Interview with Maulik Pancholy and Zoe Lister-Jones of "Whitney" on NBC - Primetime TV Show Articles From The TV MegaSite

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By Suzanne

Interview with Maulik Pancholy and Zoe Lister-Jones of "Whitney" on NBC 9/28/11


Moderator: Tracy St. Pierre
September 28, 2011
6:30 pm CT

Operator: Ladies and gentlemen thank you for standing by. Welcome to the NBC Universal Whitney conference call.
During the presentation all participants will be in a listen-only mode. We will conduct a question and answer session.
As a reminder this call is being recorded Wednesday, September 28, 2011. I will now like to turn the call over to Tracy St. Pierre. Please go ahead.

Tracy St. Pierre: Hi everyone thanks for joining the call today. We have Zoe Lister-Jones and Maulik Pancholy on the line.

And as you know Whitney airs tomorrow night at 9:30 on NBC. But you can and I know some of you have gotten a sneak peek of the full episode on Yahoo! which is up now. I'm going to open the lineup for questions.

Operator: Thank you. Ladies and gentlemen as a reminder to register for a question press the 1 followed by the 4 on your telephone now.

First question comes from Kyle Nolan of Please go ahead.

Kyle Nolan: Hi guys. Thanks for taking time to talk to us today.

Zoe Lister-Jones: Sure.

Kyle Nolan: My question was unlike a lot of the shows and movies you both have recently worked on Whitney is filmed in front of a live audience. Can you talk about what that's been like and how that's been different for you guys?

Zoe Lister-Jones: Well I think the cool thing about the cast of Whitney is that we were all either trained in theater or stand up.

And so I think for all of us as actors having a live audience is actually a real asset. And it's a lot of fun to be able to play with an audience and be able to react off of genuine, you know, reactions from them as opposed to a single camera which, you know, you’re sort of acting more in a bubble.

And so I think it's a really cool experience for all of us because it sort of feels like coming home again.

Maulik Pancholy: Yes I would say one thing too that's really fun is that when we do our tape nights and the audience is there the writers will often throw us alternate new lines that we have to try out for the first time in front of an audience.

And so there’s kind of like this, you know, there's like a give and take with the audience where they’re laughing at the scene and then you come out and you surprise them with a whole new line and when they’re thinking they're going to just like watch the same scene over. And it's just really fun. It's really fun having them there.

Zoe Lister-Jones: Definitely keeps us...


Kyle Nolan: Yes go ahead. Hello?

Zoe Lister-Jones: Hello? No I was just saying it definitely keeps us on our toes like Maulik was saying. And I think that's such a great opportunity for us to be able to play with.

Kyle Nolan: Yes well like I was saying it definitely shows and it looks like you guys are having a lot of fun and best of luck with the show.

Maulik Pancholy: Thank you.

Zoe Lister-Jones: Thank you.

Operator: Thank you. Our next question comes from Troy Rogers with the Please go ahead.

Troy Rogers: Hi Zoe. Hi Maulik.

Maulik Pancholy: Hey.

Zoe Lister-Jones: Hi.

Troy Rogers: Zoe I want to know why is re-creating a first date important to Whitney considering she and Alex are already a couple?

Zoe Lister-Jones: Well I feel like most couples who have been in committed relationships for a certain period of time will probably relate to that to the lull in romance that often occurs once the honeymoon phase is over.

And so Maulik and my characters who are in a relationship on the show are constantly challenging ourselves to keep romance alive.

We also have only been together a year whereas Alex and Whitney have been together for three. And so they’re at a very different stage in which I think they've settled into a sort of complacency of a long term relationship.

And so the first date is to get themselves back into the place of feeling that excitement once again and really being the attention to detail that sometimes gets lost over time.

Maulik Pancholy: Yes there’s...

Zoe Lister-Jones: Okay.

Maulik Pancholy: ...also there is also a moment at the beginning of the episode where, you know, I think Whitney realizes that they never did the first date thing.

And there's just like a little moment where she sees Zoe and I actually interacting and we’re about to go out to dinner then there's this whole like we’re dressed up and we’re excited to go out.

