Off Camera with Sam Jones

By Sam Jones

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Off Camera is a podcast hosted by photographer/director Sam Jones, who created the show out of his passion for the long form conversational interview, and as a way to share his conversations with a myriad of artists, actors, musicians, directors, skateboarders, photographers, and writers that pique his interest. Because the best conversations happen Off Camera.

Episode Date
Ep 65. Kathryn Hahn
Who is my character? Why does she say this line? What’s my motivation? These are valid, if not typical, Acting 101 probings. But as a certain actor so simply puts it, “Sometimes, you just need to walk in the door.” That actor is Kathryn Hahn, who is a great example of someone who does just that; she steps into frame and before she utters a line, you’re watching, just waiting for what she’s going to say or do. That takes a rare kind of presence, one that for too long seemed to be hiding in plain sight. Hahn got her first real TV break when Crossing Jordan producer Tim Kring created the role of Lily Lebowski for her in 2001. A string of small but brilliant supporting appearances in comedy features like How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days, Win a Date with Tad Hamilton!, Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy, and Step Brothers followed. Luckily, a few sharp-eyed observers spied a keg of talent going largely untapped. In 2008, Marcia Shulman, then Fox’s head of casting, signed Hahn to a rare talent-holding deal. “She was doing the kind of comedy that reminded me of Lucille Ball,” Shulman said. “She is very approachable, she has a very positive, happy presence. She is a great physical comedian, and I think that is missing on TV.” Shulman was right, but if anyone deserves credit for recognizing what others didn’t, it’s writer and director Jill Soloway, who gave Hahn her first lead role in the acclaimed 2013 film Afternoon Delight. As an over- achieving mom and housewife who finds a— let’s call it creative—way to deal with a midlife crisis, Hahn was able to show there were layers to the laughs. “...She has an incredible way into the kind of authentic realness that made the careers of women like Diane Keaton back in the 1970s,” Soloway told The New York Times. “The industry has never really known how to handle a woman like that—a woman whose beauty is so intrinsically slinked to her unique character.” Perhaps not fitting into a cinematic pigeonhole isn’t all bad. Hahn is one of the most game actors in the business, the personification of the acting ideal: free, open. She seems equipped to invest any character with warmth, sarcasm, humanity or a bit of ball-busting on an as-needed basis. While “free” could be an understatement for some of her roles in movies like We’re The Millers, Tomorrowland, Bad Words, and the upcoming Bad Moms, she’s just as good, if not even better, at caustic (Boeing-Boeing, her Broadway debut), grounded (Transparent) and...male (her role as Jennifer Barkley on Parks and Recreation was originally written for a man). If you’ve seen her in any of these roles, you’d have a tough time buying that an artist so willing to “go there” with such complete abandon and utter lack of vanity was ever self conscious or timid. But growing up, Hahn was the girl who was always apologizing, saying anything but what she truly meant in order to keep people (mostly her family) happy. She’s said that being able to stand up straight, look people in the eye and command her own space remain a bit of a challenge, even today. But it does get easier once you realize that your gift is who you are, and who you are is pretty much all you need. If Hollywood didn’t know what to do with Hahn in the beginning, she’s shown them now—just about anything.
Jul 30, 2020
Ep 84. Greta Gerwig
In “No Method to Her Madness,” a review of the Noah Baumbach film Greenberg that could’ve also been titled “Ode to Greta Gerwig,” A.O. Scott wrote that the actress, “most likely without intending to be anything of the kind, may well be the definitive screen actress of her generation.” He goes on (at length) to praise her performance, or lack thereof. “She comes across as pretty, smart, hesitant, insecure, confused, determined — all at once or in no particular order. Which is to say that she is bracingly, winningly and sometimes gratingly real.” He’s still talking about Greenberg, but the same could be said of her work in films like Frances Ha, Mistress America and Maggie’s Plan. Ben Brantley, Scott’s colleague over in the theater department, seemed equally smitten with her stage debut as Becky in The Village Bike: “She registers as guileless because we can detect every confused emotion that crosses her face... She reads as so transparent that her feelings come to seem like our own. There’s no barrier of glossy, movie star charm between her and us.” If you don’t see many mainstream titles on her IMDb page, it may be because studios serve up most of their features with a generous dollop of gloss. It could also be because Gerwig knows what material suits her. And she should – she’s co-written and co-directed a lot of it, mostly with indie filmmakers like Baumbach and Joe Swanberg. Though these are no doubt some of her most acclaimed performances, even in her occasional mainstream forays (2011’s Arthur and No Strings Attached) she’s often singled out as the only part of the movie worth watching. Taken as a whole, the applause seems to boil down to this: It’s very hard to catch her acting. As a performer, she is unselfconscious in a way that lets us look through her and see ourselves, and she’s not pulling any punches in the reflection. She’s a natural if there ever was one, but for a long time the question seemed to be, a natural what? A fervent aspiring ballerina, fencer, trumpeter, aerobics instructor (that was all before graduating high school), Gerwig embraced her interests with both arms and all her passion. In college she intended to become a playwright (or maybe study musical theater) before meeting Swanberg, who cast her in 2006’s LOL. For a while she worried about not feeling the same singular purpose or calling as some of her peers; there was also a period when she worried a move from mumblecore to mainstream might never happen. But now that hopping genres, creative capacities and even distribution platforms is becoming the industry’s new normal, it seems like a very good time to be someone who can be almost anyone – on either side of the camera. This month, she’s in front of it in 20th Century Women along with Annette Bening and Billy Crudup. In 2017, she’ll step behind it with Lady Bird, which stars Saoirse Ronan and marks Gerwig’s first solo directing effort. She’s also working on the script for a film adaptation of Little Women – and we can’t think of a better (or more interesting) woman for the job. For some artists, picking a lane seems not only unnecessary, but foolish, especially for an artist who’s all-in, all the time. “You could always not invest, but where’s the fun in that?” she told The Guardian earlier this year. “It’s like when people say, ‘I don’t really care about Christmas, it’s just a day.’ Of course it’s just a day, but this is all we’ve got! We go around one time… Let’s invest. It’s not always logical to do so, but what else are you gonna do with your life?”
Jul 23, 2020
Ep 64. Keagan-Michael Key
Did you see the 2013 comedy-horror movie Hell Baby? No? Well, film critic Devin Faraci did, and what stood out for him about the otherwise “silly” film was a supporting actor who “walks into Hell Baby, picks it up and walks directly out of the theater with it.” That was Keegan-Michael Key. In his write up, Faraci said, “I’m not sure why this guy isn’t one of the biggest comedy stars in the universe, but we still have time to correct this oversight, and Hell Baby will help.” Maybe, maybe not, but Key & Peele did. The history-making comic duo (Key and partner Jordan Peele) met at MADtv, where they were originally cast against each other so parent network FOX could pick one black actor for the permanent ensemble. Obvious questions about that strategy aside, the network recognized chemistry when they saw it and hired them both. Even “black actor” seems a slightly ridiculous term for two bi-racial comics who refused to see black culture as a monolith and any culture, topic, or character as off-limits for comic cannon fodder. Their two-man parade of seemingly endless impersonations (and wigs) broadened and became even funnier when Key & Peele became its own sketch show on Comedy Central in 2012, sparing neither gay nor straight, young nor old, Asian nor Latino, black nor white, nor icons modern or historic. Not even vampires couldn’t escape ridicule. In its eulogy for the best TV comedy shows ending runs in 2015 (including The Colbert Report, David Letterman on The Late Show, and Parks and Recreation), The Atlantic said, “The departure of Key & Peele deserves to be remembered as the biggest loss of them all, because it was the only example of a show ending when it still had so much originality and energy left...The originality, charm, intensity, and fearlessness of Key & Peele will be impossible to replace.” Key’s own abilities as a dauntless comic surrogate for almost any faction of society brought him to the attention of President Obama, who was in need of an Official Anger Translator for the 2015 White House Correspondents’ Dinner. It’s probably the first time the event has racked up over 7.3 million YouTube views—no mean feat in a town that regularly offers up a bottomless smorgasbord of things to laugh at. Key’s rejection of any single racial or comedic stereotype appears to have started early and to have influenced his career path. Adopted as a child by a bi-racial couple in Michigan, he discovered a passion for theater in high school, largely because of the multi-cultural kids it attracted. He saw that unlike so many of us in high school, these kids joined drama not out of the desire to belong to a certain group, but out of love for their craft. He pursued his MFA in Theater at Penn State with the intention of becoming a “poor, happy, artistically fulfilled” dramatic actor, doing regional theater and Shakespeare festivals. But for a guy whose knee-jerk reaction to anyone who says, “There’s no way to make this funny” is an immediate and compulsive need to prove otherwise, a comedy detour was probably inevitable. That, and he’s just a damn funny guy. Though Devin Faraci has been proven right about Key’s talent several times over by now, we wouldn’t be surprised if his review of the upcoming Don’t Think Twice is only four words: “I told you so.” And then there’s the tantalizing rumor of a script-in-the-works with Peele and Judd Apatow, who’s said he thinks the duo are “capable of making a movie America desperately needs right now.” All we know is that a film from a triumvirate like that is one we desperately need to see right now. Key and Co. aren’t sharing details, so if Luther is still available, we’d like to hire him to send a little message to our friend Keegan: GET OUT OF OUR DAMN STUDIO AND GO MAKE IT, ALREADY.
Jul 16, 2020
Ep 95. Hank Azaria
Hank Azaria’s relationship to the most iconic cartoon of a generation is a question of prepositions. He is indisputably on The Simpsons (his voice work on the show has won him four Emmys); also, he is The Simpsons – or at least a good percentage of the regulars that populate their world: Moe the Bartender, Apu the Kwik-E-Mart proprietor, Chief Wiggum, Comic Book Guy, The Sea Captain, Carl Carlson, as well as a one-man army of walk-ons like Cletus Spuckler, Professor Frink, Dr. Nick Riviera, Lou, Snake Jailbird, Superintendent Chalmers, Disco Stu, Duffman and the Wiseguy. A gifted mimic at five, Azaria had no idea his impressions were an unusual talent. “I just loved Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck, Foghorn Leghorn,” he told the Los Angeles Times. “Then when I got old enough to realize it was all the same guy, Mel Blanc, I lost my mind.” Memorizing comedy routines he saw and doing funny voices remained a diversion while he was growing up in Queens, NY, but became an obsession once he did a high school play. He decided on acting and studied drama at Tufts University and the American Academy of Dramatic Arts. Apparently not an optimist, he’s said he didn’t expect to be successful as a professional actor, but determined to hang on until he was 25 just so he wouldn’t regret not trying. His path proceeded along the standard Hollywood lines – a move to L.A., work as a catering bartender and plenty of auditions. His debut was in the 1986 ABC series Bash, a one-line part he told all his friends about, only to discover it was cut. But a little humiliation is a small price to pay for a SAG card, right? Parts in sitcoms like Family Ties and Growing Pains followed, as did Hollywood Dog, his first-ever voice role. The pilot failed, but prompted a casting director to ask him to audition for Moe. Simpsons exec producer Matt Groening kept asking him back, a rogues gallery of voices was compiled, and a stable career was born. Live action work picked up around the same time with recurring roles on Friends and Mad About You. A small part in Pretty Woman was his first feature film; subsequent roles soon became bigger and more diverse – Quiz Show, Along Came Polly, Dodgeball, Cradle Will Rock, Night At the Museum, Godzilla – but none more memorable than Agador - Spartacus - in The Birdcage. As a dialed-to-eleven Guatemalan houseboy, he made us laugh harder than the movie’s stars, comic icons Robin Williams and Nathan Lane. Every industry has a “guy” – the one you go to when you want the reliable best in the business, and Azaria became the go-to for making any line funny just by saying it. Playwright Jenelle Riley said, "[Azaria's] appeal can best be summed up by, of all things, his hilarious cameo in the goofy comedy Dodgeball. As Patches O'Houlihan, he delivers a pitch-perfect performance in an instructional video in which he chain-smokes, encourages a child to pick on those weaker than him, and steals the film from a cast of comedic greats. It's a wonderful, odd moment that could have failed miserably in the hands of a lesser actor, and he manages to pull it off with only seconds of dialogue…Pound for pound, Hank Azaria is the best actor working today." Azaria humbly passes most of it off to “dumb celebrity impressions,” but that’s dismissing the work of a master mixologist. Patches O’Houlihan? “Essentially a bad Clark Gable impression, but I tried to add some young Rip Torn in it.” Moe? Al Pacino, with some gravel thrown in. Agador? Puerto Rican street queens, tempered with his grandmother. Apu? Peter Sellers in The Party. We’ll end the list there so as not to ruin a potentially amusing Azaria-watching parlor game for you. Those indelible characters can make it easy to overlook Azaria’s fine dramatic work in series like Huff and Ray Donovan, and his touching AOL series Fatherhood. Variety called his Emmy-winning performance as Mitch Albom in Tuesdays with Morrie “the most layered and sensitive work of his career.” As it often happens, genius work in one arena overshadows equal work in another. As they say, it’s a blessing and a curse. In his new IFC dark comedy Brockmire, Azaria is a famed major league baseball announcer who suffers an embarrassing public meltdown live on the air and decides to reclaim his career in a small rust belt town calling games for a minor league team called the Morristown Frackers. So mostly, a blessing.
