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Five questions with Ari Graynor

Posted 12:00am on Saturday, Apr. 26, 2014

Ari Graynor

It takes a good actress to be such a bad teacher. It’s not in Ari Graynor’s nature to behave the way her character does in the new CBS sitcom Bad Teacher. “But it’s fun to pretend,” she says.

It’s worth noting that the titular teacher, Meredith Davis, isn’t as outrageously bad as Cameron Diaz’s character in the 2011 movie with the same title. She’s a recently dumped trophy wife who will do almost anything to land a new husband. That includes faking her teaching credentials and getting a job at a ritzy middle school, where she can hunt for a rich single dad to marry.

Meredith is a self-serving person, but she’s also becoming a positive influence on other people’s lives, even if that’s the furthest thing from her mind.

Graynor, a Broadway theater veteran who resisted committing to a TV series until now, talks about the show, which airs at 8:30 p.m. Thursday.

1. What was it about this role and this show that spoke to you?

For many years, I had said I’m not interested in television. I was afraid of the long-term commitment. You can wind up playing the same character for years, and I wasn’t sure I wanted that. But last year I decided not to be so rigid about it. Then I read this script. It was funny and smart and it had this character at the center that was fun and outrageous but surprisingly vulnerable. I felt that this is something to take a chance on.

2. Is there much of Meredith in you and much of you in Meredith?

She operates in a completely different way. I am a person who is very concerned with saying and doing the right things. I worry what people will think about me. I often mull over my actions before I do them. So it’s very freeing and exciting to play someone with as much confidence as Meredith has.

3. What do you think of Meredith’s flashy wardrobe?

I put the makeup and the hair extensions on and I put on a beautiful, well-made, tight dress and high heels and it’s definitely a transformation. You walk in a different way. You automatically feel a different way about yourself. For a while, I thought, ‘I’m going to dress like a woman more often. I’m going to wear a dress. I’m going to put on some heels.’ But at the end of the day, it’s a lot of work. So my usual jeans, sneakers and short hair have been in full effect again.

4. Have you ever had a bad teacher like the one in this show, the kind of rules-breaker who inspires students by being different?

I’ve had some wonderful teachers. But I’ve never had the surprise bad teacher — and I mean bad in a fun way. I always hoped I’d get a hot young male teacher or the cool teacher who secretly smoked behind the school. But I was never lucky enough to get one of those.

5. Would you like it if Meredith’s unshakeable confidence rubbed off on you in real life?

So far I’ve only tried to channel that swagger when entering a room. Once I master that, the world had better watch out!

— David Martindale, Special to the Star-Telegram

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