Jayma Mays is best known for her role as guidance counselor Emma Pillbury on the popular TV series Glee, but has appeared in recurring roles on television’s Heroes, Ugly Betty, Pushing Daisies, and Six Feet Under. She also co-starred with Kevin James in the successful comedy Paul Blart: Mall Cop.
In The Smurfs she plays Grace, the supportive and pregnant wife of Patrick Winslow (Neil Patrick Harris), a young marketing executive who is struggling in his new job, and worried about his impending fatherhood. Overwhelmed by his life, Patrick has to also deal with a group of Smurfs, little blue creatures who leave their land through a magical portal, trying to escape from the evil Gargamel and his cat Azrael, who end up in the Winslow’s apartment in New York City.
I spoke with Jayma about her new movie and the upcoming season of Glee.
Were you a fan of the Smurfs growing up? Did you watch the series?
My mom was a big, big Smurfs fan, so she would force me to watch every Saturday morning. I had no choice in the matter. I would jump downstairs on Saturday morning, [calling] ‘Hurray, cartoons!’ and she would say, ‘Smurfs! That’s what you’re watching.’ Sit me in front of the television, and despite her I would obviously say I loved Gargamel and Azrael.
They were the best, and I loved them. I did secretly love to watch the show, and I think she loved the fact that there was a message behind the show. It was a good show for a kid to watch.
You and Neil make a very cute couple in this. Had you worked together before?
I had a very small guest role on How I Met Your Mother the first season. I played Coat Check Girl, but we didn’t really have stuff together, and then [Neil] obviously came and did an amazing guest performance on Glee. We didn’t have a scene together on that, so we were acquaintances, but I feel like we hit it off really quickly on this.
Smurfs are named after their personality traits, so what would be your Smurf name?
I feel like I wanna say Ginger Smurf, just because of my hair, but I’d have really light blue skin and in the sun I’d burn and turn a dark blue.
Your character really bonded with Smurfette.
I did. She’s such a lovely girl.
It was a girl power moment. What is it that you think is so special about Smurfette?
Well not just Smurfette, they all have their own identity, so they all might feel like a bit of an outcast because of that.
She felt maybe she was a bit of an outcast because she was the only girl. I love the fact that the movie was trying to say that it’s okay to be unique and you’re not just one thing, like Clumsy’s not just that, you can also be a hero too. So I love the fact that that was the message coming out of their uniqueness.
I hope girls respond to that well. I hope that’s the message that they take from it. It’s okay to be a girl, and it’s cool to be different, and whatever your trait is, that’s cool and okay.
Was there any scene that was particularly difficult for you, be it physically or emotionally?
My most difficult scene was purely technical. It was the scene where I had to brush Smurfette’s hair. It was supposed to be a scene where we were connecting as girlfriends, and I’m getting the eye-line straight and there’s a mirror there, and then I’m having to figure out the exact wave of her hair, so technically that was difficult.
You’re still trying to find your light and look up, and look down, and the girl bonding at the same time, and there’s a person speaking in your ear and no one’s there. I felt like a mental case that day.
Have you received any scripts for the upcoming season of Glee, or shot any episodes?
We haven’t shot anything yet. We start back the beginning of August. No, we don’t get scripts until the last minute, so I don’t know how the next season’s going to go at all yet. They don’t trust me. [she laughs] I wouldn’t either, to be honest.
What did you discovered about Emma last season?
I know for my character, Emma, she went through quite a lot in this past season, she got married, got divorced, and she’s still discovering how to deal with these germaphobic issues that she has and her OCD.
I was surprised towards the end of last season that they did have her seek out help and admit that she has a problem and I’m interested to see where that’s going to go.
She’s taking medication now, and I know that sometimes that medication works for some patients, and sometimes it doesn’t for others, so it’ll be interesting which way they take her, as far as that goes.
Do kids approach you about the show?
They definitely approach me about our show. I think there seems to be a real revival for glee clubs now, and drama. I know particularly the high school I grew up in, we didn’t have money for the arts, so we didn’t have theater or drama or anything like that.
I was very close with the teacher there that would talk to us about the possibility to pursuing performance or theater as I went to college or beyond that. She e-mailed me last week and said that they have signed her up for the first ever drama class at my school that I grew up in.
I just got chills! It was really exciting for me to hear that, because there’s talent there and students that are yearning to express themselves in that way.