The cast of ANOTHER PERIOD on Comedy Central | © 2015 Robyn Von Swank

The cast of ANOTHER PERIOD on Comedy Central | © 2015 Robyn Von Swank

Actress Paget Brewster is known to procedural TV viewers for her near-decade as extremely serious FBI Special Agent Emily Prentiss on CRIMINAL MINDS. However, the Massachusetts native has a passion for comedy. Brewster is currently one of the leads in Comedy Central’s new half-hour ANOTHER PERIOD, Tuesdays at 10:30 PM. She’s also part of the Season 6 cast of COMMUNITY, which streams on Yahoo, and stars in Fox’s upcoming John Stamos comedy GRANDFATHERED.

ANOTHER PERIOD, created by its producers/stars Natasha Leggero and Riki Lindhome, follows the lives of the super-wealthy Bellacourt family in 1902 Rhode Island. Brewster plays the family matriarch, Dodo Bellacourt.

AX: You’re in every episode of ANOTHER PERIOD and you’re on COMMUNITY. How did you work out your schedule?

PAGET BREWSTER: Oh, we finished ANOTHER PERIOD before I started shooting on COMMUNITY. I did shoot an Amazon pilot while I was shooting ANOTHER PERIOD, so I would go up to the Paramour Mansion and put on the 1902 and the wig and the big dress and then finish shooting at the Paramour and then drive to Santa Monica to shoot a modern-day Amazon pilot called DOWN DOG about yoga. Amazon was wonderful and said, “Okay, we do have you exclusively for this pilot, but if you want to go shoot ANOTHER PERIOD, go ahead. As long as you’re available for us, go ahead and do it.” And they said the same thing with COMMUNITY. “Okay, if you want to shoot COMMUNITY, go ahead.”

AX: Were you getting psychic whiplash going back and forth between ANOTHER PERIOD and DOWN DOG?

BREWSTER: It was weird. I’ve never done that before. It was exciting, but a little overwhelming. But I was just so excited that material came to me that I really wanted to do, because I waited awhile after CRIMINAL MINDS, and only took things that I thought were great. So it was an embarrassment of riches to be doing ANOTHER PERIOD and then get this pilot and then immediately jump into COMMUNITY right after that.

AX: What are the origins of ANOTHER PERIOD?

BREWSTER: Riki and Natasha wrote it. They started studying Newport, Rhode Island, Natasha had had an idea about 1902 Rhode Island, and Riki was thinking about a reality show. They started spitballing ideas together, like, “Hey, we should write something,” and they were, “Well, why don’t we merge these two ideas?” And that’s how it was born. And then just researched the hell out of the period and the people and American history and came up with this great show and wrote every episode.

AX: You’re playing a lot older than your real age in ANOTHER PERIOD …

BREWSTER: Yes. I play Riki and Natasha’s mom. [Because of the real-life age difference], that would have made me pregnant when I was ten or eleven or something, but I have old-age makeup and I have a wig and I have glasses and I’m an older woman, an eccentric, wealthy Newport, Rhode Island matriarch. [The makeup artist obscures] my eyelashes with white powder and takes my eyebrows off, and then she paints lines on and we pop a wig on. So I’m in hair and makeup for twenty minutes. It’s great. Nothing glued on. I didn’t have to do that on this. Thankfully. I asked them if I could avoid that, because that takes a really long time, to do the real [prosthetics] old age makeup. Because that’s rough. It stretches your face. It can hurt. And getting it off can hurt, too.

AX: On stage, audiences in Los Angeles and elsewhere have seen you play the extremely high-style, Forties-period happy alcoholic medium Sadie Doyle in THE THRILLING ADVENTURE HOUR. Is Dodo similar at all to Sadie?

BREWSTER: A little bit. When I did the table read for ANOTHER PERIOD’s pilot a year ago, or a year-and-a-half ago, I was just filling in for the woman who was playing Dodo. She ended up not being able to do the show because she was on another show, and I did kind of that mid-Atlantic [accent]. It’s similar to Sadie, but it’s more like Maggie Smith than Sadie, but I was trying to do that sort of Victorian Massachusetts weird accent that Sadie Doyle from “Beyond Belief” has, but it is a little bit different.

AX: You and Riki Lindhome had worked on THRILLING ADVENTURE HOUR together …

BREWSTER: Oh, yeah. And I took headshots for Natasha, I want to say fifteen years ago, I think, when she first moved to L.A. She just reminded me that when she told me she wanted to break into acting, I didn’t know she would end up being this extraordinary stand-up. I gave her a bunch of books to read, like BREAKING INTO ACTING [laughs]. So I’ve known her for a really long time and just watched her get better and better and more and more successful.

AX: Did they bring you into ANOTHER PERIOD?

BREWSTER: They suggested me to [production company] Red Hour, but I couldn’t do the pilot when they shot it. So they shot the sizzle reel, with another actress, who is great – and then she couldn’t do the pilot once they got money to shoot a full-length twenty-one-minute pilot. So that’s when I came in. Because I did the table read, Comedy Central and Red Hour said, “Yeah, go ahead, you can hire her.” That counted as an audition, so I’m glad I did it [laughs].

AX: Does ANOTHER PERIOD have a story arc, or is it the craziness of the week?

