Rashida Jones: Modern Monogamy

A candid interview about love, relationships and facing her fears

Posted: 03/17/2011 07:37 PM EDT

What would you do if you found out your man was obsessed with another woman?  Rashida Jones deals with that predicament—and more—in the new movie Monogamy, a dramatic departure from her day job in the television comedy series Parks & Recreation.

Jones plays Nat, an aspiring singer who is engaged to a photographer (Chris Messina), who is hired to take candid, from-a-distance photos of clients, and becomes fixated on a sexy exhibitionist (Meital Dohan). At first, Nat gives him the benefit of the doubt and supports his project, but soon their relationship begins to unravel.

“It’s a story about two people who are on the brink of commitment and don’t really deal with their fears in an appropriate way. Maybe she has some intimacy issues, but she’s trying, she wants to make it work,” and like many women, “She’s trying to compromise as far as what she’ll accept in a relationship because she doesn’t want to lose the guy.” For Nat, Jones continues, the betrayal was less about what her fiancé was doing when he was away from her than the fact that he wasn’t there for her when she needed him most. “It’s more about abandonment, negligence.”

Jones believes that the movie depicts “a huge sea change with the genders” that’s come about as a result of women becoming more independent in work and life. “Men don’t know what their role is. And in reaction to that there’s this resistance to monogamy and settling down. It’s the only way they can exercise their power anymore,” she says, but doesn’t think it’s a good evolution. “Even if we’re independent and make more money, we still want you to be men, take care of us, open doors and pay for dinner sometimes.”

Playing a singer meant challenging herself to face a fear. “I’m terrified of performing live,” Jones confesses. “It was kind of why I wanted to do it,” she says, happy with the final product.  “I’m really glad I did it. I did have that jumping off a cliff kind of adrenaline afterward.”  It had an additional effect: “It definitely ignited the already burning embers of my ferocious love for music. But doing it professionally is such a huge responsibility and I do not take it lightly,” says the daughter of music biz legend Quincy Jones. “I would really want to focus on just that and I don’t really have the time right now. I love the idea of at some point dropping everything and locking myself in the basement” to record.

Ironically, Jones, whose mother is actress Peggy Lipton, initially rebelled against going into entertainment. “I wanted to be a judge or a lawyer,” says the Harvard grad. “Then I was doing theater in college and it was the only thing that was lighting my fire and I thought, ‘Why not try it for a little bit and see what happens?’”

These days her thriving career includes a cameo in Friends With Benefits this July, the bird watching comedy The Big Year with Jack Black, Steve Martin and Owen Wilson in October, and The Muppets and My Idiot Brother, both due in November. As for Parks & Rec, “I start dating a lot,” Jones says. “There are so many [men] that it’s not even worth you getting used to anybody because they’ll be gone the next week. I’ve been in relationships since the beginning of the show, a couple of losers and then Rob Lowe, not a loser but he dumped me. So now I’m sowing my oats,” she explains with a laugh. “It’s my empowered slut phase.”

 

(Photo: Frederick M. Brown/Getty Images)

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