A Conversation with The League’s Katie Aselton

Season 6 of The League is currently under way, and Jenny MacArthur has to be one of my favourite characters on TV. I took part in a press call earlier this week with the woman behind Jenny, Katie Aselton, which you can now check out before tonight’s new episode of The League on FXX!

Are you a fantasy football player in real life, and if so, are you a Shiva superstar or a Sacko type?

Katie I have to say I knew nothing about fantasy football before this show, but the show, it was part of jumping into the character was learning all about it and we, the cast and the creators, Jackie and Jeff Schaffer, and then the rest of the cast have formed a league on our own and we play it every season. I will tell you that our trophy is called The Aselton Cup and that is because I won it the first year.

Jenny has opened up the world of fantasy football to women who may have been intimidated by it. Your character not only mixes it up with the guys on the show, but has also won the Shiva. Do you think that viewers gravitate to your role because she’s not intimidated by the men in her league?

Yes and I think it goes beyond fantasy football. It is really fun to see a woman who can hold her own, toe to toe, with the guys and a lot of times put them in their place. I like this wave of strong-minded women that are hitting television versus this sort of adorkable girls who apologize for themselves. Whether it’s Jenny MacArthur playing fantasy football or Olivia Pope on Scandal, I like these very strong ladies and I’m super excited that I get to play one of them.

Back in the summer, you mentioned that you really wanted to see Jenny have a girlfriend. Now that you’ve filmed more of the season, is that something that’s going to come to fruition?

I do. I want it so bad. We’re halfway shooting. I haven’t seen the rest of the season, but we’ve had a lot of great male guest stars come on. I haven’t had a girlfriend yet. I really would love it.

If you could cast the person, who would you like to play that role?

I don’t know. I feel like there are so many cool girls out there I would love, but you know whose work I’m really loving lately is Constance Zimmer. I think she is really fun and also just mutually sassy. I think I would love to have just anyone. Anyone because any femininity at all would be great.

How much are you like your Jenny, and how much are you not like her?

I feel like Jenny is a huge part of me. I think she is the part of me that I sort of censor in real life, but Jenny gets to say it all because in that world you can. She’s my crazy competitive spirit coming out and she’s my mouthy spirit coming out, but I think I may be a little bit softer than her. I like my kids a lot more than Jenny does and I respect my husband a lot more than Jenny does Kevin, but I do think that Jenny and Kevin do have a good thing. They’re really funny and they do care about each other and I do appreciate seeing that relationship, but yes, I think she’s just an exaggerated version of me. She’s like me turned up to 12 on the dial.

Would you be friends with Jenny in real life?

I think I probably would have been friends with her in college. And then we probably grew apart. I think there’s maybe a reason why Jenny doesn’t have any girlfriends.

The show has such a great improvisational aspect. Is there a particular non-scripted moment that you can think of that really stood out to you?

The funniest improv moment in the history of the show was toilet kitchen, which just came from a day player who didn’t speak great English and looked at the toilet in the middle of the kitchen and said, “Toilet kitchen.” Everyone just held onto that and we still talk about it. There’s actually an episode that we just shot that you’ll see soon that we reference toilet kitchen again. It’s something that we just can’t let go of.

There’s some very funny stuff coming. It’s hard because there’s so much stuff coming up that I can’t talk about. The majority of our show is improvised. We’re given outlines with a description of the scene and sometimes there are some lines within that description, but for the most part, the dialogue is all improvised. It all feels very fresh and spontaneous because it is.

The League always keeps up with the NFL and incorporates what’s happening in the current season. With the NFL’s troubles over the past few weeks, fans of the show are waiting for the show’s commentary on it. Are we going to see some of that addressed?

We definitely will. We don’t leave any stone unturned, and as unfortunate and horrible as all this has been for the NFL, it does give us a lot to work with. I have a lot to say about this and I can’t wait to dig in. I hope I do have the opportunity to say something.

Why do you think The League does so well across the board with men and women, with couples and singles?

I think there’s a lot of fantasy fulfillment. Jenny is like the dream wife. To have this wife who loves fantasy football and loves to hang out with the guys and loves to have sex with her husband, that’s kind of what every guy sort of wants. Right? Then for the girls, to have Jenny who totally shit talks with the guys, puts them in their place and is great at fantasy football. As far as the guys’ dynamic, they get to talk as much smack to each other as they want to and I think they’ve always got an answer for everything, and there is a bit of wish-fulfillment in seeing that. Where it’s like that’s the kind of group of friends I want to have. I want to have that sort of life and really we very rarely ever see them at work, so that’s great too. They’re just always hanging out watching football.

Your chemistry with Steve Rannazzisi feels very natural. Was there ever an awkward beginning phase that you had to get over to reach that level of comfort?

It was never awkward when it was just me and Steve. It was only awkward, and I will add for Steve, only for Steve, when Mark [Duplass] was around, who is my real life husband, who plays Pete, and we’ve been married for a billion years. We came onto the show as a couple and I think it was maybe early on in Season 2, and Steve had to give me a kiss in the middle of a scene and they kept yelling cut afterwards. They’d reset it and we’d do it again and they’d say cut again, and then finally Jackie and Jeff pulled Steve aside and they said, “Would you stop kissing her like she is your sister? This is your wife. Kiss her.” He said, “Mark is sitting right there. I can’t kiss this man’s wife in front of him.” We’ve since gotten very comfortable with it and it’s fine, but for a while, it was a funny little hurdle for him.

Were you and Mark cast as a package deal or was one cast before the other?

We were cast together. When Jackie and Jeff were looking to cast the show, the pilot, they were looking around at all different types of people who do improv. So, they went to the comedy side and that’s where they found Paul and Nick and Steve, and then, they had a conversation with my agent and Mark’s agent. Mark and I had just come out of a film together that had a whole lot of dramatic improvisation and so they took a meeting with us together — and by meeting, I mean I hosted them for dinner and plied them with a lot of tequila — and they were like, “These guys are great.” The next thing I know we were doing a TV show.

When The League started six seasons ago, did you think it would go on for this long?

I thought I was going to get fired after the first day. I was prepared to be fired every day for the first two years. I couldn’t believe it kept going, but I’m thrilled. We have really found a great audience, and the great thing about our audience is that they’re also for the most part sports fans who are loud and loyal and that’s great. Those are the kind of TV fans you really want.

I love that the audience loves us. I love that the network loves us. I love that we get to tell the jokes that we tell year after year.

Photo Courtesy of FXX

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