I met Madeline Blue in quite the serendipitous way. My friend / next door neighbor Jeanine asked me how my mom was doing, because she’s been quite ill this winter. I told her she was a bit better, but still very much on the mend, and that I’d been spending a lot of time with her watching TV—in particular, we’d been marathoning the brilliant FX series Justified. “My friend was on Justified!” My jaw dropped. “Yeah, and she’s been staying with me the past couple days!” My jaw dislodged entirely and fell to the floor and spent way longer than the five-second rule there.
Turns out her friend Madeline had played a prostitute by the name of Minerva in the third season. A quick IMDb-ing refreshed me as to which prostitute this was, and also enlightened me to the fact that this very same actress had also played the highly-memorable role of ‘Cure Girl’ in one of the greatest comedies of all time, Wet Hot American Summer—a favorite not only of mine, but of my mom’s as well.
I knew that a surprise visit from her would be the perfect thing to help perk my mom up. Jeanine agreed, and put me and Madeline together, who immediately got the synchronicity of it and was more than happy to do it. And it couldn’t have gone better.
That brief moment of ‘How do I recognize this person?’ in my mom’s eyes when she opened the door, followed by me being able to say “This is Madeline Blue, who played Minerva, one of the whores on Justified” and watch her face light up and beam is a moment I’ll treasure forever. It was the perfect merging of fantasy and reality—pure magic, as though she had stepped right out of the TV.
They talked for a while about the show, and all the while, I was smiling at my mom’s happiness, but also at the fact that I knew I had one more ace up my sleeve. When the time was right, I dropped the bomb of “By the way, she was also in Wet Hot American Summer.” “No!” my mom exclaimed. “Who did you play?” Without missing a beat, Madeline raised her arm in her inimitable way, blowing her mind once more.
At the end of the visit, Madeline signed a flyer for her from the inside of our Justified Season 3 blu-ray set. Here’s a scan of it:
Not long after that day, I sat down with Madeline to find out about her experiences being in some of my favorite things:
Walk me through how you were cast in Wet Hot American Summer. What was the audition process like? And at what stage did you meet David Wain?
Hmm… so, I went to an audition! I had a lot of those growing up. My mom would drive me into New York City from New Jersey, where I lived. I got to cut out early from school! It was awesome.
I had one audition in the room with David and Michael [Showalter], then probably another, although I don’t remember if we even did callbacks—I’m sure we did, but this was over a decade ago. Either way, I’m sure I did pretty much the same thing both times, and that’s always the best way to do it. They had me read for Mallrat Girl and Cure Girl. I remember I had the characters totally backwards in my young mind—I thought Mallrat Girl meant someone gnarly, nerdy, and un-showered, and I had no idea what “Cure Girl” meant but I pictured her as a total Valley Girl. (I didn’t know I was being ironic with my delivery, but once I saw how they were going to clothe me, I guess I realized it’d be good for the part!) Backwards as I was, I remember having my hair up neat and tidy when I read for Cure Girl, then taking my hair down and messing it all up in front of my face and breathing all heavy and creepily to read for Mallrat Girl. Whatever I was doing, I guess they liked it! David and Michael were both very warm, and I remember them laughing generously in the room. Sweethahts.
Were you ever allowed to read the whole script, or did you just get sides for the scenes you were in?
As soon as I was cast, I stayed up one night, all night, devouring the whole script. But I had no sense of humor and it was all very… sexual-seeming. I was super scandalized. I wasn’t gonna give up the part or anything, but I remember thinking, “My mom is gonna freak.” I def thought I’d been cast in an amateur porno.
What was it like on set? Did it feel at all like being at camp? Did you make friends, and feel included?
Well, we were certainly on real campgrounds! Bunk beds and cold showers and everything. It was also rainy-mucky most of the time—also green and nature-y, so that all felt like camp. I had only been to sleepaway camp once in real life, so I wasn’t familiar with much except the scenery and the raging hormones (maybe those were just mine—nah, they were probably everywhere). I remember liking a boy who told me my pupils were cool while he was actually crushing after a way hotter girl, so that was pretty summer camp typical. Then there were the adults running amuck and brown-bagging it—that was probably pretty typical too, but a little foreign to this gal.
Everyone was super warm, fun, friendly, encouraging—we all sat together in the mess hall, and I definitely beat Paul Rudd in a game of HORSE!
Do you ever get recognized as the Cure Girl? You really stand out in the movie, even though it’s a small role.
Um… I’m doing this interview, aren’t I?! Yes, Cure Girl follows me wherever I go. Only among the cool kids, of course—and I wouldn’t have it any other way! Without her, I probably wouldn’t have ever had any friends or boyfriends ever.
