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INTERVIEW: Iliza Shlesinger Talks Comedy, Mark Wahlberg, and Spenser Confidential

Iliza Shlesinger talks Spencer Confidential

image: Joe Scarnici/Getty Images for Netflix)

Spenser Confidential is a Netflix film that bring Alan Arkin, Winston Duke, Mark Wahlberg, and Iliza Shlesinger to Boston. Following the story of Spenser, a cop who tried to fight against a dirty coworker, getting released from jail, we learn that everything isn’t as it seems with this case.

The problem? Spenser comes back to finding his world flipped upside down and now he has a roommate in Hawk (Winston Duke). Playing Cissy, Spenser’s longtime girlfriend, Iliza Shlesinger has long been known as a stand-up comedian but shows her brilliance as an actor in the Peter Berg film.

Talking with Shlesinger, she brought up her background in comedy and how it helped create Cissy as a character.

“I don’t think I could make Cissy who she was without my background and Cissy is a very confident woman with a sense of humor whether she realizes it or not. She tells it like it is and that’s the job of a comic to say what’s going on, tell it like it is, and it was so awesome that I got to bring myself to this character.”

The thing is that Cissy isn’t just the “girlfriend” stereotype we see in action movies. She’s funny, determined, and a businesswoman (she loves her dogs) and that was important for Shlesinger to bring to life.

“Spenser went away and she decided to make a life for herself. So she definitely…her world didn’t crumble when he left. She picked herself up and made something of herself and I think that, in a weird way, we could all look up to Cissy.”

When I asked if she thought that was an important thing to remember going forward, she pointed out that there will always be those “typical” stereotyped roles, but it’s important for those playing these types of characters to fight and create a fully-formed character.

“The time has kind of come and gone. There will always be roles for pretty people who don’t have anything to say, not everybody can be the center of attention. But I think that, as a woman in comedy, I want to keep bringing complexity to these characters and having a one-dimensional woman doesn’t serve a purpose for anyone.”

Shlesinger brought up getting to improvise in the movie and I asked her if she thought that gave her an advantage when it came to doing an action-comedy like Spenser Confidential. 

“100% having a background in stand-up informs the character choices that I make. And sometimes you have to decide that no you have to be an actor, not a stand-up. But Mark Wahlberg, I don’t know if he takes improv classes, is great at improvising. And he’s incredibly funny, and that’s someone who is this critically acclaimed actor without a stand-up background so I think talent is talent and you can hone it in all different ways.”

Then, of course, I had to ask about Mark Wahlberg because … how can you not?

“Mark is a consummate professional and it was a real education in delegating of energy. Because in the scene, in the moment, he is incredibly available. He is so present, he’s there for you for whatever you need and he’s there to improvise and we had a really fun chemistry. But the second that camera is off, he’s back to being Mark Wahlberg, CEO and owner and movie star and doing his business and talking with his family. It was interesting for me because I think, as women, we’re taught to make sure you’re nice to everyone and talk to everyone and smile to everyone and give everyone your attention and it was really cool to see Mark be very specific and judicious about his time and where he allocates it.”

You can watch Spenser Confidential on Netflix now. It’s action-packed, fun, and Winston Duke loves almond milk, what’s not to love?

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