In the second part of my interview with Pauley Perrette — the first half of which can be read here — we talk about how she spends her summer vacations, the documentary she’s making, her bakery, and why, though she’s now BFFs with George Lucas, she won’t be in the new Star Wars movie.
A lot of actors on TV shows use their summers to make movies. But you don’t do that. In fact, none of you guys from NCIS do that. How come?
There’s a couple reasons. When you’re on a sitcom, you work four days a week. You do a couple table reads, you do it in front of an audience, and then you go home. But for Mark [Harmon, who plays Gibbs], Michael [Weatherly, who plays DiNozzo], Sean [Murray, who plays McGee], and Cote [de Pablo, who played Ziva], when she was there, they work twelve hours a day, nine months a year. Their schedule is grueling.
So all we have free are a couple months in the summer, and two weeks around Christmas. That’s not enough time to do a big movie, even if we wanted to.
Or even a TV show. I’m good friends with Chuck Lorre, and he had written me a part for The Big Bang Theory. And I’m good friends with all of those guys; I’ve known Johnny Galecki [who plays Leonard] forever. And I was stoked to be on that show, but we could not work it out, schedule-wise.
But I’m also super, super picky about what I do. There were two different films I was offered — one was a comedy, the other was a drama — and both had something that I thought was offensive. I won’t go against my morality to do a movie. Especially since, and this is another reason I don’t have time to do other things, I spend so much of my life working for the causes I believe in. When I do have free time, I work with like thirty charities, so there’s always something going on.
We also need downtime. I hate to leave my house. I’m a recluse. I hate traveling, I hate going anywhere. I don’t want to do anything. When I’m off, I want to be home, watching NCIS in my livingroom. I’ve learned to really take advantage of my downtime and make an effort to do nothing.
Though you did find time to be do the voice of Lois Lane in the animated movie, Superman Vs. The Elite.
When I was little, I was pretty obsessed with Superman. I loved him. And now my fiancé looks like him…
Okay, fine, he looks like Clark Kent, he’s not in his uniform. But I loved Superman. I don’t know a lot about comic books or superheroes, but I always had an affinity for Superman. And that was one of those things where DC were like, “We’re doing this movie, we want you to be Lois Lane.” No auditioning, nothing.
What’s interesting is that David McCallum [who plays Ducky on NCIS] did the voice of Alfred in DC’s animated Batman movie Batman: Gotham Knight and was also a voice on Batman: The Brave And The Bold, while Mark Harmon was the voice of Superman in the movie Justice League: Crisis On Two Earths.
I guess they must like the NCIS people over there.
The other thing you have been doing in your off time is Citizen Lane, a documentary on Mark Lane.
Yeah, I’ve been working on it for eight years. It’s become the thing I have to finish, but it’s been hard because I have limited times when I can actually work on it.
What made you want to do it?
I’m a documentary fanatic. They’re my film of choice. I don’t watch many movies, but I will watch a documentary on anything, even if it’s something I’m not interested in. I’m a curious cat.
So I always wanted to make documentaries. But I’m also a civil rights activist at the core. I went to my first civil rights march when I had barely learned to drive. I grew up in Georgia, and in southern Georgia there were all these problems with the KKK and segregation, and so I drove down by my self, this skinny blonde white kid, and I remember marching in this rally.
Mark Lane is the almost-90-year-old version of what I want to become. He’s like a history lesson of civil rights. He was involved in the Kennedy assassination, he was involved in the MLK assassination…
Uh, you might want to say that differently, that makes it sound like he did it.
Yeah. Now we know. Ha. No, he was involved in trying to get answers. Back then, we didn’t question the government. But he did. Everything we know about the questioning of the Kennedy assassination comes from Mark Lane.
The big thing is that November it’s the 50th anniversary of when Kennedy was assassinated. So I’ve got a window of couple months when I’d like to get my movie out. I’m kind of under the gun.
Let’s talk a little about something I’m passionate about: cupcakes. You co-own a bakery in New York named for your mom (Donna Bell’s Bake Shop, 301 W. 49th Street in Manhattan).
