Interview by Jana Letonja

Actress Leslie Bibb will next be seen as the co-lead of the highly anticipated comedy ‘About My Father’ opposite Robert De Niro, Sebastian Maniscalco and Kim Cattrall, which is coming out today. Also soon, Leslie is set to star in AppleTV+’s original comedy series ‘Mrs. American Pie’ alongside Kristin Wiig, Alison Janney and Laura Dern.

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Leslie, you’ll be starring in the comedy ‘About My Father’, alongside Robert De Niro, Sebastian Maniscalco and Kim Cattrall. The film is co-written by Sebastian Maniscalco and is loosely based on his relationship with his father. What can you tell us about what to expect from this comedy?

I think you can expect to laugh a lot. The film is a real love letter to Sebastian’s father, but I think it’s such a relatable story about family and the importance of our families, given or chosen families. I think after this global pandemic and all of us being so isolated it is a wonderful reminder that we need community. We need family. We need to be a part of something, to be vulnerable. I really love this movie. I have seen it a few times and it always makes me smile, feel good and really laugh out loud.

In the film, you play Ellie, the all-American girlfriend of Sebastian and when Sebastian’s old-school Italian immigrant father learns of Sebastian’s plans to propose, he subsequently crashes a family weekend with her parents. How would you describe Ellie and how she deals with this situation?

Ellie sees the upside of everything. I love her enthusiasm, curiosity and power of yes. She is fun, loving and a good person. I think Ellie loves Salvo, Sebastian’s father played by the incredible Robert De Niro, and appreciates his idiosyncrasies. Yes, he can be a pain in the butt, but he is a decent, hard working man who has raised a good man in Sebastian. I think Ellie feels like her parents, though super loving and supportive, sometimes steal her lessons and the lessons of her brothers. She believes that our lows teach us as much as our highs and without the bottom, we can never truly appreciate the sights from being at the top. Also, our parents seemingly are very different in every aspect, from where they come from, their traditions, economic background, just everything. But they have similarities, they love their kids. Sometimes to a fault, but they love them and want what is best for them.

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How was it starring alongside Robert De Niro, who is such an iconic actor?

I wanna say first, the entire cast is spectacular in this film.  Brett Dier and Anders Holm play my brothers and they are so good. My parents are played by the iconic Kim Cattrall and the fantastic David Rasche. They are brilliant together and steal so many scenes. Sebastian Maniscalco is incredible and was such a good leader and is so talented. He is a real actor, not just a comic doing a movie. And then, there is Bob. 

The fact that I can call him Bob and can hug him and talk about acting with him, I pinch myself constantly. I have grown up watching his movies. I studied acting in New York City and actors like Bob, Meryl Streep, Jessica Lange and Al Pacino. These are so many incredible actors that I watched, studied and admired. To get to be in actual scenes with a legend like him and watch his process is beyond. He is so generous as a person and an actor. He is curious and always in pursuit of making the scene the most honest and authentic. He is working moment to moment and getting to be in scenes with him was like sitting front row at a Master Class in acting. I really love him. I mean, I loved him as an actor, but now I love him as a human being. He is just wonderful, funny and silly and I am so lucky to have this experience. If you had told me twenty years ago that I would be in a movie with him, I would have never believed it. Just seeing my name on the same poster with him makes me beam.

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Also upcoming, you will star in AppleTV+’s original comedy series ‘Mrs. American Pie alongside Kristen Wiig, Allison Janney and Laura Dern, who are all such powerful women in the industry. How was it being on set with them all? What’s your favorite memory from the set?

And Carol Burnett. There would not be these great women without Carol paving the way. When I first said those names and included my own with them, well, it’s a bit like the Bob moment. I couldn’t believe it. I love this project and I love the character I play, Dinah Donahue. It’s set in 1969 Palm Beach, Florida as the world is going through massive tectonic shifts politically, emotionally in a way and socially. All that change makes for a huge playing field for us as actors and for Abe Silvia, our showrunner, to draw story lines. And don’t get me started on the wardrobe and hair and make-up. They are like candy, they are delicious and so fun. I hadn’t really done a period piece of this magnitude before, so it was incredible.  

