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Jenny Slate may be a stunner in Old Hollywood glam for our cover shoot, but make no mistake: This is a woman deeply, joyfully in touch with her inner gawky teen.
As the braces-encumbered Missy on Netflix’s raunchy animated series “Big Mouth,” Slate embarked on a sweet, if spitty, relationship with John Mulaney’s character last year, and she’s back for more in the new season (released last week).
“Recording ‘Big Mouth’ makes me feel such tenderness for my teen self,” says the petite comedian and actress, feet tucked up on her couch with the head of her elderly bichon frisé, Reggie, in her lap. The Massachusetts native was “a pretty close sister to Missy,” she says. “My diary from being 13 years old is filled with what boys I liked and ‘Why haven’t I hit puberty?’ — which was years away. I was a teeny, tiny gal for so long!”
Now 36, Slate sings the praises of adulthood — “I can look down at my sweet little boobs and be like, ‘Yeah, I made it!’” — but she’s still transitioning: in her film roles, her personal life and even her real estate. She recently moved out of a rental in LA’s Silver Lake neighborhood and bought the nearby Craftsman house where we’re currently noshing on Slate’s fresh-baked brownies and berry seltzer.
The actress has been working so consistently since that purchase (shooting the Marvel movie “Venom,” out now, and a lead role in an upcoming Scandinavian drama), she hasn’t had time to really settle in. “I didn’t change anything except the wallpaper,” she says. “And the bathroom. Which looked like what a single man would think a spa looks like. Or a hotel where they have a lot of conferences, but they know people want their butts warmed.”
In August, she was back in New York, the city where she got a degree in English and comparative lit from Columbia, then ran a comedy night for years in Williamsburg with fellow comics Gabe Liedman and Max Silvestri. This time, she arrived with a bit more celebrity heft, as host of a splashy 25th anniversary bash for the feminist magazine Bust. Even for a seasoned stand-up like Slate (check out her critically acclaimed 2014 film “Obvious Child” for a sampling), this was a daunting gig. Some badass ladies were in that room: Erykah Badu, Eve Ensler, and Phoebe Robinson of “2 Dope Queens.”
“I was really nervous,” Slate says. “I was like, ‘Is my material wise enough? Is it progressive enough?’” But when she took the stage, she killed, especially when delving back into that bottomless well of teen melodrama.
“I always feel excited and happy when I talk about the constant but unusable horniness I felt as a teenager,” she says. “And that was because when I was 15, I looked like an 11-year-old. I had the horniness of a 45-year-old, very sexually experienced woman. But nobody wanted in, because it didn’t line up with what I looked like.
“I think a lot of people relate to that,” she continues. “Everybody at one time or another has had a s – – t-ton of horniness and no way to change it from potential energy to kinetic!”
While Slate recently told Elle that she’s “ready to fall in love again,” she insists to Alexa that she’s not rushing into another long-term relationship any time soon.
“I’m trying to figure out how to be in the world as a woman, without being a woman who’s attached to a man,” she says. Known in recent years for an on-again, off-again relationship with Captain America heartthrob and Twitter mensch Chris Evans, she’s diving into the relatively uncharted waters of singledom.
Before Evans, she was married from 2012 to 2016 to filmmaker Dean Fleischer-Camp, with whom she created the buzzy stop-motion short “Marcel the Shell with Shoes On” and its two sequels; the pair are currently collaborating on a feature-film version of that quirky world. Their relationship, now platonic, remains solid: “Dean, creatively, is really unlike anyone else I’ve ever worked with,” she says.
The first “Marcel,” in 2010, was one of Slate’s first big forays into voice work; since then, she’s played parts in blockbuster animated films like “The Secret Life of Pets,” “Zootopia” and “The Lego Batman Movie,” alongside edgier cult cartoons like “Bob’s Burgers” and “Adventure Time.” Her success in this realm is no surprise. She’s got a voice that’s both adorably squeaky and downright husky, kind of an aural approximation of her dichotomous 15-year-old self.
When she’s not working, Slate relishes the pleasures, small and large, of living alone. “The way I am when I eat ramen by myself, I should be in a barn or a stall,” she says. “It’s a real splatterfest.”
