Q&A: Kristen Bell Talks About Her New Kid's Book, The World Needs More Purple People

Jim Spellman/Getty Images
Jim Spellman/Getty Images

Kristen Bell is one of those household names that brings to mind a seemingly endless list of outstanding performances in both TV and film. She is Veronica Mars. She is the very memorable Sarah Marshall. She's the voice of Gossip Girl. She just recently wrapped up her NBC series The Good Place. Your nieces and nephews likely know her as Princess Anna from the Frozen films. She also has one of the most uplifting and positive presences on social media.

Now, adding to her long list of accomplishments, Kristen Bell is the published author of a new children’s book called The World Needs More Purple People. Born out of seeing how cultural conversations were skewing more toward the things that divide us, the new picture book—which Bell co-authored with Benjamin Hart—encourages kids to see what unites us all as humans.

We spoke with Kristen Bell about her new book, becoming a foster failure, and her vast sloth knowledge.

How did The World Needs More Purple People book come to be?

Basically my genius buddy, Ben Hart, and I were looking around and sort of seeing how our children were watching us debate healthily at the dinner table, which is fine. But it occurred to us that everything they were seeing was a disagreement. And that’s because that can be fun for adults, but it’s not a good basis for kids to start out on. We realized we were not really giving our kids a ton of examples of us, as adults, talking about the things that bring us together. So The World Needs More Purple People was born.

Random House via Amazon

We decided to create a roadmap of similarities to give kids a jumping off point of how to look for similarities ... [because] if you can see similarities, you’re more likely to walk through the world with an open mind. But if you walk into a conversation seeing only differences, your mind is going to think differently of that person’s opinion and you just never know when you’re going to hear an opinion that might enlighten you. So we wanted to give kids this roadmap to follow to basically say, “Here are some great features that no one can argue with. Have these features and you’ll have similarities with almost everyone on the planet.”

Part of the reason I love the book so much is because it encourages kids to ask questions, even if they're silly. What are some silly questions you’ve had to answer for your kids?

Oh my god. How much time do you have? Once she asked in rapid fire: Is Santa Claus real? Why is Earth? Who made dogs?

How do you even answer that?

It was too much; I had to walk away. Kids have a ton of questions, and as they get older and more verbal, the funny thing that happens is they get more insecure. So we wanted to encourage the question-asking, and also encourage the uniqueness of every child. Which is why Dan Wiseman, who did our illustrations, really captured this middle point between Ben and I. Ben is very sincere, and I am very quirky. And I feel like the illustrations were captured brilliantly because we also wanted a ton of diversity because that is what the book is about.

The book is about seeing different things and finding similarities. Each kid in the book looks a little bit different, but also a little bit the same. The message at the end of the book is with all these features that you can point out and recognize in other people—loving to laugh, working really hard, asking great questions ... also know that being a purple person means being uniquely you in the hopes that kids will recognize that purple people come in every color.

What was it like behind-the-scenes of writing a children’s book with two little girls at home? Were they tough critics?

Shockingly, no. They did not have much interest in the fact that I was writing a children’s book until there were pictures. Then they were like, “Oh now I get it.” But prior to that, when I’d run the ideas by them, they were not as interested. But I did read it to them. They gave me the two thumbs up. Ben has two kids as well, and all our kids are different ages. Once we got the thumbs up from the 5-year-old, the 7-year-old, the 8-year-old, and the 11-year-old, we thought, “OK, this is good to go.”

Weirdly, writing a children’s book was a way of getting to the adults. If it’s a children’s book, there is a high probability an adult is going to either be reading it to you or be there while you’re reading it—which means you’re getting two demographics. If we had just written a novel about this kind of concept, we’d never reach the kids. But by writing a kid's book, we also access the adults.

You're working with Josh Gad again on Central Park. What was it like to reunite with him on another musical animated series that isn't Frozen?

Josh and I talk a lot, and we had a lot of behind-the-scenes conversations about how we can work together again, just because we adore each other. And part of it is because we get along socially, and part of it is because we trust each other comedically. He's a creator and writer more so than I am, so I usually leave it up to him and say, "What’s our next project?" We have other things in the pipeline we would love to do together, but [Central Park] was an immediate yes because I trust how he writes. Josh is at every single one of my recording sessions; he is very hands-on with the shows that he does or produces or creates. I trust him as much as I trust my husband, creatively, and that’s saying a lot.

Given your well-documented love of sloths, we do have to throw out a few true or false questions about sloths and put your knowledge to the test …

Oh my gosh. OK, now I'm nervous. Hit me.

True or false: Sloths fart more than humans.

Fart more than humans?

Yes.

I’m going to say it's true.

It’s actually false. Sloths don’t fart at all. They might be the only mammal on the planet that does not fart.

You’re kidding. Another reason to love them. You know, I was trying to think medically about it. I know they only poop once a week and that if you only go poop once a week ... I thought, “Well in order to keep your GI healthy, perhaps you have to have some sort of flow from the top to the bottom during the seven-day waiting period until you release.”

True or false: Sloths are so slow that algae sometimes grows on them.