But seriously, I appreciate WHAS fans more than I can say! You’ve all given me a small taste of what it feels like to be a super-cult, F-list, never has-been child star, pseudo-celeb.
Talk to me about the greatest arm raise in film history. Where did you raising your arm in that way come from? Was that in the script, a direction on set, or an improvise?
Ha! The arm raise! That, my friend, was pure inspiration. That’s definitely a trademark party trick I like to show off when someone says, “You know, Madeline was in Wet Hot American Summer,” and someone else responds, “Oh, yeah? Who were you?”
They just done told us to raise our hands… and I was gettin’ a pretty good hang of that goth-chick thing.
Was there much improvisation in the scenes you were in, or did things stick to the script?
There were moments of improvisation—mainly bits of physical comedy, like the arm raise. But for the most part, as I recall, everything was scripted so quirkily already that most of the magic was embedded in the writing. At least, as far as I can remember about my scenes, the language stayed pretty tight—it was the extra little non-verbal beats that got some play-time.
What was David Wain like as a director?
He’s amazing. Just the nicest dude. So in-tune, warm, inspired. Really listens. Like many of the best directors, he just trusted his cast and let them have fun. Man, he’s blown up! What I wouldn’t give to go back in time to a time where he warn’t so derned busy… I’d pick his sweet brains over a cupcake or two!
Did you ever think it’d become such a huge cult movie, and when did you notice that it had become one? It was panned by a lot of critics when it initially came out, and did quite poorly at the box office. But I honestly don’t know a single funny person who doesn’t like it. It’s like this perfect, sense-of-humor litmus test. And everyone who does like it has seen it like 10 times or more.
I think the first time I really noticed what had happened was when I visited my sister at college. No one in my high school gave a damn about the movie (it wasn’t very Jew-y where I lived). But when I visited my sister at Tufts, I was a total celeb! Boys flirted with me and thought I was famous. It was so weird.
And, I agree with all your super-nifty sentiments about the film. I wasn’t a very funny kid in my real life when the movie came out, so I didn’t really get it! As I got cooler, Wet Hot became truer to me. It’s just “the way”.
In addition to being in one of my favorite comedies, you were also on two episodes of one of my favorite TV shows, Justified. Talk to me about that experience—what was the casting like, and how was it working with Olyphant, Goggins, and McDonough?
So, casting’s rough. I mean, auditioning—I’m sure casting is too, but I’m not a casting director. I actually got the Justified gig through a chain of events including, but not limited to: moving to LA, dying my hair blonde, paying to meet casting directors, sending lots of postcards, having three different agents and reps all clicking buttons and making phone calls to the same office, and 8 out of 10 producers thinkin’ I’m alright.
Funnily enough, same as Wet Hot, the casting office was having gals audition for two roles at once—Cat and Minerva, the two hookers that appear in that scene in the trailer—and I gave a very different, quirky, instinctive take for each of them. I had Cat in mind as a bit of an airhead, and Minerva as a drug-lovin’, rough-voiced hussy—and I guess they ended up hiring me to do something in the middle. I think it’s nice when you can show people your ‘range’—turning on a dime gives you a fast opportunity to prove you’re not a hack. It also doesn’t leave you much room or time to over-think your choices and get all self-destructive and ‘heady’. Also, I had developed a relationship with Christal Karge at Cami Patton’s office, and she was really nice and ‘got’ me (guess she thought I had chops!). Those ladies practically run that show now. They’re awesome.
All those guys are great. Just GREAT. I spent the most time with McDonough, and he was a total joy to work with. Very easy and fun. Brilliant to watch how little the best TV actors have to ‘do’ to be golden on screen. Subtle stuff. Only had a bit of time with Olyphant, but he was very gracious.
You were also on an episode of The Sopranos. How was that, and did you have any interaction with the late great James Gandolfini?
Unfortunately, I did not. My scenes were all flashbacks, so I had an entirely different set of wonderful actors to work with. But I was the original Janice Soprano (they re-cast Young Janice as someone more Aida Turturro-like in Season 3, dammit). I did meet and spend some time talking with Anthony Jr. (Robert Iler) who had literally been scouted off the streets somewhere, if I recall. That was my first TV gig! And the birthing place of my first physical trademark—The Middle Finger. Needless to say, it was a lot of fun.
Where can our readers see you currently? Any cool projects at the moment?
Well, the coolest and most current spot to catch me is in Howie Mandel’s hidden-camera comedy Deal With It on TBS. I’ll also be making a very small appearance on his new dating game show, Can’t Buy Me Love. Other than that, write to your congressmen, cross your fingers, and pray lots of prayers to Yahweh or Baby J or whoever, asking that this girl makes some money doing what she loves this year!