When last we tuned in to NBC's The Office — which airs at a special time tonight, at 8 pm/ET — Jim seemed to be in harm's way, as Roy, finally clued into fiancée Pam's longings, declared Halpert "a dead man." Subsequent promos have suggested a follow-up more akin to a Law & Order squad-room brawl than our usual fun-loving Dunder-Mifflin gang. Just before TV Guide's Sexy Stars issue hit newsstands, we invited Rashida Jones (aka pages 52-53) to share a sneak peek. Plus, her take on SNL's Office spoof, and the NBC hitcom's parade of big-name directors.
TVGuide.com: Tell me about the photo shoot you did for TV Guide's "Sexy" issue....
Rashida Jones: It was a little interpretive. We were at this big old classic-Hollywood home, and we went to different parts of the premises for different vignettes. There was a bit of an edge to it, which was nice.
TVGuide.com: OK, so it's not like we had you wearing a pair of coconut shells or something.
Jones: No, no, no. I was in a short skirt, but I had a super-hip outfit on.
TVGuide.com: You popped up as "Karen" when Rainn Wilson hosted Saturday Night Live. Was that a matter of you being in the right place at the right time, or was it some sort of preemptive strike, to save yourself from seeing an SNLer play you?
Jones: Oh, that would have been awesome and flattering! I happened to be in New York for Letterman, and I was going to leave to go back to go to the Oscars with my dad [Quincy Jones], but I have a bunch of friends on the show, and they were like, "Would you stay if we did this tiny little thing?" I was like, "It's been my dream to be, in any capacity, a part of that show. So absolutely!"
TVGuide.com: What did you think of Kristen Wiig and Jason Sudeikis as Pam and Jim?
Jones: It was so funny! In fact there were a couple of times when I was walking down the hall and saw them from behind and forgot that I wasn't at work. They looked so much like them and did such a great imitation... an amazing job.
TVGuide.com: NBC.com has outtakes from The Office's "Business School" episode, where Karen ponders tearing down Pam's art-show notice. It's got some Jim-Pam fans calling you not-so-nice names.
Jones: [The writers] are very good about keeping it a fair, light competition, so I talked about that scene a little bit with Joss Whedon, who directed that episode, because I was hesitant about that moment. He was like, "Look, you just got all this new information and you have an impulsive moment, but you don't do it."
TVGuide.com: Do you think Karen suspects she's setting herself up for a fall?
Jones: In a sense I am like Karen, because I truly believe that you are the captain of your own ship and you take risks. To the outside viewer it may be obvious because they want Pam and Jim together, but when you're in it, it doesn't play that way. Jim does like Karen, and it may be that she's used to having a chilled-out type of relationship, that she's realistic about things. I don't know if she knows that she's "doomed."
TVGuide.com: What can you tease about the next beat for the boys? It looks like Roy might knock Jim's block off.
Jones: Yeah, Roy's threatening Jim's life.... Well, [that animosity] definitely does not disappear, I'll say that. [Laughs]
TVGuide.com: We're going to get some murder mystery, aren't we, where Jim turns up dead.
Jones: I hope not! [Laughs] Unless they've filmed scenes without me....
TVGuide.com: You mentioned Joss earlier, and others such as J.J. Abrams and Harold Ramis have directed episodes this season. What's different for the Office cast member as these famous guys get behind the camera? Or is it business as usual?
Jones: To be honest, every director we've had is unbelievable. I say all the time that the best movie career I ever had has been on this show. The show attracts deeply talented, incredibly astute directors. If it's not part of the [usual] gang — Greg Daniels or Ken Kwapis or Randall Einhorn — it's J.J. or Harold Ramis or Miguel Ortega or Jeff Blitz.... There's really not a quiet week. It's all star power, all the time. But it's also always people who really, really love the show and want it to be good.
TVGuide.com: There have been a lot of exteriors this season. To what lengths does the show go to sell us Los Angeles as bleak Scranton, Pennsylvania?
Jones: Where we film is actually pretty bleak, but nowhere near Pennsylvania! Essentially they try to do little nods to make the people from Scranton feel good, that we're making an effort to make it look and feel that way. But the truth is it's Van Nuys, and there's only so much you can do.
TVGuide.com: When I see you and John [Krasinski] in the parking lot bundled up in winter coats, I always think, "Gee, I hope it wasn't a particularly hot day in L.A."
Jones: Uh, yeah, well a lot of times it is. And you get that sweat trapped between your jacket and your suit.
TVGuide.com: What did you think of Karen's beauty-salon makeover? Fun stuff?
Jones: It wasn't actually fun to get it done, but it was incredibly fun hanging out with Phyllis [Smith] because she's the best. She made me laugh really hard. I forgot that I looked the way that I look, and people would walk by me on the set and snicker. Then I would remember that I had a beehive and lots of makeup on.
TVGuide.com: Now tell me about the Fox pilot you just booked, The Rules for Starting Over. What's the concept?
Jones: The Rules for Starting Over is a comedy about friends who are kind of on the other side of the fun dating game — they've been through divorces and failed relationships — and they're now asking, "How do you reinvent your love life when you feel like all the good parts of being in your twenties are over?" I play a divorce lawyer and I basically represent all my guy friends, who have all been divorced twice, thrice....
TVGuide.com: And they have all slept with you at one point or another....
Jones: No, they haven't! This isn't Showtime. But I'm sort of like a workaholic and I have a boyfriend who I have not been with for a very long time, but I continue to idealize him in my mind and don't give any other guy a shot. The pilot is about me opening up a bit and exploring my options.
TVGuide.com: Is this a "second position" thing, or is there an expiration date set for your Office gig?
Jones: It's very nebulous. We've talked about some things, and other things may happen.... You see so many actors doing double duty on shows, so it's totally possible. But I have to say, it will be hard for me [to leave The Office] because I really love this show and I love this part.
TVGuide.com: How did you get wrapped up in the Rocky Horror 25th-anniversary TV special?
Jones: Oh god, I wish that thing would disappear! [Laughs] Right when I started Boston Public, I was asked to go to Las Vegas to perform in this Rocky Horror anniversary, so there's footage of me out there somewhere in full Dr. Frank. N. Furter garb, with black lipstick and sideburns and a black Jeri-curl wig, singing.
TVGuide.com: Sounds like that needs to be gone soon.
Jones: Tell me about it!
TVGuide.com: Is it on YouTube?
Jones: I'm sure it is. If you wanted to subject me to humiliation, you could find it.
TVGuide.com: I interviewed your mom, Peggy Lipton, about a year and a half ago, and she said that when you went to Aaron Spelling's offices to audition for Wanted, you saw on the wall there...
Jones: A poster of her in Mod Squad. It was a nice feeling of serendipity to see her there. And when you see her and you see that show, you realize there were just three stations on then, and that was such a daring program for that time. Now there are like 7,000 channels and nothing to watch. I saw that poster and thought, "What an incredible moment in time." It gave me a reason to call her and calm my nerves a bit.
TVGuide.com: You must have been like, "Mom was pretty cool."
Jones: She was pretty awesome — and gorgeous and stylish, no doubt!