Mary Lynn Rajskub on ‘Dirty Work’ & The ’24’ Movie

The actress and comedian offers some thoughts on her new web series and the constant questions about reprising her role as Chloe O'Brian.

Fred Topelby Fred Topel

A comedy about a crime scene cleanup crew sounds wild enough, but “Dirty Work” pushes the limits even further. The online show includes additional interactive material, such as audio tracks you can hear on your phone, or texts and Craigslist ads you can click on.

Mary Lynn Rajskub stars as Roxy, a woman whose dirty work gives her plenty of opportunities for sarcastic humor. The show’s production company, Fourth Wall Studios, decorated their office like a crime scene for a party and we got to meet Rajskub there for a one on one interview. You can watch “Dirty Work” online for free.

 

CraveOnline: Is “Dirty Work” a better fit for your comedy than “How to Be a Gentleman” was?

Mary Lynn Rajskub: Good question. Yeah, absolutely. I think that “Gentleman” had all the possibility of being a good fit and it just sort of got washed and dried and went through that sitcom system. It could’ve worked itself out but me in particular on that show, on “How to Be a Gentleman” my character was never really defined.

So when this came along, it was so well rounded and kind of like a character that I never got to play in all my years in show business. I was like whoa, cool, I get to be funny and weird and interesting, be harsh but like a fully formed person. I love in “Dirty Work” how a murder happens and that’s just the backdrop to these characters being sarcastic and giving each other s**t.

You kind of forget that it’s based on people cleaning up this horrible crime scene. I really love that. It’s a really interesting odd tone. You could say it’s a dark comedy but there’s goofiness to it and there’s a lightness to it even though my character in particular is probably the meanest one. But somehow you get that they care about each other and I’m really proud of that dynamic.

CraveOnline: How much do you add to your character?

Mary Lynn Rajskub: The way it was written was so organic and natural that we did add things and improvise, but not much. It was already on top of what was there. It was never anything that was wildly invented. It was sort of just like ad libbing on top of what’s already there.

CraveOnline: How much say do you have in the interactive parts like your Craigslist ad?

Mary Lynn Rajskub: The Craigslist one was written, so when we did all the interactive stuff, you’re on the set and it’s just like, “Oh, go do this extra scene.” We did a lot of promo stuff that was completely ad libbed and improvised but all the extra scenes were completely written as extra bonus material.

CraveOnline: What crazy shenanigans are coming up on “Dirty Work?”

Mary Lynn Rajskub: We get to meet Michelle’s father in the next episode and we also are cleaning up a sorority house. I stumble upon something that could totally happen but it’s so disgusting.

CraveOnline: Who plays the father?

Mary Lynn Rajskub: Michelle’s father is a mysterious musician from the ‘80s that I think you may know but I won’t spoil it.

CraveOnline: What did you think of the interactive concept of “Dirty Work?”

Mary Lynn Rajskub: When I first read the script I was like wow, this is really interesting. It seems really, really cool. Then when we were filming it, the set felt like an indie film where we’re all really close and then I thought, “I just like the story. I don’t want all that other crap on there. I don’t want people clicking on stuff. Why don’t we just sell this to a network so we can make the story?”

Because you get very attached to the characters and having fun with that. Then when I saw it I was totally blown away by how seamless it was and how it flowed when you were watching it. My husband when he watched it clicked on everything right away. I was like, “Oh, that’s cool. They really like it.”

CraveOnline: I would have thought like you, that I just want to see the rest of the show and not click on things.

Mary Lynn Rajskub: Well, that’s kind of my instinct being a non techie person, but it’s hard for me to be objective and see if I would genuinely click on stuff. If I were watching another show, maybe not but I think they did a really great job with it. 

 


CraveOnline: Of course we loved you on “24.” Was there anything in all the years of “24” that you stopped and thought, “Oh, come on?”

Mary Lynn Rajskub: Oh yeah, there’s a lot of stuff in “24.” Especially at the beginning of the day when you get onto the set and you do your rehearsal. Let’s say it’s a Monday so you’ve had the whole weekend not thinking about “24.” You show up at 6 or 7 a.m., you’re having your coffee, you’re looking at the script and you’re like, “Really?”

Then when cameras are rolling, you’ve got your costume on and you’ve done your rehearsal, you somehow sell it. I think for everything that was ridiculous on that show, there was something that was totally plausible, like oh my God, what if that happened? Or what an interesting take on stuff. So yeah, all the time.

CraveOnline: The movie got close to going twice but still isn’t ready. Was that hard to get that close to getting to revisit Chloe and still not?

Mary Lynn Rajskub: Yeah, the hardest part for me is that people ask me about it all the time and people associate Chloe with me. So it’s very frustrating to not be able to give them information and go, “Here’s what’s happening” because that really is out of my hands. I, as much as the next guy, would love to see it come together and happen.

CraveOnline: But besides knowing the details of the plot, is it a tough situation especially the second time it falls apart?

Mary Lynn Rajskub: Oh, I’m not even to that level. Being an actor, every day you’re like that’s not going to happen. You do something that’s promising but until the day you’re actually shooting, and even beyond that, even after you shot it you’re like, “That’ll never come out.” That’s such a normal experience that I never fully believed that it was happening anyway. You kind of save yourself from the heartache.

CraveOnline: When “24” ended have you had to sell yourself as a comedian?

Mary Lynn Rajskub: Yes and no. I did a guest spot on “Modern Family” which right away, that was like, “Oh, they know me from doing comedy.” But I was there for the table read and I was really nervous. Then Steve Levitan who I knew from years ago, I didn’t know if he’d remember me, and he sat down right next to me and he goes, “Can you believe you were on ’24?’”

I just laughed and I was like, “Oh yeah, you remember me doing comedy” because I’d never done any drama. So yes and no. I think a lot of people in the business remember me. I think a lot of the fans will see me as Chloe and will always see me as Chloe.

CraveOnline: Do you meet “24” fans in surprising places, like with those executive meetings?

Mary Lynn Rajskub: I do. I’ve gone on a lot of auditions for pilot season and a lot of them will ask me about the “24” movie and when it’s happening.

CraveOnline: Did the producers of “Dirty Work” get it that you were funny?

Mary Lynn Rajskub: Yeah, I think it was the writer/producer Aaron Shure who’s a producer on “The Office,” I think he knew of me. I auditioned for “The Office” way back when but if you pay attention to anything I’ve done other than “24,” pretty much everything else is comedy. It’s always fun for me to do radio interviews, when you do those radio tours and you go on in the morning, I never know what weird thing they’re going to bring up.

CraveOnline: Do you still do stand up?

Mary Lynn Rajskub: I do. I’ve been doing standup a lot recently and that’s been really fun but I’ve definitely had to address the Chloe thing at the beginning. I get pockets of people who are laughing and pockets of people who are just staring at me like, “What is she doing here? What is Chloe doing here?” So that’s a very interesting, fun challenge.