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Carrie Brownstein Talks 'Portlandia' and Sleater-Kinney: 'I Don't Feel Schizophrenic with Acting and Music'

Chloe Aftel
Carrie Brownstein photographed on Feb. 6, 2015 in Portland, Ore.

The Queen Of Cool

Before Carrie Brownstein was the Emmy-nominated writer and star of IFC TV series Portlandia, she was a singer-guitarist in beloved feminist-rock band Sleater-Kinney, formed in 1994. But when the trio went on hiatus in 2006, she ventured into new territory, sketching comedy bits with fellow actor-musician Fred Armisen that paved the road to Portlandia's biting, bizarro satire (just renewed for its sixth and seventh seasons). Brownstein, 40, has since landed roles in Amazon's Golden Globe winner Transparent and Todd Haynes' upcoming film, Carol. And now that a reunited Sleater-Kinney is touring behind new LP No Cities to Love (released in January), Portlandia's ­bigger fan base -- ­"construction ­workers, police officers, ­farmers," says Brownstein -- is discovering that a really sick guitarist has been hiding in plain sight.

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TV Fans Vs. Music Fans
"I was sitting in a ­restaurant, and this guy comes up to me: 'Me and my wife love Portlandia. Can we get a ­picture?' Then this couple sitting next to me turned and said -- as if they were admonishing the other guy -- 'We heard your new record. We love Sleater-Kinney.' There was this sense of one-upmanship, which only exists in music. No one in TV is like, 'I'm going to tell you about the most obscure show.' "

Double Threat, Not Double Life
"I don't feel schizophrenic with acting and music. It all feels part of a goal to connect with people."

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Her 'Life-Changing' Role
"Almost everything I've done up until Transparent was something I created. To try somebody else's vision taught me a lot about acting. There was a level of vulnerability there I aspire to, in music for sure, that I hadn't discovered before."

Brownstein Facts
- Sleater-Kinney's eight albums have sold 643,000 total units, according to Nielsen Music.
- Brownstein has been nominated for three writing Emmys.
- One of her first roles was in Miranda July's 2001 short Getting Stronger Every Day.

This story originally appeared in the Feb. 28 issue of Billboard.