As for all of these women, I have always admired them and now I get to work with them and become friends with them. It’s incredible. They are all class acts and I adore them. Also, they are good people, fun and kind, so it made going ‘to work’ a dream. Kristen and I spent a lot of time together filming and we had the best time. She is a wonderful person, a great scene partner and we would laugh a lot. We shot this scene on a golf course and it is insane. When you see the episode, you will understand why it was so fun. Ricky Martin is in the scene with us and it’s just really fun. You have to watch it. Also, Allison Janney, Kristen and I have a pretty epic fight scene. You guys are gonna dig this show. It’s really good.

The series is based on Juliet McDaniel’s book of the same name and is set during the Powderkeg Era of the late 1960s. Can you share a bit more about the sotry of the series?

It’s based on the book, but Abe Silvia, our showrunner, really brought it off the page and created a fully realized world. My character isn’t even in the book, so I think if you liked the book you are gonna flip out for the series. There are so many stories happening around our heroine Maxine, played by Kristen Wiig. It starts in 1969 just as the world is about to explode on so many different levels. The funny thing is, as massive as those shifts were then, these huge leaps and bounds being made then, suddenly now some of those things are being reversed. 

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Do you generally find it challenging jumping into new roles and portraying new, different characters?

Getting to lose myself in a character is my happy place. I love being an actor. I love my job. I feel like the past few years have been wildly interesting for me artistically and I have gotten to work with a lot of massively talented actors. I feel very lucky. When you are lucky enough to be working with great actors it just makes you a better actor. Getting to work with better writers and directors, it makes you better at your craft. You rise to the top.  

In your career so far, you’ve starred alongside many big names in film and TV. Who did you connect the most with and what contributed to such a special bond?

I have really been fortunate to work with some comedic geniuses. Will Ferrell, Kristen Wiig, Melissa McCarthy, Carol Burnett, Allison Janney. I think what is remarkable about all of them is how facile they are. They are incredible listeners and so agile. They are, again I say it, working moment to moment. As an actor, you prepare for the scene, which you have memorized, and have an arsenal of ideas of things that could happen in the scene. You walk into the scene prepared, but then you kind of have to throw it all away and just be in the scene with your scene partner and see where they are going. If you’re lucky, magic happens. You both are prepared, but not tethered to your ideas. Together, listening to one another, being surprised by the other, surprised by what they are bringing to the scene, curious, magic can happen and a scene takes flight. 

Kristen has a scene in the AppleTV+ series we just filmed and it’s a master class in comedy and in acting. I remember watching her and thinking “Well, she just won an Emmy”. Also getting to watch Bob work on ‘About My Father’, that was truly incredible. I think what they all have in common is these actors are wildly prepared. It’s more than just talent. Talent is elusive. They are prepared, they are curious, they walk into a scene ready to be surprised by the other actors in the scene and the world we are creating. Each of these humans are also really good people. They have all proven to be wonderful role models for me.

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Before acting, you were in modeling. What does fashion represent to you?

Fashion is a form of expression, of art. And I love art. It feels like another avenue to be creative and I really appreciate it. It was a wonderful job for me in the beginning. It afforded me a great apartment and life while I studied acting in New York City. And, I got to see the world. It was the greatest ‘bartending’ job a young person who was studying acting could have. It also taught me a great work ethic.

Besides ‘About My Father’ and ‘Mrs. American Pie’, where will we be seeing you next?

Well, it all depends on the strikes with the writers and the impending strikes with actors and directors. However, there are a few things in the works that I am excited about, but not able to share just yet. That being said, I am very excited about this year and the upcoming ones. I like this space I am in artistically. It feels really freaking good.

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talent LESLIE BIBB @mslesliebibb
photographer BEN ABARBANEL @benxphoto
stylist TANYA ORTEGA @tanya.ortegaa
make-up REBECCA RESTREPO @rebeccarestrepo
hair BEN SKERVIN @benskervin
photography assistant JORDI PEREZ
styling assistant BRITTNEY KING @kickitwiththeking
editor TIMOTEJ LETONJA @timiletonja