Kristen Bell
Brian Bowen Smith/August

With a hit TV show, a new film on the way, a baby girl and a healthy dose of snark, Kristen Bell is at the top of her game. About the only thing she hasn’t done is Saturday Night Live — yet.

Kristen Bell is filming a scene that demolishes her reputation as one of Hollywood’s sweetest actresses. Fittingly, the set is a wrecking yard in California’s San Fernando Valley.

The 5-foot-2-inch actress towers over her House of Lies co-star Don Cheadle by standing on top of a stack of crushed automobiles, flat and gray like tinned sardines. She cuts a striking profile under the blue sky and bright sun. The blonde is wearing an animal-print miniskirt, a tight, red leather jacket and a bauble necklace, and, to accessorize the gaudy outfit, she holds a gleaming handgun. Bell points the weapon at Cheadle, cowering below her in the landscape of mangled wreckage, and taunts him: “Stay still, OK? Don’t move!” For added effect, flames mushroom behind the actress as she cackles with laughter.

You’d be forgiven for thinking the scene sounds more like The Real Housewives of Miami meets Mad Max than it does House of Lies, a Showtime television drama about cutthroat management consultants. But, as it turns out, Cheadle’s character is just having a very bad dream.

“The state of his emotional well-being is a junkyard,” explains Bell, who plays his right-hand woman on the show. “I’m standing on a pedestal above him.”

Because we’re talking in metaphorical terms, Bell’s position at the top of the heap seems like an apt representation of her rise in Hollywood. Whether she’s starring in movies such as Forgetting Sarah Marshall, You Again and Frozen or playing a gun-wielding villain on TV shows such as Heroes and House of Lies, Bell can’t help being likable. Just ask the more than 1.2 million followers she regularly interacts with on Twitter. Or anyone who’s worked with her.