Jul 09, 2020
Ep 137. Andie MacDowell
When Andie MacDowell was a curious and wide-eyed 8-year-old, a trip to the university theater with her mother planted a seed. The adults on stage were playing make believe, her most favorite game in the world, and she was mesmerized. Add a penchant for prank calls and some improv with unsuspecting barkeeps, and the seed that was planted would later grow into her passion for acting. And Andie is nothing if not passionate. Over 30 years in the industry and she’s still chomping at the bit to stretch and grow despite how challenging it can be for women to find roles of substance.  As a model, Andie was often held to an impossible standard of perfection, but she knows her success transcends what people see on the surface: “I’ve always known the real reason people would connect with me would not be for the way I looked, but for how I made them feel.” That is exactly why she feels so rewarded by her most psychologically complex character to date in the film Love After Love. In the role of Suzanne, a codependent matriarch who loses her husband, Andie straddles the line between strength and despair beautifully. “I was starving for this role,” Andie declares. When I asked her why, the conversation got interesting really fast. Andie joins Off Camera to discuss why her role in Love After Love is her most interesting since Sex, Lies, and Videotape, how to move past gender inequality in Hollywood, why her childhood struggles have made her a better mom, and how to properly cook a steak (in butter, of course!).
Jul 02, 2020
Ep 61. Glen Hansard
All artists are essentially storytellers, and the Irish are legendary storytellers (if you disagree, go immerse yourself in some Oscar Wilde, Samuel Beckett, Neil Jordan, or Christy Moore, and get back to us). For three decades, musician and sometimes-actor Glen Hansard has told his tales through song: first as a street busker, then as frontman for Irish band The Frames, next as half of folk rock duo The Swell Season, and now as a solo artist. If his early family life was a bit difficult and alcohol-dampened, it was also kind of enchanted. Household gods like Dylan and Van Morrison, a tradition of gathering to sing, and the folks he met on the streets of Dublin gave him as good an education as he’d ever have received in school—if he’d stayed there. Hansard’s ear and general disposition are finely tuned to the tragi-comic, ironic side of life—the Irish seeming to have caught on earlier than most that life doesn’t really offer up an alternate side—and that sensibility helped propel The Frames to native-soil popularity. Their second album (Set List, recorded live) hit the top of Irish charts, The Sydney Morning Herald raving, “This glorious live recording shows exactly why The Frames are the darlings of Ireland’s music scene…There are moments of transcendental magic on this album, showcasing their ability to capture an audience’s interest as the crowd sings along to songs and reacts to frontman Glen Hansard’s anecdotes.” We’re not sure if one of those anecdotes was one Hansard has told about seeing an advert for the film The Commitments floating in a dirty puddle on the streets of New York. While The Frames’ popularity remained chiefly confined to Ireland, Hansard’s popularity jumped the pond along with his appearance as guitarist Outspan Foster in the wildly successful film. It read as a soggy reminder for Hansard, who didn’t enjoy the acting experience and felt it overshadowed the band. Like many of his countrymen, he displays a cocked eyebrow at fame: “I make art, and that’s great; but digging in the hole and growing potatoes is a higher calling. In Ireland, the land is pulsing.” Maybe so, but eventually the lure of a great story (or maybe just perversity) brought him back to the screen with fellow musician Markéta Irglová in Once, a film that charmed critics and virtually everyone else who saw it and went on to become a smash stage show. More music than dialogue, Once is a testament to what Hansard seems to always have known: some things are better conveyed and more profoundly understood through words that we sing than those we speak. Of the score (co-written with Irglová) The New York Times said, “What lends a special, tickling poignancy to [the] songs is their acceptance of loneliness as an existential given. These are not big ballads that complain angrily about how we could have had it all. An air of romantic resignation, streaked in minor-key undercurrents, tempers the core heartache of numbers like “Leave,” “When Your Mind’s Made Up,” and “Falling Slowly,” which earned the duo a Best Song Oscar. His ability to temper a healthy respect for the muse with the nuts and bolts of his craft is most evident on his 2015 solo album Didn’t He Ramble, a hard-won work that’s at once sad, hopeful unsentimental and beautiful. If Hansard’s music—and Hansard himself—embodies worlds of contradiction, he holds true to those contradictions. After all, they’re what make all of us human; and they’re what make the humans who can write and sing about them, artists. You’ll still find him busking out on the evening streets, albeit mostly for charity and with friends like Bono and Eddie Vedder. “It may be a little cold,” he’s said, “but it warms my heart.”
Jun 26, 2020
Ep 36. Dax Shepard
Philip Larkin drolly made parents the scapegoats of our generation with his observation “They f*** you up, your mum and dad…” And true enough, but with a bit of perspective and hard work, you can also come to see they’ve given you some tremendous gifts in the process. Dax Shepard grew up poor in Detroit with an absentee alcoholic father, and several stepfathers who weren’t necessarily an improvement on the original. Dax grew from an often-expelled trouble-making daredevil to become an alcoholic himself, all while pursuing…comedy. After some improv time in the Groundlings, he acted in a few comedies while also writing a few for hire – quite an accomplishment for a dyslexic who couldn’t read until age 11 and firmly believed in his own stupidity. Once in Hollywood, he endured an eight-year stretch of low employment and high self-doubt while he trying hard to find and produce work, and even harder to become sober (he succeeded). Then came marriage, parenthood and Parenthood, all of which have taught him plenty, but namely that sometimes the luckiest of us are those who’ve faced the highest stakes – it tends to make you really appreciate what they stand to lose. But despite his hard-won maturity, Shepard is still a kid who loves fast bikes, car chases and blowing things up. And really, who doesn’t, just a little bit? It was part of the impetus behind Hit & Run, a movie he wrote, directed and starred in. Ostensibly it’s a car chase flick, but amid the Corvettes and mobsters, you’ll find some unexpectedly real and moving writing. Endearingly and refreshingly open, he knows his limitations, but also his potential. Beyond his love of his family, his day job and his motorcycles (we think in that order), he has an unabashed enthusiasm for making the films he wants to see, including his upcoming movie version of CHiPS – a film he was probably born to direct. So Citizen Kane it’s not, but we can already hear sirens and awesomeness in the background. The most important thing we learned about Shepard is how much we didn’t know about Shepard. Trust us, you’re gonna love this guy.
Jun 18, 2020
Ep 34. Rashida Jones
Our news feeds these days are pretty reliably littered with examples of how easily kids of celebrities can be overshadowed, crushed or otherwise damaged by the weight of their parents’ fame. Rashida Jones, daughter of legendary and artistic force Quincy Jones and iconic actress Peggy Lipton rebelled from day one, becoming an avid reader, puzzle geek and serious student who declared her intention to attend Harvard at age six. Her status as a Mathlete also bears mention, just because, “Mathlete”. Once at Harvard (indeed, Ms. Jones does not mess around), her pursuit of the law soon turned to pursuits of a more theatrical nature, thanks to OJ Simpson and an Ivy League version of Mean Girls. If being “daughter of” didn’t make life hard, it didn’t help much, either. She wasn’t great at auditions, she wasn’t white – or black – enough for casting directors, and roles were scarce. She was on the verge of quitting the biz for grad school when her serious, straight-man demeanor landed her a parts on The Office and eventually Parks and Recreation, where she was a skilled, subtle foil for the absurdity happening all around her. Never quite comfortable on The Office and still not finding roles, she finally indulged her secret wish to be a screenwriter, penning the script for indie Celeste and Jesse Forever to show what she could do. A big studio’s offer to buy it validated her skill as a writer, but they feared she wasn’t box office enough to cast as its lead. She stuck to her guns, made if for under a million and starred in the film, of which Entertainment Weekly said, "it's been a while since a romantic comedy mustered this much charm by looking this much like life." Next? Disney hands her the keys to Toy Story 4, its most beloved franchise. In her spare time, she produced and took public criticism for the decidedly non-Disney Hot Girls Wanted, an insightful, concerning look at the porn industry. Oh yeah, and she’ll finally take on a lead TV role as an ass-kicking, cliché-wielding cop in the Steve Carell-produced farce Angie Tribeca. Being a celeb kid does not make you special. Going to Harvard does not make you special. Being brave enough to throw out “the shittiest idea in the room”, standing up to rejection, developing confidence in your own voice and working your ass off, well, that makes you special. And an all-around quality human being. Rashida Jones may have been the smart girl we hated in school; now we want our daughters to be just like her. Jones will tell you she’s had a lot of luck. “With all due respect,” we disagree.
Jun 11, 2020
Ep 119. Chadwick Boseman
Not much in Chadwick Boseman’s early life would lead you to think he would become an actor. Not his birthplace (Anderson, South Carolina), not his family (his mom was a nurse, his dad an upholstery business owner), not his interests (he was the quiet one who played sports). Not one thing, it seems, except he just decided. A sad incident in his last years of high school prompted him to write and then direct his first play, after which he simply decided that’s what he’d do. He studied at Howard University and later at the British American Drama Academy in Oxford, and in short order, commenced writing plays: His 2006 Deep Azure was nominated for a 2006 Joseph Jefferson Award for New Work, and the Chicago Tribune called it “Fascinating…Especially because the 28-year-old Boseman is a fresh talent – a young, sophisticated African-American writer with all of the flaws that flow from youth and inexperience and all of the excitement that draws from those very same places. With a slate of cultural references complex enough to encompass the likes of jazz-speak, Shakespeare, Hebrew, Louis Farrakhan and Spider-Man, Boseman offers a creative, slick and arresting employment of theatrical language and imagery.” But Boseman had also taken some taking acting classes in college. At the time, it was just to learn how to work with actors, but in 2008 he decided he was ready to become one himself. He got a few TV parts here and there (L&O, Lincoln Heights, Persons Unknown), but film parts – many of which he was sure he’d get – eluded him. One of those was in Django Unchained. Boseman wasn’t cast, but after his audition, director Quentin Tarantino told his casting director, “That guy is going to be something.” But what? Those were lean years, and Boseman was on the verge of re-committing to the stage. That’s when he got the call to read for 42, playing Jackie Robinson opposite Harrison Ford. Director Brian Helgeland tells a story of his audition: “[Boseman] came in and said, ‘You’re either going to like me or not, and we’re going to know in five minutes.’ He had to play one of the bravest men who ever lived, so I thought that he came in brave was a great indication.” It was brave, considering Robinson himself had played the role in 1950’s The Jackie Robinson Story. Most reviewers felt Boseman did the better job. His bravery was put to the test again when he was asked to audition for the role of James Brown in 2014’s Get On Up. Boseman hesitated (the moves alone would’ve scared even more flexible men), but director Tate Taylor knew it was about more than the Mashed Potato. He needed to see Boseman play Brown in his 60s. “That was the Achilles heel of the whole project,” Taylor told The Guardian in 2015. “I thought, if this isn’t perfect, we will fail, and the whole tone will be wrecked. I need the best fucking actor I can find... and he nailed it.’” Variety agreed, calling his performance faultless. “Chadwick Boseman plays Brown from age 16 to 60 with a dexterity and invention worthy of his subject. We have a chance to see this remarkable actor in full bloom, whether he’s giving life to Brown’s signature dance moves…or burrowing deep into the performer’s tortured, little-boy-lost soul. He feels Brown from the inside out, the way Brown felt his own distinctive rhythms, and even when the movie itself seems to be on autopilot, Boseman never leaves the captain’s chair.” Suddenly, Boseman seemed the go-to guy for movies about iconic black figures. It’s something he initially resisted, but this month finds him in Marshall, a biographical thriller about the first African-American Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall and one of the first cases in his career. Boseman is obviously in possession of a strong will, but like most real artists, he’s powerless when it comes to a great story. His most iconic character yet may actually be fictional. Last year he joined Marvel’s blockbuster Captain America: Civil War as T’Challa/Black Panther, a brilliant scientist and king of the unconquerable African nation of Wakanda, not to mention a shrewd tactician and fighter. As the first in a five-picture deal with Marvel, it’s of no small significance to Boseman’s career. So is the fact that he’ll be the first black superhero starring in his own Marvel film when Black Panther premieres in 2018. NPR said his “regal performance” in Captain America “makes you wish it were arriving sooner.” If “you” means the 90 million people who watched the film’s teaser trailer within four hours of its release, that sounds about right. But back to that decision to write and direct. Boseman has said he’s learned you have to choose a clear point of entry to the business, but once you define yourself, you can go into other arenas. That’s good, because we need artists like him pushing from behind the camera as well. However he decides to tell his stories, we’re listening.