And so I think from there this like idea sparks in Whitney's head that she's like wow we never did that and I want to do that, the excitement of the first date.

Troy Rogers: All right well with that being said Maulik I want to know from a guy's perspective why does Neal have an interest in going along with Lily's plan to stage this chance encounter thing?

Maulik Pancholy: Well I don't know if you’ve watched the episode online or not but that - this - the first date between Alex and Whitney causes some strain in their relationship as they get through it which is what the episode deals with.

And I think by the end of it we are trying to anxiously get them back together to alleviate the stuff that's going on because the first aid leads to a little bit of trouble on their parts.

Troy Rogers: Okay, fair enough. Thanks again.

Zoe Lister-Jones: Thank you.

Operator: Thank you. Next we have (Tim Hulkin) of TVOverminds. Please go ahead.

Tim Hulkin: Thanks a lot for doing this today.

Zoe Lister-Jones: Sure. Thank you.


Maulik Pancholy: Well definitely.

Tim Hulkin: Is - my first question for Maulik, well also thanks a lot for the retweets today. And I asked my followers if they had any questions for you and I actually got a couple about Phineas and Ferb if that’d be all right.

Maulik Pancholy: Yes definitely.

Tim Hulkin: Okay two questions about that. One was how did you land the role? And secondly if you are responsible for Jack McBrayer being able to come on to the show or if that was just a separate coincidence?

Maulik Pancholy: Phineas and Ferb, they actually invited me in to come read for the part. Dan Povenmeyer, he's one of the creators was a fan of Weeds and they were looking for some - they wanted I think cast an Indian actor to play the Indian character on Phineas and Ferb.

And as if you know the show my voice is so different on Phineas and Ferb obviously then it is on Weeds. But he was like oh he’s funny, let's have them in here and see what we can do.

And in the addition they just kept pushing my voice like higher and higher and higher and it just worked.

So that's how I got the role and then I think they're all like really big 30 Rock fans anyway. And I think they wanted Jack McBrayer on there.

But I did, you know, I did kind of pitch to Jack but I think that he would have been on there with or without me. But it's really fun having him on there.

And my character and his character have actually had scenes things together that we've gotten to record together in the recording studio and it's really fun.

Tim Hulkin: There's been so many great talents doing voices for that show, Allison Janney, John Larroquette, and of course Ashley Tisdale. Do you think any of those cast mates might guest on Whitney?

Maulik Pancholy: I don't know if they will or not. I know that we are we’re, you know, we’re definitely having guest stars on the show and there's some pretty fun people so who knows, maybe. That’d be cool.

Tim Hulkin: And just a brief follow-up for Zoe, it seems as if you've been on every Law & Order incarnation there is except Law & Order UK. Do you have any plans on completing your set?

Zoe Lister-Jones: You know, it is a pride of the of a New York actor I have to say. That's a real rite of passage. And Law & Order was my first television show and then I continue to be on all four franchises including the short lived Trial by Jury.

I was never on Law & Order LA because I'm an East Coast thief all the way. But no...

Tim Hulkin: I forgot about that one.

Zoe Lister-Jones: I know but no plans to return. I've moved on from dead bodies to being in a loving relationship with Maulik Pancholy.

Tim Hulkin: Okay. And just before I let you go real briefly on the carpet you're always so fashionable and in style. I was wondering if there's any designers you'd like to give a shout out to?


Zoe Lister-Jones: I like that question. You know, a lot of my friends are designers and I love their stuff. My - I have a line called Correll Correll C-O-R-R-E-L-L-C-O-R-R-E-L-L but there’s amazing clothes that are sold in a number of boutiques.

And then another line called CO, C-O, which are really beautiful and chic basics that are showing in department stores now. But thank you. That's a real compliment.

Tim Hulkin: Thank you. I'll make sure to include those companies in my write-up.

Zoe Lister-Jones: Oh and can I say jewelry company I love?

Tim Hulkin: Yes absolutely.

