Jayma Mays has been one of the busiest actresses in Hollywood lately. From two Netflix shows (The Adventures of Puss in Boots, already out, and Wet Hot American Summer, coming in July) to wrapping up Glee and starting work on Doug Liman’s new movie Mena (also starring Tom Cruise), Mays has a full dance card. We caught up with the actress to hear about her many projects.
Jayma Mays: There’s a cat meowing in the background. Just know that it’s not me doing a voice. It’s my actual cat.
TIME: You’ve talked about your cats before, haven’t you?
Yeah, I feel like I’m slowly becoming the crazy cat lady. I almost got a third cat this weekend and then I realized that was pushing it too far.
Speaking of cats, The Adventures of Puss in Boots has been streaming on Netflix for a few months now—what has the feedback been like from parents and kids?
So far so good—this is my first job doing voiceover, and it’s different because when you’re out and about, people don’t necessarily know who’s doing what voice. But for my family and friends, I have lots of friends with kids, and I have young nieces and nephews, and it’s really cool because I’m getting to experience it through them a little bit. I have nieces in England, and they’re able to watch it, too. They give me notes, tell me my diction is awful, because they’re English, obviously. But they love the show.
Do you want to do more voice work?
Yeah! If I’m fortunate enough, I’d love to. It works your imagination in a completely different way, and you’re not just limited to your physicality. And I don’t even need to shower before work, which is a big bonus!
I’m a big fan of another show you’re on, Getting On. Will your character be back for the last season?
She’s supposed to—I don’t have any specifics on what the storyline is or where she goes as a character, but yeah, they phoned to see if I’ll be available to do [the episodes], so hopefully that means that I’ll be coming back, because that’s just another dream-come-true job for me. I’m a huge fan of Laurie Metcalf and Niecy Nash.
It’s one of the first shows to really deal with end-of-life care. Is that something you’ve had to deal with in your own life?
Well, I don’t have any of my grandparents surviving anymore. I guess I’ve experienced that world through my parents discussing it with me. But my parents are still alive and healthy, thank goodness. The character I play in particular is all about healthcare and death for profit, so I do feel like that’s something that’s a hot topic, especially in a country with, clearly, issues about healthcare. To deal with it in a comedy, albeit a dark comedy, I think is supremely relevant and really cool. But it’s also just wildly entertaining. Watching it, I’ll find myself chuckling at stuff, and I’m like, “Should I be laughing at this? Why am I laughing at this? Is it because we don’t talk about it?”
There’s so much enthusiasm for the upcoming Wet Hot American Summer series on Netflix. Were you pumped to be a part of that?
Yes! I was like, flipping out on the phone when I got the phone call. I feel like so many people have seen that film now—it felt like such an underground thing when it came out.
Who were you most excited to work with in the cast?
Well, without giving anything away, my stuff is a little bit separate, so I didn’t get to work with the whole cast, but I was super stoked to work with Michael Showalter and David Wain—they created that world, it’s iconic. People quote things from it all the time. Knowing that they would let me be in their show was the most exciting thing that could have happened.
You came back for the end of Glee! How did you feel about the finale?
I was really glad that they asked me to come back. First of all, it’s really nice to know when a show is ending, because so many shows get pulled now and you don’t get to say your goodbyes or have closure for your character. It’s a gift when you know that it’s the end.
People always talk about Will & Grace influencing America’s thoughts on gay rights, but I think Glee has been even more powerful for a younger generation. Do you think the show pushed the needle on public opinion?
It’s so funny, I don’t know that this show necessarily set out to do any of that. It started out as a little show that was like, “Can a musical work on television? I don’t know!” But clearly it’s a topic that’s been discussed. Has it influenced a generation? I don’t know. But if it has in a positive way, then how fortunate are we to have been a part of something that did that.
Do you have a dream role?
I’m really drawn to comedy, I grew up in the south so I’m drawn to all things southern, so my role in Getting On has been fun for me to play something southern—I always feel like I understand those characters more because of where I was raised. I’m starting a Doug Liman movie, Mena, where I get to play a southern girl as well, but she’s really foul-mouthed and sassy, nasty and headstrong. For me right now, that is my dream role, because it’s so different to anything that I’ve ever done. It has my artistic juices flowing.
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