Wet Hot American Summer: Marguerite Moreau

Katie Returns to Camp Firewood

Jul 28, 2015 Web Exclusive Bookmark and Share


Although she was one of the youngest actors to play a counselor in 2001's Wet Hot American Summer, Marguerite Moreau had been working in showbiz the longest. Moreau began her career as a teen, appearing most famously as Connie, one of the young hockey players in the Mighty Ducks movies. Wet Hot was Moreau’s first major role as an adult, and it was followed by parts in more than 50 films and television shows, from Queen of the Damned to The O.C., Shameless, and Grey’s Anatomy.

In Wet Hot American Summer, Moreau played teenage camp counselor Katie, Andy’s (Paul Rudd) girlfriend and the object of Coop’s (Michael Showalter) affections. In the Netflix prequel series First Day of Camp, we’ll learn just how these romantic entanglements became so entangled.

In the below interview, Moreau tells us about what it was like to return to Camp Firewood, how Bradley Cooper tipped her off to auditions for the original Wet Hot, and her upcoming films. (All this week we are posting interviews with diifferent members of the Wet Hot American Summer: First Day of Camp cast. All the interviews will be linked to here. Also pick up our next print issue for a separate in-depth article on the show.)

Austin Trunick (Under the Radar): Back when you were making the first movie, did it ever cross your mind that there could be more stories to be told about these characters and this camp?

Marguerite Moreau: Sure! Once I’d read the script I felt that there was so much electricity in it. It was completely exciting, even from the first two scenes that I read for my audition. And then it just kept building. I read the whole script, and then when I got on set and saw what everyone was doing, it just seemed like it could be [more than a movie]. It’s just such a full and complete world, and you love these characters. They’re hysterical. So, you want more, you know?

The movie didn’t have a great showing in theaters initially, but it went on to become a pretty beloved cult comedy.

Thank god!

Why do you think the movie took a while to catch on?

I have no clue. I have no idea how that part of the world works. I couldn’t believe it! I was shocked, because everyone who saw it just loved it. So, it made me really happy that people found it. It’s such a funny, stupid little thing.

David Wain’s been talking about a sequel for prequel for years. At what point did you find out it was actually happening?

I guess I got an official call in November, and we shot in January. But we’d been communicating about it since, I guess, the tenth anniversary. That was the first time David and Michael took me aside—this was very dramatic, and quite exciting—during rehearsals for Sketchfest in San Francisco, and they said “We have to talk to you.” They were like, “It’s happening. The typewriter has paper in it.” [Laughs] I was like, “Okay, guys, that’s great. I’m available. Just let me know!”

I ran into David somewhere in between, maybe a year ago. He said [in hushed voice], “C’mere.” We went behind some bench or something, and he said, “Don’t tell anybody…” [Laughs] So I got to share in his enthusiasm as it developed.

Were you excited by the chance to work with that gang again?

Oh, yeah. They were so much fun the first go-around. It was like going back to camp. We were all so excited to be there, and it felt like nothing had changed. It felt like it was special to everybody, and that’s nice. It was communal. Everyone was pretty stoked.

I read that you’d first heard about the movie through Bradley Cooper. Can you tell me about the pilot you’d been working on with him before Wet Hot?

Sure. It was Josh Schwartz’s pilot just before The O.C. got picked up. So, we were one pilot from that juggernaut of stuff. So he did The O.C. and then Gossip Girl. And so Wall to Wall Records was right before it. You’d like this: it was about two people who start up an independent music label after getting disillusioned with the music industry. Nic Harcourt—he used to do Morning Becomes Eclectic, and he was the hottest, most awesome morning DJ because he has such great taste—he was going to do the music, I think. Josh Schwartz is a huge music head, and so the four of us—it was me and Bradley, Jordan Bridges, and [Jacob Vargas]—just kind of get lost in awesome music. So we had a good time.

I went to visit my boyfriend in New York. Bradley said, “When you come to New York, you should see my final show. And I’m going to be in this movie—you should come and audition for it!” I was like, “Oh my God, I’m leaving tomorrow. I guess I can see if I can get the sides tonight to see if it’s worth changing my ticket.” I was already attached to another movie, but I remember reading the sides and saying to my agent, “You have to get me out of this movie! I have to do this one!” [Laughs]

I showed up at Michael Showalter’s house, and his cat was there. We sat in his living room and I read the barbeque sauce scene—I’d auditioned for the barbeque girl [Elizabeth Banks’ role]. Michael said, “Hmmm. Why don’t you read for Katie?” I asked, “Who is Katie, and what’s her story?” He said, “Well, she interacts with me, but she likes the counselor, so we sort of have this connection.” So I told him we should read the scene together, and he was like, “What?” But if he was going to do that part, then we should read that scene together. I’ll never forget his shocked face, but it just made sense to me!

But, yes, thanks to Bradley, I got that extra enthusiasm I needed. Because he was so gung-ho on this project, it gave me the extra excitement. Because it wasn’t flashy, you know—it was just this little comedy. But he got me to stay and change my flight and do all those things I’m sure I would have overthought and [decided not to do.] But I’m so glad I didn’t. 

You mentioned that you originally auditioned for the barbeque sauce girl, Elizabeth Banks’ part. It had to be a surprise when you left an audition you hadn’t been aware of 24 hours earlier with what’s practically a lead role?

