PHILADELPHIA -- Rashida Jones doesn't mind going wacky.
"If it's funny, I will go to whatever place I have to go, no matter how gross and unattractive I seem," says Jones, who plays nerdy nurse Ann Perkins on NBC's increasingly popular sitcom "Parks and Recreation." "The goofier and stupider you can be, the more fun it is."
Play a nerd? No problem. "Ann is abnormally excited about things that cool people are not excited about," says Jones. "She is unabashedly enthusiastic and idealistic."
She can also be quite graphic. One of her best lines this season involved flatulence.
All that may seem a little unusual for a woman who has three times been anointed one of People's "100 Most Beautiful."
But Jones is serious about comedy, and has been since she was an insecure adolescent.
"I was slightly chubby in my early teens," she says. "Guys weren't lining up to date me, so I was always the funny friend, cracking jokes. That was my calling card.
"My 13th birthday party, I remember stopping the DJ so I could do my imitation of the Church Lady (Dana Carvey's character from 'Saturday Night Live')."
That soiree doesn't hold a candle to her Sweet 16.
"LL Cool J rapped to me," she rhapsodizes.
Hold on a minute. How do you get a hip-hop superstar to come to your house?
Rashida's father, the legendary Quincy Jones, has a little pull in the music business.
Her mother is actress Peggy Lipton ("The Mod Squad").
The talents inherited from her parents are in full flower.
In addition to her success on TV ("Boston Public" and "The Office" preceded "Parks and Recreation") and in film ("I Love You, Man," "The Social Network"), Jones has done a series of mock public-service videos with Natalie Portman for Will Ferrell's website, Funny or Die.
She sang backup on Maroon 5's debut album, "Songs About Jane"; created a comic book series, "Frenemy of the State"; and is busily writing screenplays.
That last endeavor provides her with the greatest artistic fulfillment. And the greatest challenge.
"Writing sucks," she says. "There are no shortcuts. You have to do the work. But holding a finished script in your hand? There's nothing more satisfying. Nothing."
"She manages to be so funny without being mean. That's a rarity in comedy, especially now," says her writing partner Will McCormack. "I only get frustrated with her when she goes deep onto websites shopping for pants when we're on deadline. Though she does find great pants."
Despite her looks, famous lineage and protean accomplishments, Jones has always been remarkably genial and unaffected. She's the regal Renaissance girl-next-door.
Mike Schur, "Parks and Recreation's" co-creator and executive producer, was a student at Harvard University at the same time as Rashida.
"She was very similar to the way she is now: She was easy to talk to, very normal, and seemed like every other college student," he says.
"Except on the weekends. You'd ask her what she was doing and she'd say, 'I'm flying to Namibia with Naomi Campbell.' On Monday, she was your friend again, sitting next to you in the sociology lecture, staying up all night to study."
Jones, who recently turned 35, graduated with a degree in religion.
"I'm so glad I studied something that ultimately I'm never going to use in my professional life," she says, laughing.
Being biracial has been an asset in her acting career, making her a more versatile casting option. But that wasn't so initially.
"I'd go out for black parts and I'd be too light," Jones says. "I'd go out for white parts, and I was too ethnic."
With her front-row seat, Jones has witnessed a disturbing development in the entertainment business.
"I went to school with a lot of kid actors. It was pretty mellow in the '80s," she says. "People now are so aggressive. They feel entitled to performers' private lives."
In Jones' case, that has resulted in some crazy matchmaking.
"People are so anxious for romantic hookups," she says. "That's always amusing to me.
"I was linked with Seth Meyers ('Saturday Night Live's' head writer and 'Weekend Update' anchor) because we took a picture together 10 years ago. Now it's always on my Wikipedia page, no matter how many times I edited it and took it off.
"So, now forever I will have dated Seth Meyers," she says, "when in truth it never, ever happened.
"Basically, none of these (reported relationships) are true," Jones says. "Recently I was linked with ('TRON: Legacy' hunk) Garrett Hedlund, who is a lovely person.
"God bless whoever decided to link me with him because he's a good eight years younger than me and that makes me feel awesome."