‘I’m trying to figure out how to be in the world as a woman, without being a woman who’s attached to a man.’
She also just lopped off her long hair. “I felt like I had been gearing myself toward straight males. Like, I only had long hair because I thought it was better for auditions, or I thought that’s what guys liked. Then I was like, ‘This is stupid! I don’t want to work for someone that unimaginative. I don’t want to date someone who just wants long hair.’ And I’ve gotta say, this is one of the best haircuts I’ve ever had.”
On a deeper level, she’s mulling over notions of identity and feminism, incorporating them into a book she’s writing. “I had been unconsciously discouraged from using the word ‘feminist’ for a large portion of my formative years,” she says. “I was a teenager in the ’90s. And somewhere in the zeitgeist was the word ‘feminazi.’ Now, I’m so focused on pulling out the roots of misogyny from my life. Because I think it’s in all of us. I think it’s deeply woven in, and you have to be super vigilant about it.”
She, thankfully, doesn’t have any first-person horror stories about sexual harassment. But she’s been reflecting on everyday sexism and her response to it. “It’s great to get out there and be like, ‘I’m a badass, and I don’t take s – – t from anyone!’ But that’s not what I’m like. I DO take a lot of s – – t. But then I right those wrongs in a way that works for me.”
Slate often finds that catharsis onstage. “A weird stereotype about comedians is that they’re really depressive,” she says. “For me, I think I do comedy because my inner world is begging to be let out into the external one.”
Acting in a comic-book movie also syncs up with her mission to right wrongs. She’s not the lead in “Venom” — that would be Tom Hardy, the titular, journalist antihero — and she won’t say much about her role in advance, per the tight-lipped Marvel p.r. playbook. But here is what she’ll share:
“I play a scientist,” she says. It’s not a stereotypical female character, because her role was originally written for a man. “I’m not a romantic interest,” Slate explains, then bursts out laughing. “That sounded like I said that definitively. Like, in the [real] world.”
The jury’s still out on whether she will make it through a screening of the film. “I’m a scaredy-cat, and Venom is a really extreme character.”
Slate found a surprising remedy for her fears while shooting her next film, “The Sunlit Night,” in Arctic Norway. “The sun never set. It made me feel awesome, because I tend to sleep with the light on.” She plays an American visual artist apprenticing with a housepainter, under German director David Wnendt, who helmed the gloriously profane, riot-grrrl-toned indie “Wetlands.” Slate’s a producer on this film, too — another first.
Now that she’s back in LA, the SNL alum would like to do more stand-up, but there will be new material to develop. “Usually after I’ve done a film, it means I’ve changed, and a lot of the things I wanted to talk about, I’m not interested in anymore.” (Although she vows the act will always include a fart joke or two; some things remain timelessly funny.)
Whatever the new act contains, you can bet Slate will incorporate her newly raised consciousness. “Something has recalibrated in me,” she says. “And I’m so f – – king relieved.”
Was this the most fabulous Paris Spring fashion week ever?
Fashion Editor: Serena French; Stylist: Anahita Moussavian; Hair: Nikki; Providence at Forward Artists using R+Co; Makeup: Kirin Bhatty at Starworks; Artists using Kosas; Manicure: Jolene Brodeur at TACK Artist Group.
Our cover shoot was photographed on location at the Villa Carlotta, a Hollywood landmark that was built in 1926 and recently renovated by CGI Strategies into glamorous, new residences. The Spanish-Colonial-style icon — once favored by the likes of Jim Morrison and Marion Davies — is nestled at 5959 Franklin Ave., near the base of Beachwood Canyon in Los Angeles. Its foyer features elaborately stenciled wood beams, arched corridors and a grand piano, while a palm-filled courtyard and sprawling roof deck offer al fresco delights (including a view of the Hollywood sign). Ranging from studios to two-bedrooms, residences at the Villa Carlotta — where luxe hotel amenities include housekeeping, dog walking, in-home dining and a 24-hour concierge — can be leased for stays of 30 days or longer via The Agency’s Billy Rose: [email protected] — Carrie Seim
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