Jun 04, 2020
Ep 23. Jason Sudeikis
As a high school sophomore, Jason Sudeikis switched schools in pursuit of serious basketball dreams and, of course, a girl. Instead, he discovered classes in radio and TV and debate – and a new career option. Soon after swapping Final Four tickets for a video camera, he gave up on college hoops and eventually college itself to go pro in the improv leagues. He honed his chops at ComedySportz, the Annoyance and ImprovOlympic before getting drafted by Second City and eventually Saturday Night Live, where some of his most memorable work occurred behind the scenes writing skits for Justin Timberlake, Amy Poehler and buddy Will Forte. Along the way he happily stole (a term he prefers to “borrow”) from lifelong mentors to develop his own comedic DNA (watch him in the We’re The Millers and guess who he’s channeling). In this issue, Sudeikis discusses his improv roots, his development as an actor and writer, his early love-hate relationship with SNL, the art of guest host management, and of course, hoops. To this day he’s a flashy, joke-cracking point guard who never lets you see how hard he’s working.
May 28, 2020
Ep 100. Ron Howard
When a 16-year old Ron Howard was hanging out on set with Henry Fonda (as one does), Fonda gave the young actor a bit of advice: If he loved acting, he should focus on theater, but, "If you love movies, become a director.” Ron Howard loved movies. The Oklahoma-born son of two actors, his earliest memories are of memorizing dialog from his dad’s summer stock plays as a 3-year old. Walking unaware into an MGM kids’ casting call in 1959, Howard senior mentioned he had a son who was a fine actor. They called young Ronny in, had him do a scene, and asked his dad if he could do anything else. "I really don’t know if he can." Ron Howard entered our living rooms a year later as Opie in The Andy Griffith Show, and didn’t leave for the next 25 years when Happy Days ended in 1984. That’s when we really saw what else he could do. He started directing in 1977 by convincing producer Roger Corman to let him helm Grand Theft Auto (Howard agreed to act in Corman’s Eat My Dust! in exchange). Next came Night Shift, and then, at a point where most directors are still paying off film school debt, he delivered Splash, Cocoon and Parenthood. They were all charming, funny, well reviewed and commercially successful; and yet we still hadn’t seen the extent of what he could do as a director. What Howard excels at is telling stories that tell us something about ourselves; real tales of real people – albeit writ large – whose lives and worlds double as themes he wants to explore: family, teamwork, hubris and adversity, to name a few. Another particular genius is his ability to translate those worlds visually, forging a direct connection from our eyeballs to our gut or heart, as the story demands. Consider a tale that takes place largely inside the head of a brilliant but unstable mathematician. In its review of A Beautiful Mind, The New York Times called his technique “as simple as it is inspired,” adding, “Mr. Howard has found an accessible cinematic way to present this insight: Schizophrenia does not announce itself as such to those it afflicts. Mr. Howard leads us into its infernal reality without posting a sign on the door.” The film, an unexpected success, earned him an Academy Award for Best Director. When he took us into Formula One racing with Rush, a lot of people went along reluctantly, only to be surprised at how one tight shot of a violently vibrating tire could make their heart race as fast as the motor shaking it. That shot signaled danger more effectively than any deadly crash. Variety thought so, too. “To witness this level of storytelling skill (applied to a subject only a fraction of the public inherently finds interesting) is to marvel at not only what cinema can do when image, sound and score are so artfully combined to suggest vicarious experience, but also to realize how far Howard has come since his directorial debut.” He was able to make equally dramatic cinema from two men sitting across from each other, talking. “You expect something dry, historical and probably contrived. But you get a delicious contest of wits, brilliant acting and a surprisingly gripping narrative,” said the Washington Post about Frost/Nixon. “Howard's cinematic treatment deftly exploits very conventional narrative techniques without one ever being quite aware of them.” But of course the film that feels closest to his core as a filmmaker is Apollo 13. It has it all: exploration, heroism, history and the compelling factor of being true. Noting that the subject matter demanded Howard’s reverential treatment, the Los Angeles Times called it his most impressive film to date in a 1995 review. “Howard's willingness to be straight ahead with his directing, the film's derring-do aspects have the advantage of showing the men simply being heroic as opposed to acting like heroes.” If some critics have made cynical dismissals of a perceived gee-whiz, all-American, hero-worshipping aesthetic, Howard makes no apologies. “I’m drawn toward celebratory stories. I feel that they are every bit as valid and useful as the darker, cautionary tales. And my favorite thing is when the celebration is not up front and in your face, but something that evolves. It’s something you can understand, that flawed characters can be a part of moments that are worthy of celebration and respect.” That’s sounding pretty good to us these days. Howard’s work continues to follow his fascinations, from the depths (In the Heart of the Sea) to music (Made in America, The Beatles: Eight Days a week) to boxing (Cinderella Man). We explore along with him again in National Geographic’s first-ever scripted series Genius. His new anthology drama chronicles the world’s most brilliant innovators, kicking off with the famous physicist Albert Einstein. In it, and all of his work, Howard approaches his subjects with eye of a historian, a fan, a geek, and a loving adherent to detail. So, how to summarize the life's work of someone whose 63-year career spans two Golden Ages of Television and some of the most acclaimed and successful movies of every genre? Fortunately we don’t have to; it’s still very much in progress.
May 21, 2020
Ep 162. Javier Bardem
Acclaimed Spanish actor Javier Bardem comes from a long line of artists and filmmakers, but his love of cinema officially took shape when his mother, a working actress herself, snuck him into a movie theater to see Bob Fosse’s All that Jazz when he was 6 years old. It wasn’t exactly a Disney movie, but that didn’t matter—Javier was in awe. He wondered, “What is this mechanism of people, feelings, dance, music, colors, drama, and comedy? I want to be a part of that.” His passion and dedication to the craft are evident in his work—take his award-winning performances in the Coen brothers’ No Country for Old Men and Iñárritu’s Biutiful, to name a few. In his newest film Loving Pablo, Javier takes on the legend and mythology of Colombian drug lord Pablo Escobar and takes on an intensity and physicality that was even intimidating to his costar and wife Penélope Cruz. But Javier and Penélope know the difference between fiction and reality. As Javier says, “At the end of the day, I give her flowers and chocolates and say, ‘That was a lie.’ Even though it’s a part of my truth as a human being.’” Honesty is everything for Javier, even though it’s hard to attain on a daily basis. “We tell so many lies during the day because we need to protect who we are for others. When you play a character, you have to give up on that and be naked. And that’s why actors love acting—it may be the only time in the day where we are honest.” Javier joins Off Camera to talk about how being the target of senseless violence led him to discover his worth as an artist, why his marriage to Penélope Cruz works, and why therapy is the perfect tool for an actor.
May 14, 2020
Ep 82. Riz Ahmed
You keep up on things. You know what’s going on in arts and culture. Then inevitably, it happens. Someone who wasn’t even on your radar is suddenly everywhere, making you question not where they’ve been, but where you’ve been. Meet Riz Ahmed. By now, you probably recognize him from HBO’s The Night Of, but for years, Ahmed’s been busy making wide-ranging, significant, and accomplished work. In person, he’s not some frenetic perpetual motion machine, but he does seem to function at a brisk and constant clip, creating, provoking and questioning. He approached Naz Khan, the role that’s brought him to recent wide attention, with a simple theory: “If you see the world in a certain way, the behavior follows.” Applied to Ahmed himself, it seems an apt description of how he creates art, and with it, change. Born in London to Pakistani immigrant parents, he won a scholarship to north London’s Merchant Taylors’ school, where he found himself and most Asian kids a subclass in a sea of diplomats’ kids in full prep regalia. He decided to do something about it, specifically, rigging a vote to force the school into electing its first Asian head boy. When other frustrations were expressed more overtly – he threw a chair intended for another student through a window – one teacher had a suggestion: “If you can muck about on stage, you get applause for it, not a suspension.” Good idea. At Oxford University, he studied philosophy, politics and economics, and also put on the only play with two non-white leads staged during his time there. When he decided to put on a drum and bass night but didn’t have immediate takers, he printed up flyers minus the venue and kept at it until he found a club willing to fill in the blank. College confirmed something he’d sensed all along: You can make yourself an insider, but the world will send you occasional reminders that status is temporary. It’s a perspective that’s informed his work across genres, including film, TV, stage and music. He did manage to work in some drama studies, and made his film debut at 23 playing a member of the real-life Tipton Three in Michael Winterbottom’s The Road to Guantánamo. He also made a three-hour debut at the Luton Airport, where he and another actor from the film were detained under the Terrorism Act by Special Branch upon returning from the Berlin Film Festival. We’re sure the Branch boys were just exercising caution; we’re also pretty sure that wouldn’t have happened to Matt and Ben. Ahmed was nominated for his first British Independent Film Award for Shifty, and highly praised for his effortless, persuasive chemistry with other actors. His second came for Four Lions, Chris Morris’ hilarious satire on terrorism. Mira Nair, who directed him in The Reluctant Fundamentalist, recognized his unique ability to play characters that shift between worlds. "It's the most demanding, complicated role for a young person to carry a film on his shoulders, and to be somebody at once absolutely authentic to the Lahori universe, yet absolutely comfortable, elegant and savvy in the Wall Street universe; to spout the poetry of Faiz at one moment and ruthlessly cut out a factory in Manila the next." Eventually American filmmakers saw his work (or at least got hold of reviews routinely peppered with words like “charismatic” “brilliant” and “natural”) and wanted in. His performance opposite Jake Gyllenhal in Nightcrawler was outstanding, and in its review of Jason Bourne, wrote, “Only Riz Ahmed makes any impact on a performance level, doing a lot with very little – watch the way he subtly plays a successful businessman who knows the skeletons are about to fall out of his closet. There's a much better version of Jason Bourne that focuses on him…” This year’s been a big one for him. He’s in Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, and puts a new spin on the gumshoe genre in City of Tiny Lights. He’s also working on a multi-generational Pakistani-British family story he aims to make for U.K. television. If the industry (ironically) helped Ahmed’s early career with its tendency to see in stereotypes, it’s also allowed us glimpses of a depth we’d otherwise miss by occasionally looking past them. Needless to say, that goes for society as a whole, and Ahmed is not shy about voicing that opinion. But he knows that if you’re going to be an unapologetic button-pusher, you best avoid righteous self-aggrandizement and do it with some humor. And some serious rap. Under the handle Riz MC, he’s put out three albums of songs that have been critically acclaimed (and in one instance, banned) for their biting – and bitingly funny – take on immigration, race and other issues. Ahmed specializes in playing, and being, an insider-outsider. If you’ve never felt like an outsider, don’t count yourself lucky; it’s a perspective that benefits us. Which is why we need this guy to keep acting, rapping, writing, and if necessary, throwing the occasional chair.
