Ari Graynor is getting a fast education in being a series star.
Mainly known for saucy, strong-willed characters in movies including “Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist” and “For a Good Time, Call … ,” the actress has done stints on such series as “The Sopranos” and “Fringe.” She leads her own show for the first time, though, by playing a variation on Cameron Diaz’s 2011 film role as CBS’ sitcom version of “Bad Teacher” premieres Thursday (April 24).
“I’ve been doing this a long time now,” the friendly, naturally funny Graynor tells Zap2it, “and I’m thankful this kind of show and character and experience is happening now versus when I was 18. I know more of the landscape of this career. You can’t have any expectations, because you never know how something is going to go.”
Indeed, Graynor cites “An American Crime,” a fact-based 2007 movie about a family that kept a young woman captive. “This is so embarrassing, but true,” she reflects. “I remember going to Sundance with it and thinking, ‘Well, this is it. I’m probably going to get nominated for an Oscar for this, and it’s going to be a huge deal.’ And there are people who have seen it and loved it, but of course, it wasn’t a massive take-the-world-by-storm thing.”
Even if Graynor’s “Bad Teacher” work as newly divorced novice instructor and man-hunter Meredith Davis succeeds on a bigger level, she feels more ready to deal with it: “I have no idea what to expect. I’m just excited to finally share this with people, because we’ve been working on it for more than a year. I love it, and I just hope other people love it, too.”
Graynor believes many viewers will like Meredith automatically, explaining that her new alter ego can “push the boundaries of behavior. We all secretly wish, I think, that we could say anything and do anything and not care what anyone thinks … and that’s Meredith. She’s unapologetic, she’s confident, and it never even occurs at her that anyone could be thinking anything bad about her at any moment.
“At the same time,” Boston native Graynor adds, “the show is not raunchy and not dirty. Meredith lets the school and the new people around her affect her, and she’s a good person. She commits bad actions sometimes, but at the end of the day, she’s an underdog and she’s rooting for the underdogs around her. I love that about the show.”
Also, Graynor loves that making “Bad Teacher” has let her test the waters of what she can get away with on broadcast television. “It’s easier and more fun,” she claims, “the more outrageous and outside the box you can be. When there’s a lot of freedom to play around, I think that’s where the most exciting things can happen.
“In a weird way, I get more nervous when I have to do things repeatedly that are more traditional. I’m not sure why that is, but when you can allow yourself to lose self-consciousness and expectation and just allow yourself to have fun, that’s the best.”