Mary Lynn Rajskub: This Cultural Life

The actress is very serious in '24', but she's a comic at heart, and has the zebra-print unitard to prove it
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The Independent Online

What do you cling on to from childhood?

I still have a Raggedy Ann doll. It's really ratty and the hair's falling out. It sits in the closet. I'm pretty nostalgic about that stuff. I haven't done this in a long time but I used to go into my mother's closet and look at all the old photos. They would make me cry for some reason.

What are you reading in bed at the moment?

I just started reading A Prayer for Owen Meany by John Irving. I just read his book, The 158-Pound Marriage, and I enjoyed it so much that I wanted to crack open another. I like that his writing is very straightforward and direct.

Do you get much time to read?

Not very. I don't read as much as I should or would like to but I tend to read self-help books before bed because they put me to sleep and relax me.

What book have you re-read most?

It's called Excuse Me, Your Life is Waiting. It's a good one. It's very positive and the woman who wrote it, I think she believes that we're all going to be re-born on another planet. Entertaining, yet weirdly comforting!

Do you ever buy books in a fit of misguided enthusiasm?

Yes. I've had the John Irving books for years. Also, Mein Kampf. I've never read it. I'm interested to read more about Hitler: buying the book just seemed like the thing to do.

What music are you listening to?

I just started listening to Bob Marley for some strange reason. It is happy music. I hated reggae but for some reason it started appealing. I'm only listening to the same three songs over and over: "Waiting in Vain", "One Love", "No Woman, No Cry". I like to listen to Jack Johnson as well because it makes me feel good. There's something that makes me smile about his music. His first record I listened to over and over again.

What is the least disposable pop song?

I won't say this is forever but, lately, I would say "Star Man" by David Bowie. He's super-groovy, there's no getting around it, and it's one of those songs that still feels new - that's how I feel about the Beatles too.

What would be your ideal alternative job?

I would be a painter because I'd be alone, not talking to anyone, and emptying out the contents of my mind and creating uncommon and surprising connections with colours. I would creative massive paintings.

Is that a realistic option?

Absolutely! There is a woman back home who couldn't understand the whole world of acting. She asked, "What did you go to school for?" I said that I went to school for painting and she was like, "Oh, acting is a back-up plan" and I said no. She just couldn't understand that I am interested in things that aren't meant to make much money.

Do you have a secret cultural passion?

Well, I do comedy. I like performing. I have been doing that since I was little, and then in high school.Chloe's very serious [Rajskub's character in 24]. I'm looking forward to more comedy roles.

Which cultural item would you like to steal?

A Van Gogh painting. It's pretty clichéd, but you can't beat them. You can't argue with a real Van Gogh. I like the crazy one with the floor [Bedroom in Arles]: it's his room but it's askew and the perspectives are all off. It's in the Van Gogh museum in Amsterdam. I saw it maybe five years ago. It was great. I love it there.

Which painting best corresponds with your vision of yourself?

You know the artist Cy Twombly? There's one that looks like a chalkboard with scribbles, and it's very large. Grey, wishy washy, not black and white but just grey scribbles that go on forever and you can't make sense of them.

Do you like parties?

Sometimes: karaoke parties, dance parties. I like spontaneous dance parties with friends.

What about the big premieres?

I'm starting to enjoy it more and more, especially when I get really expensive jewellery on loan, and get my hair and make-up done. I don't mind it at all!

And do you mind the photography and people calling out for you?

It took some getting used to. I wouldn't quite call it exciting but there's something perversely enjoyable about it. I guess you're being recognised for your work. I did some talk shows and they've been quite fun and light-hearted. That's been a good experience because I think it's surprising given how serious I am on 24.

What is the most fashionable thing you own?

T-shirts from Target. But you have to be careful because when you wash them they shrink and lose their shape. I buy cheap T-shirts and have them dry-cleaned.

And the most uncool?

I came across a unitard in my closet the other day. It's like a leotard but it's full body. I think I wore it in a comedy sketch. It's really not cool! It's zebra stripes. It would be good to wear it out one night.

Who should play you in the Hollywood version of your life?

I think that the choice is clear. Oprah Winfrey. You can see a lot of similarities. We're both geniuses, we're both incredibly wealthy, and we've both started schools in Africa.

Who would be your nemesis in the final reel?

Bill Murray. It would be some sort of detective action movie.

Your house is on fire. What one item would you save from the flames?

I would take my journals. My computer got stolen once and that's the thing that I was most worried about: other people reading my journals. They're on the computer and handwritten. I've kept them since I was in college. They're pretty scary.

You die and go to heaven. Who would you like to meet and what would you ask them?

I'd choose Hitler, and I'd ask him who hurt him. He'd probably have some really convoluted answer. It would be weird to talk with someone who was so awful, and see what really makes them tick.

Interview by Rebecca Pearson