In 11 Questions, The A.V. Club asks interesting people 11 interesting questions—and then asks them to suggest one for our next interviewee.
Kat Dennings first gained attention as a young actor with noteworthy roles in The 40-Year-Old Virgin, The House Bunny, and Nick And Norah’s Infinite Playlist, before gaining international success as the star of CBS’ Two Broke Girls. (Her supporting role in a couple of Thor movies didn’t hurt, either.) The A.V. Club spoke to her by phone in advance of the premiere of her new YouTube Red series, Dallas & Robo, streaming beginning May 30 on the WWE YouTube channel. The animated buddy comedy finds Dennings playing a space trucker named Dallas alongside her cowboy-hat-clad AI partner Robo (John Cena) as they try to make a living driving an interplanetary big rig through the dangerous and surprisingly crowded galaxy. The actor was all too happy to reveal strange facts about her sleep habit, being a crazy old person on the inside, and growing up in an actual haunted house.
1. What makes you optimistic about the future?
KD: Is it my future or the future of humanity?
AVC: It can be either—whichever one you feel maybe more optimistic about.
KD: I may not be optimistic about either of those, but I think for humankind, these young people are very passionate about causes and standing up for what’s right. I think, you know, the children and whatnot are the future.
KD: I don’t know! You think I know anything about what good stuff is about to happen? Because everything feels really bad right now.
AVC: It’s true. But at least when you see kids on social media organizing, that sort of suggests the world won’t go down without a fight.
KD: Yeah, when I see, like, 7-year-old kids at a march holding up handmade signs about love and peace and stuff, it feels like the planet is going to be in good hands. That makes me feel really good.
2. Which single work of yours do you feel didn’t get the attention it deserved?
KD: Oh, well. [Laughs.] I did make a puppet show, a handmade puppet show, for a special feature in the Nick And Norah’s Infinite Playlist DVD.
AVC: Oh shit, really?
KD: Yeah! See, that’s the whole thing! It got absolutely no… The director asked me if I wanted to make something for the special features, and I made this insanely elaborate puppet show of the film with paper dolls that I made myself, and I taped it on my little camera. It was so stupid and cute, but I worked so hard on it. It was really lo-fi, but if anyone buys that DVD or has it, they should watch it because I’m actually really proud of it. It took a lot of work.
AVC: How long did it take you to do?
KD: Well, it took me a week to make all the props. I made all the characters out of paper, and I drew them and colored them in and put glitter on them, and I made, like, a New York City backdrop. The twist is that every scene in the movie ends with everyone being eaten by a bear.
AVC: [Laughs.] Okay.
KD: Which is a pretty good move for any film, in my opinion. So the bear is especially glittery and, uh, imposing. [Laughs.]
3. What was the first album you bought with your own money?
KD: The first CD I bought with my own money was Changesbowie, which is like a David Bowie compilation greatest-hits CD, and that was a big deal. And then the first record I bought was Parallel Lines by Blondie. It’s Parallel Lines, right?
AVC: Yeah. Those are both very good answers and not embarrassing, which is rare for first records.
KD: Not embarrassing, although the embarrassing reason that I bought Parallel Lines—I was probably 7—with my allowance money at a flea market was because I thought Blondie was pretty. That’s it. That’s the only reason. It was accidentally such a good idea.
AVC: So it actually paid off huge that you went purely on aesthetics from a very young age.
KD: I think I did that with David Bowie as well, but he was my first crush from Labyrinth, so it all has to do with, like, hot blonds that I like, I guess.
4. Do you believe in ghosts?
KD: I absolutely believe in ghosts, and I have to believe in ghosts because I grew up in a house that was built in 1694, and it was haunted as fuck.
AVC: Wait, really?
KD: Well, okay, yeah. So my childhood home had a plaque from the historical society in the town that I grew up in in Pennsylvania. And it was—it’s like a historical landmark, so you can’t alter it. That’s how old it is. It’s one of the first homes in the township.
AVC: That’s so unusual.
KD: It was used—fun fact, also boring—as a port house. And, I mean, it’s just—some crazy shit went down in there at some point. It’s also a place where William Penn used to come and stay all the time. There was some crazy horror-movie tropes that did happen, like lights would go on and off, things would fly across the room. It sounds so crazy, but I swear—you could ask my father, who is 89 who saw some shit. We all saw some shit.
AVC: So you not only grew up in a historical landmark, but it was also haunted and you experienced these haunted things happening as a kid?
KD: Here’s the thing: I grew up in a haunted house and was raised by ghosts. [Laughs.]