Zoe Lister-Jones: That counts right, Stowellen it’s S-T-O-W-E-L-L-E-N.

Tim Hulkin: Great. I'll make sure to include it. And thanks...

Zoe Lister-Jones: Awesome.

Tim Hulkin: ...for your time today.

Zoe Lister-Jones: Thank you.

Maulik Pancholy: Thanks.

Operator: Thank you. Ladies and gentlemen as a reminder if you'd like to register a question please press the 1 followed by the 4 on your telephone now.

Next we have a follow-up question from Kyle Nolan with Please go ahead.

Kyle Nolan: Hi guys. So we've only seen a glimpse of Neal and Lily's relationship in these first two episodes. Can you talk maybe a little bit more about what we’re going to see with them and if they're perfect looking relationship is going to get some bumps in the coming episodes?

Zoe Lister-Jones: I think Neal and Lily will go many places in the upcoming episodes. You can't talk about it much in detail but, you know, they're definitely going to inhabit all of the places that a new relationship goes and the things that you start to learn and find out about after a year together. And there will be discussions of marriage.

Maulik Pancholy: I mean I think Neal and Lily like they're pretty fearless about being in a relationship and being a couple.

You know, and I think they represent that side of they’re just a couple that like they really love courtship and they love being in love and I think that's all going to continue to play out.

But I also think that like they're very three-dimensional characters and they’re going to encounter their own issues that they'll have to deal with over the season.

Kyle Nolan: Great. Thanks.

Zoe Lister-Jones: Thanks.

Operator: Thank you. Next we have a question from (Joy Alisha) with Pop on the Go ahead.

Joy Alisha: Hi guys. How are you?

Zoe Lister-Jones: Hi. Good, thanks.

Maulik Pancholy: Hey good. How are you?

Joy Alisha: I'm great. So I heard that the show is based on Whitney's standup and her experiences but she's kind of like a frat boy trapped inside a woman's body as far as her standup is concerned, you know?

So I was just wondering has it been challenging for her to, you know, kind of tame her content and make it prime time, you know, friendly?

Maulik Pancholy: You know, I mean Whitney talks about how the character that she's playing on the show is different than who she is doing standup and that the person that she was -- I'm kind of paraphrasing the way, Whitney says it here -- but the person that she was when she was doing standup was single and this character that she's playing on the show it’s a person in a relationship so that kind of changes who she is.

So there's a little bit of a difference between her and her standup. But in terms of toning stuff down I don't know what- do you have thoughts on that Zoe?

Zoe Lister-Jones: You know, I think it's funny you call her a frat boy inside a woman's body. I mean I think Whitney's delivery is definitely fearless and her content is fearless.

But I do think that, you know, she's truly a feminist. And I think the content might be toned down in terms of like profanities.

But in terms of the, I think the message that has always been a part of Whitney's voice it's pretty consistent in that it is about what it is to be a woman in a relationship in a very complicated new climate.

And I think that's what's so exciting about the show is that Whitney really tells it like it is and she makes it superb relatable but she also has a very distinct point of view that is not (to seem) eccentric but really, you know, pro-female and feminist without being didactic.

Joy Alisha: So do you have any...


Maulik Pancholy: Oh go ahead, go ahead.

Joy Alisha: No, no go ahead.

Maulik Pancholy: Well I was just going to say just to riff off of what Zoe was saying that she's - I think the show’s like really honest in in terms of the way it speaks about like relationships and sex.

And maybe that's something that makes this a little bit edgy and refreshing for network television that she's not shying away. She is kind of - she's still putting out the message that she wants to put out there.

Zoe Lister-Jones: Yes and I mean like to have a pilot episode on network television be - have like part of the takeaway is in a sex shop is like somewhat outrageous. I think that she is constantly pushing the bounds and the writers are all trying to push the bounds.

Joy Alisha: Definitely. Have you read any of the reviews yet? I mean do you engage in that or due you, you know, prefer to just do your best and, you know, not really pay attention to that?

Zoe Lister-Jones: I don't read them because I don't think it’s helpful to my process. And I think as actors we’re all pretty sensitive.

