The first time Meagan Good met Will Ferrell, she threw her shoes at him.
That may be the most rational response a woman could have to Ferrell, at least when he’s playing hopelessly chauvinist TV newsman Ron Burgundy. In Good’s case, she was performing the screen test that landed her the role of early 1980s cable news executive Linda Jackson in “Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues.”
Ron’s clueless bigotry is the premise for some of the humor in the sequel, which Ferrell co-wrote with director Adam McKay. Good, a newcomer to the franchise and to the clubby, improvisational world of Judd Apatow-produced comedies, is the comic foil.
It’s a role that puts the actress, best known for supporting parts in the African American comedies “Think Like a Man” and “Jumping the Broom” and the lead in the now canceled NBC drama “Deception,” in front of wider audiences. And it casts her as the straight man in jokes that walk the ever-shrinking tightrope of racial humor.
“Anchorman 2" is set in 1980, and the film’s notion of a black, female boss is unfathomable to Ron. Later, when Ron and Linda have forged an unlikely romance, he attempts to connect with her family by speaking jive.
“The whole point is to shed light on the stereotypes and make people go, ‘Hmm, yeah, that might be me,’” Good said. “This is a way to do it that disarms people. They don’t feel like they’re being attacked, they don’t feel they’re being preached to. That’s the beauty of comedy.”
In a recent interview over lunch, Good, 32, was warm and open, sharing, for instance, that when Linda barks and meows as she sexually harasses Ron, “I make that sound around my husband, in the living room when he’s trying to watch his programs.” (Her husband is Columbia Pictures executive DeVon Franklin).
Good is also distractingly attractive — in a black beanie and sweats, with no outward sign that she’s spent her recent evenings walking red carpets except for an elaborate, bejeweled manicure, Good has a whiplash-like effect on the male heads in a nearly empty Sunset Plaza restaurant.
The actress grew up in the Canyon Country community of Santa Clarita, the daughter of an LAPD officer and one of only three black families in the area. Her mother managed her child acting career, which included bit parts in shows like “Doogie Howser, M.D.” and in the stoner comedy film “Friday.”
Deeply religious, Good says she came to Christianity at age 12 after the death of a friend. She attends church twice a week, on Saturdays at Mt. Rubidoux Seventh Day Adventist Church in Riverside and on Sundays at One Church L.A. in West Hollywood. Franklin is also active as a preacher.
“We believe that both [Christianity and show business] can come together and one can be used to promote the other, using what we do in the business to promote the kingdom,” Good said.
Good says she has occasionally turned down a role with nudity or some other quality she feels doesn’t reflect her values.
“I have my parameters of what I feel in my spirit is appropriate,” she said. “There have been times where it’s been tough because it’s something I really wanted, but the nudity would be exploitative and I’d lose the opportunity, but what I’ve found is that the more I stick to my convictions, the more God sticks to his promises. When I would lose something, something better would come up than what I turned down. And I’ve been able to pay my bills doing nothing else since I was 13.”
In “Anchorman 2,” Good entered a comedy family that was already intact, with much of the cast, including Christina Applegate, Steve Carell, David Koechner and Paul Rudd, returning from the first film.
“Immediately, Christina took me aside and said, ‘This is what you can expect. It’s a boys’ club, but you’re gonna be great,’” Good said. “She told me to be prepared for the improv-ing, think of some stuff myself, don’t be nervous, be fearless, just go for it.”
The movie opened Wednesday to middling box office (about $40 million so far) in the U.S., off of mainly positive reviews, some of which single out Good’s no-holds barred repartee with Ferrell.
“She was game for anything,” McKay said. “And always kept this kind of cool, high status about her, which was what we wanted for the role. She seemed really unflappable. The trick is, can they hold their character together while doing crazy stuff? You’ve got to be able to be a good enough actor to get to that place.”
Good said her dream project is a Whitney Houston biopic, which she had been discussing with the singer before her death early last year.
In the meantime, she brought the confidence that came from playing with improv’s A-team to her next comedy, “Think Like a Man Too,” which is due in theaters in June.
“If acting in a comedy is about free-fall, [‘Anchorman 2'] pushed me off the cliff,” Good said.