Actress Susan Yeagley on Christopher Guest's Mascots

Yeagley reveals what it was like joining the dinner party that is a Guest production.
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It has been 10 years since Christopher Guest has treated the world to a film. It is not that Guest has been dormant. He has been busy with television and commercial work as a director, writer, and actor. But the wait is over as his new comedy, Mascots premieres on Thursday, October 13th in select theaters and on Netflix.

Mascots follows the stories of different people who “mascot” as these individuals ready themselves to compete in the World Mascot Association’s annual competition known as the “Fluffies.” The chosen twenty who are asked to compete are all hoping to take home the 1st place “Golden Fluffy.”

The new film has some Guest-film favorites such as Jane Lynch, Fred Willard, Mike Hitchcock, and Parker Posey. But Guest has welcomed some new players to the cast. Recently, I got a chance to sit down with two of the incredibly smart, beautiful, and talented women from this cast, Susan Yegley and Sarah Baker.  Yeagley plays Laci Babineaux the sister to Parker Posey’s Cindi Babineaux.

I loved the movie. I laughed so hard. So hard.

Did you see it on the big screen? 

I did. I went to one of the screenings. 

Good. It's meant to be seen on the big screen.

I laughed so hard and I have been recommending it to friends. "Guys, Mascots is coming out, see it in the theater, see it on Netflix. Do something. Please. Because it is so funny."

Thank you.

I mean I love Christopher Guest but it was really neat to see new faces, it was really exciting. So how did you get involved with this film?

I've loved Christopher Guest since Spinal Tap so this has been on my bucket list. In the old days, stand-ups, your north star, your bucket list would be to be called over to the couch on the Johnny Carson show. That was really the brass ring. As an improviser to be in a Christopher Guest movie, he's the gold standard for this kind of thing.

I always said to my manager that is my dream and I don't know how you would even penetrate that cast because it's so tight and he's loyal to these fabulous and incredible improvisers who he uses in movie after movie. Ya know if you ever hear of something. I mean if you ever hear of something mama's here. Mama's sittin' in the Palisades, in the carpool line. And I'm not kidding you, out of the blue last summer I got a call, "What are you doing Tuesday at 2:15?" I still remember it was Tuesday at 2:15 I said, "What?" He said, "Christopher Guest is casting for his next film and he needs someone from the South and they don't want a big name because it's got to be someone that people don't and who is truly southern to play (Parker Posey's) sister. I said I'm on my way. He said no it's actually on Tuesday you can't go now. I was like "I have to wait till Tuesday!?!"

So I went and he doesn't audition people which is another genius thing because auditions are tricky because you're reading a part that a 23-year-old wrote who lives you know, in Reno or something. But you know, so he just...has you come in and talks to you for a half hour. You just talk like this and ask questions and we just had a lovely conversation. And that's how he "auditions" people. It's just a half-hour talk in his office.  He talks with people. He listens to people. And I just told him where I was from and my life story and all that...being from the south and I got a call a couple weeks later.

I was at the house in my office and my manager said, "How would you like to play Parker Posey's sister in the next Christopher Guest movie? You got the part. "Oh my God." I started screaming so loud. My husband came barreling down the steps. He thought someone died in the family...because there's been a lot of tragedy. He was like coming down...his face was lavender white. "What's the matter? What's the matter?" I dropped to my knees. I can still feel that, like spaghetti noodles. My legs were like spaghetti noodles. He grabbed the phone and goes, "Hello? Who is this? Who is this?" He thought it was, the California Highway Patrol. He kept asking, "Who is this? Who is this?" and my manager says, "I just told Susan she got the part in a Christopher Guest movie." He goes, "You gotta tell me exactly what you told her, cuz I want to make my wife scream like that. I gotta make her scream like that!" I mean, I was bananas. It was like a dream. It was.

And from that moment Chris emailed me and goes, "Look. I'm going to give you Parker's cell phone number and I want you guys to talk." So we had a couple months to talk because she was in New York and I was in LA. That way we were really able to get to know each other. So, when we showed up to be sisters, it was authentic and we knew each other. So, you know I'd be like, "Ladies, I can't drive carpool today. I gotta call Parker Posey. I've got a 2:30 with Parker. It's 5:30 her time, but its 2:30 my time."  And Parker, she is just a walking Valentine. She is just so funny and inclusive. She showed me the ropes in a really loving way. She knows that I do improv and stuff like that, so she said "Yeah…just go for it, this is a safe place." You know, once he chooses you. He's not one of these directors that's like, 'Hmm. I wonder if I made the right choice?' He's all in."

He is like, "I chose you, and you're here, and you do what you do." 

He would say, "I'm all in on you. I believe in you."  

That's so awesome.

 It is. And it makes me emotional to have that kind of person respect and be so heart-centered and kind and is like, "Babe, welcome to the dinner party. Welcome to the dinner party."

 Absolutely.

When, when you're so supported like that I felt like I could fly and have fun. I just felt he had my back. She had my back and the cast...they know what they're doing. Jane Lynch…these people. I would come early and just watch Jane and Ed. 

They have such incredible, antagonistic chemistry…it's so good.