So it's, you know, it's always hard to digest any negative feedback. But I think also that it's - I think we all have such faith in the show and we all have so much fun doing the show that that's all that really matters at this moment.

Maulik Pancholy: Yes and I...

Joy Alisha: Are you guys...

Maulik Pancholy: ...would second that.

Joy Alisha: Are you able to ad lib at any time?

Zoe Lister-Jones: We don't really ad lib no, right Maulik?

Maulik Pancholy: No the scripts are like so tightly written and the - we shoot in front of a live audience so for four of the five days it takes to film an episode we are rehearsing and we’re, you know, so occasionally someone will like think of something funny and but for the most part it's like the writers are getting to hear their words and to tweak it and to get it to be funnier.

And we just have - we have like an amazing staff of writers and so most of it's like pretty tightly written. I feel like the - any improving comes sort of like in the physical actions in the moment. But...

Zoe Lister-Jones: There will be moments occasionally when an actor well ad lib something in rehearsal and it will get written in to the script which is always cool.

Joy Alisha: Well I love this show. I'm such a huge Whitney fan obviously. My description was a little, you know, unique but I love (unintelligible). I think it’s going to continue to just do so well. So thank you so much.

Zoe Lister-Jones: Thank you so much.

Maulik Pancholy: Thanks. That's so nice.

Operator: Thank you. Next we have (Camilla Wallace) with Premier Guide Media. Please go ahead.

Camilla Wallace: Hi guys. Thank you for the interview.

Maulik Pancholy: Yes.

Zoe Lister-Jones: Sure.

Camilla Wallace: I have a question. Is there going to be a big change or a shocker between your characters for the season?

Zoe Lister-Jones: Maulik?

Maulik Pancholy: I don't know. I feel like it's a leading question. Do you know something we don't know?

Camilla Wallace: No.

Zoe Lister-Jones: It there will be a surprise this season but we can't talk about it. So you'll have to stay tuned.

Camilla Wallace: Okay. I was hoping to hear more.

Zoe Lister-Jones: It won't take long. It won't take long for surprises to be revealed. So hopefully you and your fans will keep tuning in.

Camilla Wallace: Okay I have one more question. I see that you guys get along very well. Is the chemistry always this great onset?

Zoe Lister-Jones: No.

Maulik Pancholy: I think we’re pretty lucky. I feel like we’re very lucky. Like our cast actually genuinely enjoys hanging out.

Like even today for example, after we finished rehearsal we all hung out and had lunch together.

And I think that is, you know, I don't know what every other show is like but it's totally a gift that we all really get along and are really, really friends.

Zoe Lister-Jones: Yes and I think Whitney in casting the show with NBC was hyperaware of that, that she wanted to cast people that all could be friends because she wanted the chemistry to feel genuine.

And so that's sort of a testament to her that she put us all together. And we do really have a lot of fun.

Camilla Wallace: Okay. Thank you guys once again.

Zoe Lister-Jones: Thank you.

Maulik Pancholy: Thank you.

Camilla Wallace: Bye.

Zoe Lister-Jones: Bye.

Operator: Thanks. Thank you. Next we have a follow-up from Kyle Nolan with Please go ahead.

Kyle Nolan: Hello again.

Zoe Lister-Jones: Hi.

Kyle Nolan: So tomorrow night’s episode is about trying to re-create a first date that never happened. So is - if you guys could have something that - some event that you missed out on that you could re-create what would you choose?

Zoe Lister-Jones: In our real lives?

Kyle Nolan: Yes.

Zoe Lister-Jones: Maulik you go first.

Maulik Pancholy: Wow that's a good question. Something that I’d want to create that I missed out on. I need a second to think about that.

Zoe Lister-Jones: That's a (toughy). That's a good question. This is like therapy. What are your main regrets? It's a long list. Oh God.

Maulik Pancholy: I might want to re-create - I mean I didn't miss out on it but I might want to re-create my high school prom like knowing what I know now like knowing that like it's okay to be a nerd and awkward and be insecure. I may want to re-create that moment and get to do it again without all that anxiety and fear.

