Dietland Exclusive Interview Underdog of the Week

Underdog of the Week – Jen Ponton

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Jen Ponton stars as Rubi on AMC’s Dietland.

Do you watch a lot of TV? If yes, what are your favorite shows?

Oh yes, I’m a TV junkie! Unsurprisingly, I am really loving a lot of shows by and about women–Tig Notaro’s One Mississippi, Maria Bamford’s Lady Dynamite, Phoebe Waller-Bridge’s Fleabag, Michaela Coel’s Chewing Gum, and Colleen Ballinger’s Haters, Back Off! Honestly, most of these have been canceled, which is a problem–they’re seriously brilliant and saying things that no one else is saying.

How did you get the role of Rubi on Dietland?

I was initially in the mix for Plum when they were first casting the pilot, and when it turned out that the role of Rubi was available, I was thrilled–she was my favorite character from the book, and I felt she was a perfect match for me. I went in to read and the rest is history!

Dietland is a female-driven production. How did you find the experience working on the show as opposed to previous jobs?

There’s a very fear-based approach to most productions, which feels weird to say, because it’s basically the accepted norm. There can be yelling, tempers, egos, and it’s usually a very male-heavy production team and crew. As an actor, one gets the feeling of walking on eggshells or a tightrope–no one wants to be the one who misses their line or their mark. This set–with an entirely female production team–was so calm, by contrast. It felt like a safe, secure space where we could breathe and do the work, there was no fear. Which–fancy that!–allowed us to work incredibly efficiently and usually on time. Imagine that!

Tell us about working with Joy Nash, particularly in the scene from this week’s episode in which you and the rest of the women at Calliope House lash out at her.

Joy and I actually go way back! We were both part of an online community of fat activists around the time she made A Fat Rant, and so it’s really wonderful to get to not only work together, but to get to make this very special, size-positive work of art together. So yelling at her was not my favorite thing! I dream of us working together to lawfully (or at least, non-violently) take down the diet industry from the inside in season 2.

You’ve guest-starred on a number of notable shows including The Good Wife and Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt. What was your favorite experience?

My favorite would have to have been Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt. I’d worked on 30 Rock and had tested for the Kimmy pilot, and while I was on vacation, Tina Fey had written the role of Debbie for me–previously known in the ’80s as “Baby Debbie,” a child who fell down a well. It was a no-brainer that I’d say yes! What she didn’t tell me was that I’d get to be starring with Jeff Goldblum, and I have never had more fun working opposite someone else in my entire life. He was simultaneously such a sweetheart and a weirdo unicorn that we actually because pals. He is…everything you would hope he would be.

What do you personally think is the strongest episode in Dietland’s first season?

They all just keep building on each other! I can’t wait to see what awaits us in the final 2 weeks. Episodes 5 and 6 are incredibly arresting, this feverish buildup of rage and then Plum’s awakening–but then 8 is that same lead-up to what’s to come.

What would you like to see the show explore if it gets renewed?

I would love for Plum to develop enough that the focus can widen a bit–now that we know our hero is okay and on a stable path, let’s learn more about the personal lives and back stories of everyone. Everyone else is such a mystery right now, which is at once intriguing and such a tease!

What’s next for Jen Ponton?

I’m heading to Maine for the female-filmmaker-powerhouse Bluestocking Film Festival! My short–Come on In–is being awarded the Best in Fest, with me as Best Actor. I’ll also be speaking on a panel there about women’s representation in Hollywood. I’m so excited to go and meet some incredible women!

Read our reviews of Dietland here

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