If you’ve ever wondered what goes on when the cameras aren’t rolling on late-night talk shows, look no further.
In anticipation of the Nov. 16 premiere of her upcoming Pop TV show Nightcap, Ali Wentworth sat down with PEOPLE and Entertainment Weekly Editorial Director Jess Cagle to discuss the new scripted comedy and some of its most hilarious guests.
“Nightcap is a behind-the-scenes look at a late-night talk show,” explains Wentworth, 51, of the 10-episode series that will chronicle the day-to-day, backstage antics of a fictitious talk show, Nightcap with Jimmy, in which A-list celebrities stop by and make appearances as (exaggerated versions of) themselves.
“It really came to me because I’ve done so many late-night talk shows, and I used to think all the stuff that’s happening back there should be a show,” says the comedian.
Wentworth plays the show’s talent booker, Staci — and if you’ve never met a talent booker, allow Wentworth to fill you in on some of their typical characteristics.
“They have a tendency — and this is a generalization — to be very neurotic, very married to their job,” she says. “Like if Daniel Craig backs out at the last minute, they might take their own life.”
Indeed, her character Staci is “very neurotic about everything,” says Wentworth. “[She’ll] go to somebody’s residence to get them to come do the show. She pushes the boundaries of what’s acceptable.”
And considering how high the stakes in the real late-night world have been raised in recent years, largely due to fierce competition and fresh faces in the industry, Nightcap couldn’t be premiering at a better time.
“What we do make fun of is that — speaking of [being at] the top of their game and pushing it — [late-night hosts] are all trying to come up with new viral things,” says Wentworth. “It’s about the insanity of trying to get celebrities to do something new and different.”
“So for us, it’s been fun [about] thinking of crazy stuff we can do with these people,” she continues. (She’s not kidding: In one episode, they try to get Mariska Hargitay to agree to being swallowed by an anaconda.)
And while Wentworth doesn’t play herself on the show (“I am not the very sexual, beautiful, ingenue Ali Wentworth,” she quips, “I’m a middle-aged, neurotic [woman] — they’re very different people,”) the celebrity guests on the show do play themselves — only “a heightened, funny version of themselves.”
The best part? According to Wentworth, “everybody’s been game.” So did anyone surprise her?
“Gwyneth Paltrow,” says Wentworth without hesitation. “She is just a dirty-talking whore that eats chicken and waffles. She just made fun of everything. She steamed her vagina. She did everything in Goop that the haters are mean to her about. I was like, ‘Let’s confront it head-on.’ ”
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So what exactly did that mean? It meant getting Paltrow, 44, to just act like “a dirty slob.”
“She just wants carbs, she can’t remember what guy she slept with or didn’t, she blew the marshall on the plane the night before and she’s hungover,” says Wentworth of Paltrow’s skit on the show. “She was so game, and she’s such a good actress that it’s even funnier because she’s Oscar award-winning — she goes for it.”
And according to Wentworth, Paltrow’s real-life persona also has a bit of “dirty dog” in her.
“Let’s just say it,” says Wentworth. “She’s fun, she likes a dirty joke. She doesn’t just eat thistles and water. I’ve been around her — she can pile on the pasta like a frat boy.”
And last but not least, there was also Sarah Jessica Parker, who, by the way, “even playing a heightened version of herself, is the sweetest,” says Wentworth.
“I don’t want to give it away because it’s the money shot, but there’s some girl-on-girl,” she adds. “That’s all I’m going to say. So take that with your Sex and the City.”
Nightcap premieres Nov. 16 at 8 p.m. ET on Pop TV.