The star of “Paint” shares seven photos from her phone — and contemplates work, canines, a coyote attack and mortality while bouncing between the coasts.
Michaela Watkins describes herself as an actress who doesn’t know where she’s going to be next week. That’s only a small exaggeration.
“Paint,” the comedy loosely based on the painter Bob Ross and co-starring Owen Wilson and Wendi McLendon-Covey, will be her fourth film to open this year. It premieres the same day as “Tiny Beautiful Things,” a Hulu mini-series in which Ms. Watkins appears with Kathryn Hahn.
“There’s nobody better,” Ms. Watkins, 51, said of Ms. Hahn. “The only person better is Julia Louis-Dreyfus.” Ms. Louis-Dreyfus and Ms. Watkins shared the screen this year in the film “You Hurt My Feelings.” (And in case you’re curious, Ms. Watkins’s other two films this year are “The Young Wife” and “History of the World: Part II.”)
With her work taking her away from her home in Ojai, Calif., where she lives with her husband, Fred Kramer, and their two dogs, to New York, London and beyond, Ms. Watkins makes good use of her time off. When we caught up, she was thoroughly enjoying a mini-vacation in California’s wine country. “I probably could drink my own urine and be drunk,” she said. “I’ve just had so much wine in the last 48 hours.”
Be that as it may, she was fresh-faced, sober and ready to talk through seven photos she had taken during her recent travels across the East and West Coasts.
These are edited excerpts from the interview.
This is one of my dogs, Wuzzabear. I call her “fatty bum bum,” thanks to one of my dear British friends. She’s our puppy we got during the pandemic, and she’s not perfectly socialized because of that, but she loves attention from other dogs. She’s so thirsty on the playground, and it’s really embarrassing.
I’m suspicious of people who don’t let their dogs on their beds. That’s like 80 percent of why dogs are the best: just the “schnoogles,” the cuddling, the hot breath on your face, the weight of their body on you. If, God forbid, I have a terminal disease, just put me in a bed with 1,000 dogs and just let me waste away.
When I was in New York, I did what I called the “aging parents tour.” We saw my mother-in-law and we saw my father and his wife. When I was visiting my father, he gave me these Depression-era glasses. They’ve been in his cabinet as long as I can remember. This idea that he says “I’m not going to need this” is very sad.
My dad is really fit. He’s 86 and he’s active. He rides his bike, he kayaks, he hikes, he plays trombone in a band, he’s learning Italian, he’s teaching literacy. He’s phenomenal. But we went for a hike in the snow and he was having trouble. It really gets to him.
I stopped by my friend Ari Graynor’s. She’s a fellow actress and she bought a farmhouse in upstate New York. Her partner, Michael, is an incredible chef. He does these incredible things called “Death Over Dinner,” where they have a nice dinner and talk about death.
What better place to talk about dying than while we’re with people and experiencing really incredible joy with life? And to feel sated with food and drink, while you talk about the thing that you don’t want to talk about, which is our inevitable death. I do not like small talk, I just want to roll up my sleeves and get into it.
This is my friend Aya Cash — she’s a phenomenal actress. I worked with her on a movie recently called “The Young Wife,” which just debuted at South By Southwest. She’s a peer, but in this movie she played my stepdaughter, which is weird. Whatever.
This is her right after she performed in “The Best We Could.” It’s a beautiful play, and what I really loved about it is that Aya really fell in love with acting again. I’m a little afraid to do theater again. It’s been so long that I’m scared, which makes me think even more I should do it. For five years after I graduated from college, I did regional theater and I always had impostor syndrome. Even though I was getting parts, I felt like I didn’t truly deserve them.
My dad’s wife said to me one-time, “You were so great in this play, and boy, you used to be terrible. We were really scared.” At least she was honest.
This is at the premiere of “Tiny Beautiful Things,” which is Kathryn Hahn’s new show. In the middle is Cheryl Strayed, who is my hero. Cheryl saved my life. She used to have an advice column called “Dear Sugar,” and my friend Joey Soloway turned me on to her. I was going through a breakup, the death of a friend — a really awful time. I was super depressed and worried that I’d ruined my own life. Her letters breathed life into me and got me through a really hard time. I kept saying, “I feel like I know her.” I didn’t know her, but it turns out we both lived in Portland in the ’90s around the corner from each other. I don’t really fangirl, but when I meet her, my whole personality goes out the window. I just kind of sit there and smile and laugh too hard at everything she says.
Tess Morris is a writer friend of mine. She’s in New York now writing on “Only Murders in the Building.” She and I became really good friends when she came out to Ojai and there was a coyote attack on my dog. All the dogs survived, but barely. And I survived, but barely. I was in the hospital for a few days with a bone infection. Anyway, it bonded us.
When we were in New York, we went to the “Succession” premiere, which is my all-time favorite show. I think it’s the greatest comedy that’s ever been. We thought we both looked pretty spiffy, so she’s taking a picture of me and I’m taking a picture of her.
This just pretty much sums up L.A. It’s a city that makes no sense. Somebody just randomly thought, I’ll put this beautiful flower pot here! And somebody just smashed their garbage bins up against it. And then this fence, which is like, Keep out! You don’t belong here! And, Smile! You’re on Camera. It’s a little snapshot of Los Angeles.