May 07, 2020
Ep 149. Sarah Paulson
From the outside, it would appear that Sarah Paulson, after her Emmy award-winning performance as prosecutor Marcia Clark in The People v. O.J. Simpson, has "made it." She's got a role in Ocean's 8, her first "big sh**-kicker, popcorn movie,” and has the luxury of sifting through multiple film and television offers to choose a part that “sparks something inside of her.” What more could an actor want? But that's exactly the problem for Sarah. She wants the want. Without it, she finds herself in a bit of an identity crisis. She wants to fight for roles and be challenged by an acting part that requires total commitment. As she explains, “Before Marcia Clark, I was full of all that want. I don’t have that anymore.” The road to this point was not an easy one for Sarah. She never had her Cannes or Sundance moment like peers Carey Mulligan or Maggie Gyllenhaal. She fought hard for many pilots that never saw the light of day. When she did get her big break, on Aaron Sorkin’s Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip, it was cancelled after one season. Luckily, Ryan Murphy eventually came into her life. The prolific producer, writer, and director saw Sarah’s unique talent of being able to completely disappear into characters, and immediately started casting her in projects like The People v. O.J. Simpson and American Horror Story. She's finally being seen, and she gives full credit to Murphy for continuing to throw her "the juiciest, meatiest bones on the planet." And lucky for us, she’s still hungry. Sarah joins Off Camera to discuss why being an actor (or a person, for that matter) is not for the faint of heart, what's behind her decision not to watch her own performances, and why you’d better not fall asleep on a plane!
Apr 30, 2020
Ep 67. Thomas Middleditch
If your impression of Thomas Middleditch is that of a somewhat befuddled, bumbling, awkward-bordering-on-geeky misfit, we won’t blame you... yet. He has personified that type in films such as Splinterheads, The Bronze, The Final Girls, and even The Wolf of Wall Street. So neither can we blame Silicon Valley co-creator/director Mike Judge for writing the role of socially discombobulated Richard Hendricks specifically with Middleditch in mind. And now, Hendricks’ wide-eyed, stammering bewilderment seems to stem from Middleditch’s genuine disbelief at his own good fortune; after all, he’s landed the lead on a series that’s become more popular than the latest tech fads the show sends up. If it’s possible to be both a show’s star and its secret weapon, that’s what he seems to have achieved. In calling Middleditch the most underrated actor on TV, The Decider said, “One of the reasons that Silicon Valley quickly went from good to great to one of the best is because of Middleditch, who’s made Richard into an incredibly sympathetic, watchable character despite his by-design lack of dynamism.” High praise for an actor whose character has dwelt mainly in the shade of the charismatic type-As who surround him. So Mike Judge did not misjudge. We’re guessing he knew what a lot of the show’s fans may not. Middleditch is a sharply funny and frenetic writer and comic who found his way out of bully crosshairs and subsequently out of Nelson, BC through theater. Impatient to get on with doing what he loved, he dropped out of school in Canada to start writing and acting in sketches, cartoons and commercials. Nothing happened instantly; he walked dogs and sold shoes while writing scripts that didn’t go anywhere and auditioning without success for Saturday Night Live. But sometimes all you need is the proper attitude. When asked to join the Improvised Shakespeare Company (a Chicago-based improv troupe that performs spontaneous plays in Elizabethan-sounding English), his first thought was, “That sounds impossible. Sure!” When you’re fearless and open, fate tends to fall in line. A goofy, impromptu sketch for a Second City training program, in which he rapped about his faux-abiding love for Chicken McNuggets, sat out on the internet for a year before it caught the attention of a creative director for McDonald’s, who cracked up. Cue commercials, newfound exposure and two valuable lessons: a) fate can hide in odd, deep-fried places and b) keep going until someone laughs. Since then, he’s worked with some of the most talented names in comedy, including Zach Galifianakis, Key & Peele, and Jay Roach. He’s created voices and characters for shows including Beavis and Butt-Head, The Office, Comedy Bang! Bang!, and cult web series Jake and Amir, all while writing and making a seemingly ceaseless string of odd, humorous shorts. Even if all that hadn’t happened, we bet Middleditch would still be putting funny stuff into the world, if not to entertain us, then solely to entertain himself. You get the feeling that if his schedule ever slowed down or (god forbid), his internet connection died, he’d be perfectly fine in front of the mirror making faces, voices, and scenes. But small chance of that. He’s just finished playing the title role in Jeff Baena’s Joshy and will star in the upcoming Entanglement. He’s also slated to be animated in Henchmen and Captain Underpants. Though his dance card is largely filled with comedies, Middleditch remains open to playing any kind of character that interests him, and wouldn’t mind venturing into more dramatic territory. We’d like to see him try. Seriously—we’d really like to see him try.
Apr 23, 2020
Ep 81. Michael Shannon
If you’re an actor who’s signed on to share scenes with Michael Shannon, you’ve got yourself a bit of a dilemma. On one hand, you can count on people watching; on the other, you can be pretty certain they won’t be watching you. To be fair, nothing could be further from Shannon’s intent; co-stars and directors routinely praise his generosity and dedication to the success of any project he’s in. It’s just that the guy is – inherently, chronically and helplessly – riveting. Evidence of this seemingly hypnotic power came to light most publicly with his fairly small role in Revolutionary Road. Variety wrote, “The pic’s startling supporting turn comes from Michael Shannon, who’s mesmerizing as the clinically insane son of local realtor and busybody… When Shannon is onscreen, it’s impossible to watch anyone else.” In that instance, “anyone else” included Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet. Or take 99 Homes, which Time magazine called “a showcase for Shannon, who magnetizes all eyes, like a cobra in the corner.” Those are just two in a canon of some of the most consistently beaming reviews an actor could ever hope to paste in his scrapbook, though Shannon doesn’t seem like the kind of guy to keep one. If he did, it would be encyclopedic, as he’s piled up over 50 award nominations and an impressive number of wins over a career that comprises at least 100 film, TV and stage credits. So why is he not a household name? Hard to say, unless actors have to become “stars” to claim any permanency in our memory banks. What’s more confounding is that Shannon never planned to be an actor. He was a troubled, late-blooming kid who floundered in school and only defaulted to drama to get out of sports. He left school at 16 and with no formal training, was on stage in a year, TV the year after, and in Groundhog Day the year after that. Shannon tried working with an acting coach only once in his career, and said it was the worst audition he ever had. With fate apparently having done the heavy lifting, an impressive range of directors were quick to capitalize, including Michael Bay, Cameron Crowe, Oliver Stone, Peter Bogdanovich, Sydney Lumet, and even Tom Ford. As did HBO, casting him as Boardwalk Empire’s repressed G-man Nelson Van Alden. But no one has taken better advantage of Shannon’s facile embodiment of complex characters than Jeff Nichols, who directed him in Take Shelter, Midnight Special, and Shotgun Stories. Nichols has said, “Shannon makes me a better writer. He certainly makes me a better director. I wanted [Midnight Special] to be a very lean screenplay in terms of narrative and exposition, and if you’re writing that part for Mike, he’s going to be able to fill those spaces with all the subtext that you don’t want to have to write about. He can carry all of that on his face, and that makes him a very powerful tool for a writer/director like me.” What more directors need to take advantage of is Shannon’s range, which seems to be hiding in plain sight. He’s known for playing menacing, angry, possibly crazy guys whose ability to keep it all just beneath the surface keeps us in their thrall – quiet bears you do not want to poke. While he plays them subtly and brilliantly, he also made a surprisingly good low-key romantic lead in Frank & Lola. His comic chops are most evident on the stage, where he still spends as much time as possible. Look no further than his portrayal of showbiz huckster Felix Artifex in the comedy Mistakes Were Made, a role he’s reprised several times to wildly enthusiastic crowds and ticket sales. The New York Times theater critic Charles Isherwood said Shannon shouldered the part “with a full arsenal of gifts: a subdued but strong natural presence, a voice rich in grit and capable of imbuing Felix’s wheedling and needling with a variety of emotional colors, a keen understanding of how pathos can feed comedy and vice versa.” Roger Ebert put it more succinctly: “His performance in Mistakes Were Made was one of the most amazing I have ever seen.” Given that it’s a one-man play, it may also be the only performance in which Shannon risked being upstaged. For all the taut wiring that sparks below his surface, Shannon says he’s learned to relax a bit more these days, and that approach has made him a better actor. Besides begging the question whether it’s possible for him to be any better, it also demonstrates a broad interpretation of the word “relax”. He already has eight projects in the works for next year, including Horse Soldiers, a Special Forces drama with Chris Hemsworth, and Signature Move, which he’s executive producing. He admits he may have a small problem turning down a great script. All the better for us. Maybe Shannon wasn’t looking to become an actor, but sometimes fate just gets things right.
Apr 16, 2020
Ep 108. Kumail Nanjiani
In 2009 The New York Times ran a story about the New York Comedy Festival and the independent standup community that had become a hunting ground for late night shows looking for the next round of potential talent, citing Jenny Slate, Donald Glover, Aziz Ansari and Zach Galifianakis as formerly unknown comics lifted from the cramped rooms of obscure bars in hidden basements to a larger stage. The article’s new reference was a guy named Kumail Nanjiani, who “could be poised to follow… Or not.” On circumstance alone, “or not,” seemed more likely. Nanjiani grew up in Karachi, Pakistan (“not necessarily a very funny place”), raised Shia Muslim in a predominately Sunni nation. But a lot depends on how you see things. His dad was a psychiatrist (a fact he found inherently funny) with an inexplicable love of designer jeans (just blatantly funny). He got a taste of American comedy through movies his dad occasionally brought from the video store, and TV shows like Beavis and Butt-Head and Picket Fences. When he moved to the U.S. for college – and his own safety – he was most excited about being able to see movies and TV shows right when they came out. One of the first happened to be a Jerry Seinfeld comedy special on HBO. Nanjiani was 18 and had never seen standup before. A shy Computer Science/Philosophy double major, he finally worked up the courage to do a 30-minute set in his senior year. He walked on stage so nervous he could barely move, and walked off feeling ready for Letterman. Or at least Chicago. He got a day job and started doing standup at night, developing his first one-man show, Unpronounceable, which The Comic’s Comic called “a very personal and quite poignant work, punctuated by powerful punch lines.” It got him an agent and brought him to New York and the attention of the Times. Nanjiani never considered that comedy might not work out. He wrote standup material in the mornings, potential TV material in the afternoons and did open mics every night, twice a night if he could. Steadfastly refusing to look at the big picture, he focused only on each step. “What’s next? Now what’s next?” His wife has said she sometimes worried about paying rent, but never about his work ethic. The “nexts” started piling up quickly in the form of TV appearances on The Colbert Report, Saturday Night Live, Portlandia, Franklin & Bash, Veep and too many others to mention. Small movie roles (Collider called his scene in 2013’s The Kings of Summer the funniest part of the movie) started as a trickle and became a steady downpour – sixteen from 2013-2016 alone. In the biggest bit of karmic fortune, Mike Judge, whom Nanjiani had idolized since his Beavis and Butt-Head fandom, cast him as one of the stars of his hit series Silicon Valley. “When I was casting, I was looking for actors you could believe were really intelligent programmers but were also able to play the comedy of it all,” Judge told The Washington Post. “I thought he was fantastic.” As Dinesh Chugtai he veers between sarcasm and charm, and a blend of ambition and insecurity you might expect in a Pakistani immigrant programmer trying to be cool – and maybe a Pakistani immigrant comic who actually wasn’t very good at his five-year tech day job. We’re guessing Nanjiani sees the humor in that one, too. That kind of exposure can be heady stuff, but Nanjiani never let writing and standup take a back seat to his increasingly packed schedule (or his proudly geeky video game and X-Files podcast passion projects). In 2014 he co-founded The Meltdown, a Comedy Central standup series filmed in the back of a comic book store, featuring his loose, unrehearsed banter with co-host Jonah Ray, and guests like Nick Offerman, Marc Maron, Rachel Bloom, Fred Armisen and Reggie Watts. His second special, Beta Male, premiered on Comedy Central in 2013 to raves. From A.V. Club: “Kumail Nanjiani could easily be ‘that guy.’ He could be the Pakistani guy, joking about his otherness in America, his life growing up as a Muslim in Karachi. He could be the videogame guy, playing off his excellent podcast, The Indoor Kids, which caters to the thriving crossover crowd of gaming and alt-comedy nerds. But he’s not. He can weave those themes into his act without it feeling shticky.” Or too narrow. That praise grazes what he’s called the elephant in the room. His Muslim upbringing does play a role in his work, perhaps more unavoidably now than ever. But as his career progressed, Nanjiani determined not to ignore it, but also not to commoditize it or take roles that exaggerated it. His comedy became wider and his talent more apparent. He is relaxed and observational on any number of topics, and a master of setup, his build to a joke often funnier than the punch line itself. He has a comic’s timing and a storyteller’s ear. That sense for story finally made him turn to the biggest one in his own life. He penned an account of how his real-life girlfriend's serious illness jolted him into maturity and coming to terms with his conservative parents. His (now) wife Emily V. Gordon co-wrote the script, Judd Apatow produced, Michael Showalter directed, and Nanjiani went to acting class in order to play a fictionalized version of himself. The Big Sick sent studios scrambling at Sundance this year (Amazon won for $12 million); Variety wrote that he and Gordon “…mine their personal history for laughs, heartache, and hard-earned insight in a film that’s by turns romantic, rueful, and hilarious. It’s a no-brainer to connect with art-house crowds who like their comedies smart and funny, but this one deserves a shot at the multiplex, too. Where most movies might be content to follow the culture-clash comedy through its typical ups and downs, The Big Sick proves to be a far messier affair, and all the more rewarding for it.” Nanjiani recalls the first joke he ever wrote: “I wrote about how I always wanted to have a unit of measurement named after myself, because all the cool scientists had one. Then I’d do an act-out of a submarine commander telling his crew to turn the torpedoes up to 5 Nanjianis.” If you’re measuring in laughs, better turn it up to 11 Nanjianis.
