Amy Poehler Says She Relates to Lucille Ball's Work Ethic: 'I've Worked Hard in This Business'

The Lucy and Desi director says she loved learning more about Ball's work behind the scenes, while making the film

Amy Poehler
Photo: Momodu Mansaray/WireImage

When Amy Poehler first started working on her new documentary Lucy and Desi, she considered herself more of an appreciative fan vs. a die-hard devotee of Lucille Ball.

"I was a '70s and '80s baby, so I learned a lot about people from SNL and from The Carol Burnett Show," Poehler tells PEOPLE in this week's issue. "I knew of a lot about Lucy from Carol. I used to love Carol's shows. And Lucy would come on. It wasn't until I was older that I really started watching I Love Lucy."

After directing the documentary (streaming on Prime Video March 4) however, the actress/producer/director has a new insight into and connection with the TV icon.

"I wouldn't consider myself one of those people that knew every single thing, but this doc is really hopefully for the people who want a way in," she says about her film that takes an inside look at the lives of Ball and Desi Arnaz. "My hope is when they watch it, they're just blown away by how grounded, contemporary and groundbreaking they were as people and as artists. Lucy was a woman heading a studio in the 1950s. And I don't think that people talk about that enough. I think whether or not it was the perfect fit for her or whether or not she even liked doing it, she was doing it."

Amy poehler
Amazon Prime Video

The Emmy winner says she admires Ball's tenacity and that she continued working in Hollywood at a time that was especially unkind to women of a certain age.

"Lucy stayed in the public eye. She stayed as a aging woman in a business that was not kind to aging women," Poehler notes. "And she continued to play characters. She continued to challenge herself. Again, that's her. She just would not go quietly into that good night. It's the stubbornness of her that I just absolutely love."

Ball and Arnaz's daughter Lucie, who appears in the film sharing insight about her famous parents, praised Poehler's direction and final cut of the film.

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Lucille And Desi

For much more on Amy Poehler, pick up the latest issue of PEOPLE on newsstands Friday

"Amy Poehler was an inspired choice by the producers, Nigel Sinclair and Jeanne Elfant Festa. I may not have thought of Amy for this but, she was the absolute perfect choice, because she connected to this story from her heart and own experience as an uber popular actress-comedian and a mother," says Arnaz. "She brought the perfect combination of curiosity and compassion to this deep dive we all took together. Her questions to me in our interview were unique and specific and targeted to understanding, not sensationalism. She was also a ton of fun to be with and that joy and integrity set a very high bar. I knew, with her sensibility at the helm, she and this team would make an important film. And they did."

Poehler says she identifies with Ball's work ethic and mentoring in particular and is proud of how much she's accomplished in her career thus far.

"I feel really proud that I've worked hard in this business and gotten what I have had in this business because of my hard work," she says. "It's the thing about Lucy that I really understand. I get a lot of inspiration from the women I work with. And I really related to Lucy's mentoring because I've benefited so much from it. I'm very grateful that I consider Carol [Burnett] one of those people. But I also think that it's the people I've met along the way. So there is this very wonderful feeling of being able to own your stuff and then also take a look at all the people and help and experience you've had along the way."

Poehler continues: "That balancing act I think female creators sometimes understand in a way, because they understand the wholeness of that, the integrated part of that. I feel really excited about the journey ahead and the choices. I feel very lucky to have a lot of choice. Choice in general is a big, important word for me. And hopefully that I keep getting to do stuff like this that really moved me in a personal way."

Lucy and Desi is streaming on Prime Video March 4.

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