The announcement that Maya Rudolph would be joining “Disenchanted” — the sequel to Disney’s 2011 hit “Enchanted” — as a villain was exciting news, if not completely surprising. Rudolph has always had an eye — or more accurately an ear — for how music and comedy can combine. Speaking with Variety as one of 2021’s Power of Women honorees, Rudolph described the link between the two disciplines as having some “magical quality” that work in tandem more often than not.
“I remember a kind of marriage between music and comedy,” she says of her childhood, when she was around plenty of musicians thanks to her mother, the late singer-songwriter Minnie Riperton. “Growing up, I do believe there was much more of an understanding that they were from the same place,” she says. “I didn’t recognize it as a kid, but looking back, I watch some home movies and see my mother playing a show with the Smothers Brothers. They just come from the same kind of world and share that sort of showman quality.”
When it comes down to it, Rudolph continues, music and comedy are “kind of the same language, weirdly. They’re both things that, when they’re done well, they can’t really be taught. You’re either good at them or you’re not.”
Rudolph has proved over the years that she’s great at both, but the “Disenchanted” role provides a new kind of opportunity that she can’t wait to explore. The day after the film’s first table read, Rudolph talked with Variety about being approached for the role, her inspirations for playing it and the ineffable charm of co-star Amy Adams.
I know you can’t tell me anything specific about “Disenchanted,” but I’d love to hear how you got involved.
Well, I’ve known Adam [Shankman], the director, for a long time, and Amy too, actually. He reached out and he just had this very, cat-got-the-canary look in his eye like he knew that what he was going to tell me was gonna be good, this is gonna be really fun. It’s nice to be in a place work-wise where I feel like I can finally allow what I’ve done to speak for itself so I don’t have to explain who I am or what I do to the world. I don’t know when that switch happened, but I’m finally at a place where I feel like people understand what I do.
What was it about this particular movie and character that appealed to you?
One of the elements is just the joy of it, and the fun of getting to do something that is obviously a romp. I mean, I didn’t realize the original “Enchanted” was 10 years ago, which is pretty crazy. It really was the first time I saw something ape itself in the right way. It was just done so beautifully, and with the right sense of humor and the best songs. And obviously, Amy as Giselle is just, I couldn’t think of anyone more perfect. The minute she opens her mouth you’re like, “I’m totally transported. You are a dream come true.” She’s such a gifted human being. So that part is like, knowing you’re walking into something that’s already so well thought out and crafted, and feeling lucky enough to get invited to be a part of that.
If this had been maybe 15 years ago and someone was like, “Do you want to be the bad guy?” I might’ve said, “Geez, I don’t know.” But I’ve come to learn in my many years that the most fun thing you get to do is when you get to play The Most. I remember when I worked at “Saturday Night Live,” I’d go into Lorne [Michaels]’s office really frustrated and say, “I wish people would just write me sometimes like, a wife or a girlfriend. Why do I have to be a weird character in a wig?” And he was like, “You don’t want to play the wife. Trust me.” And I know that from watching my friends over the years, these incredible actors that I admire, that they do these fun, arch, large, delicious roles.
“Disenchanted” is the epitome of what it feels like to be in a school play. You know you’re gonna have fun. Sometimes when I’m working on something I love, I kind of pinch myself and go, “oh right, this is why I want to do this.” Just this giddy feeling of putting on a show together, it’s the best possible feeling.
Have you wanted to do a musical like this for a while?
The answer plain and simple is, I think I have. When I was a kid I thought, “oh, I’m gonna grow up and move to New York and be on Broadway!” Music plays a really big part in a lot of the work that I do and I like to combine the two, but I don’t really know anymore if I have the stamina to actually be on a stage doing a musical every night. So this is the best of all possible worlds for me, I feel like. The sweet spot where I get to try everything all at once.
Well, I’m very excited to see you play a villain opposite Amy, who’s just absolute sweetness.
Giselle is such an unbelievably well-crafted character and so singularly creative. I can’t imagine anyone else carrying that so beautifully and authentically. She’s just otherworldly, you know? It makes it that much more fun. The idea that you’re going to get to play with her is what the joy of it is going to be. There’s some pretty heavy-hitters that I get to join, so I feel very lucky to be invited to the team. It’s very cool.
“Enchanted” takes and twists a lot of Disney references. Are you taking any cues from Disney villains? Who are your favorites? I feel like the villains always have the most fun in Disney movies, anyway.
That’s the thing! They always have the most fun. I like the women. There are so many good ones. When you’re a kid you’re like, “ugh why is the evil stepmother so awful? Why do they have to be so bad? The Queen is such a jerk, what’s wrong with her?” But now that I see all the nuances and the fun ways to play things, it’s just high drama. It’s the most fun. I don’t know if you’ve watched “Dynasty” lately, but if you’ve watched any scene, it’s so good. So arch, dramatic and campy all at once.
What’s so fun about “Enchanted” is that it’s got the free rein to be self-aware. Everyone is in on the joke. That’s what makes it such a brilliant movie. It’s such a fun way to watch it. We’re all in on it because we love it and can appreciate it that much more. I feel like when you’re an audience member that’s in on the joke, you feel like part of the team.
(Pictured: Maya Rudolph, Amy Adams from “Enchanted”)