TBS is hoping to heat things up this summer with its new animated series Neighbors From Hell (premiering tonight, 10 p.m. ET). The series follows a family of demons attempting to fit in amongst the “normal” residents of Texas suburbia, and features the voices of Molly Shannon, Patton Oswalt, and Will Sasso. Funnylady Shannon recently spoke to EW about the evilness of her character Tina Hellman, her Saturday Night Live homecoming, and her guest spot on Glee. (Glee writers take note: We want Brenda Castle back for season two!).
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: What really attracted you to Neighbors From Hell? Had you done any voice work before?
MOLLY SHANNON: Yeah that’s funny, I did this movie Igor, and then I did the English dubbing for [My Neighbors the Yamadas], which was so fun. I did that when I was pregnant and I was like “God, this is fantastic!” because you can go in without makeup, in comfortable clothes, and it’s fun and super creative. Well, what attracted me to this was [creator] Pam Brady. I’m a big fan of hers, and I read the script and I was like “This is cool, I really like this script.” I liked the idea and [Tina Hellman] is a fun character. I love that it’s a family show but they’re from hell, disguising themselves as suburbanites, and trying to fit in, and they’re like “These people seem crazy!” I thought it was interesting.
Did you base your character Tina on anyone? Or would you say she’s similar to any other characters you’ve portrayed?
No, I didn’t base her on anyone. It’s an interesting thing because when the character’s already written and created I think, “Oh, okay I’m more trying to fit in what they came up with,” but then I think eventually when you go in and record, you know, one week, then another week, then another week, I think the writers try to figure out me combined with what they originally thought and then adjust it. So I think they made her a little sweeter after they met me and got to know me. So maybe from the pilot to six, seven episodes in it probably changes a little bit, maybe it’s a little bit sweeter. It shows how she just loves her family even though she’s from hell.
What are your hopes for the show?
I hope it does really well. It just feels fun to me and I just feel excited about it. It’s different doing just a voice-over. Something about it just feels laid-back and fun. I don’t feel worried, I just feel like I’m having fun and it’s a job and I hope it’s well-received, but I also feel kind of laid-back about it.
Recently you were on Saturday Night Live with Betty White, Tina Fey, etc. What was that like?
It was so much fun. Well, first of all, Betty White was unbelievable, and she’s just the sweetest person and she’s really happy and loves her work. It was really inspiring to see somebody who’s 88-and-a-half years old still acting and doing what she loves. She really handled that so well because it’s a lot of pressure. You have to learn all these scenes and lines, and she really just keeps her cool. Secondly, it was like a reunion with all the girls. It was so much fun with Maya [Rudolph] and Rachel [Dratch] and Amy [Poehler] and Ana [Gasteyer] and Tina [Fey]. You know, I hadn’t performed with Ana for so many years since I left, so that was so special. I loved doing the NPR [sketch] with her. People were so excited to be in the audience. You just felt such love and excitement. I was really happy to see how happy Lorne Michaels was. He was in such a good mood, I think he may have said it was one of his favorite shows ever. It was just so nice to see everybody so excited and happy, and so many of us girls now have kids, [so] we had a brunch. It was just special seeing us all with our children.
It’s sort of like a family reunion…
Exactly! That’s what it was like, yeah.
Was Betty White an inspiration to you prior to SNL?
I’ve always been a fan. She’s such a deft comedienne, a deft comic actress. I really like her. Everything she does is just great. She’s just so talented. They were a little worried at first before they actually saw her, and then I was out there performing with her doing the dress rehearsal, and I thought “Oh my god she can handle anything!” She’s on her mark, hits the joke, she’s just a pro. Her timing in impeccable, and it was just a real honor to share the stage with her.
I love when she was with you during your Sally O’Malley bit…
Thank you! Oh good, when she’s like “And I like to sit!” I thought God, if anybody, we gotta do this.
Also, you’ve popped up on Glee, which is another one of our favorite shows over here.
Oh my God, isn’t it great?
We’ve only seen a little bit of Brenda Castle so far, but I think she’s really funny. What’s that been like?
It’s been fantastic, they’re amazing. [Co-creator] Ryan [Murphy] is just so talented and [co-creator] Ian [Brennan] and [co-creator] Brad [Falchuk], they’re amazing. I got to meet the cast. Jane Lynch, [who] I’ve worked with for years before that — I’ve known her in the comedy circles and I’m so happy for her. And Matthew Morrison — it’s just an amazing cast and it’s just so fun to do a show that’s so well done, where you just have to show up and do your acting and you’re not worried about how it’s going to be edited. It’s such a well-oiled machine. It’s just a pleasure. I would love to do more if they ask me, but if not, I’m happy to just have done those two episodes. They have a lot of people to accommodate, they have a lot of people to write for. Everybody wants to be on that show, so I’m just glad I got to be on it.
Would you like to sing if you were asked back?
Oh my God I would die, I would love it! This last episode that I watched with Idina Menzel and Neil Patrick Harris, I just thought was excellent.
Especially the “Show Choir Conversion” group…
Wasn’t that funny? “It’s been 52 days since I’ve sang a show tune…” It was such a good idea!
Any favorite karaoke tunes or show tunes you’d like to belt out on the show?
I like very emotional songs when [things are] really dramatic, but I would do whatever they want me to, they’re so amazing.
What else do you have coming up?
I just did this other movie called Bad Teacher with Cameron Diaz [and Justin Timberlake], directed by Jake Kasdan. It’s a great script. Cameron’s going to be great in it. It’s just a big, funny, R-rated comedy…I think it’s R-rated? And then I’ll look to do more TV probably.
Would you like to appear on SNL again?
[I] would love to go back. I actually hosted two years ago when I had Year of the Dog come out and that was so thrilling, and this is the third time I’d been back since I left. It’s amazing you could leave and be gone for so many years and feel as though no time has passed.
Which of your characters is your favorite?
Sally O’Malley is 100 percent fun. There’s something about the physical aspect like [in Sally O’Malley voice] “I can kick, stretch, and kick!” It feels like you’re releasing something. It’s just fun and I do like stretching. Right before I left I did a bad stand-up comedian named Jeanie Darcy. She was just a terrible comic, but she just had a lot of hope. She doesn’t really know who she is, she’s a little cut off sexually — that was a really fun character too.
All of your characters are so iconic — Mary Katherine Gallagher, the Delicious Dish ladies, Sally O’Malley — do people ever ask you to do them on the street?
They do, they still do. They come up and ask me to do “Superstar!” they ask me to take pictures like that, and I do it if there’s not a lot of people standing around — I’m not going to do it in airport or anything! — [but] I don’t mind at all. It’s so sweet. And I get asked, “Oh can you come to my mother-in-laws’ party and do [in Sally O’Malley voice] ‘I’m 50!’” Or people ask me a lot to leave their friends telephone messages. I do all that, as long as I’m not with kids, I’m like “Sure, give me their number. I’ll leave them a message!”