Celebrity Interview: Night School’s Mary Lynn Rajskub

Celebrity Interview: Night School’s Mary Lynn Rajskub

I had the pleasure of attending an advance screening of Night School a few nights ago and let me tell you it was hilarious. I know you’re already expecting it to be. With the headliners being Kevin Hart and Tiffany Haddish, how can it be anything but. The thing is you can’t sleep on the rest of the cast. This entire cast can have you in tears.

kevin hart, tiffany hadish, romany malco

If you’re heading to the movies this weekend you most definitely want to check Night School out because as hilarious as the movie is it’s not a fluff movie. This movie shows the value of friendship, second chances and putting your best foot forward. It even shines light on learning disabilities.

night school, mary lynn rajskub

I was given the opportunity to sit in on a group interview with the very funny, Mary Lynn Rajskub. Here’s what we talked about. Be careful because there are a few spoilers in the interview!

The movie was extremely funny, what message do you think the viewers will walk away from, that’s a more serious message?

Mary Lynn Rajskub: I agree with you, it is hilarious throughout. It’s nonstop jokes, but there’s a great message of personal transformation, and second chances, and going back to school, and learning, and I’m really–my character says some dirty things, but I also love my character so much because she goes from being invisible, and kind of living this life of responsibility and obligation to blossoming, and you know, being around people, and learning that she loves to learn, and communicating to her husband in the end. And each character sort of has their own journey in that way, led by Kevin Hart’s character who doesn’t give up, and learns how to learn, that there’s an importance on that, so I love that.

It was hilarious. The entire theater was laughing.

Mary Lynn Rajskub: My son is 10 and I’m like–he’s on the line of–the stuff that comes out of my mouth will either breeze past him and no big deal, or he’ll be like, “Mom”, like you’ll open up a can of worms that’s like I don’t–yes. Because I talk about how I want to have sex and dirty sex, he’ll be like, “Mom,
why would your character say that?”

I really liked how at the end of the movie, your character really stood up to her husband and was like, “No, I’m a strong and powerful woman and I’m not going to let you suppress me” I just wanted to know, do you have any advice for women out there, how to be strong and powerful in their own relationships?

Mary Lynn Rajskub: Wow. I mean I am not like my character in the movie, but, I also am very like my character. Like, I have a really traditional relationship with my husband and I do
like to serve my guys, and I do tend to be reactive, but it’s been a years-long process of me, and I use performing to force me to get out of my shell. So, you know, one thing I would say is, take it little by little and be very conscious of taking steps to use your voice. And take some quiet time and understand what your intentions are, and start to say it out loud in an unapologetic way. I use the stage and standup
comedy, which is one way to do it because I’m a performer. But you know, it’s a very aggressive thing to have to stand on stage and go, “No, this is what I think about stuff” and it’s a work in progress. I’m still doing it, you know? So when I first started doing standup, I’d be saying to the audience, “So, what
did you guys think about that?” And you can’t give your power to them.

Did you guys have to talk to anybody who was in night school? Anybody experience it to kind of get a feel of it? Were you in the high school setting?

Mary Lynn Rajskub: We were in the high school setting. I mean, we kind of just used what was in the script and I know that the writers got into some of the stuff about his learning disabilities, but you know, even when I watched it, they sort of touched on some stuff, but then she’s in the ring, you know, punching him. It’s all exaggerated for comedic effect, so you know, I watched them going, oh, well, it’s cool that they’re
putting a light on the fact that he has these learning disabilities and that you never can give up and go back and take the test again. But then there’s a part of it where it’s silly, you know, where she’s punching him in the ring, like, “Focus.” So, you know, no, we just like heightened it and got silly with it.

We talked about the big themes of the movie, second chances and stuff like that, so I wanted to ask you about a second chance that might have made a difference in your life. Has there been one for you?

Mary Lynn Rajskub: I didn’t have a monumental event where, you know–like he’s kind of forced to go to school. But I have things in my life and especially the career that I’ve chosen is very different than the way that I grew up. And to have a career that’s, basically, I wake up and it’s like–I feel like I’m taking a first  chance every day because there’s always like a hustle. You know, it’s breaking out of the way that I grew up, which was not supportive. It wasn’t even in the realm that I thought it was a possibility to do what I’m doing now. So, I know I’m kind of like flipping the actual question of second chances–but it’s, you know, having an acting job and doing it and being like, “Wow, it’s so great that I did that.” And then it’s over, and you have to start over again.

Like a second chance, yes.

Mary Lynn Rajskub: Yes. There’s no job stability and I think a lot of people have that, even people that you would think have traditional jobs, it’s sort of like, “Oh, I’ve got to do this again and I’ve got to love what I do. You know, because there’s an element to acting and writing and performing. Like, I’ve got to do it for the love of it and take that chance over and over again because if I start doing it for other reasons–but of course, I’m balancing it, because that is how I make my money, you know, but I can’t do it for only that reason. I’ve got to wake up fresh and go like, “Okay. Why do I love this and how do I do this again?” You know? And how do I accept the choices that–you know, like if I go home, and everyone’s going to all the things that you get to do when you stay where you grew up. It’s like I’ve missed weddings and birthdays and things of my family because of these life choices.

Do you truly believe that a mom can balance working towards her dreams while juggling her family life or do you think that at least one thing will be neglected?