My best friend, Darren Greenblatt, he’s a New York Jew, while I’m a Southern redneck Alabama kid. When we were younger and my mom was alive, I would spent the Jewish holidays with his family in New York, and he would spend Christmas and Thanksgiving with me and my mom in Alabama. My mom, who died in 2002 of breast cancer, was a baker, and since Darren’s a foodie, he was always fascinated by her recipes and her baking.
A few years ago, Darren came with me to Paris when I had to go there for work, and that’s when he suggested the idea of doing a bakery using her recipes, and that we should do it in Hell’s Kitchen, where we met. But he also said that we couldn’t do it without our other best friend, Matthew [Sandusky], who’s an unbelievable baker.
What do they sell that you think best typifies your mother’s style of cooking, and what is your favorite thing?
My mother was a big cake baker, so the cakes. She was always baking cakes for everything. Cakes, cakes, cakes. But I haven’t eaten sugar in six years, I’m a very healthy eater. So I always eat the chicken and dumplings, that’s my favorite. My mom used to make it every weekend.
You and I have one thing that we very much disagree on. I am very, very careful about who I call “friend.” You call everyone a “friend.”
The number one reason why my band is called Stop Making Friends is that I studied criminology, and you’re more likely to be murdered, assaulted, or raped by someone you know. I actually wrote a story in my head about this guy who thought his best chance of survival was to know no one.
But the other part is that my friends, my real friends, always say to me that I make friends everywhere I go — I know the guy at the Chevron, I know everyone who works at my CVS, and hugs for everyone — and, they say, it’s exhausting.
Though the new part I’ve added to the explanation is that I have never been screwed over in the industry or by strangers; the only time I’ve been completely devastated is by people I dated or people I was friends with.
I was actually talking to my therapist about this today. I never wanted to be famous, but I wound up being a famous actress. And I sometimes have people around me who I think are a friend, but I find out that all they’ve ever wanted to be is famous, and they’re not, so the whole time they’re around me they have this resentment. And at some point they explode and get furious with me for having the life they wanted, when I never wanted it to begin with.
Ugh. Speaking of your band, you’ve also done songs for the NCIS soundtrack albums — such as “Somebody Saved You” on the new one, NCIS: Benchmark — but they’re just credited to Pauley Perrette. Are those songs just you or are they by Stop Making Friends?
Stop Making Friends is me. It’s songs I write and then record with friends. “Somebody Saved You” was done with Tom Polce, but the majority of the new album is me, Xander Smith on guitar, Tommy Joe Ratliff on bass, and drummer Veronica Bellino, with Michael Weatherly on piano and Calpernia Adams on violin for a few songs.
Though for the soundtrack, since it’s more about the cast member having a song on there, they just used my name.
Gotcha. Finally, before we go, I want to ask you about a picture you posted on Twitter of you and George Lucas. Please explain how this happened and what role you’ll be playing in Star Wars: Episode VII: NCIS…IN SPACE.
Jeffrey Katzenberg is one of the greatest philanthropists in this town. Which is saying a lot because, for all the craziness, some of the greatest philanthropists in the world are here. So before the Emmys and the Oscars, he always has these little get-togethers, and I get invited because I know Jeffrey from my work with Project Angel Food.
At one of those get-togethers, there was a family from India who were big charity supporters, and they wanted to meet me because they’re big NCIS fans. And when I went over to meet them, who were they talking to? George Lucas, Steven Spielberg, and Tom Hanks.
So I said hi to the family, and thanked them for their support. But then George Lucas’ wife [Mellody Hobson] — who’s awesome, by the way — she pulled me aside and said, “You have no idea. When he’s not working, he watches NCIS.” What?
But we have all kinds of stories about legendary people who are fans of our show. Mark has a story about Jack Nicholson stopping him at a Laker game to tell him how much he likes the show.
And George Lucas is one of those people.
For more with Pauley Perrette, follow her on Twitter.