Jenny Slate: Woman of the Year

The actress and author talks working with her husband on Marcel the Shell, Mona-Lisa's polyester wardrobe and the scary thing about marriage


(Photo: Amanda Edwards/WireImage/Getty)

She dazzled in indie hit Obvious Child; she co-starred in acclaimed TV comedy Married; she guested on Parks and Recreation, Brooklyn Nine-Nine, House of Lies, Bob’s Burgers and Kroll Show; and now her lovable mollusk, Marcel the Shell (voiced by Slate, 32, and co-created with her husband, Dean Fleischer-Camp), has a new YouTube video and children’s book, Marcel the Shell: The Most Surprised I’ve Ever Been (Razorbill, $21). We quizzed Slate on her amazing, spectacular 2014:

How did you come up with the voice for Marcel? I do a lot of weird voices. This one started while I was away for a wedding. It was a ton of men in the room and just me. We’re all packed in there, and I felt really small and I started to talk in that voice: [Marcel voice] “Oh god, this sucks.”

What’s it like working with your husband? I love doing Marcel with Dean because it makes him completely unfamiliar to me. When I watch him filming Marcel or doing the audio, he becomes that mysterious mind that I fell in love with and I realize that there’s a lot about his brain that I don’t know.

What drew you to Obvious Child[My character] Donna makes clear decisions, but she’s not a perfect person. She’s somebody we can love even when she’s very self-loathing. I love her combination of doubt and natural strength.

Your Parks and Rec character, Mona-Lisa, has a crazy wardrobe. Any one piece that helped you get in character? We pick the opposite of what I would like. I hate polyester, I hate anything that traps your B.O. and reactivates it the next time you put it on. Also, Mona-Lisa always has some sort of an animal on her—either she’s wearing a sh-tty faux-fur vest or she has a shirt with a lion on it. She’s one of those people who, just in case you don’t know she’s the sh-t, she’s going to hammer home, I’m an exciting vibrant, woman by wearing an entire lion.

What intrigued you about MarriedI was interested in playing a woman who has used sex as her calling card for most of her life, wound up married to an older man, and now wonders: Can I still be the sexy fun party girl? I tend to not go very dark in my comedy—I’m a pretty sunny person, so my initial reaction was to be afraid: Oh no, this can’t be what marriage is likeI’m only two years into it, and I hope this isn’t what it’s like! Then I took a closer look and understood: Well, it’s complicated.

What do you find the best and worst parts of marriage? Knowing that the person I admire the most is the person I’m going to be with for life is a delight—and a relief, honestly—but I also think that just like any normal person I have fears of becoming too familiar. That’s scary but also normal.


Marcel the Shell: The Most Surprised I’ve Ever Been (Razorbill, $21)