Natalie Morales is an actor, director, writer, and activist. Natalie made her solo directorial debut with the teen road-trip comedy Plan B, which premieres on Hulu May 28, and co-directed Language Lessons with Mark Duplass, which won the audience award at this year’s SXSW and will hit theaters this fall. Natalie recently starred alongside Christina Applegate and Linda Cardellini in the Netflix series, Dead to Me, lent her voice to the Oscar-winning Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse, and starred in the action comedy Stuber, alongside Dave Bautista and Kumail Nanjiani. She starred in NBC’s Abby’s as the titular character, and recurred on The Newsroom, Girls, Parks & Recreation and Santa Clarita Diet. She also created, directed and stars in the Funny or Die series James Joyce’s Love Letters and recently directed two episodes of HBO’s Duplass Brothers anthology, Room 104. Natalie is a proud member of Everytown for Gun Safety’s Creative Council. (Photo by Catie Laffoon.)
Three Great Things is Talkhouse’s series in which artists tell us about three things they absolutely love. To mark the May 28 release on Hulu of Natalie Morales’ teen road-trip comedy Plan B, the actress turned director shared some of the things that bring her joy in life. — N.D
I love comedy. I love to study it and what works about it and what doesn’t – sometimes you can’t quite pinpoint it. I especially love comedy that is evergreen, that’s not dependent on a time period or on dialogue. I’m a big Buster Keaton fan and silent comedies make me laugh so much. I was an insomniac as a child, so I watched a lot of Nick at Nite. I saw stuff like old ’70s episodes of Saturday Night Live, Taxi, Cheers, The Bob Newhart Show, The Mary Tyler Moore Show and I Love Lucy, all of which had a big impact on me and influenced what I think is funny.
I love working in comedy, dedicating my life to making people laugh and being joyous. It makes my life better. I’ve been in dramatic shows and movies, but it’s so much more fun for everyone when you’re working on something that makes you laugh. I love trying to work out how to make a joke even better and then cracking it by collaborating with other people. That’s so fun to do.
I’m also always looking for up-and-coming comedians. What’s amazing about the world we live in today is that I get access to people through Instagram or TikTok who I otherwise would have never seen. We’re living in an age where alt comedy is coming back even stronger, because nobody has a boss telling them what to do, they’re just putting their work online and reaching audiences directly. Chris Fleming is someone I discovered a while back on Instagram, and he’s one of the funniest people on the planet. He’s a stand-up comedian, but he also makes hilarious music videos. One of my favorite things he’s done is his “Benny and the Jets” video.
Animals have always been a big part of my life and they bring me so much joy. They’re just a marvel of the world. My mom is a big animal lover, so when I was young, we would constantly take in stray cats. We always had at least three cats, because they would always just show up at our door. I also saved up money and adopted a dog. I think everybody should have the experience of taking care of something other than themselves; it makes you a better person and is really enriching. I think it tells you a lot about who you actually are when you can spend time with and love a creature that is just there, not doing anything other than just being itself.
At the moment, I have a dog and a cat who are both rescues. They’re getting old now – my dog is 10 and my cat’s 15 – but they’re the best. I’ve always had cats and dogs mostly, although I did go through a period where I also had four hermit crabs. They were named Fred and Ethel, and Balki and Larry, and they were very cute. They recognized me and knew I was their owner. They would chirp at me and rub their claws together to make noise when they saw me, because they were excited. It was crazy. Watching them move from one shell to another is one of the grosser things I’ve ever seen. The back half of a hermit crab’s body is like a raw shrimp, and it’s really not appealing. Hermit crabs don’t have a long life, which was very sad for me, but it was cool having them.
In the future, if I had the resources, I would love to start a little sanctuary for rescued animals of all sorts. That would be a real dream for me. I love all animals, but I would particularly love to have a pig to hang out with!
This may be cheesy, but I love directing and making movies. I’ve always loved movies and TV since I was a little kid. My mom was a single mom and she worked a full-time job, so I watched a lot of American TV, which was really formative for me growing up. Because of that, I was always drawn to the idea of being involved in this industry, and the fact that I do now is awesome. Working in different ways – as an actor, as a writer, as a director, as a producer – gives me different windows into the process, but what I love so much about this business, and particularly directing, is the joy I get from collaboration.
Every aspect of making a movie requires the work of numerous people. If you think about an orchestra and what’s involved in recording it, about the composer and all the separate instruments, the engineer who’s recording it and the conductor, and all those other little pieces that that go to make that piece of music. And that is just one part of the score of a movie! It takes so many people – and so many people giving their all – to make a movie, even a bad one. But a good one requires everybody feeling excited and pumped about doing something they believe in together. And getting to be the director of something like that is really special, and I feel very proud of it. It’s a great feeling.
I remember when I was young, I wrote into The Rosie O’Donnell Show, asking whether my dog and I could come on – without giving any reason whatsoever! For a long time, I didn’t really think I could ever truly be part of this industry, so it’s such a pleasure and an honor that this is my job now.
As-told-to Nick Dawson. Featured image of Natalie Morales by Catie Laffoon.