One hundred percent true. In the wild, they’re always covered in algae and it helps their fur, all those microorganisms. But in zoos, they don’t have it.

Nice. OK, last one. True or false: Sloths poop from trees.

No way. They go down to the ground, and they rub their little tushies on the ground, and then they go back up.

You are correct.

I know a fair amount about sloths but the farting thing was new. My kids will be excited to hear that.

We heard recently that you are a part of the “foster failure” club. What went wrong? Erright?

Well, what I learned from Veronica Mars is you root for and cherish and uplift the underdog always. And my first foster failure was in 2018; I found the most undesirable dog that existed on the planet. She is made of toothpicks, it is impossible for her to gain weight. She has one eye. She looks like a walking piece of garbage. Her name is Barbara. She's 11 years old. And I saw a picture of her online and I said, “Yes. I just want to bring her over. I don’t even need to know anything else about her other than this picture," which was the most hideous picture. I mean it looks like a Rorschach painting or something. It was so awful. I was like, “She’s mine. I’ll take care of her. I’ve got this.” And it turns out she is quite lovely even though she can be pretty annoying. But she is our Barbara Biscuit, and she is one of the most charismatic dogs I have ever met. She piddles wherever she damn well pleases. So that is a bummer, because she is untrainable, but we love her.

That was our first failure. Then last year, we genuinely attempted to just foster a dog named Frank. And about two weeks in, I realized Frank was in love with me—like in a human way. He thought he was my boyfriend.

Oh no …

I just felt like … I didn’t even want a new dog—well I shouldn’t say that, because I always want all the dogs—but we weren’t planning on getting a new dog. But I had to have a conversation with my family and I said, “I think it’s going to be like child separation if I separate him. We have to keep him.” And sure enough, he can’t be more than two feet from me at any time during the day.

Does he still give you “the eyes”?

Oh my gosh. Bedroom eyes all day long. I can’t sit down without him like … not even just sitting comfortably in my lap. He has to have my arm in his mouth or part of my hair in his mouth. He’s trying to get back in my womb or something.

That’s love.

Yeah, I said, “What am I going to do? The guy is in love with me. He can live here.” So there is foster failure number two.

Wow, so it’s Frank and Barbara.

Frank and Barbara. And we also have Lola, a 17-year-old corgi-chow chow mix. Who I have had since she was one-and-a-half, who was also a pound puppy. She is our queen bee.

Before you go, we do this thing on Twitter called #HappyHour, where we ask our followers some get-to-know-you questions. If you could change one rule in any board game, what would it be?

I am obviously going to Catan ... oh I know exactly what I would do. In Catan, I would allow participants to buy a city without buying a settlement first. In Catan, you have to upgrade from a settlement to a city first, which is a waste of cards. If you have the cards for a city, you should be able to buy a city.

What was your favorite book as a child?

My favorite book as a child was Are You My Mother?

Aw, I love that one. I forgot about Are You My Mother?

It’s a good one.

Looking to Downsize? You Can Buy a 5-Room DIY Cabin on Amazon for Less Than $33,000

Five rooms of one's own.
Five rooms of one's own.
Allwood/Amazon

If you’ve already mastered DIY houses for birds and dogs, maybe it’s time you built one for yourself.

As Simplemost reports, there are a number of house kits that you can order on Amazon, and the Allwood Avalon Cabin Kit is one of the quaintest—and, at $32,990, most affordable—options. The 540-square-foot structure has enough space for a kitchen, a bathroom, a bedroom, and a sitting room—and there’s an additional 218-square-foot loft with the potential to be the coziest reading nook of all time.

You can opt for three larger rooms if you're willing to skip the kitchen and bathroom.Allwood/Amazon

The construction process might not be a great idea for someone who’s never picked up a hammer, but you don’t need an architectural degree to tackle it. Step-by-step instructions and all materials are included, so it’s a little like a high-level IKEA project. According to the Amazon listing, it takes two adults about a week to complete. Since the Nordic wood walls are reinforced with steel rods, the house can withstand winds up to 120 mph, and you can pay an extra $1000 to upgrade from double-glass windows and doors to triple-glass for added fortification.

Sadly, the cool ceiling lamp is not included.Allwood/Amazon

Though everything you need for the shell of the house comes in the kit, you will need to purchase whatever goes inside it: toilet, shower, sink, stove, insulation, and all other furnishings. You can also customize the blueprint to fit your own plans for the space; maybe, for example, you’re going to use the house as a small event venue, and you’d rather have two or three large, airy rooms and no kitchen or bedroom.

Intrigued? Find out more here.

[h/t Simplemost]

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15 Facts About The 40-Year-Old Virgin On Its 15th Anniversary

Steve Carell is The 40-Year-Old Virgin (2005).
Steve Carell is The 40-Year-Old Virgin (2005).
Universal Pictures Home Entertainment

The 40-Year-Old Virgin helped launch Steve Carell into comedy stardom, reintroduced audiences to Paul Rudd and Seth Rogen, featured one of Jonah Hill’s first movie roles, and began the Judd Apatow Comedy Filmmaking Empire. In celebration of its 15th anniversary, here are some facts that will make you cooler than David Caruso in Jade.

