Elizabeth Banks talks kicking Chris Pine’s butt, ‘The Hunger Games,’ and ’30 Rock’ versus ‘Scrubs’

Thelma Adams
The Reel Breakdown

Elizabeth Banks, 38, stars opposite Chris Pine in "People Like Us" as Frankie, a struggling single mother whose privileged half-brother (Pine) crashes into her life after their father dies. The dramatic role is a departure for Banks, best known for comedy -- she earned an Emmy nomination for "30 Rock" and bore Zach Braff's baby in "Scrubs." And, of course, she rode the "Hunger Games" train earlier this year as Effie Trinket, the apparently ditzy capital tool who shepherds Jennifer Lawrence's unlucky tribute Katniss Everdeen out of District 12 and into the kill-or-be-killed arena. As for Banks's current leap into realistic contemporary drama with Pine, she said, "This is an opportunity to show that he's more than a pretty face." That easily applies to Banks, too.

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On 'People Like Us' -- and comedy versus drama: "Being funny is harder. Making comedies -- they're very addicting. And with all addiction, there's the dark down side when you fail. Oh, man, it motivates. With 'Zack and Miri Make a Porno,' people were afraid of the title, but it's a sweet movie. If you see that movie, you'll understand why Frankie is in my wheelhouse. She's the older sister to Miri: They're both survivors, and they're both down on their luck. They figure out how to make do. Their dreams are very little. Both Frankie and Miri are OK being average."

On bucking the summer's superhero trend: "This is the summer of superheroes. 'Avengers,' 'Spider-Man,' and 'Batman' all showcase people with superpowers. Frankie is a character with your everyday average no-powers. She's a little more relatable but not as aspirational."

On Chris Pine: "Number one: He had a Porsche, and he would not let me drive it. OK, it was a brand-new car."

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On kicking Pine's butt: "That was the hardest moment to keep real. I had to do it 10 times and repeatedly hear that he's my brother, right after my character came on to him. There's a deep betrayal. She's deeply humiliated. The adrenaline takes over. I understand the violent emotions. Either you are going to throw up on him or pass out on him. It's fight or flight, and she fights. He deserves the beating."

On '30 Rock' vs. 'Scrubs': "Avery Jessup in '30 Rock' is one of the best characters created for TV, but I really loved my time at 'Scrubs' as well. Making 'Scrubs' was easy because it was five minutes from my house and it was fun. But, I was nominated for an Emmy for Avery so, if I had to, I'd choose '30 Rock.'"

On "The Hunger Games": "I read the books in two minutes, and I'm so grateful to Suzanne Collins for making Katniss Everdeen. She's unapologetic. Her motives are very clear and very simple and very heroic."

On Effie Trinket: "My character, Effie, is oppressed and knows it. Some people want to write her off as comic relief, but Effie knows exactly what goes on. These dumb things she says are masking her feelings. In District 12, they always lose. She's sending kids to their death. In every great social fight there are people on the wrong side -- there are people that loved Hitler, or had slaves. Effie's on the wrong side in 'The Hunger Games' -- and she's about to figure that out."

See the trailer for 'People Like Us':