You know, you just want to go to those character's houses and go out to dinner with those characters. Amusing Grace...her book. It's How to Succeed with God in Real Estate. I mean, there's... everybody brought so much to that. Jane brought all these things that she does. And each character, each person in that movie is just so different. And I love, for me personally, being 45...I'm so grateful that here I got this part that…I've never had anything like this...of this, this grand size. It was such a major thing and it just made me realize, wow it's never too late. You know, no matter what age, if we're still breathing and we get upright, we're vertical everyday...it's never too late for something like this to happen. 

Well, I think that it kinda ties in to though with Laci's story as a character in the movie, right? Because I love the fact that her character...her whole dream for college is ruined by a sprained ankle. Like it's so--

 It's so shallow.

It's so shallow. You're asking yourself, is she going to say she had cancer? No, it's a sprained ankle, right? And so you have this moment where she goes on this like normalized route of having children and being a mom. And then, Cindy's character goes off and has this life of an artist. At this all women's Amelia Earhart College for women.

It's so exotic!

And yet the mascot is a male which just flies in the face of like every woman's college to be, “Well, we have Alvin the Armadillo."

Yeah, it's not Alice.

It's not Alice or Abbey or some more gender-neutral name. But I think in comedy some times the little stories get lost. Cindi and Laci's story is really beautiful because, and I don't want to spoil it before people see it, but I think that through Laci's love of fried food and fear of sushi she gets to end up realizing her dream. What do you think about telling those smaller stories about people's dreams?

I love it. And one thing that was really important to Parker and I was that we have seen so much on television of women fighting, women cat-fighting, bickering, being jealous. We've so many of those stories and we said let make it more authentic. Ya know my real-life sister, I love her, I talk to her all the time. My best girlfriend, she's coming [to the premiere] tonight with my husband. I love my friends. I love my sister. I love women. And I clap for women. I support women and Parker's the same way. Parker said, "let's really show two people that love each other."

And that came across so strongly.

And I even kinda made the choice that me being with Zak in the elevator was just a way to get closer to Cindi. You know? That it wasn't a jealous thing or trying to pit...there was never where we had to fight over him, you know? It was just like, I had my moment and I knew he was married and she had her moment, she knew he was married. So that was just a way that we could both have the same notch on our belt and it was done. We just wanted to turn things upside down and show a more realistic view of how women can be. Which is you know...in their 40s and happy and love each other and not be fighting and shooting shit in their lips.

I think that is because we're so celebrity hungry, right? So everyone, and in a way like all of the people at the Fluffies are trying to be a celebrity in their own right.  That subculture, because I was in marching band and tall flags in high school.

Uh, awesome. Tall flags!

Right! Yes. I was captain of the guard. So that whole subculture, I get that.  I get the people who are like, "This is what we do and we spend hours and mornings and afternoons and every weekend doing it."

And it matters.

It does matter.

And Chris never speaks down to that. He's never mocking it.  It's not an elitist view. Like with Best in Show, he's never making fun of these people. These people love their dogs. People who have a dog, people love their dogs and people who mascot, this is their thing you know? And my mom's wife, she draws Elvis for a living. She draws the Elvis for the stamp and the Elvis calendar. And for my mom's wife, Elvis is, that's serious. Her trips to Graceland and her shows of her artwork...that whole culture it is very, very real. What I love that Chris does is just…he doesn't mock it he just celebrates it. And he's always, he loves these subcultures. He loves people on the fringes, which I've always been kinda fascinated by the people on the fringes too. I just love how it's so heart-centered. It's not mean at all.

It's not mean at all.

Most people would do the mean thing. They would be like snobby, looking down at it. 

Mean is easy, right? Mean is easy and you can just be like--

Well, look at the politics right now.

Uh, oh my God.

Mean is easy.

Mean is easy. And so I think to show women in a positive light, to show sisters, you know, to show people on the fringes in a positive light and not as freaks, right? To talk about Lacy's dream to be a chearleader and get through college with that. Or Cindi's dream of being Alvin the Armadillo. Or you know, to be The Worm or Tammy the Turtle or Ollie the Octopus, these are all these beautiful stories. Jack the plumber. These are all beautiful stories of people on the fringe who have a passion and that's the thing that comes alive. And I think that the quote at the heart of the movie is "In my pretend life I'm a real estate appraiser..."

Chris Moynihan’s line...right..."but in my real life, I'm the plumber".

I think that speaks so much to people who have like dual life, "This is the day job I go to, but this is who I really am." I think it speaks to people living in their true identity. And I think sometimes that that can be lost in comedy. Like in serious movies where it's like, oh, here's this b story you should pay attention to. But I think this film, and a lot of Guest's films, speak a lot about living in your true identity. Being proud of that.

Yeah!

And not shying away from that.

Right. Owning it and saying this is enough. This is valid. Not everybody's supposed to be a doctor and not everybody's supposed to be a mayor. There's people who are really into very unusual, interesting things and I love seeing that. I mean Chris was talking in an article about how there's a website just for shoelaces. People who love shoelaces. And see, that's cool right? Just that people where that's their thing. They love shoelaces. And you know, there's mustard festivals and garlic festivals. I mean it goes on and on and I love it. I love the subcultures.

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