Do not read this interview with “Queens of Country” star Lizzy Caplan and picture her as moody Janis Ian from “Mean Girls.”
This year Caplan becomes a leading lady, not a sidekick. She not only delivers a knockout turn in “Country,” which opens the Chicago International Movies and Music Festival Thursday, but stars in the anticipated romantic comedies /Sundance successes “Save the Date” (with Alison Brie) and “Bachelorette,” (with Kirsten Dunst), which some expect to be this year’s “Bridesmaids.”
In the funny, strange “Queens of Country,” Caplan (who participates in a Q&A following the 7 p.m. screening at the Wicker Park Arts Center) plays Jolene, who distracts herself from an unhappy life with her fiance (Ron Livingston) through a relentless search for the owner of a lost iPod. The device contains the old country music Jolene loves, and she’s sure the owner must be the man of her dreams.
From her home in L.A., the 29-year-old actress (also known for “New Girl,” “Party Down,” “Hot Tub Time Machine” and the upcoming Showtime series “Masters of Sex”) talked about being mocked for wearing a cowboy hat, her big year ahead and when life feels like a country song.
What were your thoughts on country music growing up, and how have they changed since making the movie?
For some reason it seems to be a popular thing to say that you like all kinds of music except country. I hear that a lot. And I think I used to say that when I was a kid, not knowing what the hell I was talking about. I wasn’t raised listening to these guys or girls so it was sort of new to me. They talk about it a little bit in the movie in a very odd way—like everything else in the movie—the difference between old country and new country. I haven’t found too much new country I’m a fan of, but that old stuff, man, I can listen to it all day.
If it makes you feel any better, I think my line used to be, “Everything but country and classical.”
[Laughs.] I never said that because I played classical. So I was clearly a much more highbrow child than you were.
I know you listened to a lot of old country preparing for the movie, and you commented on the “general badassery” of those singers. How much did that influence you? When I watch too many British movies, I almost start talking with an accent.
Oh, no, you’re that guy?
I said almost!
[Laughs.] OK good. I think it’s fun to get totally [immersed] in a role, and it was very easy to do that with this because we shot it in this little town in Arizona called Cave Creek that seemed almost stuck in time. They’ve very into country music. It’s like, the population is, you’re either a cowboy or a biker; that’s the vibe I got. It’s an amazing town. There’s no chain restaurants in Cave Creek. There’s nothing but these little mom and pop shops. It’s fantastic. So it was easy for us to soak up the feel of the time—the movie takes place now, but it’s supposed to feel like a throwback to a bygone era, and that’s exactly what that town feels like. Since we were there for so long—we were there for two months—we were staying in a resort in Carefree, Ariz., which is right next to Cave Creek. It was the off-season I guess because it was over 100 degrees and the weather was miserable. Only the movie people, we were the vast majority of the population of this resort, so we just kind of scooted around on golf carts and we would drink in the bar at the resort or the nearby bar. We just got fully into the whole culture. I wore a cowboy hat every day and then wore a cowboy hat for like a month when I got home until the teasing—I thought the teasing would subside and it didn’t so I [stopped wearing it].
What was the comment that broke the camel’s back?
It was just incessant. Like I know I’m not a cowgirl or whatever. [Laughs.] It was just me loving this movie that I had just finished and people were just rolling their eyes at me. I probably would have done the same thing to a friend. Like, “We get it, you just did a movie that had line-dancing and country singers in it. We get it. Now you’re wearing a cowboy hat. It’s so adorable.”