Paula Pell on how "SNL" camaraderie groomed the all-star cast of Amy Poehler's "Wine Country"


"It was really effortless," says actor and former “SNL” writer Paula Pell. It was also, "a lot of work," she adds, on “Salon Talks” while discussing her new Netflix movie, "Wine Country," directed by Amy Poehler.

Along with Pell, a hall of fame-worthy cast of female comics — including Poehler, Tina Fey, and Maya Rudolph — escape to Napa for their friend Rebecca's (Rachel Dratch) milestone 50th birthday. Pell plays Val, a wisecracking vintage shop owner who gets in touch with her vulnerable side when she strikes up a flirtation with a younger waitress ("PEN15" costar Maya Erskine).

Like much of the movie — including a scene of Pell dispensing a gift bag full of high-end vibrators to her buddies — that tentative romance is based on her real-life experience of "trying to get my mojo back." Pell recalls.

"I spent four years after my marriage ended in really sad post-divorce loneliness. [Screenwriters Emily Spivey and Liz Cackowski] wrote Val with a sweetness of, 'I'm ready to have love, I'm ready to open myself up. Whether it works out or not, i'm going to be courageous."

And she says, "It's so nice in this movie, because so much of any writing with gay characters usually was — and sometimes is still is — 'Here's the gay character! Here's the other! We'll tell their story about gay love or gay divorce!' No, it's a woman who was with the same person many years and is now looking to the future."

The chemistry of the writing and acting from a group who all were in the trenches of "Saturday Night Live" gives "Wine Country" its authentic ease. "It just felt so real and so about us being where we are at in our lives…. You can't fake that level of knowing exactly how to talk to each other because you're so enmeshed. At 30 Rock, those offices were like little dorm rooms, with stinky couches."

Watch the episode above to hear about how chasing down Tina Fey on the set of “Wine Country” was the first time Pell gave her post-op knees their first run, and to hear about Pell’s SNL days and why writing for the show forced her to put her acting to the side for a while.


Photography by Jill Greenberg. Watch Jill's TedxTalk on the Female Lens and the problem with only seeing the world from a man's perspective. And find out more about Jill's initiative Alreadymade., a mission to hire more female photographers and content creators.


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