Apr 09, 2020
Ep 170. Carey Mulligan
When Carey Mulligan first stepped foot on set of 2005’s Pride & Prejudice, she was convinced she won the lottery. It was her first professional job and her first time acting in front of a camera, but there she was, acting alongside Judi Dench, Keira Knightly, and Jena Malone. “The entire experience was like summer camp; it didn’t feel like work at all.” Carey was living her dream, but she was still convinced it was all a fluke. “I remember thinking, ‘After this, I’ll reapply to drama school.’” In reality, her acting career had just begun—with the best yet to come. Her first lead role came in 2009 with the coming-of-age film An Education. Her compelling performance led to an Oscar “Best Actress” nomination and widespread critical acclaim, even though Carey was originally devastated when she first watched her performance: “It was like listening to your voice on the answering machine and wincing because of how awful you sound—but multiply that by 500.” She had gotten so used to flying under the radar in supporting roles that she was unaccustomed to the pressure and spotlight of the lead. Carey was convinced her first shot would be her last—“Sundance is going to be a disaster. They’re going to send me home.” Of course, the opposite happened. Since then, she’s amassed a stunning body of work onscreen and onstage (Shame, Far From the Madding Crowd, Mudbound, Girls & Boys, and many more), and her incredible performance in Wildlife, Paul Dano’s directorial debut, is the newest addition. She plays a unique female character, struggling to find her identity underneath the crippling expectations that come with her role as a wife and mother in the 1960s. As a complicated and volatile woman, her character is not without controversy for those used to more idealistic portrayals of women—“It’s amazing that we still live in a world where a real, complex woman, expressing herself in a multitude of ways, is dismissed as unrealistic because she’s not what we want to see.” But she cherishes the opportunity to change hearts and minds through her work. Carey joins Off Camera to talk about battling stage fright, learning how to put her insecurities in perspective, and why sometimes the key to unlocking a character is to…take off your shoes.
Apr 02, 2020
Ep 42. Jack Black
Thanks to movie posters and pull-quote “reviews”, we’ve heard “electric” used to describe a performance so often that it barely registers as an adjective. But think back for a moment to the first time you saw High Fidelity. Now, think about the first moment Jack Black appeared on screen and jolted that film alive. It’s a great movie with a great cast, but let’s face it – his very presence flipped the switch. And that movie flipped the switch on Black’s film career, though it was a part he came within inches of turning down. But as the Guitar Pick of Fate would have it, he said yes, ending a 10-year struggle as a glorified extra that followed his first film role as a rabid political acolyte in Bob Roberts, where his real-life nerves turned out to be all the prep he needed to turn in another performance you must to go back and see. The good news about that flame-out decade is that he met a certain KG, and you know what rose from those ashes. But let’s flash-Black for a moment to our guest as a teenager who began auditioning for commercials because he so desperately wanted his friends to see him on TV, and even more desperately the acceptance and attention he figured would follow. A stint in Tim Robbins’ The Actors Gang followed, as did high school plays and musicals; and though he lost the girl (and wrote the requisite power ballad) he quite literally found his voice. Through music, The D, the hilarious Mr. Show and eventually film, he got the totally merited attention he wanted, if not the confidence he probably thought would come with it: “Man, I spend my life just trying to relax.” But he achieved at least some degree of artistic peace in figuring out that his way in to any role – or any song, for that matter – was with a chaser of comedy. If that covers up some vulnerability, well, as he puts it, “You can’t hurt the clown.” So back to the present, where under all the over-the-top antics and outrageousness it’s not hard to scent the sensitivity and empathy that no amount of good-humored depravity can disguise. It takes one very human clown to connect us immediately with otherwise improbable characters and films (for more must-see proof, we offer School of Rock and the truly excellent Bernie). As an artist Black says he doesn’t seek out challenges as much as he does resonance. In this high-minded and philosophical discussion, we will hit you with lessons on artistic angst and toehold moments, as well as true tales of Cannes-crashing, the fearsome warlock powers of Stephen Frears, and a fever-dream nightmare of an Elliott Smith tribute gone horribly wrong…then right. That, and a scholarly debate on the merits of Gene Krupa vs. Buddy Rich vs. Peter Criss – Sam and Jack hologram it out. By now, Jack Black knows who he is, and what he’s here for. So watch his work for the subtle or the shenanigans, but watch you will, because it’s impossible not to. He’s proof you can’t underestimate the power of a raised eyebrow, wait-for-it timing or an unexpected turn of phrase. In that regard, he ranks up there with Jack Benny and other masters of comedy who simply knew how to deliver a line. Ladies and gents, we give you the Bard of Off Camera.
Mar 26, 2020
Ep 13. Michael B. Jordan
     Drug dealer, football player, alcoholic, shooting victim. In his first decade of acting, Michael B. Jordan has found ways to humanize characters that, on the page, may seem stereotypically what he dubs “the black guy.” In The Wire, a young and very sheltered Jordan asked fellow actors to help him understand how to simulate a cocaine high onscreen, and through that surreal experience discovered his unfettered love of acting.  In Friday Night Lights, Jordan started journaling as an acting exercise, and amassed a detailed back story for quarterback Vince Howard that made the character seem shockingly real.       With Fruitvale Station, Jordan dug even deeper. Playing a real person for the first time, he inserted himself deep into the family of the slain Oscar Grant, who was killed by a police officer on a train platform in Oakland in 2009. Jordan spent time with Oscar’s former girlfriend, mother, daughter, and all of his friends. The result was an intensely real portrayal of an innocent young man in a film that exposes our ongoing race problem in this country, and Jordan’s performance was nuanced, understated, and masterful.       Perhaps his ability to play characters with the odds stacked against him comes from his own desire not to fall into that lifestyle. Jordan started working very young, doing modeling and acting in commercials, and saw an acting career as a way out of the tough urban environment of Newark, New Jersey. In his words, he saw “plenty of Wallaces, Bodies, and Avon Barksdales,” and was determined to make a better life for himself.      Not only does Jordan not want to just “play the black guy,” he also doesn’t want to compare himself too closely to actors that came before.  He says he doesn’t want to be the next Will Smith, or the next Tom Cruise--he just wants to be himself. When you are around Jordan, his optimism and ambition are infectious and endearing. He doesn’t just want to star in films – he wants to produce them.  He doesn’t want to just be on television, he wants his own channel. And he doesn’t just want to be the face of a studio, he wants to run a studio. At Off Camera, we wouldn’t bet against him doing anything he sets his mind to. 
Mar 19, 2020
Ep 2. John Krasinski
As Jim Halpert, John Krasinski embodies The Office’s most beloved Everyguy, but his middle-achiever alter ego belies the actor’s impressive and accomplished resume. At just 33, he has written, directed and produced both television and feature films with some of the industry’s most talented heavy-hitters. Krasinski shares his own version of the waiter-to A-list story and talks about staying true to his artistic path despite periods of self-doubt. An avid and humble student of experience, he discusses what he’s learned from his work with industry veterans such as Sam Mendes, Gus Van Sant and George Clooney. Krasinski talks to Off Camera about wrapping the final season of The Office, the value of supportive parents, and about his newest film, Promised Land, which he co-wrote, and co-stars with Matt Damon. At one of the most interesting junctions in his career, an actor who’s arguably done it all looks ahead to what he hopes will be next.
Mar 12, 2020
Ep 102. Elisabeth Moss
Watching Elisabeth Moss as Mad Men’s sec-turned-exec Peggy Olson (as millions did for 88 addictive episodes) and in recent projects like Top of the Lake, High Rise and Queen of Earth, you’d be forgiven for assuming she’s a capital-S Serious or capital-M Method artist. Even director Jane Campion might’ve drawn the same conclusion from Moss’ Top of Lake audition tape. “It was remarkable…I just found myself really interested in watching this gentle, quiet, obviously interior performance. At the end of about six hours, I was still really interested. She’s a little bit like a Mona Lisa. There’s a lot that she’s not showing you.” It’s an impression Moss sometimes wishes were true, but acknowledges that capital-C Class Clown is more apt. (That was, in fact, the title unanimously bestowed by her Mad Men cast mates). So much for our illusions. As she told The Guardian in 2016, “I wish I was super-serious, anguished. I see those actors and think, God, they are so cool and seem so interesting. I don’t take acting that seriously.” But she does it seriously. Tales from several sets support her seeming ability to perform the acting equivalent of doing zero to 60 for a scene without ever appearing to bear down on the gas. “I was shocked at how quickly she metabolized the material,” Mad Men creator Matthew Weiner once marveled. “She is that kind of actress where we don’t ever intellectually delve into what is going on with her character. It’s almost like it doesn’t pass through Elisabeth’s brain. It’s completely instinctive. She works hard, but I think she also works hard to hide it. Either that, or she’s an alien.” Weiner may deal in alternative facts, but we’re going with the former, which begs the unanswerable question, what is instinct anyway? That’s probably not something an eight-year-old thinks much about. Moss just liked playing the TV roles she started getting at that age. But she also liked dancing, studying ballet seriously while being homeschooled as she pursued both. She earned her GED at 16 and decided acting offered the more physically enduring career option. She worked steadily in supporting film and TV parts like Girl, Interrupted and Picket Fences before being cast as first daughter Zoey Bartlet on West Wing. That led to Weiner’s casting her in Mad Men, which subsequently led to six Emmy nods and fame as an unintentional feminist icon. As Peggy Olson grew in confidence and complexity, her character’s storyline grew more compelling, rivaling Don Draper’s for our interest. If making us believe and champion Peggy’s huge personal and professional transformation is an accomplishment, an even bigger one is emerging from a seven-season national TV phenomenon without being forever identified with or pigeonholed by it. But even before the show ended, Moss told The Telegraph UK, “I think it’s up to you as an actor to make choices that are different, to stretch your ability, to not get too comfortable doing something you know you can do. Of course, if you play one character for five years, people are going to think of you as that character. But you can break out of that.” Can, and did. If viewers weren’t quite ready to move on, Moss was. She’s since chosen a string of largely independent projects that allow her to tell stories as diverse and interesting as the women in them. You’ll find virtually enslaved housewives (High Rise) single-minded detectives (Top Of Lake) and mourning, possibly unhinged vacationers (Queen Of Earth). Harder to find is a bad review. Just one of way too many to list is The New York Times’ take on the latter. “It is Ms. Moss, with her intimate expressivity, who annihilates you from first tear to last crushing laugh.” In addition to landing an emotional punch, she has a talent for landing herself in stories that regardless of time period or milieu are strikingly relevant to current times. None more so, unfortunately, than The Handmaid’s Tail, Hulu’s excellent and much buzzed-about adaptation of the Margaret Atwood novel. On the off chance you’re not convinced of her versatility – or guts – know that when Moss decided to try the stage for the first time in 18 years of acting, she did it on Broadway, in Mamet’s Speed-the-Plow, no less. And there was The Heidi Chronicles. While you could argue there’s no one better suited to play its evolving, wisecracking proto-feminist lead, taking on an iconic 1989 role and making it resonate in 2015 is a gamble. It paid off with a Tony nod and raves from noted theater critic Charles Isherwood, who called Moss “a superb actor who possesses the unusual ability to project innocence and smarts at the same time.” High praise, but as far as Moss is concerned, Get Him to the Greek is as valid a choice as the largely improvised indie The One I Love, if it makes her a better actor. Whether that’s possible is debatable, but what’s not is this: More than ever, we need stories about heroic, flawed and completely believable women, and few actors play them better.
