‘Girls5eva’ Star Busy Philipps Recalls Being Told She Had to Pose for Maxim if She Wanted a Film Career

·5-min read

Busy Philipps is in New York’s Soho neighborhood at The Saucery, a weekend-long pop-up from Rao’s Homemade. While the Italian food company is selling its products at the brick-and-mortar marketplace, 100% of the proceeds go to non-profit Jersey Cares. “I love that Rao’s gives back,” the “Girl5eva” star says.

I caught up with Philipps over Zoom to talk matzoh pizza, wanting to sing with Mandy Moore on “Girl5eva” and how the Peacock series can’t help but remind her of some uncomfortable and “really weird” auditions during her teen years in Hollywood.

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This is your second collaboration with Rao’s?

Yeah, I love partnering with brands that I personally use, have purchased and continue to purchase. But also I do love that Rao’s gives back. So last summer, I did their Sauce for a Cause program. And now they reached out and they’re like, “We’re doing this pop-up. It’s an immersive pop-up in New York and everything is 15% off and the proceeds are going to Jersey Cares. People can also shop at the Saucery online as well. And the same thing applies, 100% of the proceeds is going to Jersey Cares.

Are you a good cook?

I am, but I also like things that are easy. I did a special stuffed shells recipe for the Saucery pop-up. It’s something that’s super easy but it kind of feels and looks impressive. I also try to incorporate my kids [daughters Birdie and Cricket] in the kitchen and teach them how to cook and let them learn how to cut things and stuff like that. Just last night, Birdie was like, “I’m hungry. Can I make matzoh pizza?” It was Rao’s marinara on the matzoh with shredded cheese and we put it in the toaster oven. It was delicious. I was very impressed.

Let’s talk about “Girls5eva.” When are you going to go on tour?

I want to go on tour. I’m not kidding. I think it’s different for Renée Elise Goldsberry and Sara Bareilles, who are like pros at this. I think they probably aren’t looking to go on tour with me. But I would love it. We did get to do live stuff at the Hollywood Bowl last year for Sara’s album release, and that was some of the most fun I’ve ever had. The new season of “Girls5eva” is just more, more and more. We’re in album mode. We’re making an album. We sing a lot. Sarah and I have like a really beautiful, albeit ridiculous, duet.

Is it like a love ballad kind of thing?

It’s like a melancholy song, almost like the Indigo Girls. It’s more like a revenge song. It’s called “Larry.” Larry was our former manager.

Who do you want to see on the show?

I really think it would be fun to have some of the like old girl groups from the ’90s, like Danity Kane. If my friend Mandy Moore would come on next year, that would be great, too.

Doesn’t she have a new album coming out?

She does and she’s amazing. And she’s my friend, so why not? Mandy, come on!

How about Jessica Simpson?

Jessica would be amazing. Any of those girls! We’re all similar ages and we all were in the industry in the late ‘90s and early 2000s and the show skewers and shines a light on all the things we were subjected to. Now everyone is kind of collectively looking back at how women — specifically women in pop music — were treated at that time. Everyone rightfully is sort of horrified and feels a great deal of shame.

And we’re all guilty of it.

100% and I love that the show kind of addresses those things. I was told by the head of casting at a major studio that if I wanted to have a film career, I needed to do Maxim. When I was 19, it was, “If you want a film career, you have to do Maxim.”

Did you do it?

I held off and was like, “I’m not going to do it.” And then at a certain point, I remember taking this general meeting and the guy saying that to me, so I called my publicist and said, “I guess I gotta do this.” We were all kind of under this impression that we had to do these things. This was just the way the industry was.

Did you have times where you were at an audition and you felt it was something real shady, that something wasn’t right?

All the time. I never had a Harvey Weinstein situation but just really weird things. There were a lot of requests for what to wear to auditions, like, “Wear flipflops to show your feet.” I remember once when I was quite young — I actually think this was before “Freaks and Geeks” — and I was testing for a show. I was going to network and my manager called me and she’s like, [Philipps says this in an English accent] “Darling, I don’t know how to say this to you, but so-and-so from the studio said you need to look like a little bit ‘tartier.’” I was like, “Tartier? What does that mean?” She was like, “Can you go get like something low cut and a push-up bra?” I was like, “Are you kidding?” I think I was 19. So I went to the Gap. That’s just what you did.

This interview was edited for length and clarity.

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