"I don't even know if she realized that I was observing everything that she did," the actress tells PEOPLE

By Jacqueline Andriakos
Updated May 08, 2015 02:40 PM
Credit: Getty (2)

Phyllis Smith may not have an Office anymore, but she sure does like her newest coworker: Amy Poehler.

The sitcom alum, 63, tells PEOPLE in the magazine’s new issue that one of the best parts of taking on the gig as an animated emotion in Disney-Pixar’s Inside Out was working next to comedian and new pal, Poehler, 43.

“I learned so much working next to Amy. She was very helpful,” Smith tells PEOPLE of the Parks and Recreation actress, who stars as Joy in the family comedy.

Smith, who plays Sadness, says that studying Poehler actually helped her find her own groove. The duo teamed up for three lengthy recording sessions for the movie, which tells the story of the voices inside of a pre-teen’s head.

“I ended up watching her, and watching her and reviewing her, and I actually picked up some pointers from her. I don’t even know if she realized that I was observing everything that she did.”

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Smith adds, “You watch her deliver and realize exactly why she’s Joy. If there was a line that wasn’t quite coming together for me, she would kindly say, ‘If you do this, maybe that might work.’ She was very generous in that way.”

Inside Out – which also stars Bill Hader, Mindy Kaling and Lewis Black – hits theaters June 19.

For much more on the summer’s biggest movies and hottest stars, pick up the new issue of PEOPLE, on newsstands now.