Mar 06, 2020
Ep 37. Jake Gyllenhaal
Jake Gyllenhaal has become somewhat synonymous with beyond-brutal physical transformations for movies like Nightcrawler, and more recently (and even more brutally), for the role of boxer Billy Hope. But after crying three times over a first-draft script for Southpaw, he knew it was worth taking some punches for. He’s no masochist, but calls any work needed to tell the story of characters that fascinate him a joy. Gyllenhaal is the kind of actor who knows not only that his character bears a certain scar or walks a certain way, but why. He’s become known for going deep, and seems embarrassed and proud in equal parts about how seriously he takes his work; the same guy who’ll spend five months in a boxing ring or memorize an entire script just to sound as robotic as Louis Bloom will also tell you the best analogy for acting is Super Mario Brothers. Level One, to be specific. Though much has been made of his on screen metamorphoses, his most profound change in recent years is one we didn’t realize we were seeing. After coming to wide attention and critical acclaim in films like Donnie Darko and Brokeback Mountain, he found himself in the enviable position of being very young and very successful in Hollywood. That’s when everyone in the business will tell you exactly which projects and path will guarantee you a lucrative career. And that’s when Gyllenhaal stepped back and decided it was time to listen to his own voice about what he wanted to do and what his work would say about him. The results are sometimes perplexing (Enemy), or darkly comic (Nightcrawler), but always worth watching. And for Gyllenhaal, richly rewarding – the spoils being the experience, worldview and friendships he takes with him from every role. From Southpaw, he learned that a mere five pounds of pressure is all it takes to knock a guy’s brain against the side of his skull and put him down, if you know just where to land it. It’s the kind of instinct that told him just how to play one of the most touching and terrifying scenes in that film, and the same instinct that now guides the career he’s designing for himself. In this issue, Gyllenhaal discusses his work ethic, how he chooses and prepares for roles, and why he’d like to see someone else take a shot at playing them – really. It’s an esoteric conversation, but don’t worry; you’ll love it even if you’re not into Talking Heads, Bruce Springsteen or Wild Geese.
Feb 26, 2020
Ep 26. Will Ferrell
Just mention Will Ferrell’s name or glance at a picture of him and chances are you’re already smiling (or smirking or laughing out loud). But the really funny thing is that it’s not necessarily because his best-known characters are so gosh-darn loveable. See, Ferrell never bought the conventional movie truism that comedic leads have to be likeable, and went on to prove it, perhaps most pointedly with the iconic Ron Burgundy. In fact, he doesn’t even think comedy has to be particularly funny to be hysterical. While working a number of “regular” jobs, (he actually almost became an anchorman), Ferrell did stand up in small clubs, clinging to his father’s surprisingly helpful advice that his ever making it would be a long shot. It was just that take-it-or-leave it approach that allowed him to pursue his unique comedic style free from the angst that might have otherwise crushed it. It might also explain a small sadistic streak that underlies his performances – if you don’t like what he’s doing, sit back and enjoy it anyway…or else. In this issue, he describes his stomach-churning, knee-buckling Saturday Night Live audition and the even more daunting experience of joining the legendary show at one of its lowest points. He also shares his writing process, stories behind some of his best loved impersonations and his long and sometimes perplexing feature film cv. His success and work in projects as diverse as Elf and Stranger Than Fiction illustrate the rare genius of someone who can make the ridiculously absurd not only believable, but sympathetic. Chalk it up to talent or unquestioning commitment to any role he takes on, but not to hard work. Ferrell’s a firm believer in not overthinking the work or worrying too much about whether his projects succeed, as long as he’s having fun along the way. He may not be cerebral, but trust us, he’s brilliant.
Feb 19, 2020
Ep 56. Don Cheadle
We expect actors to dramatize a range of emotions as the characters they play; even, to some extent, when they’re playing a version of themselves on The Tonight Show or E! News. That’s what actors do, after all; they “act”—tearing up, raging, clowning, and otherwise emoting. So what secret magnetic field does Don Cheadle tap that allows him to convey all that with no detectable effort and a virtually unreadable face? He sits back, unruffled and self-possessed, while we do the work of reading into his performance whatever it is he needs us to know. This is not charisma of the “Let’s put on a show!” variety; it’s the kind that makes an actor impossible to look away from. The Hollywood Reporter noted in its review of his current series, House of Lies, “There’s an exceptional cast…, but everything revolves around the fact that Cheadle is riveting and impressively deft at being funny one moment, serious the next… He’s the giant magnet at the center of the show.” But a number of critics (and casting directors) looked under the radar long before a lot of us in the mass movie-going public, noting his uncannily facile power in films like Rebound: The Legend of Earl “The Goat” Manigault, Talk to Me, Devil in a Blue Dress, and Traffic. Most of us, though, wised up a few years later with the release of Hotel Rwanda, The Atlantic along with us: “[Producer and director] Terry George has, in Don Cheadle, perhaps the most underrated performer working in motion pictures. A character actor of uncommon range and charisma, Cheadle has over the last decade shown himself to be exceptional at playing characters both ineffectual and ferocious. Cheadle delivers a performance without seams, one in which the character’s later heroism is merely another facet of his earlier pragmatism. His genius makes Hotel Rwanda not only an important work of politics, but an important work of art.” It was a role George was honest in telling Cheadle he’d have to give to an actor with a bigger name, if he could get one. Cheadle’s reaction says a lot about him and how he sees his career. He told George he’d support the film in any way necessary regardless of whether he got the part, because it was a story that needed to be told. Cheadle honestly doesn’t care a whole lot about Oscars and fame and the like; he’s interested in longevity and the ability to make work that he believes has value—whether it puts him in front of or behind the camera. These days, he’s finding himself in both places, often simultaneously. He writes, directs, and stars in the upcoming film Miles Ahead, a take on musician Miles Davis so fiercely imaginative it demands its own genre. He’s also established his own production company, through which he’s now producing a new comedy for NBC—all while continuing to lead House Of Lies, which just became the first U.S. scripted series to shoot in Cuba. All to say, he’s going to need his preternatural calm more than ever. But it should be noted that in Cheadle’s case, “calm” does not mean “reserved.” He continues to be an outspoken advocate for issues like humanitarian aid to Darfur and climate change awareness through fundraising, and by making films and co-authoring books on the subjects. You get the feeling the man contains multitudes we’re only starting to see. Fittingly, we’ll let Miles summarize: “When you’re creating your own shit, even the sky ain’t the limit.”
Feb 13, 2020
Ep 57. Kristen Bell
If souls or psyches can be compared to houses, Kristen Bell’s would be one with few dark corners. It would probably also be lavender scented, with a nice breeze blowing through. Delightfully real and candid, she’s become one of the most relatable and loved personalities on TV, that personality often being herself: Her Samsung commercials and goofy personal videos with husband Dax Shepard are some of YouTube’s most popular. No word on how many high-tech home appliances they’ve sold, but the Toto cover video they shot in Africa has garnered well over five million views. The soft heart and strong values that Shepard both teases and loves her for are ones she supports in both words and example—marriage equality, animal rights, and voter registration, for starters. Not surprisingly, then, the sunny, perky blond wasn’t the first actor that came to mind for Veronica Mars creator Rob Thomas. “I had Christina Ricci in my head when I wrote it. I wanted someone who had a caustic delivery for lines that had weight and dryness.” As it turned out, Bell was also damn funny, with a gift for injecting just the right amount of dark, wry wit into what became her breakout role, turning her into a geek goddess of sorts. Her excellent turn as Elle Bishop in Heroes only settled that crown more firmly on her head. Maybe the fanboy hall-of-fame was a pre-destined landing place for someone who always felt (and early on, was often told) she wasn’t homely enough to play the nerdy girl and not nearly pretty enough to play the pretty girl. If that was a struggle at the outset, it seems to have made her a guileless and non-judgmental career plotter. That approach doesn’t work for everyone, but in Bell’s case, it’s allowed for angst-free role choices that ultimately did justice to her surprising range. (Check out Hit & Run for an early example of her abilities—and her director and then-fiancée’s knowing exactly how to push her buttons.) Post-Veronica Mars, her big screen break arrived with a part in Forgetting Sarah Marshall, a potentially intimidating career leap that landed well. In its review, Rolling Stone gave “Cheers to Bell for finding nuance in a diva written as a stone-cold bitch.” More recent evidence of her range turned up in a role in which she technically never appeared. For thousands of unsuspecting fans, Disney’s unstoppable snowball of a hit Frozen unmasked her extraordinary talent as a singer, a gift she honed in years of early musical theater training but modestly underplays. These days, Bell finds herself increasingly in demand, and increasingly in the company of bar-raising colleagues, a challenge she deliberately seeks out. She’s playing the ambitious partner and foil to Don Cheadle in Showtime’s not-so-sunny House of Lies. In the upcoming film The Boss, Bell plays a mousey would-be brownie maven alongside Melissa McCarthy, one of her comedic idols. She’s also somehow managed to start work on a new NBC show called Good Place from the executive producer of Parks and Recreation and co-starring Ted Danson. The series allows Bell an interesting opportunity to explore the character of Eleanor, a not-so-good person trying to figure out how to become a good person—if she can figure out what actually defines “a good person.” Our advice to Eleanor? As examples go, your friend Kristen Bell wouldn’t be a bad place to start.
Feb 06, 2020
Ep 27. Ethan Hawke
Success came to Ethan Hawke when he was young, and across a wide spectrum. He landed a major motion picture, “The Explorers,” at 13, off his first audition. His second film, at 18, under Robin Williams’ tutelage on and off screen, was the now-classic “Dead Poets Society.” He’s been an established star ever since. At age 24, In the midst of his early film successes, he published “The Hottest State.” Hawke admits that adding “novelist” to his resume made him an easy target for ridicule. The word “pretentious” has been thrown at him countless times, often by foes, a few times by friends, even by himself. His response? “It beats not trying.”He did keep trying, and with this true renaissance man’s every career milestone over 20-plus years, the naysaying is drowned out by the praise. His insecure high-schooler Todd in “Dead Poets Society,” ultimate slacker Troy in “Reality Bites,” sincere rookie partner to sleazeball cop Denzel Washington in “Training Day,” his soulful Jesse in the “Before Sunrise” trilogy and most recently his increasingly less immature father Mason Sr. in “Boyhood,” as well as his critically beloved screenplays for the trilogy, which he co-wrote with Julie Delpy and Richard Linklater, have entrenched him in the top tier of the film industry, with four Oscar nominations. He has the faith of stage producers and directors as well: He’s done Shakespeare, Chekhov, and three plays with Tom Stoppard. His second novel, “Ash Wednesday,” was a best seller, and inspired The New York Times to write: “He displays a novelist’s innate gifts. He has a sharp eye, a fluid storytelling voice and the imagination to create complicated individuals.”A funny thing happened as Hawke, and his career, ripened into maturity: He morphed from embodying the essence of perpetually promising youth – ”I’d always been the youngest at everything” -- to a personification of the wisdom that comes with the passage of time. In the Sunrise trilogy, 18 years in the making, and “Boyhood,” 12 years in the making, we watched Hawke get older, less idealistic, more attuned to life’s ups and downs, meeting life’s challenges realistically, if not always admirably. On screen, he’s let himself wise up, screw up and then get up and move on, older and smarter. In his real life, he takes these lessons to heart. Now, in his latest film, he moves behind the camera to show the world someone who’s played the game of life even more skillfully than he, someone who embodies an ethos that Hawke has embraced: In the grand scheme, it’s not about growing up, it’s not about growing old, it’s simply about growing.
