Paula Pell Talks ‘Wine Country’ and Finding the Perfect Vibrator

Paula Pell Talks ‘Wine Country’ and Finding the Perfect Vibrator

Paula Pell’s name and face may not be as recognizable as Amy Poehler or Tina Fey’s, but her impact on contemporary comedy has been just as powerful as her friends. Pell was a writer on Saturday Night Live from 1995 to 2013, during what many consider to be the show’s contemporary golden age. She was also a writer and producer on Fey’s 30 Rock, appearing several times as Pete Hornberger’s embattled wife. She’s worked on Bridesmaids and This Is 40, had cameos in Anchorman 2, wrote the hit comedy Sisters, and even played Ron Swanson’s mother Tammy on Parks and Recreation.

Now, Pell stars alongside her SNL squad — Fey, Poehler, Rachel Dratch, Maya Rudolph, Ana Gasteyer, and Emily Spivey — in Netflix’s Wine Country, Poehler’s directorial debut about a group of girlfriends who head to Napa for a 50th birthday party that quickly devolves into a series of alcohol-fueled shenanigans. In a film stacked with comedy legends, Pell shines as Val, a lesbian dildo-enthusiast who is ready to literally spring back into life after having her knees replaced — a storyline based on Pell’s own experiences.

Over a few glasses of wine at the vineyard where some of the film was shot, Out caught up with Pell about her decades-long friendship with her co-stars, centering a lesbian romance in Wine Country, and her obsession with Lizzo.

Out: If you had to estimate, how many times have you been a little tipsy with the ladies in this film?

Paula Pell: In our history, oh my god. There would be a very large graph. At SNL you have that after party. And sometimes that after party is to soothe your pained soul, if things didn't go well. Or to celebrate, and either one you're going to be probably knocking down a couple. So, I would say on a weekly basis for many years with those ladies.

And then, since we've stayed friends, we're always trying to drum up our east coast-west coast little gang to have dinner, so quite a few times. Weirdly, when we were shooting ... we could have dinner at night and stuff, but during it we were drinking fake wine most of the time. I was the only one drinking real booze. No one knew it.

How true to life are the characters you play in the film?

The characters are really pretty close. It's all heightened. I would say mine is probably the least heightened, the fact that I was Dildo Claus on the trip. I went the night before to the Hustler store, before the flight, and bought very high end vibrators. To the point where the woman behind the counter in West Hollywood was like, "I'm going to give you my discount, my employee discount." Because she just felt for me. She felt like I had taken my last bit of alimony money from my husband and gone and bought a bunch of vibrators. So, I could see the pity in her eyes.

How does one select the perfect vibrator as a gift?

Well, I hope mom's reading this. I have a little knowledge of vibrators. And I have learned that, just like with food or anything else and wine, if you pay a little more sometimes you get a lot more.

I was in a store in New York about five years ago that had vibrator that had, they called it, lengthening technology. It was like magnets and it actually moved long and short, long and short. It was the most hilarious thing I've ever seen. But, it was like $300. And I think I bought it and then lost it. I think someone probably stole it from me.

Wine Country is refreshing in that it's female-driven and centers a queer romance.

I was so proud in this film to be A, a queer woman in it. But, B, a 55-year-old queer woman in it. To be telling a story that's just part of the normal day of these women is that I find this server at this restaurant cute, and I'm wanting to have a fun weekend, and I'm lonely, and I'm clearly between relationships, and I've had my knees replaced. And that's all basically true, in my real life. So, it was kind of written off that. That I had gotten divorced from my first wife, and then had knee replacements, and looking for love.  And what I love about it, when I watch the movie, is I love that there's nothing written around it to sort of go, "Okay, everybody, this is a gay story. This is the gay story, so this will be kind of the joke."

I think people are just ready to have that. ... They watch so many shows on venues [like] Netflix and Amazon — all these things where there's always gay storylines now that are an integral part of the characters. Not always. As a gay person and a writer, when we first started writing gay stuff it almost had like an inherent, not apology, but like a, "Okay, get ready because this is going to be about this and I don't care if you're good with it. We're good with it." [There was] a little hesitation. And now I just feel like, the fact that I'm in the restaurant and I look over and she says something about her girlfriend. And I go, "Did you hear her talk about her girlfriend?" And there's no thing of like everyone turning to camera going, "We're going to now talk about an older lesbian. She's a lesbian. They have sex. We don't know exactly what they do, but they supposedly have sex." It just feels natural. It feels like part of Val's world that she probably was in a long-term relationship and ended up alone again. So, I just really am proud of the effortlessness of it. It was written with a very modern feeling of, yeah Val's gay in this and it doesn't matter at all. It matters a lot and nothing at all, at the same time.