AVC: Do you remember the first time you realized it was haunted, or a thing happened that made you sort of go, “Uh-oh.”
KD: Have you ever walked in a place and felt like [Makes creeped-out “mleh” sound]?
KD: Or maybe not. When you walk into a place that old, you just feel clammy. It’s not unpleasant. It didn’t feel scary. It just felt like—the air felt thick and electric-y. You know what I mean? Like there were a thousand dead people looking in your soul or something. [Laughs.] It sounds horrible, but I really did love living there.
AVC: I was going to say, it sounds like a really terrifying way to grow up.
KD: You want to hear something even better? I know this is the longest answer to your question in the world.
AVC: No, go for it.
KD: Now, it’s a fucking Airbnb, that house.
KD: I swear to god, my goddamn brother and his wife went and stayed there recently—just like, “Why not?” He wanted to show his wife our childhood house. And he was so weirded out by it that they ended up just leaving.
AVC: Good god.
KD: I know! Sorry—sorry about your light-hearted questionnaire turning into A Quiet Place II, but it’s real.
5. If you’re only allowed one condiment the rest of your life, which would you choose?
KD: Here’s the thing: My first instinct was to say kimchi because I love kimchi, but I know that is horrible—it’s not a condiment, so I can’t say that. It’s a big deal. But I’m going to just say relish, because I like—I know that the traditional kimchi makers will yell at me for saying that. My heart says kimchi; my mind says relish.
AVC: Wait, what all do you apply relish to, then?
KD: Why relish?
AVC: How widespread is your relish use that it would be your chosen condiment?
KD: Well, I’m not really a condiment-user. I don’t like a lot of sauce, you know what I’m saying? When I think about condiments, I think about, like, hot dogs. That needs a condiment. Are pickles a condiment? I just love pickles, man.
6. In what type of social situation are you most uncomfortable?
KD: All of them. Every single social situation makes me uncomfortable, but you know what I don’t like? And this is real weird: I really don’t like restaurants.
AVC: What is it about restaurants?
KD: And this is a real weird—this is a Kat-specific issue, but I find it so psychologically strange to sit down and be forced to stay there for like an allotted amount of time, like a social contract of the restaurant thing. It makes me really want to go home. I don’t know why.
AVC: Is it being surrounded by strangers who are also doing it? Or is it just the knowledge that you’re stuck there for X amount of time?
KD: It’s the mental knowledge that I’m stuck there for probably two hours, because there’s a pressure, like: Order the food, you wait for the food, you eat the food, and then you wait for the check, and then you can leave. I’m the kind of person who likes to just be able to leave anywhere at anytime. You know what I mean?
AVC: So in other social situations, you’re somebody that would be comfortable doing the Irish goodbye at a party and just ghosting.
KD: Yeah. I try not to do—I mean, I’ve done an Irish goodbye maybe at one or two enormous parties. I wouldn’t Irish-goodbye my bookclub friends.
AVC: That wouldn’t be polite, in a smaller setting.
KD: Yeah, I don’t know. You know when you’re somewhere and you’re just like, “God, what are we all doing? We’re sitting here waiting for food, and we have to stay here with other people waiting for food until we can leave.” It just feels—I don’t know. I’m not into it. That’s why Postmates is the best.
7. What was your dream job when you were a kid?
KD: Oh, um, actor, so that worked out. Or I wanted to be a private investigator.
AVC: What made you want to be a private investigator?
KD: I read Harriet The Spy, and I became just obsessed with mysteries and solving things and creeping around, which was kind of nice with the haunted house I lived in. But I actually made little fake business cards for myself as a kid.
AVC: That’s impressive.
KD: Yeah, that had my name and “private eye” and a little logo I drew. It’s so cute. I actually have one somewhere. I think my mom has it.
AVC: That way, in case your first dream of actor eventually doesn’t pan out, you can start your second dream job, and you’ll already have business cards.
KD: Oh my god, exactly. I need a little plan.
8. What do you watch when you’re in a hotel?
KD: My go-to thing that I like to watch is The Great British Bake Off. If you’ve ever watched that, it’s the best.
AVC: Oh yeah.
KD: Yeah, it’s wonderful. I’ve seen all the seasons available here, but I also have YouTubed [others]. There are so many, too. There’s The Great Irish Bake Off, there’s—I don’t know. They make me feel incredibly comfortable.
AVC: Do you have a particular season or cast group that was your favorite?
KD: Oh my god, I really loved Nancy. Do you remember Nancy from—
KD: Do you know what her last name is? [Pauses.] Nancy Birtwhistle! It’s the best name in the world. I’m a big fan of hers. I really love her.
