Feature: Kristen Bell and Kirby Howell-Baptiste for the LA Times

The friendship meet-cute between Kirby Howell-Baptiste and Kristen Bell barely registered the first time they crossed paths. Howell-Baptiste was filming a guest spot on Showtime’s “House of Lies” — which featured Bell — and knew her lines so well, the scene the two shared didn’t take long to complete.

Bell’s face twists thinking back on it: “I was about 13 months pregnant.”

“We genuinely met for an hour when we shot the scene,” Howell-Baptiste adds. “It was very quick. I was in and out.”

Their story really starts, as they both tell it, six years later on “The Good Place.” Bell played Eleanor Shellstrop, the self-centered and foul-mouthed deceased protagonist of the NBC afterlife comedy. Howell-Baptiste joined the series in its third season as a bubbly neurosurgeon, Dr. Simone Garnett, who makes an impression on the ever-indecisive Chidi (William Jackson Harper). The following year, in 2019, Howell-Baptiste joined Bell in Hulu’s revival of “Veronica Mars,” the cult teen detective drama that was Bell’s breakthrough role.

“We killed someone together between ‘The Good Place’ and ‘Veronica Mars’ — we were both at fault. In order to keep the secret, we have to keep this going,” Bell teases.

There’s a reason Bell is making quips about crime. The pair are currently starring as crooked coupon buddies in the crime comedy “Queenpins,” written and directed by husband-and-wife duo Aron Gaudet and Gita Pullapilly; it’s now in theaters and drops later this month on Paramount+. Bell and Howell-Baptiste play coupon-loving friends: Bell is Connie, a former speed-walking Olympian who copes with an unfulfilling marriage and infertility by couponing; Howell-Baptiste is Jojo, a friend and neighbor trying to find success as a coupon influencer. The friends break bad … nicely, turning their enthusiasm for savings into a Robin Hood-esque scheme bilking millions from corporations to deliver deals to fellow coupon clippers. [more at source]

09 / 24 / 2021

Feature: Kristen Bell for Self Magazine

“How are you?” has become a loaded question during the worst global pandemic in a century. Sometimes I say “Fine?”—emphasis on the question mark—when I really mean “Hanging by a thread” or, to borrow the title of author and reluctant grief expert Nora McInerny’s podcast, “Terrible, thanks for asking.” It’s loaded in casual, masked conversation, in fumbling, awkward emails, and also when Zooming with Kristen Bell at 6:15 p.m. Los Angeles time on a Tuesday night in late March.

How is Bell, actor, producer, and the somewhat rare not-annoying mom influencer/purveyor of CBD skin-care? “I am currently fulfilled,” she replies with a nod from the set of her new Netflix miniseries, the dark comedy-thriller The Woman in the House. Bell is eating a sandwich in her trailer (6:15 p.m. is lunch when you film until the wee hours) and wearing a caramel-colored bang hairpiece. “Going back to work was a little nerve-wracking,” Bell tells me, but it was necessary for her sense of balance—a word she hates but that seems unavoidable when talking about mothers and their careers. Like millions of parents across the country, “I was in my house for one year with a six- and a seven-year-old”—her daughters Delta and Lincoln with husband Dax Shepard (as everyone who tracks their life like a reality show well knows).

But Bell isn’t one to leave it at that, allowing any reader of this story to think she’s a perfectly cute super celebrity, the actor behind Veronica Mars, Sarah Marshall, Gossip Girl, and the unmistakably chipper Anna from Frozen. Bell acknowledges she had the privilege of sheltering in a luxurious space. “I say to [my kids] all the time, ‘I’m not saying you can’t complain. You’re allowed to have any feeling you want, and you’re allowed to sit in it for as long as you need. But when you’re done, I just need you to remember,’” she says, “‘we have the luckiest life you have ever heard of. You have a swimming pool in your backyard.’” But she is also one of the millions of people for whom the pandemic, in all of its uncertainty and tragedy, exacerbated existing mental health issues.

“I know that I present someone who is very bubbly and happy all the time, and a lot of the time I am, because I have really good tools,” she tells me. “But there are definitely days when the alarm goes off and I go, ‘No, I’m staying right here. Nothing’s worth it…. I’m just going to stay in this cocoon because I need to; because I feel very, very, very vulnerable.’”

Bell’s anxiety and depression came in waves during the long, dark valley of COVID-19. “I have trouble distinguishing between my emotions and someone else’s emotions, and that’s not a compliment to myself. That’s a very dangerous thing to toy with,” she explains. Consuming the endlessly heavy news took her to a “mental zone that wasn’t healthy for my family to be around.” Shepard confronted Bell in a way that certainly wouldn’t be right for everyone but that she reflects on as a turning point. “‘Hey, real quick, are you helping anyone right now by sitting and crying in your bed, or are you just being self-indulgent?’” Bell remembers him saying. “‘Either get up and donate money or donate your time or do something to help, or take that story in, give it some love, and come out here and be a good mom and a good wife and a good friend and live your life in honor of the suffering that happens in the world.’” Bell had an understandable response: “‘How dare you?’ But also, ‘You’re right.’” So she gave blood to the UCLA Blood & Platelet Center and made a donation to No Kid Hungry. [More at Source]

05 / 03 / 2021

Feature: Kristen Bell for Romper Magazine!

The next time you need reassurance that the world works the way your yoga teacher says it does, and that what you put out is what you’ll get back, consider the story of how Kristen Bell got the leading role on The Good Place.

The year was 2016. The setting: a Los Angeles movie theater lobby. Mike Schur, the show’s creator, had gone to see a movie by himself. Bell was there with her husband, Dax Shepard, and their two daughters, Lincoln and Delta.

Bell and Schur knew each other from New York City, where they had both lived in their 20s and moved in the same circles. Schur was writing for Saturday Night Live, and Bell was still a student at NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts, just starting to work on Broadway. Even then, he was in awe of her talent: “She’d been in The Crucible! With, like, Laura Linney and Liam Neeson!”

Eventually they each moved to LA, crossing paths occasionally. The time Schur ran into Bell at the movie theater, he happened to mention his daughter’s upcoming fourth birthday. Bell, unprompted, asked if Ivy would like a phone call from Princess Anna.

“She left, like, this two-minute message on my phone, and she kept saying my daughter’s name – ‘Ivy, this is Princess Anna, calling from Arendelle,’” Schur says. “And the way my daughter’s face lit up…”

In addition to having an enchanted kid, Schur also had Bell’s phone number. He called to tell her that he was working on a show and that she might be perfect to play the lead. The rest is television history.

The Good Place — a show about an “Arizona dirtbag” who dies in a tragic shopping-cart/truck collision, and then wakes up believing she’s been accidentally sent to Heaven — asked big questions: What makes someone a good person? What do we owe other people? How do we live together in the world?

Even if she hadn’t completed a four-season run on the show early this year, you get the sense that Bell would still care about those questions. [More at Source]

11 / 10 / 2020
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