Do you hope that's the future of the depiction of queer characters in film?

I always used to say when I was younger that, when I was young and closeted, because I grew up in a very closeted era, saying to my gay friends, "If only people knew how normal being gay was." We always tease about how boring it is. "Oh you want to go watch my gay relationship. You want to watch my gay conversation with my fiancé about what kind of litter box to buy."

It's just life. It's just people loving each other in life. And some people have exciting lives. Some people have really dull lives and that cuts right through whether you're gay, straight, or otherwise, anywhere in the spectrum of sexuality.

I just love now that these stories are now going to be told specifically, and truthfully, and authentically from the voices, and mouths, and minds of people that experienced it. Because, like I said, I used to think, "Is there any way I could express that?" when I was afraid to come out to my family or afraid to come out to people. How do you tell people that you just love someone. You're just young and you love someone and it felt natural. You didn't decide it. You didn't go, "I'm a woman and she's a woman, but I think I'm going to decide to have a crush on her." No, it just happens. And then you go, "Oh, I'm this."

I just love that I used to feel strange about saying out loud, "Wife.” But now I'm totally living loud and living large.

I imagine that all of you having such a long friendship and having worked together for so long, this must have been a really fun movie to shoot.

Oh, it was so amazing. We spent so much time laughing. And a lot of my friends [who have seen the movie] have said, "When you guys laugh at each other in the movie is how you laugh at each other." So, it isn't actors doing that fake thing. You can't really fake it. I have done some movies with Judd Apatow and one of them, their real kids were in it, who are now beautiful young women, but they were these little adorable little tots at the time. And their interaction with each other was so priceless and so real. You can't fake that. You can't fake that authentic way that we give each other shit. So, it's pretty sweet.

Red or white?

Red. 100 percent. I drank so much white with my first girlfriend, who was my best friend in high school and then right after high school we got together. And I drank so much fucking white wine with her I'm not going to say the brand, but [it came in a] jug, with little loop; in giant plastic football glasses with ice. Every day. That was our drink. All the time.

And I thank that wine because I finally had the courage to come out and realize that I wanted to make out with my best friend. But, that wine made me sick so many times and made me just feel awful so many times that the taste of it now, it's like Jack Daniels a little bit. I can't. There's certain things that have memories of violent illness when you were young and very bad decisions that now I just, and I just love red wine now so much.

You guys talk in the film about your "DUI song" that you listen to when you’re drunk. What is your DUI song?

It always changes because I'm always getting into something new. I'm a major Lizzo fan now and obsessed with her new album. I play that constantly. And that song, "Slow songs are for skinny hoes. I'm a thick bitch, I need tempo." It is one of the best songs on earth that's ever been invented.

I bought a new car recently. It's the first time I've ever had kind of a sexy sports car, because I've had SUVs a lot of my life. Go figure. Really playing into that stereotype. I can get all the pet carriers in, in an emergency, in case of an emergency.

We kept the SUV, but I got a little sportier car and I was driving to dinner with some of my friends from A.P. Bio and I had the windows down and I had just downloaded that song “Taste” by Tyga. And I was like, "Play ‘Taste’ by Tyga featuring Offset." And I just kept trying to get [the stereo] to play and it was making me laugh so hard by the time I got to the restaurant because it would just go, "I don't understand what you're saying. I don't understand what you're saying."

"Taste. By Tyga."

I love Salt-N-Pepa. I like really filthy good dance songs like, “Get Low.” I like “My Neck, My Back.” Like any kind of song that everyone runs to the floor.

So, you're a bit nasty.

I love nasty song dancing. I like a really deep beat nasty song. I don't even love [throwback songs]. I mean, 80's, you can dance to a lot of that. But sometimes when it goes to too many eras, I'm like, let's just get something close to here, like a Missy Elliot. Just something that just makes you want to drop the can to the ground.

And with the new knees, the possibilities are endless.

Yeah. Oh my god. I have so much more bend. And I'm so close to the ground already because I'm just short and wide, so it really works. It just works. It's a natural progression.

Wine Country is now streaming on Netflix.

RELATED | Amy Poehler, Tina Fey, and Maya Rudolph Teach Us How to Drunk Text

Tags: Film

From our Sponsors

READER COMMENTS ()