Wendi McLendon-Covey is best known for her outlandish comedic work on the cult TV show “Reno 911!” “Bridesmaids,” and now on ABC’s “The Goldbergs.” But in her new movie “Army of One” (in limited release and available on VOD Friday), she plays the stable woman opposite Nicolas Cage’s Gary Faulkner, a real man who really tried to hunt down Osama bin Laden with just a samurai sword because he says God told him to.
Cage goes all in with long hair and a high-pitched voice as Faulkner, who is living a down-and-out life until he runs into an old friend, Marci (McLendon-Covey), and the two start a relationship. Faulkner also starts a relationship with God (Russel Brand) who commands him to go to Afghanistan and do what the Allied Forces can’t.
Business Insider talked to McLendon-Covey about the experience working with an actor like Cage who “doesn’t break character,” if there will ever be a “Reno 911!” reunion, and why she got cut out of “Magic Mike.”
Jason Guerrasio: Was it fun playing the straight man, so to speak? You don’t get to do it often.
Wendi McLendon-Covey: I think everybody pretty much looks straight compared to Gary Faulkner. There had to be a couple of people in the movie who would ask questions like, “What are you talking about?” “Voices from God, what?”
Guerrasio: So you’re the voice of reason.
McLendon-Covey: Yeah. Or at least a voice of why.
Guerrasio: Asking the important question.
McLendon-Covey: Yeah. “Osama bin Laden, he’s got to go, but why you?” When [director] Larry Charles talked to me about it my answer was going to be yes because I’ve always wanted to work with Larry Charles [director of “Borat”]. But when I watched the videos and saw that this is a real person who really felt this way and he’s still out there I felt I really want to go on this journey.
Guerrasio: And on top of that you then have Nicolas Cage playing the guy. Did you get a warning that he was doing the high-pitched voice and the long hair?
McLendon-Covey: I did get that warning because by the time I had worked with him he had been living in this character for months. So our scenes were the very last and I thought, “OK, I’ve never met Mr. Cage before, but I know how he works so this will be interesting.” And I didn’t meet him until, like, five minutes before we started shooting. So I can’t say that I’ve met Nicolas Cage. [Laughs] I only know him as Gary.
Guerrasio: So when he walked up and introduced himself, he was already in the voice?
McLendon-Covey: Oh, he’s in the voice, he’s in the character. He lived with his hair like that for months. He just doesn’t break character.
Guerrasio: Had you ever encountered that before in your career?
McLendon-Covey: No. Not to that degree. And when I think about it, that can’t be easy to live with that character for that many months. I mean, my God. He must have just been dying to shake it off by the time I met him.
Guerrasio: Did you ever try to talk to him between takes?
McLendon-Covey: Well, we did speak a little bit between shots and I found out that as a kid he grew up very close to where I live now in Long Beach. Like, not even a mile away. I know exactly the street he mentioned. So that was a trip for me. So we would talk a little bit but Larry runs a very tight ship and there’s not a lot of down time.
Guerrasio: And Nic would have this conversation with you in the Gary voice?
McLendon-Covey: He let that voice go a little bit.
Guerrasio: You get to handle Gary’s samurai sword in the movie. Any funny stories using it?
McLendon-Covey: I’m so accident-prone I didn’t want to touch it — I thought someone was going to lose an ear if I held it. I knew I would have to do that scene — it wasn’t like they surprised me with that. It was in the script. But every time I had to touch that thing I got skeeved out.
Guerrasio: I have to ask because I’m such a fan: Are there any plans to bring together the “Reno 911!” gang for a reunion or movie?
McLendon-Covey: Oh, I wouldn’t be the one to ask. I don’t know. I’m so busy with what I’m doing. Everybody has jobs.
Guerrasio: Are you up for it if called upon?
McLendon-Covey: I don’t know. I would have to think about that. I haven’t really seen a reunion — I mean, does anyone get what they need from that? I don’t know?
Guerrasio: If you guys did a movie again I think fans would run to that.
McLendon-Covey: I don’t know. That’s so far in the past.
Guerrasio: So this isn’t a scenario where you drop everything if cocreator Thomas Lennon or someone from the show calls?
McLendon-Covey: No. I would have to read it and see what else is happening. Listen, I love them all, but it’s just so far in the past, I would be surprised if it happens.
Guerrasio: Before “Magic Mike” shot, I remember news in the trades that you were cast. What happened?
McLendon-Covey: My scene just got cut out.
Guerrasio: So you did film something?
McLendon-Covey: Yeah. I actually have the scene and it just didn’t fit in the movie. It didn’t advance the story along. It was fun for me but I totally see why they cut it.
Guerrasio: What was it?
McLendon-Covey: I was a realtor or something and I had taken my car to Channing Tatum to get detailed or something and he was dragging his feet so I had to go find him at his home and he kind of sweet-talks me out of being mad.
Guerrasio: Ah, ok.
McLendon-Covey: [Laughs] See, it’s not that interesting. But I have it, it does exist. And I stayed in the cut long enough to still get residuals from it. So that’s good.
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