Jan 29, 2020
The Off Camera Call-In Show #3
Sam Jones does it again. Listen in as he fields some burning questions from Off Camera fans.
Jan 10, 2020
Year End Holiday Special
Dec 26, 2019
Liz Phair
Liz Phair introduced herself to the music industry in the 1990s with her bold first record Exile in Guyville. Rock and roll was traditionally dominated by men, but Liz forged her own path to success despite the loneliness it entailed. She used her art to express her feelings about sexuality, gender, and politics. As she says, “I had a sense that if I wanted to make my artistic dreams comes true, I was going to be on my own. I knew I would be going against the grain.”To this day, Liz unapologetically speaks her mind, and with the recent release of her memoir Horror Stories, we get a glimpse of the human being behind the art and the experiences that shaped her. Her remedy for the hopelessness she felt after the 2016 election was to write a brutally honest account of her life. “I decided to put something out that was as true as I could make it. I could expose myself and make myself truly vulnerable in order to plant a flag for honesty.”Liz joins Off Camera to talk about rebelling against the “beautiful lie” that was her suburban upbringing, her quest to untangle who she actually is versus the person she is perceived to be, and why getting up on stage never gets any easier.
Dec 19, 2019
Mike McGill and Steve Caballero
Well folks, you are in for a treat this week, especially if you are a skateboarder. Mike McGill and Steve Caballero were two of the founding members of the most famous skateboard team in history, the Bones Brigade, founded by legendary skater Stacy Peralta, who had a knack for scouting young talent. As a kid growing up in Fullerton, California, skateboarding was my passion, and I witnessed both of these guys change the sport I loved from a street corner pursuit to a worldwide phenomenon that has influenced popular culture, changed our athletic landscape, and is now, unbelievably, an Olympic Sport.Mike and Steve grew up on opposite coasts, but their shared love of skating (and a call from Stacy) brought them together. Now, Mike and Steve are in their 50s, and little has changed—they’re still great friends, they still skate together, and they’re still pushing each other to be better.The Bones Brigade was a make-shift family—a group of teenaged boys with Stacy as the father figure at the helm. Under Stacy’s mentorship, Mike and Steve turned pro at 15 years old, which meant traveling, competing in contests, and making videos. Juggling school and the demands of the sport was hard for both of them. Steve’s grades dipped, and Mike’s principal called his parents to reprimand him for missing too much class. But they knew what they wanted to do, and they were already earning a living. A good living.When The Bones Brigade hit their peak in the early '90s Mike and Steve were earning way more money than their parents, and traveling the world like rock stars. It gave them a perspective that few kids get, and it also solidified their identities forever, which caused both growing pains and afforded them a life of doing what they love to do.Mike and Steve’s other passion is Motocross, so you can understand why I like these guys. We get together most Mondays to ride dirt bikes at various motocross tracks around California, and as I result I have been afforded a unique perspective on how they approach fear, injury, aging, and passion. We get deep into those topics, and I come away with a new respect for them and a renewed desire to throw caution to the wind in pursuit of a life well lived.Mike and Steve join Off Camera to talk about accepting that suffering is part of the journey, the pressure that comes with creating new tricks, and how they hazed Tony Hawk when he joined the Bones Brigade. All I can say is, don’t ever accept gum from Mike and Steve. You don’t know where it’s been.
Dec 12, 2019
Jenny Slate 2
I’m really happy to have Jenny Slate back again. She’s smart, funny, and charming, and she’s refreshingly honest about her struggles as an artist and human being. Every time I find myself in conversation with her, I feel inspired and joyful. She’s just released a Netflix special called Stage Fright, which is part standup, part documentary, part confessional, and wholly original. And she’s also released a new memoir called Little Weirds, which is probably the most esoteric and private book to ever land on The New York Times bestseller list. Bottom line, Jenny is an unapologetically human artist, and she is at the height of her powers. Jenny had to do some soul-searching over the past few years. Divorce, the public spotlight, and emotional turmoil were inhibiting her creativity, and as she depicts in her memoir, she had to work through some of that “gloop.” Writing Little Weirds led to a maturity and self-assuredness that helped her reach not only new creative heights, but also to find peace and happiness within herself. She inhabits an interesting space between creating entertainment and soul-searching. As Jenny says, “I don’t think that there will be a world in which I don’t try to be funny and add levity to reality, but the most important thing for me as an artist and the only constant is, ‘Openness until death.’ Stay open until you’re terminal.” Jenny joins Off Camera to talk about losing her creative spirit in the woods of New England, freaking out after she bombed the Stage Fright rehearsal, and the psychological and creative benefits of dressing monochromatically for a couple weeks. HOME
Dec 05, 2019
Tracy Letts
The first time Tracy Letts participated in a community theater play, he knew he found something special. At school, Tracy was shy and had a hard time connecting with his peers, so when he discovered the comradery surrounding the theater, he finally felt embraced by a community. His talent for acting came later, when his father, also an actor, taught him the power of speaking simply rather than proclaiming. As Tracy says, “I went onstage, and I said my lines simply and truthfully. It was my first real acting lesson. Speaking truthfully in a room has great impact—everyone can feel it. After that, I was hooked.”After graduating from high school, Tracy was eager to start his life and decided against going to college. He landed in Chicago, which had a rich and booming theater scene. When he wasn’t auditioning, he filled his free time writing, a passion of his ever since he was young. Killer Joe, a play about a brutal and murderous family in Texas, was Tracy’s first attempt, and it became a massive success.In the years since, Tracy has continued to write and act. He won a Pulitzer Prize for his play August: Osage County, based on his own family, and in addition to his acting work on stage, he’s been in a number of projects on TV and in film, such as Homeland, Lady Bird, and most recently, Ford v Ferrari. There’s an empathy that suffuses all of Tracy’s work, and it all stems from his desire to achieve self-acceptance. As he says, “It’s hard to give yourself a break, isn’t it? You can’t just decide to do it. It’s not an act of will. It takes actual work, whether that means getting sober, getting into therapy, writing or acting in plays, or paying attention and really listening to other people.”Tracy joins Off Camera to talk about working with his father in August: Osage County, how theater provokes vulnerability, and why his career trajectory basically comes down to chasing a girl.
Nov 28, 2019
Josh Gad
Josh Gad was drawn to acting ever since he took the stage as The Simcha Machine in Beth Shalom Academy’s kindergarten play. Onstage, Josh felt euphoria, but at home, he struggled with his parents’ divorce. Luckily, he found an escape through watching and performing in theater. Josh vividly remembers the first time he saw a professional play, sitting in the nosebleeds, and watching breathlessly. “What finally took me over the edge was going to New York City and seeing Topol in Fiddler on the Roof. I was sold. Sold. ‘I’ve got to do this.’”In addition to his dream of performing, Josh had an innate talent for making people laugh. Humor was how eased his mother’s pain after divorce, and it also helped him diffuse social tension. Josh explains, “One time a kid called me fat in front of a group of people, and instead of kowtowing, I started reciting a monologue from My Cousin Vinny to the point where the guy was like, ‘What is happening right now?’ Everybody was laughing at him, and I turned it into an opportunity to take the weapon out of his hands and make it my own.”For college, Josh went to conservatory at Carnegie Mellon, but getting work after graduation wasn’t easy. The cycle of auditioning and rejection was depressing, especially when his agents sent him on auditions against the likes of Nick Lachey. “Had my agents even seen my headshot?” Josh jokes. After a couple of years, he almost quit, but he finally got his big break as the lead in the Broadway show The 25th Annual Putnam Country Spelling Bee. In the years since, Josh has done work in a wide range of projects onstage and onscreen, including The Daily Show, Book of Mormon, The Comedians, Frozen, and more.Josh joins Off Camera to talk about the way voice acting taps into his childhood, the worst night he’s ever had on stage, and missing his calling as an opera singer.
Nov 21, 2019
Noomi Rapace
When Swedish born Noomi Rapace booked the lead in the original film adaptation of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, it changed her life, both personally and professionally. It was a role she deeply related to, and her striking performance as the hard-edged, androgynous Lisbeth Salander garnered international praise and attention. That success brought her from Sweden to Hollywood, where she brought her intensity and fragility to Prometheus, What Happened to Monday?, Bright, and many more. She’s now in the new season of Amazon’s Jack Ryan, opposite John Krasinski.The honesty and spontaneity in Noomi’s performances can be traced all the way back to her childhood. Growing up, Noomi always felt different, especially compared to her reserved, Scandinavian family. As she says, “My heart was on fire. I had too much energy. I was too loud. My temperature was just different.”  Noomi fell in love with the profession at age seven as an extra in an Icelandic Viking film, and has pretty much not stopped working since. Seeking freedom and independence, she left home as a teenager. Though not educated, her ability to read people was her survival mechanism, and also served her very well as an actress. When she describes her philosophy of the craft, it’s clear why: “Acting is total freedom. Acting is paradise. Everything is allowed, and there are no rights and wrongs.”Noomi joins Off Camera to talk about losing herself in her characters, why vanity is the enemy of good acting, and about her rebellious and wild years as a “punk rock girl,” including the time she stubbornly tried to swim all the way from Denmark to Sweden.
Nov 14, 2019
Lance Reddick
When Lance Reddick was growing up, he was a shy and introverted kid. He was one of a handful of African-Americans at his school, so he never felt like he fit in, and his introverted nature made him an easy target for bullies. In the face of these struggles, Lance had to confront his own self-perception at an early age. As he says, “In order to escape the trap of trying to fit into places where people tried to define me or how they defined being black, I had to find a sense of myself that was independent of that.” That’s where the arts came in.During his college years, Lance discovered that he had a talent for music and acting. “When I was onstage and it was going well, I felt powerful, which was something I wasn’t used to feeling in front of a bunch of people.” Despite his natural talent for acting, he took a detour to pursue his first love—music. When that didn’t pan out, he found his way back to theater, got into Yale’s drama school, and the rest is history.His experience at Yale changed his life and his approach to the craft, and he’s been working as an actor ever since in shows like The Wire, Oz, Fringe, and most recently, in Amazon’s Bosch and Comedy Central’s Corporate.Lance joins Off Camera to talk about his most terrifying moment on stage, confronting systemic racism in the industry, and the time he serenaded his crush, only to get turned down in humiliating fashion.
Nov 07, 2019
Edward Norton
For the past 25 years, Edward Norton has established himself as one of the greatest actors in his generation. His legacy includes roles in films like Primal Fear, American History X, Fight Club, and Birdman to name a few, and he’s the type of artist who constantly seeks to challenge himself. Take his new film Motherless Brooklyn, which he wrote, directed, and stars in. The noir-esque film is an incredible achievement for Edward, and it’s a direct product of all of his years of hard work and experience in the industry.For Edward, being an artist is more of a compulsion than a mere desire. As he says, “Most of us are one or two degrees away from obsession tipping over into a true condition and affliction. That’s how I feel about acting and writing.” Luckily, Edward has a creative place to put that obsession, and that creativity was inspired by the work of musicians like Bob Dylan and David Bowie when Edward was a teenager. The resounding message was: “The freaks are who you want to hang with.” So, Edward sought to find his own tribe of like-minded, creative people. It’s through that band of people that Edward got his first big role, and it also helped him fund and cast Motherless Brooklyn. As he says, “If I’ve got any collateral via what I’ve done, why wouldn’t I try to do something else? Why wouldn’t I try to swing for a story that I think I understand and say something?”Edward joins Off Camera to talk about identifying with his underdog character in Motherless Brooklyn, learning to put problems in perspective after his mother passed away, and why he has a hard time trusting anyone who actually enjoyed high school.
