Interview: Maria Menounos “Adventures of Serial Buddies”
The term “Renaissance woman” comes to mind when thinking of Maria Menounos. Doing everything from hosting TV’s EXTRA, participating in WWE, writing a New York Times best-selling novel, acting, directing and producing, Menounos has channeled her longtime love of filmmaking into her most recent project Adventures of Serial Buddies in which she serves actress/ producer with longtime filmmaking partner Keven Undergaro who wrote and directed the film. Pretentious Film Major Devin Southard recently had the chance to speak with Maria about this latest project, as well as her top comedy pick, and the importance of knowing when to listen to others.
DS: So could you tell me about how you became involved with Adventures of Serial Buddies and a little bit about your character as well?
MM: Sure. I have been making films with Keven Undergaro since…oh my god…since I was nineteen. Our first film went and premiered at the Tribeca Film Festival and then we did some short films, one that I directed others that I produced. So he came to me with this script, I loved it, I thought it was hilarious! And he said “I wanna make it” and I was like “Okay. Yeah let’s do it!” So we went for it. We got a great cast together with Christopher Lloyd, Chris McDonald, Kathie Lee Gifford, Artie Lang, Beth Behrs from 2 Broke Girls, Henry Winkler narrated it. And we had a great time, the movie is hilarious! We did a theater run in the beginning of March and it did really well, so we got it extended for two more weeks which was incredible. Now we just released it on iTunes and on our website SerialBuddies.com, that’s serial with an “s”.
I play a girl with the third eye looking at these nitwit serial killers like “I know what you’re up to, which is no good basically!” I’m a little bitchy, which is a lot of fun to play. The movie itself is the first serial killer buddy film of all time and it was best reviewed by one reviewer as Dumb and Dumber meets Dexter. So I know you’re going to love this! The trailer had over a hundred thousand hits online at this point. People love it, so we’re excited about it!
DS: So you mentioned it is the “first serial killer buddy comedy”. What exactly is that?
MM: Haha well…normally we see the darker side of serial killers. Now we get to see kind of the lighter version of it and you know what a “buddy comedy” is obviously, but you’ve never seen a “serial killer buddy film” and that’s what we are!
DS: Very interesting. You’ve definitely got me curious. You mentioned that you’ve produced and directed along with being an actress. Do you prefer being in front of the camera or calling the shots from behind-the-scenes?
MM: You know it’s always fun to play the role in these movies and I do love it. It’s just exciting to do something different sometimes and being a Gemini, I get bored really easily so I like that challenge. But I do enjoy producing so much more I think sometimes. I’m always confused on what I like more, but I do love putting things together or producing something that’s just completely organic to me. I love it! I love filmmaking, I love directing, I love shooting and setting up shots and I got to do a little bit of that on set too! There were points when I directed second unit or shot second unit and so sometimes when I watch the movie I’m like “I shot that!” I get so excited!
DS: What are some things that stick out in your mind from being on set? You said you got to shoot a little bit, is there anything else from shooting this that you remember the most?
MM: Of course the incredible cast we had. We had these great, young kind of newbies who are about to break, who are from Groundlings and ImprovOlympic and all those great comedy troupes that we discovered. Seeing them with some of these veteran actors, who have been around for a long time, and seeing how those actors were so incredible. It wasn’t about trailers and all the nonsense. It was like even if Keven and I were trying too much to accommodate them they’d be like, “We’re fine, don’t worry about us. This is forever, just get the best takes you want”. They really cared about the process and they’re just really incredible people and actors. And having the younger guys see that even at their stage at their careers, how serious they take this. No one phoned anything in because of budget. There were no diva attitudes, no nothing. That was just really inspiring to me. It just showed me that the ones who tend to do that are the ones in the middle. The ones at the top, we know how privileged we are to be in this business and I got to see that from every one of those actors.
Henry Wrinkler came in and did narration for the movie two hours after he finished shooting in the middle of the night, in the pouring rain all day. He wrapped at like 5am, was soaking wet, and by 7am he was doing narration with us with a smile on his face. Just so happy and so positive. Kathy Lee Gifford, we went and shot with her at her house. We decided there was one other scene we wanted for her, and I instructed a crew to just go in, get it done, get out, don’t be in the way. She realized pretty quickly that everyone was kind of tiptoeing around her so she just stopped everyone and said “Guys! I don’t care if this is only thirty seconds in that movie, so do whatever it takes to get the best stuff!” I just love that!
Chris McDonald, the same thing! These guys are just such incredible role models and that was my favorite part of this, other than the laughing. We laughed so much making this. It was so funny and that helped us get through these grueling shoots because it’s a road trip movie, so a lot of these shots were outside and we had like forty or fifty locations. It was madness and just so much work, especially on a low-budget! Laughs got us through everything. We were outside every day, and it was daylight exteriors we were shooting, and it rained 95% of the shoot days. It was so hard to get around!
DS: Well that particular part doesn’t sound too funny, but the movie itself sounds pretty hilarious. It sounds like you have a thing for comedies. Is that correct?
MM: Yeah, I love them. You know the way we do movies, which is like guerrilla filmmaking, is so hard. So I’d rather be laughing, it makes it so much easier to get through a grueling schedule like that.
DS: Do you have three “go to” movies when you need a good laugh?
MM: Oh my god Old School for sure! I love that movie! There are so many, I can’t even think. We were just talking about comedies last night…Old School is the only one that comes to mind right now. I’m sure there are a zillion others, but I just can’t think of any right now.
DS: It’s still a good choice, so I don’t frown upon you.
DS: As we said earlier you’re an actress, producer, director, you’re also a host on EXTRA, you’re a best-selling author, and you’ve also dabbled with wrestling in the WWE. I’m just wondering was your thought process when you were a little girl, “When I grow up, I’m going to do…everything” ?
MM: Yeah, it kind of was actually. My dad used to say “You can do anything you put your mind to” and I believed him. I was you know scrubbing floors in Boston, and there was only really one way to look at things in life which was “dream big” and I just wanted to do so many things. I had so many people along the way to try and dissuade and tell me I needed to focus on one thing and to just do that well. I think that works for some people, but somewhere inside of me I knew that that was not going to work for me. Luckily, I always knew when to listen to people’s advice and when not to, and luckily I didn’t listen in on that one because I am so much more fulfilled. I’m so much happier knowing I help make movies and will continue to make movies, and I do host and I do wrestle, and anything I want to try I’m going to try. Sometimes I’ll fail and sometimes it’ll be…whatever, but I never want to look back on life and say “Gosh I wish I had tried this” or “I was too scared to try that”.
DS: It’s interesting that you say that because some of the women that I’ve spoken to in the past have said that there’s a need for more women behind-the-scenes as directors, producers, and writers. As a woman that has accomplished so much in the entertainment industry do you also see that need for more women?
MM: Yeah, we should have more women, especially in directing. There aren’t a lot of women in that area. Obviously we’re outnumbered in a lot of areas so we should have less of that.