Zoe Lister-Jones: Oh that's a good one. My high school prom was a disaster. Yes I would say if I could re-create, it would be to have fun in all of the times that I was fearful or like that which is most of my life.

I'm a Jew. I'm driven by fear. And so that's my New Year's resolution that I'm going to have fun - more fun and less fear.

Kyle Nolan: Okay great. And one last follow-up question for Maulik. So now that you're on Whitney will we still see Jonathan on 30 Rock or are you all done with that role?

Maulik Pancholy: I think you will see Jonathan on 30 Rock. They're both shows are NBC and I know that Tina Fey wants to keep the character on the show.

And I know that I would love to still do it. It's just be a matter of working out schedules.

Obviously Whitney shoots - or not obviously but Whitney shoots in Los Angeles and 30 Rock shoots in New York. But I like traveling so I think we can make it work out.

Kyle Nolan: Great, thanks.

Zoe Lister-Jones: Thank you.

Operator: Thank you. Next we have a follow-up from (Tim Hulkin) with TV Overmind. Please go ahead.

Tim Hulkin: Hi. It's me again. I was just wondering here's a pretty basic question but what do you like best about playing a couple opposite each other?

Like I've read that you’re a vegetarian Maulik so does she eat beef before kissing scenes or what goes on? Would you rather just be playing friends or are you happier playing a romantic couple?

Zoe Lister-Jones: Eat a lot of beef before kissing scenes.

Maulik Pancholy: Do you eat beef before that...

Zoe Lister-Jones: That's sort of my...

Maulik Pancholy: ...scene in the pilot?

Zoe Lister-Jones: What?

Maulik Pancholy: Did you eat beef before our big kissing scene in the pilot?

Zoe Lister-Jones: Yes. That's just part of my process as an actor. I just feel like beef is helpful for romance.

Maulik Pancholy: And I feel like it doesn't count like if I'm a vegetarian but it doesn't count if you're getting it out of the mouth of someone else. Do you know what I mean?

Zoe Lister-Jones: That's true. That's true. It's almost (humanitarian)...


Zoe Lister-Jones: teething the meat.

Maulik Pancholy: Oh my God I forgot what the question was besides the fact that you eat beef before you kiss me.

Zoe Lister-Jones: I would say it’s...


Zoe Lister-Jones: ...playing a couple because we really like each other. And so we get to hang out a lot.

Maulik Pancholy: Yes I feel like yes, we have so much fun together. We have so much fun. And it was fun doing those kissing scenes.

We actually one of the scenes we kissed so hard I actually bruised my lip and that's...

Zoe Lister-Jones: I think you were bleeding.


Maulik Pancholy: Yes I think I was bleeding. I was shying away from saying that because I thought people might think it's unsanitary.

But we kissed so hard that I have a little cut on my upper lip which the makeup people were a little freaked out about as we moved into the next scene but hopefully you didn't...

Zoe Lister-Jones: They were more freaked out about me because I did that.

Maulik Pancholy: Exactly.

Zoe Lister-Jones: Like that’s - wow. The beef makes me aggressive that's all.

Tim Hulkin: Well I think you guys are great on-screen couple and I hope the big shakeup coming up isn't a divorce or, you know, a breakup of any kind. That's just my personal hope.

Zoe Lister-Jones: Thank you.

Maulik Pancholy: Thank you.

Tim Hulkin: Thanks.

Operator: Thank you. And Ms. St. Pierre we have no further questions at this time. I'll turn the call back over to you.

Tracy St. Pierre: Thank you...

Zoe Lister-Jones: Thanks.

Tracy St. Pierre: ...guys so much. Thanks to Zoe and Maulik for joining us today and thanks to everyone that signed on for the call.

If you have any other questions following this call you can reach me at 818-777-2940.

Zoe Lister-Jones: Thank you.

Maulik Pancholy: Thanks you guys.

Zoe Lister-Jones: Bye.

Tracy St. Pierre: Bye, thank you.

Whitney Promo:
First Date Do Over

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