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Elizabeth Banks on Comedy, Family, and Great Genetics

By Deborah R. Huso
Posted On Jun 03, 2015

banks-1The Effervescent Ms. Banks

Dynamic actor-producer-director and Listerine spokesperson Elizabeth Banks keeps delighting the Hollywood crowd while keeping life solid and happy at home.

BY Anne Garzouzie
PHOTOGRAPH by James White/Corbis Outline

It took Elizabeth Banks—the irresistible and quick-witted blonde knockout from Pittsfield, MA, who is arguably the most likable on-screen personality working today—just three years to get noticed in a big way after completing her training at the American Conservatory Theater. Anyone remotely clued into the goings on in Tinseltown will have noticed Banks’ rising star, which has only gotten brighter since she appeared in 2003’s Seabiscuit. Subsequent turns in The 40-Year-Old Virgin, Wet Hot American Summer, Invincible, Role Models, Zack and Miri Make a Porno, The Uninvited, What to Expect When You’re Expecting, The Lego Movie, and (of course) The Hunger Games movies have proven her mass appeal, time and time again.

Banks did a spectacular and refreshingly sensitive job portraying Laura Bush in Oliver Stone’s W. and has shone on television as well, earning Emmy noms for her role of Avery Jessup on 30 Rock, garnering laughs galore on Scrubs, and appearing on Modern Family as Sal, a party girl who refuses to grow up.

These days, this wife and thoughtful mother of two is dazzling the masses. Listerine chose Banks and her beautiful smile to exemplify the benefits of their “21-Day Challenge,” which encourages the public to take on healthier oral care habits. Meanwhile, she has several hits on her hands—as the director of Pitch Perfect (the sequel of which is in the works); in the role of Melinda Ledbetter Wilson, wife to Beach Boy Brian Wilson, in the forthcoming biopic Love & Mercy; and as the front-and center star of Walk of Shame—a leading role that takes her career to a whole new level in the entertainment business.


banks-1you don’t want to make fun of vulnerable people…
you want to make fun of people in power

New You: You handle comedy with great aplomb and humor. What’s the secret?
Elizabeth Banks: Comedy requires that you understand as much as possible about the viewpoints of all people and everything that’s going on around you. It genuinely requires a true point of view, a real sense of your own view of things in the world. Comedy often comes at the expense of others, and to do that smartly, you don’t want to make fun of vulnerable people. You want to make fun of people in power, and so you need to really understand the dynamics of power.

NY: How do you balance family with your busy acting schedule?
EB: I balance it by always putting my children’s health and safety first. Then I feel OK to go and do the job I love. It’s important to remember that I face the same challenges as many other working parents out there. I don’t think dads do it as well as moms, quite frankly, as I don’t think there’s any pressure on them to balance anything in their lives when it comes to parents being at work. I try not to feel that pressure, either. I actually have a girlfriend who works in the justice department, going after criminals and the mafia, and she’s got three kids. Parenting is challenging any way you slice it.

NY: You have this very non-Puritan view of sex, which is rather refreshing. How did this attitude come to be?
EB: It’s a huge disservice to young people to put shame into the equation. That’s what bothers me the most about it and why I speak so openly about sex. I promote safe sex, always, and abstinence until you are madly in love. But at the same time I have no desire to shame any young person about what’s going on in their life or about general sexuality or their bodies.

NY: You have gorgeous, pale skin. What are your views on sun tanning?
EB: I avoid the sun at all costs. I grew up in a family of redheads, so the sun actually caused a lot of pain when I was young. Also, I’m too much of a type-A, active person to lie around in the sun. More importantly, I wear tons of sunscreen; a full, slim skirt; and a long sleeve, slim shirt when I’m out swimming. I’m really vigilant.

NY: Pretty girls don’t often work on their funny side but you straddle both sides with ease.
EB: Your funny gets developed pretty early on. I didn’t quite believe I was pretty for a long time. I never thought about it. I’m very genetically blessed, I cannot deny it, but I work hard at keeping myself together. Yes, I have nice cheekbones and skinny legs but I can’t take any credit for it.


NY: Do you have a diet-out-the-window treat?
EB: I’m all about cupcakes. While I try to do everything in moderation, I also make sure not to deprive myself of a well-earned treat.

NY: Why did you align yourself with the Listerine “21-Day Challenge,” which promotes better dental care? It involved posting a “swish selfie” on the Listerine Facebook page, yes?
EB: Oral pain is one of the leading causes of young children missing school, and it’s not covered in a lot of people’s healthcare plans. I have two young boys, and of course I am vigilant about trying to get them to brush their teeth. I’m also someone who makes a living with my smile. I remember being given advice long ago from an older woman who said, “Take care of your teeth, because you want to keep them as long as possible.” Most importantly, Listerine is donating money to Oral Health America’s Smiles Across America program, which is all about teaching kids about good oral health and good habits.

NY: In your upcoming movie, you play the role of Melinda Ledbetter Wilson, the wife of troubled Beach Boy Brian Wilson [played by actor Paul Dano]. From where did you draw the inspiration?
EB: I met the real woman, and that was all the inspiration I needed. I wanted to do a great job for her and her family. Brian and Melinda are still together. They’re an amazing couple. He’s rock royalty, and it was all about being really true to their
story. She really saved his life. What was your take-away from the experience of filming that movie?
First off, you forget how many great Beach Boys songs there are. And the other thing is this idea of the love of a good woman, for a man who’s struggling. I see men every once in a while and think, “Man, they just need the love of a good woman.” That’s what happened with Brian Wilson. He got lucky.