A stack of red velvet pancakes sits in the middle of the table and an elderly man watches us eat, his eyes intent and locked. Sure, Kristen Bell’s skin radiates an unrealistic glow and her long blond hair sways becomingly and her capelet and lace-up knee high boots (which she’s removed the laces from, because she just couldn’t be bothered to constantly be lacing on and off) give her an adult Red Riding Hood look, but this is getting creepy. Is he a stalker fan of Veronica Mars? Perhaps he is in love with the narrator of Gossip Girl, or maybe he just saw Forgetting Sarah Marshall recently and is trying to place her.
Bell makes no notice of any of this, because, well, she’s not that kind of people person. “I’ve always been a big dog person,” she declares, pointing out two small dogs yip-yapping in excitement over the smell of food, thick in the air. “I like animals more than I like people. They’re just nicer,” Bell says and blinks her eyes and stares at me daringly.
She’s like this. Her implicit misanthropy borders on bitchy—as in, that bitch is funny. For instance, when we speak of pizza and the perpetual carb vs. no carb debate, I let on that a certain Flaunt staffer is going carb-free and another prefers Bottega Louie’s pizza over Mozza’s. She immediately snaps, “Your co-workers are idiots. You work with a group of clowns. Okay?” This level of honesty is more than a great comedic effect; it’s the heart of Bell’s life philosophy.
“I would like to be called on my bullshit,” she says, and thanks her husband, actor Dax Shepard, for constantly doing so. Bell enjoys this constant self-assessment—it helps keep her grounded. “I stopped chasing perfection in every definition of the word. In career, in vanity, in anywhere I could apply it. I think perfection is unrealistic and unattainable, and I felt freed when I let myself be who I am,” Bell states. “Like, I’m gonna order red velvet pancakes. Life is fucking short and these are delicious.” She sets aside her egg sandwich and picks up her fork and starts back on the red velvet. The elderly man’s eyes bear down on us again. Hungry for red velvet?
As she digs into her sugar bomb, Bell elaborates on her slew of films set for release next year. There’s Big Miracle with Drew Barrymore; Dance of the Mirlitons with Chloë Moretz; Movie 43, a series of comedic shorts with nearly every major star; and then there’s Outrun, which Bell is most excited about. This makes sense, as it was written and directed by Shepard and they made it with all their friends. “We remembered what it was like to not worry about anything but getting the footage,” Bell says and adds, “We did all of our own stunts. It was so much fun. Probably illegal. But because we were in charge, we did a lot of things studios probably wouldn’t feel comfortable having actors do. We were in a Class 1 Tatum dune buggy in a garage and busted through the wooden doors directly onto a ramp and then jumped 10 feet in the air and landed 150 feet down the road. It was awesome.”
Bell’s eyes glisten with excitement thinking about the good times. Other things she considers a good time: off-roading, hiking, taking picnics, cooking meals for friends. She admits of her husband and herself, who both grew up in greater Detroit, “We’re hillbillies at heart, and I’m not fucking ashamed of that.” She goes on to say that another common trait Detroit imparts to all its native inhabitants is pessimism. “You tend to always be prepared for the end. Even if you get out,” Bell explains. “So, I always assume my career’s going to end tomorrow, you know what I mean? We’re very frugal.”
Obviously, her career is not ending anytime soon. In addition to the slew of movies listed above, also set for next year on Bell’s roster is the darkly comedic TV series House of Lies alongside heavyweight Don Cheadle. It’s a show which explores “the underbelly of manipulation” (management consultants), but in a humorous light. Bell plays one of Cheadle’s consultants, Jeannie Van Der Hooven, a character full of snarky quips. Portraying a management consultant is an interesting role for Bell, who’s not so keen on the manipulation, dishonesty, and leeching these people do for a living. “I don’t have all that much faith that human beings could stay good in that kind of situation,” Bell remarks. “Human beings are very easily morally bankrupted.” She pauses. “I’m conflicted, because I also do believe that human beings are innately good. But there’s so much bullshit around us at all times that it’s tricky. It’s tricky not to become too narcissistic, which I think is just the whole game of life.”
The misanthropy is starting to make very logical sense. Her chosen industry is basically a machine of narcissism and vanity, churning out one self-obsessed troll after the other. She loves the game, in moderation and with balancing of course (balancing which involves avid charity work for causes like Friendfactor, a gay marriage rally in New York with Chelsea Clinton a couple months before it passed, and Invisible Children, which works to prevent children from becoming soldiers in Afghanistan). Bell doesn’t do charity and activism out of any kind of self-promo—it’s a genuine benevolence that she’s been participating in since she was a child fostering dogs for the humane society. In fact, she’d feel better not having to do any promotional bullshit whatsoever. “It’s annoying,” she says of overexposure. “I do interviews like this where I talk about myself for two hours, and it’s fucking nauseating to me. You know what I mean?”
Maybe it was literally nauseating. The pancakes remain unfinished. We agree that they weren’t that great, that pancakes should perhaps just be pancakes and red velvet should be left to cakes made not on the griddle. Some things should remain true in this world. With that, Bell rushes off to her next appointment.
The man watching us the entire time speaks up, “Are you going to finish that?” He points to the red velvet pancakes. “Because I’d like to try it.” Of course. I hand them over and he pauses at receiving them. I assure him, Kristen Bell did not have a cold or flu or any detectible germs. He seems satisfied and asks, “Were you interviewing her or something? I was thinking the entire time, ‘God, she’s talking non-stop about herself!’” If there’s a narcissism required in this industry, at least Bell is self-aware and constantly taking “personal inventory” of herself.