BREWSTER: Oh, there are a lot of arcs. There are a lot of stories. The idea was sort of the Kardashians meets DOWNTON ABBEY. It all takes place in Newport, Rhode Island, in 1902. At the time, eighty percent of the richest people in the United States lived in Newport, Rhode Island. They were all new money, they were all industrialist, and they had no income tax – there was no income tax in the U.S. So they lived like kings in these massive mansions. So I am the matriarch of a family – I’m married to a land baron who just rapes the environment, and I’m so proud of him, because we make all this money from that. And my daughters are just rotten, rude, princess-y nightmares. They’re just terrible people. They don’t think they’re terrible. And I have a son played by Jason Ritter, who [plays] Riki’s twin, and they’re in an incestuous relationship. Riki and Natasha’s characters are both married to other men, and they are gay lovers. So it is a soap opera. But are there all these weird issues about race and gender and relationships and divorce and even income tax, and also just the disparity between the working servants in the house and the wealthy and how it was such a vast difference in the way they lived. The servants lived underneath the house in a basement, they eat once a day, they’re treated like garbage by this wealthy family. So there are a lot of arcs, there are a lot of stories that weave in and out.

AX: Is it single-camera or multi-camera?

BREWSTER: It’s single-camera. And it’s shot beautifully. It looks like DOWNTON ABBEY. It looks gorgeous. They figured out a way to use smoke machines and dust to give it that Gilded Age look on the film. I don’t know. They did all kinds of tricks. Wardrobe and the art department were exceptional. I mean, [it looks] like something that you would get from the BBC.

AX: Do you have to wear a corset as part of your costume?

BREWSTER: No one wore a corset. I think Riki and Natasha realized, “We’re asking a lot, we’re shooting ten episodes concurrently.” We would shoot scenes from Episode Six on the same day that we shot scenes from Episode Ten. So there was a lot of changing costumes. And wearing a corset is physically painful. It’s terrible. So from the beginning, they went, “Hmm, let’s not do it.” Because they knew they were going to be on set or editing or writing for fifteen hours a day. They thankfully, wisely omitted the corset as part of the story from the beginning [laughs].

AX: Is there any improvisation?

BREWSTER: There’s scripted and improv. Honestly, I won’t know until I see the show what they went with, but we had a lot of alternate lines, we would shoot a scene and then shoot a different ending – we did a lot, there was a lot of messing around that was fun.

AX: You’re also on COMMUNITY this year. Were you a big COMMUNITY fan before this?

BREWSTER: Well, I had done a guest spot a year-and-a-half ago playing the I.T. lady in the basement of Greendale, and I hadn’t seen it before that. I’d heard of it and I knew a bunch of people who’d been on it and so then I started watching it, obsessively [laughs], and then when they called while I was doing ANOTHER PERIOD, they said, “Hey, do you want to join COMMUNITY? Do you want to do Season 6 of COMMUNITY?” And I said, “Yes, yes, I do.” They didn’t tell me what I was playing, what was happening, they just said, “We’re on Yahoo now, do you want to do Season 6?” And I said, “Yeah, I would love to.” And then I found out right before shooting I was playing an efficiency expert named Frankie Dart. So I have to come in and try to save Greendale financially. And it’s so much fun. They are the craziest bunch of people. They are so funny and kind and it’s exciting to join a show that you’ve seen. You think, “Oh, [Danny Pudi as] Abed’s not being Abed right now” [laughs]. And I keep calling Ken [Jeung] “Chang.” And I’ll be like, “I mean, Ken. I’m sorry, Ken.” Because I’ve been outside of it longer than in it. It’s exciting, it’s really fun, and I just desperately hope I’m holding my own with that group of people, because they’re so clear who they are and what that world is. So it’s a little intimidating.

AX: THRILLING ADVENTURE HOUR has apparently done its last live show, but it has run for over ten years and spawned a movie and a podcast and people have made dolls of your character and comic books and all sorts of things. Do like the representations of your Sadie character in other forms?

BREWSTER: I do. One of the most exciting things is seeing artists have sent – I don’t go on Twitter that much – Paul [F. Tompkins, who plays Sadie’s husband Frank] gets them on Twitter and [THRILLING creators] Ben Acker and Ben Blacker have people send them fan artwork, and some of it is gorgeous, like movie poster paintings and drawings. So Ben and Ben contact the artist and talk to them about licensing the image, so now these guys have posters that we’re all signing after the shows that was just a work of art that they did for themselves and sent to us, like, “Hey, I like Frank and Sadie.” And now we use them, which is really exciting.

AX: Did you have any idea when you started that THRILLING ADVENTURE was going to be such a phenomenon, or did you just think, “This is a fun thing that I do …”?

BREWSTER: No, I never, ever thought … Originally, we were at M Bar, this dinner club and when they wanted to move to Largo at the Coronet, I thought, “You’re making a big mistake. We can’t fill that place. Come on. We need to stay at the M Bar.” And they were like, “No, we can fill it.” And then selling out to the degree that we double up on shows – yeah, it’s been a fun ride.

AX: What would you most like people to know about ANOTHER PERIOD right now?

BREWSTER: It is the most beautifully-shot filthy television show you’ll ever see [laughs].

This interview was conducted during Comedy Central’s portion of the Television Critics Association press tour at the Langham-Huntington Hotel in Pasadena, California.

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