Oh, I know. I think they felt it was probably a better fit. The scenes were written so clearly and they’re such great archetypes—at least the Katie character is. It was pretty fun to just pick up. And the scene we read for the audition was a fun, flirty scene, where we’re coming up with a date. And he’s like, “How about Italy?” That scene’s just so sweet, so it was really lovely to be able to drop into the really quick. And then he gave me Katie’s massive monologue at the end and asked me to come back later, to read for the producers. I definitely remember a few sweaty hours in the park, reading and thinking “What the Hell is this…?” After reading the sweet, romantic, slowly-falling-in-love scene, there’s this turn at the end where she stomps his poor little heart into the ground. [Laughs] So it was really fun to try to jump on that horse.

Did you have any unanswered questions about Katie following the original movie that you hoped this prequel series would answer?

Yeah. Like, was she cool when she got to camp, and then did she kind of become an idiot because she just went boy-crazy? Was it a transformative summer? There were all sorts of things like that.

How did it feel to go back to that location 15 years later? Was it strange at all to be back at Camp Firewood?

It was really surreal. When you’ve been away from a project and then get to come back and revisit it—that doesn’t happen a lot. Especially when it’s when of your favorite jobs you’ve ever had. Unless you’re on a series, that’s a pretty isolated and special event.

We just picked up right where we’d left off, except that there were only some people smoking instead of everybody smoking, and we weren’t drinking and staying up all night. We were going home and saying, “See you in the morning.” [Laughs]

We have to tiptoe around any plot spoilers, but this series sets up a lot of the stuff we see in the movie, such as Katie’s relationships with Michael Showalter’s and Paul Rudd’s characters. What do you feel comfortable sharing about Katie’s storyline?

I think Katie comes to camp and she’s got it all figured out. We’ll see if that’s really true. [Laughs] It all takes place on one day, so her arc is just for that day. You have to remember that! “How your life can change in an instant…”

That’s funny to think about. You think that with the series being more spread out, it would cover the whole summer. But it’s just one day. I always wonder, if this were something where people wanted to see a second or a third season, would they do the second month and the third month of camp? I’m a California girl who only got to go to camp in the movies, so I don’t really know whether people go to camp for eight weeks, or a few months, or what.

You’ve kind of led me into my next question: If this is a big hit on Netflix, would you be up for doing a Wet Hot American Sequel?

Oh, yeah! I mean, it’s so funny. How could you not?

Has everyone gotten more professional over the last 15 years, or was the set still pretty wild?

I’d say it was super professional both times around, but both times, they were making a movie where everyone was friends, which was a first for me. When I shot the first movie, I was sort of coming out being a precocious young actor—I’d started when I was a kid—and I was just starting to work as an adult after college. Wet Hot American Summer was the first set where the adults were more my age, on every level of the crew. And, they were all friends. That was a revolution for me; I’d never experienced anything like that in my life. It was really exciting.

I was, I think, around 10 years younger than everybody else. So besides the fact that I didn’t know who Elvis Costello was and all of my references were off, they were more speaking my language.

I would say that the vibe on the second film was like that times one hundred, because they’ve all been working for the last 15 years—and a lot of them have been working together. So it was so professional, but also so loose on both of them. We had to shoot this one so fast, but one of the neatest things was watching David delegate responsibilities, and completely trusting his actors. They could say, “Hey, can we do this?” Or, “Hey, did we forget this?” and he could be like, “Right! Let’s do it.” Or the same thing if the prop guy came up and said, “This or this? I think we should go with this.” And David could just say, “Great. Do it.” There was just a confidence in the cast and crew that you don’t see on a lot of other sets.

I think Netflix was such a great partner because they really trusted that world and its creators, but also the creators trusted everyone they were working with. I got there and could see, “Oh, this is how we’re shooting an eight-episode series in six weeks.” How they scheduled their days was incredible.

Were any of the new cast members particularly fun for you to work with?

I loved Josh Charles. It’s always fun to work with him, and he knows all of those guys from other things. He could just stroll right on set and be ready to go. And John Ealy, who is part of the theater group.

And John Slattery. I did an episode of Mad Men years ago where I played one of his prostitutes. So, it was really fun to work with him again—and to see him in Wet Hot now, he’s just incredible. I can’t wait to see a scene he does with Amy [Poehler], because I was on set to watch it.

Did you stick around to watch many of the scenes you weren’t in?

Yeah. You’d come to set when you weren’t shooting, even though it was way out in Malibu. You’d be like, “So-and-so is showing up on this day, so I’m going to make sure I’m there.” Or you’d stick around late. There’s a scene with Joe Lo Truglio and Ken Marino that I was dying to see—it’s my favorite scene in the whole series.

So it’s a really good time. And, you know, it’s open like that, too. I’ve been on sets where they’ve been like, “No, no, no. You’re not allowed to watch. Go home.” But here, everyone was having fun and popping in and out. 

You’ve got a few films in post-production right now: Moments of Clarity, The Tank, and Without Ward. Can you tell us what they’re about, so we know where to look for you next after Wet Hot?

Sure. They’re all so different. In Moments of Clarity I have more of a cameo, but I play a New Age-crazed receptionist at a rehabilitation hospital. [Laughs] That’s an indie. And Without Ward is a sci-fi family drama—with Michael Gladis.

And The Tank was fun. It’s a science thriller. You know how they want to send people to colonize Mars? This movie is a fictional account based on actual isolation experiments, where a bunch of scientists were locked in a capsule for 500 days and underwent psychological tests to see if they could actually survive. It was a really fun project, and we shot it in Columbus—that was the first movie they’ve ever had fully shot there from start to finish.

***
Wet Hot American Summer: First Day of Camp premieres on Netflix on July 31st, 2015.

To read our other Wet Hot American Summer cast Q&As, click here



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