Parade: Rachel McAdams on Game Night, Comedy, Variety, What Scares Her and More

Published: February 16, 2018

Rachel McAdams of The Notebook, 39, tickles our funny bones in Game Night (February 23). The Oscar-nominated McAdams teams with Jason Bateman in the grown-up comedy about friends whose regular meet-up for fun and games takes a turn for crazy when one of them is “kidnapped” and real-life thugs and fake federal agents intermingle in a rollicking murder mystery.

Who do you play in Game Night?
My character [Annie] and Jason’s are a married couple used to playing charades and Pictionary at home with a cheese tray, some wine and a couple of friends. Then his brother, played by Kyle Chandler, who takes everything to the max, comes to town. He organizes this murder-mystery game night, saying it’s going to be a night we’ll never forget.

Are you competitive?
It’s hard not to have some level of competition when you’re playing games. My parents would buy us a game every Christmas or in the summer, so we always had a new game to try. It was a great way for us to bond as a family. As an adult, I got away from it, but we got back into it a couple of years ago.

So many people remember you from The Notebook, but you were also in Mean Girls, two Sherlock Holmes films, Spotlight and TV’s True Detective.
To be remembered for any role would be extraordinary, a compliment, you know? We consume things at such a rate now that if anything has any staying power, I feel very fortunate. To be able to touch people is part of the reason why I got into this.

What do you love about game nights?
It’s such an interesting social experiment. I can be socially anxious, and I find those people are the ones that are most reticent to play games. Then there are the people that can’t stop playing games once they start. It gives you a goal and an activity, and you can bond with people in a really natural way without having to navigate your way through social politics as much. So I love the social experiment of parlor games.

In this movie, you have short brown hair, but you’re like a chameleon. You have brunette hair, you have blond hair, you have long hair and you have short hair. Is it a character thing, or do you like to mix it up in your real life?
I do like to mix it up in my real life, but I think it started more as playing make-believe. You get to work with all these amazing hair stylists, and it started as something I did for my work. Now I actually have really boring hair when I’m not working, because I’m trying to give it a break to get it back in nice, healthy condition. I do love the transformation, the transformative process of being an actor. It’s such a fun thing to do, so it probably stems more from that, but I’m not really a creature of habit. I think variety is the spice of life.

You mentioned you hadn’t done comedy in a while, so you wanted to do this. But on the other hand, you were nominated for an Academy Award for Spotlight. Do you ever think, If I do too many different things, nobody will hire me because they don’t know what I do?

Rightly or wrongly, I feel like the more eclectic and the less pigeonholed you are, the more opportunities you have. I feel like it only benefits me. Selfishly, again, I just like the variety; I like the challenge; I like being a little bit out of my comfort zone. I think I thrive a little better when I don’t know what I’m doing. For my own purposes, that seems to work, but then I feel in terms of the business and the way that actors are perceived that diversity is always beneficial.

Have you heard any word on whether there will be a Sherlock Holmes 3, and will your character, Irene, be part of that?
I’ve been hearing this off and on for going on eight years or something now, so I never quite know until I actually get a call. I just assume it’s floating out there in the world, and maybe the stars will align. ­I did die in the second one, so I guess you could raise the dead, but Sherlock Holmes seems a little more grounded in reality than some of the other blockbuster movies out there.

Well, deaths can be faked and there are always flashbacks…?
That is true. That is true. We had a real debate on how long we hold on the death, do we actually see her expire, so…

You were a figure skater when you were younger. Will you be watching the Olympics?
I love the Olympics. They always make me cry. Such amazing stories unfold every day, and the things these people put themselves through, the courage, and the commitment, it just makes me weepy.

You have done several rom-coms. Are you a romantic?
I think so. I have very romantic parents, and I grew up watching that, and then I think most actors are. I think you have to have a little bit of that in you. I do come by that naturally.

You’re very green. You bike around Toronto. What else do you do on behalf of the environment?
I’ve been working with the NRDC [Natural Resources Defense Council] a little bit this year. I think they do amazing, amazing work. They just won an Emmy for a documentary that I narrated called Sonic Sea, which is about noise pollution in the ocean, which is something we don’t know a lot about and we don’t come in contact with much as land-dwellers. It was a really educational experience for me, and I was so happy for them that they won the Emmy. I think it’s a corner of environmentalism that could use some more exploration.

The environment is a passion for me, and has been for a long time. I try to introduce it into every part of my life if I can, always looking for a greener, lighter way to do everything.

What is the scariest thing you’ve ever done?
Well, it’s a toss-up. Paragliding in the Swiss Alps was so scary. I don’t know what I was thinking. When I was asked, I was on firm ground, and I thought, “Yeah, sure, that’ll be fun,” and then as I’m hiking up the Swiss Alps by myself to meet the guy that was going to parachute me off a mountain ridge, it suddenly dawned on me that this is not for me at all.

That was a big one, and then the first movie I did in the States was The Hot Chick with Rob Schneider. I had to do this striptease scene toward the end of the film, as him, and I just remember being backstage, and everyone in the film was in the scene, in the audience, and I was just terrified. It was just one of those moments where you just have to throw yourself into it and see what happens. But I thought I was going to have a heart attack.

What are you looking forward to in 2018?
So much. I love the beginning of the year. It always feels fresh and exciting, and to bring it full circle, more game nights, having good times with family and friends, and knowing there’s a whole new year of that to come.

© 2008 Parade | Written by Walter Scott | No copyright infringment intended.