest. I don't know why human beings...The people that are closest to you really get the most crap, you know? You just unleash it on them because you can, because they're still going to love you no matter what. So it's easier to do it that way. But no, for the most part, I'd like to think that I'm a nice person! [laughs]

Do you have any remnants from high school that make you cringe whenever they're brought out?

Oh, most of my high school pictures are like that! [laughs] I was really lanky...I fit in. I did. I had a great group of friends, and for the most part, I survived. But yes! You know, you're just trying to be someone, you're just trying to fit in, and you're just trying to be cool. And so a lot of pictures are like, "What was I wearing? What was I doing? That wasn't me!" But high school is a learning process, and you're growing at your max, you know? That's when you feel like you know yourself, and you're going to do big things, and you really don't. And so that's why I think those embarrassing pictures...There's a lot of them.

What was your overall high school experience like?

I've been telling everybody I graduated with a class of 67 kids. So I went to a really small high school, and everybody knew each other. And there was obviously, [like] in every high school, different cliques. But I was friends with most of [them]. And I definitely didn't want to be friends with anybody that was mean...Except I did have a mean girl that was horrible... [groans] She was not a nice person. But she was also not a nice person to a lot of other people, so I wasn't [singled out].

Ever get an apology from her?

I haven't gotten it yet, and I'm still waiting for it! [laughs]

You could call her out right now...

Yeah, I could call her out right now! [laughs] But that would be really embarrassing. And I feel like she would just love it. She would win. I don't need to do that, you know? I did draw inspiration from her, though. I really, really did. I was excited when I read this script for the first time, and I read the part of Joanna. I was like, "Wow, that's this girl that tortured me! This is who she is! And I love it, and I want to do this movie, and I want to play her!"

What was the worst thing this girl did to you?

It wasn't anything specific. It was a lot of making fun of me because I was underdeveloped growing up. And she, of course, was curvy and beautiful and all that stuff. Well, I mean, not inwardly beautiful, if you will. But yeah, she would always sort of make fun of me in front of the boys that I would like. And she would make me feel bad about myself in that way, and leave me out of, you know, slumber parties. And I don't know why. She's just a mean girl. Just mean.

What would you do if you saw her now?

If we ever ran into each other, I would listen to her and I would [jokingly refers to a blatant theme in the movie] "give her a second chance." Oooo...! Bringing it back! [laughs]



How was your experience of working with a seasoned group of comedic actors?

Terrifying! I was really nervous. And I had never done a big comedy. You know, I had done a few independent comedies, but this one was really nerve-wracking because you have all these really high-profile names. And you don't know...Women are catty by nature. I mean, I feel like sometimes women get together and it just doesn't work out so well. So I was worried about that, and I was worried about comedy. I didn't know if I would be any good at it, but I really wanted to try. It's sort of like my wheelhouse--I just love romantic comedies. I love watching them, I love reading them, and I really, really, really wanted to do one. So working with all of those women, I learned so much. I really did. And they all took me under their wing. And it was like a big family. It really was.

And what about working with Kristen in particular? We understand she really went out of her way to make you feel comfortable...

She did. She really did. I've watched a lot of her work, and I admire her as an actress, and I didn't know how it would be to work with her. So I was nervous going into the audition. But she's so warm and she's so welcoming, and she really befriended me, which I appreciated so much. Especially coming into this world of comedy, and I'm so nervous and the whole thing. And she was my best friend on the movie. I didn't have anybody else. We were working long hours, and she gave me relationship advice and friendship advice and all that. She's great. She's going to be President one day, I'm sure. She's amazing.

How was it cheerleading alongside Jamie Lee Curtis?

I think that Jamie was a cheerleader in high school. I was also a cheerleader...It was fantastic. She was so excited to do it. I think she was drawing from past experiences, and she was sort of teaching me, and I'm like, "Yeah, okay, you're Jamie Lee Curtis, I'll do whatever you want me to do!" [laughs] And it actually took us not that long to do. Probably a few days we rehearsed it. It was one of the first scenes of the movie that we shot. So that was fun. It got the ball rolling, for sure.

Like Jamie, you have worked with the current Governor of California...

Yes! Arnie!

Did you and Jamie compare notes on your experiences?

[laughs] I think I was probably too embarrassed to tell Jamie I was in Kindergarten Cop. [laughs] It's so embarrassing!

It's a fun movie...

I'd love to say hi to him, and my parents have so many pictures of me and him on their walls, it's really embarrassing. [laughs] But I do remember that experience so well. It's very weird, it's so vivid in my mind. It was cool.

How old were you?

I was 4, turning 5.

What's the vivid memory?

There was 30 kids my own age, and I remember torturing Arnold--you know, going to his trailer and doing the knock-knock ditch. All the little kids would knock and then run away, and then he'd open the door. And then we'd do it five times, and he'd finally just [be] like, "Aiiigh! Get these kids away from me!!!" It was so fun. It was so fun. [laughs]

How did you feel about Joanna's big dancing and singing number at the end? You were pretty good...

Oh, did you think so? I feel like I'm a horrible dancer! I am so awkward! And I come from a big Cuban family, and they all know how to shake it--I mean, really well. And I'm just the one that's like "I don't know what I'm doing!" So I had to learn the choreography. It was difficult. It was really challenging for me, but I had to do it. I didn't know that the dance sequence was going to be in the movie, or even the rap... [laughs] That was embarrassing. So I didn't know it was going to be in the movie, and they compared it to Cameron Diaz's moment when she was in My Best Friend's Wedding and singing the karaoke. And I thought, "Well, that's not so bad. She made a fool of herself--I can do the same thing." Come to find out that I had to be really good, and I had to dance well! And I said, "I don't know how I'm going to do this." [laughs] But I worked hard, and hopefully...It's very embarrassing, but hopefully people will laugh. I'll never live it down. I know it. [laughs]

Director Andy Fickman seems to have a propensity for assigning nicknames to people, and he referred to you earlier as "Odie." Are you down with that?

I've been Odie my whole life! So yeah...My brother gave me the nickname. We were watching Garfield one day, and he was like, "You look like a dog! You're Odie!" I'm like, "Really?" And it stuck. So I'm Odie. And it's actually weird when people call me Odette. I feel like I'm in trouble, you know? My parents call me Odette, or [my fiance] when he's mad.

Victor Garber's character subscribes to a ridiculous diet in this film that requires him to eat with a blindfold. Have you tried or heard of an equally strange diet?

The crazy one that I hear...The cayenne pepper and the lemonade...Have you heard of that one? That's crazy to me! Why would anybody do that? That doesn't sound fun. I mean, diets aren't fun, but that sounds not fun at all...I like to watch what I eat sometimes, but I'm a big eater. I love food. I come from a Cuban family like I said, so food is a big, big deal. And my grandma's always shoving food in my face, like, "You gotta eat, gotta gain weight, gotta eat, gotta eat, gotta eat!" So it was a lot of Cuban. And now I'm learning how to cook Cuban! So that's exciting.

What's your specialty?

This dish called ropa vieja--translated into "old clothes." It's just really seasoned shredded beef. So you can put flank steak in the pressure cooker, and it just dissolves in your mouth, basically. And it's lots of citrusy flavors, lots of bell peppers, lots of yummy...Oh...On a bed of white rice with plantains? Give me a break! It's so good! So, so good...

Thanks for your time.

Thank you so much! Bye!


Related Material

More Odette Yustman Interviews
Full Movie Coverage: You Again




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