The latest adventures of all-rounder Busy Philipps.
The thing you have to understand about Busy Philipps is this: she should be an award-winning, name-up-in-lights star. It’s not like she hasn’t put in the work. Over 20 years, she’s auditioned for pretty much everything. She’s nailed a few leading roles, but mostly she’s been the fabulous support act (see: Dawson’s Creek, Freaks And Geeks, Cougar Town). She knows everyone. She campaigned for Hillary Clinton. She’s best friends with Michelle Williams. She’s written a hit movie (more on this later). She’s not quite the household name she should be. But that’s about to change.
Ironically, it’s Philipps’ Instagram account, followed by 1.1 million people, that has turned her into the kind of bona fide breakout star she was always meant to be. To her followers, Philipps is an everyday enigma – relatable but glamorous. In short daily videos, she shares snippets of her life – from her workouts, to sheet masking, to that time she got locked out of her house after attending the Golden Globes with Williams. It’s these funny, insider-y stories that have landed Philipps both a book deal, for her memoir This Will Only Hurt A Bit, and the role of a lifetime: host of her very own talk show, Busy Tonight. After 20 years of hustling, Busy Philipps has arrived. “Yeah,” she says, laughing. “It’s been a very exciting minute.”
The minute, funnily enough, has come about because Philipps stopped trying to fit in to Hollywood’s narrow perceptions of who a star should be, and started being herself. “I’d spent a long time wondering if I was doing something to stop myself getting the roles I wanted, and I just realised one day a few years ago that it wasn’t me, it was them,” she says. “So I started being really honest.” The book, she explains, is a reflection of this relatively new phase. “You get one life and what is the point of any of it if you’re not true to yourself?”
Philipps lays everything bare in the book: her abortion at 14, her lifelong struggles with anxiety, that she thinks James Franco is a dick, her grief after her friend Heath Ledger’s death, being told (numerous times) to lose weight by studio execs, wanting to leave her husband after the birth of their first child. “I knew that the only way was to tell the complete story. I tried to own my bullshit as much as possible, while acknowledging all the other bullshit that happened.” “The other bullshit” might well refer to the hit Will Ferrell film
Blades Of Glory, which Philipps co-created and then co-wrote with an ex and his brother. When it came time to sell the script, the men took Philipps’ name off the script, explaining that their story – as brothers writing together – was better marketing. “Women get their names wiped off scripts all the time. I was really lacking in confidence after that. I didn’t write for a long time, I was also bruised as an actress. I would go for auditions and just flounder. I had the wind knocked out of my sails.”
When her show premieres on October 28, Philipps will be one of three working female late-night talk-show hosts in the US (along with Sarah Silverman and Samantha Bee). Her show, she says, will serve an audience currently being neglected. “Right now there are two types of late-night shows: the type where there’s a stand-up and a house band and a couple of celebrities on the couch. Those are usually hosted by a guy called Jimmy,” she says laughing, referring to late-night hosts Jimmy Fallon and Jimmy Kimmel. “Then there’s the political satire. But I think there’s a whole audience out there, including me, who want something different.” When she was dreaming the show up, she asked herself: what do I want to see before I go to bed? “It’s people on the couch, having a great conversation. It’s fun, it’s light, it’s positive.” As an actress of more than 20 years, Philipps says she’s looking forward to
speaking to guests in a more meaningful way. “I know I would have appreciated being interviewed in a more thoughtful way, having a great conversation, rather than just boom-boomboom, what are you promoting?”
The writing team is almost all women and includes Philipps’ good friend and fellow memoirist/instagram star Kelly Oxford. The lone male in the group comes from the production company behind the show, Little Stranger, helmed by Tina Fey. Philipps appeared in a pilot co-produced by Fey,
which failed to make it to series. “It was a great show, it should have been picked up,” says Philipps. “I mean, it’s Tina fucking Fey. Who doesn’t order her series?” Whatever the reason, Fey and Philipps quickly decided to move on to another project: the talk show. Fey, says Philipps, is “incredibly involved” in the show. “I’ve been waiting my entire life to be validated in my work the way that she has validated me. She’s everything.”
Late night, she acknowledges, is a tough gig. Historically, women have not been admitted to the boys’ club that dominates hosting duties. But Philipps is confident. “I know it sounds crazy because, I mean, who am I, really? I’m just a person, I’m not a stand-up or whatever. But I truly believe that I know how to do this. I know I have it in me.” She has no list of “dream guests” because, she says, why wouldn’t people want to be on her show? “We all know that there should be more women’s voices in late night. Since Chelsea [Handler] bowed out, there hasn’t been a traditional late-night show with a female host. For me, there’s no pie-in-the-sky guest, because I don’t know why anyone would say no.” That said, Philipps would love a chat with Julia Roberts (a fan of Philipps’ Instagram) and Kanye West (“I’d love to chat with him about mental health.”)
After 20 years of paying her dues, Philipps is finally able to collect. Instead of working on projects for other people – or having to forfeit those she worked on herself – Philipps is ready to make her mark. “What do I want people to think of the show? I mean, some community. Relief from these dark times. Fun.” As for the book, Philipps is similarly hopeful. “I would hope readers of my book relate, and find something that makes them feel less alone in this world. Is it too ambitious to say that I want them to have a greater understanding of the nuances of humanity? No. Let’s do it, let’s say it. Why fucking not?” Busy Tonight airs from October 28 on E!; This Will Only Hurt A Little ($32.99, Hachette) is out now