Almighty streaming giant Netflix premieres today its new comedy series, “Friends from College,” continuing its string of summer releases. Starring Keegan-Michael Key and Annie Parisse, the show follows a group of highly competitive friends who reunite in New York City years after graduating from Harvard. Two of the characters — Ethan (Key) and Sam (Parisse) — have been romantically involved since their Harvard years, which would make for a charming love story if the pair hadn’t actually married other people in the process.
WWD caught up with Parisse (“Person of Interest,” “Vinyl,” “Law & Order”) about her character Sam, an interior designer who loves indulging, especially in designer clothing.
WWD: Are you still in touch with your college friend group?
Annie Parisse: I am really close, to this day, with my freshman year roommate. I don’t know if that qualifies as “friend group,” but we both have two kids, and coincidentally, we had them three months apart in both cases.
WWD: Do you relate to the competitive nature your character Sam feels with her college friends in the show?
A.P.: Between me and Dirja? No. We’re in different fields, and it’s not like that. This is making me think of a conversation that [creator Nicholas Stoller] and I had in which he was like, “You’re the only person on the show that is so different from your character.” On the show, Sam is a total clothes whore. Everything she wears is designer, like Valentino and Gucci. He’s like, “You show up to work in a dirty shirt.” I had no point in relating to Sam or the show and it was a very different experience than my personal experience.
WWD: What was it like wearing designer clothes you wouldn’t normally wear?
A.P.: It was fantastic. I recognize myself as a woman who is not innately gifted in the world of fashion. You see women or men that just have style, and I feel like that’s what people are referring to as their talent in that art form. Sam is one of those people and it was really fun for me as a person that isn’t necessarily coming from that place to have people put me together in a way that made me look like I was coming from that place.
WWD: What was your favorite piece?
A.P.: There was this blush Valentino dress. We all referred to it as “the cape dress,” because it had this cape thing. I literally looked like a fashion superhero. It was one of the most gorgeous dresses I have ever seen and at the same time, I don’t think I would ever walk into a store and be like, “Oh yeah, that’s the one,” but it was really beautiful.
WWD: What was it like working so closely with Keegan-Michael Key?
A.P.: Keegan is fantastic — truly one of the funniest people I have shared a space with. It was so great and sometimes, so hard because I would struggle to get through a tape without losing it. For a person that does theater, I am not great at keeping a straight face.
WWD: Sam’s relationship with Ethan (played by Key) dates back to when they were in college. They’re essentially stuck in this 20-year hookup. What are your thoughts on college hookup culture?
A.P.: At the risk of sounding controversial, I must say I’m a fan. I think it’s an important thing for people to do. I think it’s a rite of passage. You have to have that experience in your life. Whether or not it has to be carried for 20 years, I don’t know, but I think it’s a key piece of the growing up puzzle.
WWD: Anything else that you want to touch on about the series?
A.P.: The really special thing that Nick [Stoller] and Francesca [Delbanco] did with the script, and that I hope we were able to bring to life on screen, is this lighthearted approach to a pretty intense topic, which is being in the middle of adulthood and realizing that you have to grow up and let go of your youth or you have to find a way to take it with you in a way that is healthy and not destructive. I feel it’s totally universal and they were able to take an approach to it that is authentic and hilarious.
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