Mary Lynn Rajskub: You know, I think when I was younger I just sort of blindly accepted you can do it all. But as you get some life behind you, you really can’t. And that’s a misnomer, and I think my character in the movie–you know, you go through phases. You know, there’s going to be a Night School two and
three–I don’t know. I’m making that up. But like if my character does pursue learning, she’s going to miss out on her family time. You know, she’s going to have to go home and tell her husband, and I think I have a line in the movie where it’s like, “I need your help. I need your support.” Like, “We need to change how we’re doing things.” Whatever your situation is–in her situation and in mine in real life, it’s like I pick up and leave town and my husband has to help me do that, and I’m going to New York today and I’m going to miss the basketball practice. And I’m running my ass off to try to take the coffeecake there, but I’m not always going to get there, and I’m not going to be–I do a lot of standup comedy and it’s like, I’m going to grind it a lot, but I’m not going to do it every single night of the week and I’m not going to go out of town if I don’t have to. You know, so I guess it’s yes and no. There is a balance, but you’re also going to miss stuff when you focus on certain things.

I want to know the dynamics between all of you guys off screen. Was it exactly the same way? Because you guys just looked like you were flowing.

Mary Lynn Rajskub: Yes, we really genuinely enjoyed each other and I’m sure when you watch it, you can imagine–you know I brought up a couple of friends to the premier and she said, “Oh, you really are acting.” I’m not that person in real life, but I have those qualities, just like every person in there has that quality that they exaggerate for the comedy, but basically, we are those people. But it was amazing because everyone was so different and that we were thrown together in those group scenes and that creates a really cool bonding. You know, like when we go do the heights and we’re up on the rooftop, well, those were all night shoots. So, we’re just up there all night long with each other, you know, in the hallway of a dirty high school with a room of snacks, you know? We’re just up there like eating licorice and drinking coffee and giggling all night.

A class of night-school students (from lower left) — Mila (ANNE WINTERS), Mackenzie (ROB RIGGLE), Luis (AL MADRIGAL), Teddy Walker (KEVIN HART), Theresa (MARY LYNN RAJSKUB) and Jaylen (ROMANY MALCO) — attempt to steal a practice test in “Night School,” the new comedy from director Malcolm D. Lee (“Girls Trip”) that follows a group of misfits who are forced to attend adult classes in the long shot chance they’ll pass the GED exam.

So when you guys were together like that, were there scenes where you guys, kind of like went off the script, and added your own line or added your own salt and pepper to it?

Mary Lynn Rajskub: Oh, absolutely. I mean that’s like Kevin Hart’s middle name. All those behaviors that you see him do, he’s really brilliant at it. I mean I was so proud to be around the caliber of people like that. Romany Malco who plays Jaylin [sp], I mean the first time you see him on screen he goes off in that character. And everybody was accomplished in that way at improv and acting, so you kind of know the basic tenets of your character and you know what’s happening in the movie, and you kind of go off script and go for it. And I don’t know if I should be proud or ashamed that some of the filthy
stuff that came out of my mouth–it’s not that filthy. It’s silly dirty, but like I said, I’m like, “Can my 10-year old see this?” But, yes, that was improv, so I don’t know if I should be going to therapy and looking at what’s in my mind. And you know, you’re trying to make each other laugh and to be around somebody like Kevin Hart and Tiffany and all those guys where, you know, Kevin is such a superstar. But he’s so down to earth in the sense that he knows on a basic level, you’ve got to be in the room with people and he enjoys it. Like, genuinely on the first day he’s like, “I want us to make each other laugh and I want you guys to be as funny as possible. It’s going to uplift the whole thing.” So, we were right there, like I said, with each other, hanging out, and making each other laugh. That’;s the best.

That’s awesome. Thank you.

Mary Lynn Rajskub: Thank you.

You kind of touched upon this a little bit already, but I think it’s a very important aspect of the film, and that is, do you believe in redemption?

Mary Lynn Rajskub: Wow. Guys, I like these–your deep questions and that’s a very good question. I mean we need another to get into what’s happening in the world today, but I think the other question would be, what is redemption? You know, where we have this baseline of your community and what you–like, of course, I believe in redemption. It’s like a basic human tenet. We should, and we must believe in
redemption, but that brings into question all the levels of why, how, when, to what degree? What happened, how does it affect the community and that’s something in our world. It’s like, it’s a big problem and I can only hope that things are swinging in a bad direction, so that we can correct everything. And I think it’s really hard because we live in a such a big world, and there’s such a reverberation of things that affect us, but are happening outside of us. That’s a big question. I’m going off– into some big comments,
but the basic answer would be, yes, of course, but not always easy.

Students (from lower left) Theresa (MARY LYNN RAJSKUB), Mackenzie (ROB RIGGLE), Mila (ANNE WINTERS), Luis (AL MADRIGAL), Teddy Walker (KEVIN HART), Bobby (JOSEPH CARTEGNA aka FAT JOE) and Jaelyn (ROMANY MALCO) celebrate graduation with their principal (TARAN KILLAM, upper right) and teacher Carrie (TIFFANY HADDISH, lower right) in “Night School,” the new comedy from director Malcolm D. Lee (“Girls Trip”) that follows a group of misfits who are forced to attend adult classes in the long shot chance they’ll pass the GED exam.

Awesome. And my second question for you would be, how would you like the audience to feel after walking out of the theater after Night School?

Mary Lynn Rajskub: You know, I’m really proud of this movie because I want everybody to, obviously, have a good time and laugh their asses off, and I was at the premier the other night and you will laugh your ass off, but it still has a lot of heart and there’s great messages, so uplifting and laughter.

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