Arts | Entertainment

Why Fred Armisen Is So 'Fantástico'

OPB | Aug. 30, 2012 5 p.m. | Updated: Sept. 23, 2012 5:50 a.m.

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On her second to last day at OPB, intern Lucila Cejas Epple got a plum assignment: covering a media event for the TV show “Portlandia.” This allowed her to rub elbows with the show’s costar Fred Armisen. Here’s her account.

The day before I finished my summer internship at OPB, I was sent to the location where an episode of Portlandia was being shot. I was told by the event’s organizers I could not photograph or film anything on set, and that I would have a chance to take pictures of the cast and crew in a “Q & A” lunch afterwards. All the information about the upcoming season was embargoed until January, so I felt there was not much I could cover to write an article about on my last day.

Fred Armisen, Carrie Brownstein and Jonathan Krisel

Fred Armisen, Carrie Brownstein and Jonathan Krisel

Lucila Cejas Epple

Portlandia is the brainchild of Fred Armisen, Carrie Brownstein and Jonathan Krisel, a New York University film school alum who is also the director of the series. They are currently filming their third season, and they recently won a Peabody Award and are up for a few nominations in the upcoming 64th Primetime Emmys.

They took the press out for a delicious lunch. Fred, Carrie and Jonathan were there, and so were Kyle MacLachlan and Executive Producer Andrew Singer from Broadway Video. It was a very casual setting, and we all got to mingle and take photographs of the stars. When I got my chance to sit by Fred, a reporter from The Oregonian was sitting next to me. She interviewed him for 10 minutes and asked every question I wanted to ask him and more.

All of the sudden, I panicked. I thought to myself: “Am I going to ask the same questions? Should I try something new? Think fast!”

When it was my turn to speak, I was terrified. Below is a transcript of our short but sweet conversation. And it was all in Spanish.

Lucila: I’ll only bother you for a couple of minutes. You have a plate full of food in front of you.

Fred: I don’t care. Where are you from originally?

Lucila: Argentina.

F: (in Spanish from here on) Well, can we do this in Spanish then?

L: Of course!

F: Is this for Argentina or for here?

L: I work for Oregon Public Broadcasting, OPB.

F: Oh good! Well, however you want it, it does not matter. Where are you from, Buenos Aires?

L: Yes.

F: Oh, how great! Do you like it in here?

L: Of course. Do you like it in here?

F: I love it. You know what? My mom is from Venezuela and she came to visit for the first time last week.

L: A ha! I have been meaning to ask you where you were from, because your characters are so flexible. You can play any nationality.

F: Oh. thank you!

L: And I always wondered, ‘Where is he from? Where is his family from?’

F: I am Venezuelan, but my dad is from Germany and his dad is from Japan. So my dad is a Japanese German and my mom is full Venezuelan, so I am pretty much a Venezuelan.

L: And you were raised speaking in Spanish?

F: Yes, it is a very important thing. When I was a boy I did not really understand why, but now it is something I know it is very important for me.

L: I have a daughter and I still cannot explain to her why she should learn it, but I know one day she’ll get it like you did.

F: Oh, you have kids?

L: One.

F: You should teach her Spanish.

L: Of course, only Spanish. And what do you like about Portland?

F: I love that it is all green and rainy. I just love rain.

L: Rain? Why?!

F: I just really love rain. I love wearing jackets. I love the music and the buildings; they just look so square and strong. Very resistant.

OPB News intern shares lunch and a chat with the "Portlandia" cast.

OPB News intern shares lunch and a chat with the "Portlandia" cast.

Photo courtesy of Kevin Tomanka

I also love the food, the people and the bridges.

L: The bridges? Which one is your favorite?

F: Morrison.

L: Why is that?

F: Because it is like a secret. It is a secret bridge that will take you to the city in an instant. I love everything here because it is a city, but it is still not that big. And I have my friend Carrie who is from here. She is the reason I came to Portland, and little by little we created this show.

L: So to do character research, do you guys go to the street, cafés, just to see how people dress and talk?

F: Yes, but you only need to go on one car ride and in just one day you can see everything. One, two, three, four, all together. Moustaches and bicycles.

L: All the people that don’t live here and watch Portlandia tell me, ‘Come on, it is not like that in there.’ And I say, ‘No, sometimes it is worse.’

F: Yes, it is true. The tattoos! It is more. It is a lot more.

Fred Armisen eats "una planta."

Fred Armisen eats "una planta."

Lucila Cejas Epple

L: Yes, it is a lot more.

Just like you, Fred Armisen. Who would have guessed he was highly proficient in Spanish? I have met many Americans who were raised by a Spanish parent and only a couple had such proficiency at his age. He was warm and charming, and he was even funny in another language, which isn’t easy. My summer internship was like a big delicious cake, and meeting Fred was the icing on top.

Upcoming for Portlandia:

64th Primetime Emmy Awards, nominated for “Outstanding Directing For A Variety Series” and “Outstanding Writing For Variety Series.”

Season 3 premieres in January on the cable network IFC

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