Maya Rudolph Still Has a Grudge Against Her Childhood Nemesis, Gets Candid About Puberty
During her seven-year reign on Saturday Night Live, Maya Rudolph delivered spot-on impersonations of everyone from Beyoncé to Melania Trump, so it comes as no surprise that the actress has established an impressive voice-over career since leaving the beloved sketch comedy show.
For her latest role in Netflix’s Big Mouth, an adult animated comedy about puberty from Nick Kroll and Andrew Goldberg premiering September 29, she’ll do double-duty by lending her vocal chops to not one, but two characters. Diane, the smothering, overbearing mother to Kroll’s Nick and the disturbing Hormone Monstress luring his classmate, Jessi (played by Jessi Klein), into unseemly teenage behaviors, like shoplifting, listening to Lana Del Rey while you cut up your T-shirts, and screaming at your mother, then laughing at her tears. Here, more from Rudolph about the new series and the unrivaled awkwardness of puberty.
What piqued your interest in this project?
I’ve known Nick Kroll for years, but we’ve never had the chance to work together before. When he told me that I’d be playing his mother, I knew it would be such a fun role to take on. He’s such a well-loved boy, and Diane is his loveable supermensch. I knew it would be filled with implicitly gushing love.
You also play the Hormone Monstress, who’s an amalgam of every teenage girl’s inner demons. Where did that character come from?
I was trying to find a syrupy, hairy, furry-sounding lady that just had a huge personality and was also that voice of irrationality and passion and emotion all mixed into one very confusing but enormous package. She was like an inner voice, but one that is totally off and inappropriate. The Hormone Monstress gets to say a lot of crazy shit. She is really out there.
Do you typically dress up to go to the recording studio?
I would be scared of someone who dressed up for a voiceover session. But you do have to leave your house, so I suppose you need to put on suitable clothing. Not having to go through hair and makeup to look like a real human lady is so much more enjoyable for me. As the years go on, sitting there becomes more draining and exhausting, the longer it takes.
VIDEO: Watch the Teaser Trailer for Netflix’s Big Mouth
The cast is incredible: Jordan Peele, Fred Armisen, Jenny Slate, Jessi Klein. Who was the most fun to work with?
I read a lot of scenes with Jessi Klein, whose Hormone Monstress I play, and that just makes them so much more moving and emotional. We both sat there looking at each other like, “Oh sh-t, you’re going to make me cry.”
Puberty is awkward for everyone, but especially girls. I love the opening scene, when Jessi says, “How come in all these videos puberty for boys is like the miracle of ejaculation and for girls we're, just a yarn ball of aching tubes?”
Puberty is probably one of the cruelest human gifts, because it’s such an isolating process, and every single human being thinks they’re going through it by themselves until they connect with another friend, and even then, it’s still embarrassing. The only people that can write that kind of humor and get that kind of humor are survivors, which we all are. The torture at the time is such a singular experience; it’s brutal. I don’t think I’ve ever met an adult who was like, “Yeah, puberty was great, got through it great, didn’t have any flare-ups, felt very comfortable in my own body.” I’m finally ready to talk about it. Once a woman gives birth, you’re pretty much covered in the human development conversation. I’m not afraid of any uterus or any Fallopian tube—I have truly seen it all and gone through the fire and survived.
What was the biggest pubertal change you had to deal with?
I’m half Jewish and half black, so I grew up with the luxury of having two different types of curly hair. It was really hard as an adolescent to be that girl that just doesn’t look like anybody else. It can be really painful and difficult to be different. I remember going to a co-ed pool party in sixth grade, and a boy who I thought was my friend asked me to dunk my head underwater. After I did it, he said, “Your hair is like a sponge!” I have to be honest, to this day, at age 45, I still hate him. I am grateful for the bounty of curly-haired products that have arisen, though. It’s been a big boost to my self-esteem.
This interview has been edited and condensed.