Alanis Morissette is best known as the writer and singer of pretty, angry, contemplative and sometimes spiritual rockers and ballads like 1995’s “You Oughta Know,” “Hand In My Pocket” and “Ironic.” The album that introduced those songs, “Jagged Little Pill,” stayed on Billboard’s Top 20 for more than a year, and eventually sold 33 million copies worldwide.
But while her career as a singer of serious songs has rolled along quite nicely, she has also displayed an innate sense of comedy, from her wordless but charismatic appearance as “God” in Kevin Smith’s “Dogma” to a hilarious parody of the Black Eyed Peas’ “My Humps” that burned up YouTube in 2007.
Then, this year, we were treated to yet another aspect of Morissette’s persona and talent, as she co-starred in a sensitive, romantic and even sexual role on the Showtime hit “Weeds,” portraying the OB/GYN of Nancy Botwin, the main character played by Mary Louise Parker, and the lover of her brother-in-law Andy, played by Justin Kirk.
Bankrate spoke to Morissette, 35, about her acting and music, and how she juggles them with her personal life.
Bankrate: You started your show business career as an actress, didn’t you?
Alanis Morissette: I would loosely use the term “actress” for what I did while I was a kid. I did a show called “You Can’t Do That on Television,” and I did a lot of theater, and was in some comedy troupes.
Bankrate: At the time, did you think that’s where your career was going?
Alanis Morissette: I gave it more thought than a young child probably should have. I thought, “Do I want to put my energy into writing songs, or do I want to be an actor?” and I thought being an actor required teams of people while doing a record required like, three. So I thought that, logistically, it would be easier to write songs. My twin brother always laughs and says, “Boy, Alanis, at 10 years old, you were forming a record company and writing songs. I just wanted to play soccer.”
Bankrate: As your music career has progressed, did you miss acting?
Alanis Morissette: Yeah, I have. There have been opportunities for long character arcs in TV shows and parts in movies with a couple of incredible directors, but I was on tour. So I’d have to say no, which was fine, because music is really godly to me.
Bankrate: You approached “Weeds” creator Jenji Kohan with the idea for your role. Did you have any indication that she was a fan of yours?
Alanis Morissette: No. It was a shot in the dark. I’m in a privileged position to be invited to do a lot of things, and there are vocations where I think, “God, there are other people who would be way more appropriate for this.” But when there’s something I feel I would be the perfect person for, I keep at it.
Bankrate: Why did you want to work on this show?
Alanis Morissette: The writing. I think there’s a lot of smart, witty writing. That kind of humor and those kinds of comebacks really excite me because I’m a writer, and when I hear great writing I get very excited.
Bankrate: Was there also something about the chaos of Nancy’s life you felt plugged into?
Alanis Morissette: Yes. Being on tour, traveling and choosing this life, a lot of my friends have said to me over the years, “Wow, you really picked a (terrible) life.” So whenever I see characters portraying that pseudocontrolled chaos, it resonates.
Bankrate: You’re a major star. You’ve had best-selling albums. How does your life compare with the chaos of Nancy’s drug-dealing existence?
Alanis Morissette: I’m an incredibly sensitive person. When I look back at this (celebrity) fishbowl, there’s no handbook on how to prepare for … having your privacy invaded and how to navigate it. Thankfully, I’m a little older now, so I’m able to infuse my life’s purpose in everything I do, and it’s so much more relaxing now, whereas (earlier on), I was always overwhelmed.
Bankrate: (You’ve been under a microscope) possibly more than most, since the hit that put you over the top, “You Oughta Know,” was based on your actual love life.
Alanis Morissette: Yeah, but it was incredible. I wouldn’t have changed a thing, except perhaps I would have had a little more support. Whenever I see people in the public eye who are really doing their best to keep it together, I wanna fly in a team of, like, 15 people who would just help them out emotionally, spiritually, psychologically and physically.
Bankrate: Mary Louise Parker is an acting powerhouse. Was it a challenge to play opposite her?
Alanis Morissette: I wouldn’t say it was a challenge, but it was really inspiring. I have a theory that, if you’re gonna learn something, you go with the best. If you’re going to buy a guitar, you buy the most expensive guitar out there. If you’re gonna learn tennis, you play against the best. So, if I’m going to start to dive into this pool more and more, why not do it opposite Mary Louise?
Bankrate: How do you decide if your next project is going to be music- or acting-related?
Alanis Morissette: Two ways. One is that it can decide for me, in that someone can reach out and invite me to do something. But the other is, I’ll just hear a voice that will say, “It’s time to write a record. Get in the studio.” Or, “Go to this country and shoot this idea” or “What if you cover this? This would be hysterical.” It’s all really intuitive for me.
Bankrate: Do financial considerations play a part in the decision of what project you’ll do next?
Alanis Morissette: You have to get more creative in some ways, because there are so many forms, whether it’s the Internet or otherwise. There are so many ways to skin a media cat. So it’s a consideration. I’m a business person, so I’m always thinking in terms of what something will cost. But usually, if it’s an inspired idea, there’s some crazy person out there who’s willing to put up some money and willing to take a risk with me because it’s not a terrible idea to take a risk with me.
Bankrate: Has the recession affected you in any substantial way?
Alanis Morissette: I’d say the recession has affected me as it has everyone else, although it’s affected me in some positive ways too. I’m a free agent now. I’m no longer on Warner Bros. (label). I’ve been with record companies since I was 14, so I feel incredibly happy. In some ways, philosophically, I’ve seen the recession affect people in ways where they’ve been simplifying their lifestyles, and it’s affected them emotionally and spiritually quite beautifully.
Bankrate: You don’t hear many people talk about the positive side of the recession, unless it becomes, “I got laid off from my job, but that job sucked anyway.”
Alanis Morissette: Or, “It gave me an opportunity to think about, ‘Do I need this big old house or 14 cars?'” It really has helped a lot of my friends get clear about what their priorities are. I don’t want to downplay the struggles that have emerged from it certainly, but there are a lot of positive aspects to this.”