AVC: Is it an aesthetic thing, like with Bowie and Blondie?
KD: She just has this amazing accent, and she won—spoiler alert—she’s an amazing baker, but I just really enjoy watching her bake. And I follow her on Instagram, and she’s just adorable.
9. Do you think art should be separated from the artist?
KD: I do, but I guess it depends what kind of art you make and what kind of artist you are. I feel like some artists that I know, across different types of genres of art, want their art to be evaluated on its own merits. It’s harder, I guess, if you consider acting an art, which I guess it is—it’s hard to separate that person from the art because the person is the art, sort of. Yeah, that’s a deep one, bro.
AVC: One of the reasons we used it this year is because it’s something that so many people are talking about, especially in the past year where you’re confronted with, “Oh, this thing I love was made by somebody that now I don’t love so much.”
KD: Oh, I see what you’re saying. Right. You mean like, because of two days ago, Kanye said some stuff and now it makes me sad. That kind of thing?
AVC: Yeah, that’s a good example.
KD: It really depends on the severity, perhaps, and the personal nature of the artist’s situation and how it affects you, and whether the art can override that for you personally. It’s a very personal question. I think for me, it depends. I can still listen to Kanye. It does… it changes it a bit. I mean… yeah, I don’t know. Maybe not.
Well, The Cosby Show is ruined. I mean, it depends, but I can’t watch The Cosby Show anymore. It makes me really upset.
10. What’s the most difficult professional decision you’ve ever had to make?
KD: I’ve been pretty fortunate that I have a pretty strong sense of what I want and what I don’t want. I’ve only been in a couple of pickles professionally—or personally-leading-into-professionally—but there was one instance where I had a tragedy in my life, and I had to back out of a film. And I just couldn’t do it, which is not—it wasn’t difficult, but I’ve never had to—I’ve always prided myself on being able to do my job, and I was unable to do my job in that moment. But it didn’t screw anybody over. It was just a very hard time, so that was hard. Hopefully there won’t be too many of those.
I think you got to just try not to let things get difficult, maybe is a good thing—just have a good sense of yourself and what you really want, and you won’t be forced to make those hard choices, maybe. Depends on the profession you’re in.
11. If you had to stay one age forever, what would it be and why?
KD: Oh my god. Well, first, I don’t think I would want to. I don’t think I would be a very good vampire. It’d be stressful. But pretty much physically, I was really doing it around age 23 or 24. I was working out, I was in a pretty good mood all the time. I didn’t need to use my healthcare much. [Laughs.] I guess I’d do better then. But I just feel like my personality is going to make more sense when I’m, like, 85. I feel like it’s really going to come together. Yeah, I pick 24.
AVC: So 24 in terms of how you feel, but then maybe 85 in terms of when you think you’ll finally have yourself figured out, personality-wise?
KD: Yeah, I think I’ll get it all figured out by the time I’m around 85, and I’ll be just killing it.
AVC: I always hope that, too. I always think to myself, “I’m going to be a great crazy old person.”
KD: Same! Oh, for sure. Like, I’m a crazy, crazy old person now, and it doesn’t make sense with my somewhat semi-youthful appearance, which is rapidly disintegrating.
Bonus 12th question from Amber Nash: If you were a meal, what would you be made up of? What about that meal represents who you are as a person?
KD: Ugh, as long as I’m not served in a restaurant, I think we’ll be fine. [Laughs.] I’d be something real marbled. I’d probably be like a—it’s so gross to think about—I’d be like a fatty piece of albacore. No! Albacore is not fatty. I do see a fatty piece of raw fish. How about that?
Oh! I know. I’d just be a big, fat piece of toro. With extra fat just dripping off. [Laughs.] You know? Just take it or leave it, you know what I mean?
AVC: Yeah, it’s a very all-or-nothing proposition.
KD: Yep, you’re either into it or not. You know what I’m saying?
AVC: And finally, you have to pick the 12th question to ask the next person, not knowing who it will be.
KD: Okay, okay. I want to know: If you could choose, would you either be fluent in a language, or a genius at one instrument?
AVC: Which one would you pick?
KD: Which would I pick? God, the more useful thing would be the language, but I think I would pick an instrument. I think I pick piano.
AVC: It would be so fun to be a piano virtuoso.
KD: Right? That you just sit down—I’m like staring at my piano that I have that I’m not—I played when I was a kid, but I would just love to sit down at that and just be amazing. So that’s what I would definitely pick.
AVC: Every time in a movie or a TV show, when somebody just sits down and starts playing the piano, I’m always so envious.
KD: And it’s like, I want to be-slash-make out with that person.