“Portlandia” returns with Martina Navratilova and Carrie Brownstein at her best

Portlandia premiered its third season last Friday on IFC and fans of the show were not let down. The show has been on long enough now to develop Fred Armisen and Carrie Brownstein‘s major characters, including the Women and Women First bookstore pair that predate the show, as they were part of the initial Thunderant web series. Bookstore employees Candace and Toni are the stoic feminists that judge their customers, their journaling group and any unsuspecting person who wanders into their store. Sometimes they even seduce Heather Graham. But on this week’s episode, Candace and Toni will take on a bad Yelp review written by none other than Martina Navratilova.

One of the great things about Portlandia is their ability to book guest stars that are able to show they have a sense of humor about themselves. In Season 1, Aimee Mann and Sarah McLachlan poked fun at their music careers, and joining Martina this season will be Chloe Sevigny who admitted during the TCA panel for the show this week she thought she wouldn’t be right for the show because she hadn’t done much improv prior to finally giving in and shooting some episodes of the show.

Also this season it really feels like Carrie Brownstein is at her best, playing more characters and donning more wigs than ever and matching the more experienced Fred Armisen. The musician-turned-TV star talked with us about working with Martina and when we can expect a new Wild Flag album.

AfterEllen.com: How did you guys get Martina on the show?
Carrie Brownstein:
Well, we asked. We were like “This is the perfect person” and it was awesome. It was the most starstruck my crew has been, and myself included. I had this realization later and I was trying to figure out “Why am I more nervous? Why am I more excited about Martina Navratilova than these other actors?” Athletes — their expectations are to only be great for a moment. So if you can achieve greatness during the whole time you’re supposed to, then you can live with that forever. Whereas with other people, we have to see them grow old and it’s awkward and their careers fade but Martina Navratilova, she was one of the best and there’s very few people in her category. So it was really exciting.

AE: Was she up for anything?
We really wanted to play ping pong. We had this idea where we’d end up playing ping pong in a bar against her, but then we were shooting so late that night and she was tired. She was up for anything, and she was such a natural.

AE: You brought back a lot of local Portland actors this season — what guest stars will be reappearing?
Jeff Goldblum came back and, aside from Kyle, those are the three non-local actors that came back. We brought back almost every local actor that’s appeared in Seasons 1 and 2. We’re kind of more deliberate of having it feel like more of a cast. Like even today, jut showing up with Kyle [MacLachlan] and Chloe, it’s like “We’re a real show!”

AE: I have to ask, when will we get another Wild Flag album?
I think not right now because I’m writing a book and I felt like I needed to be home for a while and not touring or in that kind of frenetic music world. Because I just can’t write when I’m traveling. So less music this year, more writing. Next year! Everyone is working on other projects.

AE: Your bandmates are all fans of Portlandia?
CB: I think that they are. [Drummer] Janet [Weiss] worked on the show this year.

AE: Why wasn’t [musician] Annie [Clark] (aka musician and Season 2 guest star St. Vincent) back on the show this year?
I don’t know!

During the show’s panel at TCA, Carrie said her favorite characters this season are the recurring Peter and Nance, who we first met in Season 1 while visiting a chicken farm where their dinner came from. This season, they open up a bed and breakfast and will likely get into some awkward situations with patrons.

“Peter and Nance are a very unctuous and cloying couple. They formed such an imperfect boundary with one another, and so it’s very easy to create tension with them because anytime that they’re put in conflict or have anything that might separate them, there’s so much strife, so it’s really fun to play with this dynamic of just intense closeness that can so easily just be thwarted,” Carrie said. “And I’m just, in real life, just a lot need a lot more distance, so it’s good practice in close proximity to play Nance and Peter. I like it a lot.”

Portlandia airs Friday nights on IFC.