1. The 40-Year-Old Virgin was based on one of Steve Carell's Second City sketches.

The sketch was about a man who, in trying to keep up in a poker game conversation about sexual experiences, proves to be completely clueless about the subject. After working together on Anchorman, Judd Apatow asked Carell if he had any movie ideas; Carell pitched him the concept for The 40-Year-Old Virgin and the two wrote the film together.

2. Universal Studios provided Steve Carell and Judd Apatow with case studies on middle-age virginity.

They read that older virgins were typically normal people who, according to Carell, "at some point just gave up on the whole notion; it was more difficult to keep attempting than to give up."

3. Steve Carell was 43 years old and a father of two when The 40-Year-Old Virgin was released.

Carell's four-year-old daughter was “a little freaked out” at seeing her father on billboards promoting The 40-Year-Old Virgin.

4. Universal refused to allow Jason Segel to be in The 40-Year-Old Virgin.

Since Apatow didn’t have veto power back then, Jason Segel was out of luck. However, the incident reinforced Apatow’s advice to Segel that he should be writing his own material for a better chance at starring in films—advice which eventually led to Forgetting Sarah Marshall.

5. Steve Carell lost 30 pounds for The 40-Year-Old Virgin.

Though Apatow was originally "nervous about it, because I don't think comedians wanting to look good is ever good for the comedy," he gradually realized that Carell being "ripped" was a good idea. Because it helped establish that Andy was only a virgin because he’s shy and nervous, not because of his looks.

6. PAUL RUDD WAS CONSIDERED SO OVERWEIGHT THAT UNIVERSAL SHUT DOWN PRODUCTION FOR TWO DAYS.

Seth Rogen and Paul Rudd in The 40-Year-Old Virgin (2005).Universal Pictures Home Entertainment

Unlike most other directors, Apatow encourages Rudd to gain some weight before shooting because he thinks the actor is funnier when he’s a little fatter. Unfortunately, Universal disagreed, and Rudd ended up not eating for 48 hours to satisfy the studio. The one scene that stayed in the film from before the Universal-mandated shutdown was the speed-dating sequence. But there were other reasons for the shutdown: According to Apatow, they didn't like that he was lighting the film "like an indie." Also ...

7. The studio thought Steve Carell looked like a serial killer.

In response, "Steve decided the character would be a little more Buster Keaton-esque," according to Apatow. "He was low-energy and everyone else was spinning around him." Lines were also written (and improvised) making fun of the fact that Andy could be confused for a serial killer.

8. Jane Lynch's "Guatemalan Love Song" in The 40-Year-Old Virgin was from a passage in her high school textbook.

Part of the translation was "Where are you going with such haste? To a football game.” Lynch’s role was originally going to be played by a man, until Steve Carell’s wife, Nancy Walls (who played Maria, the health clinic counselor), suggested Lynch for the part of the store manager.

9. It was Leslie Mann's idea to throw up on Steve Carell's face in The 40-Year-Old Virgin.

Originally, Nicky (Mann's character) and Andy were supposed to get pulled over by the police, and it would turn out that Nicky was concealing a gun under her seat all along. Instead, Mann insisted that her vomiting on Carell would be a funnier conclusion to the scene, so she gulped down a mix of strawberry yogurt and “some kind of kefir.”

10. The waxing scene in The 40-Year-Old Virgin was real.

Steve Carell in The 40-Year-Old Virgin (2005).Universal Pictures Home Entertainment

About halfway through the ordeal, Carell was in so much pain that he realized it might have been a bad idea. It took seven weeks for all of his hair to grow back.

11. Judd Apatow and Steve Carell had trouble coming up with the big "Age of Aquarius/Let the Sunshine In" ending.

Garry Shandling put it in Apatow’s head that it was important to show that Andy is having better sex than his friends because he is in love. Later, Carell came up with the general idea of singing a song, and Apatow immediately thought “Let the Sunshine In” would work.

12. That big musical number sent Jonah Hill to the hospital for heatstroke.

Hill had to be hospitalized.

13. The filmmakers shot 1 million feet of film for The 40-Year-Old Virgin,

The film company bought the cast and crew champagne to celebrate.

14. Test screenings made The 40-Year-Old Virgin less R-rated.

People notably stopped laughing during the scene in which Andy watches porn from Dave’s “Boner Jams ‘03” tape. Two weeks later at another test screening, the new cut featured far less graphic content. Andy overhearing his old neighbors having sex was also cut after poor reactions. Trish’s line about Einstein having sex with his wife was taken out, then put back in once Apatow and Carell realized women liked that line.

15. Exotic fish were accidentally harmed during the making of The 40-Year-Old Virgin.

The electricity was shut off in the aquarium area after filming ended, causing a lack of proper aeration in the fish tank, leading to their deaths. The American Humane Association withheld its “no animals were harmed…” disclaimer because of the incident and rated the film “Monitored Unacceptable.”

This story has been updated for 2020.