Oct 31, 2019
Jeff Bridges 2
Jeff Bridges is back again, and this time, the legendary multi-hyphenate is joining me because he’s just released a new photography book titled Jeff Bridges: Pictures, Volume Two. Composed of behind-the-scenes photos taken throughout his career, the book is a wonderful representation of the magic and mystery of filmmaking.Despite so many years of experience, Jeff approaches every new artistic project with a "beginner’s mind." Whether he’s prepping for a new role, writing songs, painting, or taking photos, getting down to work is how Jeff staves off his self-critic. “We’re often looking for passion and where to find it, but it doesn’t come out of nowhere—passion is the fire you get when you rub sticks together.” It’s this passion that drew me to Jeff many years ago, and it’s why I’m excited to see what he’ll work on next.Jeff joins Off Camera to talk about his fear of making decisions, what he’s learned after 42 years of marriage, and why you better have a safe word or you might end up in the hospital.
Oct 24, 2019
Jake Johnson
Jake Johnson’s made a career out of acting next to some of the top names in the business, and that’s exactly how he likes it. From his vantage point, he’s got the best seat in the house, watching people like Zooey Deschanel (New Girl), Tom Cruise (The Mummy), and Cobie Smulders (Stumptown) do their thing. All the while, he’s living out a dream that started when he was a kid, watching shows like Cheers and Roseanne and desperately wanting to be in them.Jake and his two siblings were brought up by their mother in a Chicago suburb. He wasn’t a great student, but he lit up when he discovered writing and acting in high school. “Back then, I was in a very tricky emotional place, but writing plays, I had total control, and I loved it.” Combine that with the praise he received from performing in the school sketch show, and he knew he found his thing.Now, Jake’s 41 and still doing it, and his favorite part of the work is getting to play within the world of make-believe. It’s why he’s drawn to the sets of filmmaker Joe Swanberg (Drinking Buddies, Digging for Fire, Win It All) and turned off by micro-managing directors who kill the magic and overshoot scenes. “I’m not here for your final cut. I’m here for right now—me and this other human being can act. Let us act, and get the camera out of here. Hide it, and let us go!”Jake joins Off Camera to talk about forging a relationship with his absent father, the rude awakening he got after dropping out of high school, and his stint as a degenerate gambler…luckily, he was saved by New Girl.
Oct 17, 2019
Adam Devine
When Adam Devine was in fourth grade, a bully turned the entire class against him, and it took Adam nailing his performance in that year’s school play for his social prospects to start looking up. One great scene made the entire audience laugh, and after the play, he was greeted by praise. “From that moment on, I realized that no matter what was happening in my life, I could be good at acting and that can be my thing.”The following year, Adam suffered a near fatal collision with a cement truck which broke most of the bones in his body. When he wasn’t relearning how to walk, he had plenty of time to himself to watch TV, movies, and old SNL clips. He began writing his own sketches and regularly calling in to the local radio station as his idol Chris Farley. By the time he recovered from the accident, Adam had taught himself how to write and had a natural instinct for comedy.When college came around, Adam opted to go to community college in California to pursue comedy instead of going to state school in his hometown of Omaha, Nebraska. It ended up being the right choice, because Orange Coast Community College is where he met likeminded creative friends Kyle Newacheck and Blake Anderson. They began writing and producing sketches together, and they eventually created the hit series Workaholics. Between acting, writing, and standup, Adam does it all. Right now, you can watch him in his Netflix standup special Best Time of Our Lives, the HBO series The Righteous Gemstones, and his new film Jexi.Adam joins Off Camera to talk about the value of relentlessness, practicing standup in front of an imaginary audience, and why a slap in the face might do you some good.
Oct 10, 2019
Beth Behrs
Ever since three-year-old Beth Behrs saw Julie Andrews in The Sound of Music, she knew she wanted to become an actor. Beth’s perfectionist nature and her professional approach to the craft resulted in a driving ambition that got her into UCLA’s acting program and eventually led to her first role on network television as the co-star of the CBS sitcom 2 Broke Girls.Success wasn't the answer to everything though, and it brought its own set of challenges, like navigating the gauntlet that is being an actress in Hollywood. As Beth says, “We’re told so many different things in the media about how we’re supposed to be and act. When 2 Broke Girls began, I went from having no money and working as a nanny to being on a hit television show. At some point, the schedule, the pressure, and the anxiety from all of that started to break down my body.” In order to be the best actress she could be, she had to learn how to manage stress and take care of herself.Beth soon discovered the therapeutic power of meditation, nature, and horses. She got back in touch with her inner “theater kid in pajama pants”—the person she used to be before the overwhelming social pressures of Hollywood, and with her newfound wisdom, Beth wrote a book about self-care called The Total Me-Tox. She’s the first to admit that she still has plenty of work to do, so now, in addition to acting, she’s found a new calling. “I want to empower people to be who they are and be okay with that.”Beth joins Off Camera to talk about the C that derailed her acting degree, why she’s more comfortable in a character’s skin than her own, and the audition where she was told to “cry prettier."
Oct 03, 2019
Zach Galifianakis
Zach Galifianakis had his big moment of success a bit later than most. Zach was a stand-up comedian with a small but loyal following, but when the massive hit comedy The Hangover came out, his life drastically changed. At 40 years old, Zach was unaccustomed to throngs of fans and perplexed by the attention brought by fame. As he says, “No one wanted to hear me speak or ask my opinion until I got into the movies. That doesn’t make any sense.”Zach’s down to earth approach to life likely originated with his family—a naturally funny and supportive crowd who encouraged Zach to follow his dreams of performing at an early age. After school, he moved to New York City to find an acting coach who could take him under their wing and provide an entrance into the business. Success wasn’t imminent though. As Zach says, “I worked for an uncle who managed a restaurant called Tequila Willie’s, where I had to wear a sombrero and pick up my tips off the kitchen room floor. Have you ever been on the kitchen floor on your hands and knees picking up quarters with a sombrero on? It’s very uplifting. Especially, when you’re still a busboy at 28.” Zach never found his long sought after acting coach but instead discovered stand up in the back of a burger restaurant, and never looked back.Even with his roles in big budget films, Zach continues to take on interesting, outside the box projects—whether it’s being a fake talk show host in the Netflix movie adaptation of Between Two Ferns or doing impromptu stand-up at a steakhouse in Pasadena. Over the course of our conversation, you’ll realize Zach’s honesty and modesty is as endearing as it is hilarious, as awkward as it is intimate.Zach joins Off Camera to talk about his favorite Between Two Ferns moment, his mission to take the piss out of “celebrity,” and why you should dress up as a witch and go find him on the streets of Venice if you want to have a nice ten-minute conversation.
Sep 26, 2019
Scott Aukerman
Writer, director, comedian and podcast host Scott Aukerman is a very busy man. He is perhaps best known for his hit podcast Comedy Bang! Bang! which has been introducing audiences to the most talented comedians and improv artists for the last ten years. And that’s just Scott’s “side gig.” He’s written for movies and television shows, like Mr. Show, and more recently, Between Two Ferns, a wonderfully awkward talk show hosted by Zach Galifianakis which is now a full length Netflix movie. Even with all of his success, Scott still marvels at the fact that he gets to be silly and make other people laugh for a living. He wonders, “At what point will people figure out it’s all a scam?”He grew up with comedy in his bones and an affinity for David Letterman. In high school, he hosted a Letterman-inspired news show on his town’s public access channel. And in college he frequently turned serious, academic assignments into sketches, including a particularly memorable ballet performance which got him into trouble with his teachers. As Scott says, “I heard my whole life that I didn’t take things seriously enough, and I finally realized I should go into comedy.”Scott joins Off Camera to talk about Bob Odenkirk’s role in jump starting his career, his Between Two Ferns guest pitch/disclaimer, and how on the Between Two Ferns film, he was almost too afraid to talk to, let alone direct, David Letterman.
Sep 19, 2019
Andrea Savage
If you haven’t seen Andrea Savage’s comedy series I’m Sorry, you should…just be prepared to laugh your butt off. As the creator, writer, and star of the series, Andrea does it all—which makes sense since the show is based on her own experiences being a comedian, wife and mom. But it is also a show about us. Andrea has found the universal truths of being a parent while being a working artist, and her observational powers reveal the absurdity and pathos in our own lives.For years, Andrea was stuck in development hell. She had a stable acting career with roles in Step Brothers, Episodes, and Veep, but true to her improv and Groundlings background, Andrea wanted to write and create as well. She was pumping out pilot scripts and selling them, but they weren’t getting made. As she says, “It was heartbreak after heartbreak of putting your all into a project, getting good notes, and then nothing. It was always the bridesmaid, never the bride.” When Andrea turned 40, the self-described “successful failure” decided to change her approach with I’m Sorry. She put together a crew with some help from her talented friends Judy Greer and Jason Mantzoukas, and she filmed her own pilot presentation.Andrea figured out that she needed to show her vision, because her story was nuanced and personal, not full of big jokes that jumped off the page. The approach worked like gangbusters. Her presentation became the first episode of the show and established her as a creator, showrunner, director, and a force to be reckoned with. As she says, “I literally just willed it to happen.”Andrea joins Off Camera to talk about why her writer’s room is better than therapy, why her lack of darkness makes her question her comedy bonafides, and her dedication to being a “joke shepherd.”
Sep 12, 2019
Constance Wu
Before she became a household name from her work in projects like Fresh Off the Boat and Crazy Rich Asians, Constance Wu was a full-time waitress in credit card debt who was trying to break into the TV and film industry.Despite her BFA in acting, Constance struggled to get steady acting work for nearly a decade. Her love of the craft never wavered—no matter how tough it was to deal with the rejection. But times got so tough she finally had to ask herself, “Are you okay if you’re still waiting tables at 50 in order to supplement your income so you can do one or two plays a year?” Wholeheartedly, her answer was, “Yes.”Finally, when the creditors were stalking her, she got her big break. In 2015, she was cast opposite Randall Park in the groundbreaking and popular ABC sitcom Fresh Off the Boat, a hilarious look at life as an Asian immigrant in America. Another historic role followed with the film Crazy Rich Asians, which featured an entirely Asian cast. Most recently, she’s acting opposite J-Lo in the film Hustlers, a true story about a group of strip club employees who drugged and robbed their rich Wall Street clientele.Constance joins Off Camera to talk about how privileged she feels to have a voice in the discussion about racial diversity in Hollywood, why she still loves going to acting class, and she also reveals the joys of sucking at guitar.
Sep 05, 2019
Wyatt Russell
Wyatt Russell was born into the film business as the son of Kurt Russell and Goldie Hawn, which can be a difficult way to grow up. But despite their massive success, Wyatt’s parents were a grounding presence who emphasized hard work. “They did a really good job of making us understand that what you get is earned, not given, and that there’s reward in earning it,” Wyatt told me. In light of that lesson and after an eye-opening trip to a hockey rink, Wyatt decided to deviate from the family way and forge his own path—he was going to be a professional hockey player.As Wyatt grew up, his NHL dream seemed more and more like a distinct possibility. He was a talented goalie, and his parents moved to Vancouver so Wyatt could compete with Canada’s best. Unfortunately, being born into a famous family brings its own unique challenges. “People were like, ‘Here comes this circus act from California. Kurt Russell and Goldie Hawn’s kid wants to be a hockey player in British Columbia.’ I had to prove myself by putting my head down, not talking, and doing the work to become the best goalie in the league.” His promising hockey career lasted into his early 20s, but a spate of injuries led to the end of his dream and the end of his identity as a hockey player. Sitting on a hospital bed after a particularly brutal hip injury, Wyatt asked himself: ““What do I do now? I have no idea what I am.”Wyatt reflected on his love of film, and despite the perilous nature of the business, he decided to pursue an acting career. But in typical headstrong fashion, he wasn’t going to ask his parents or siblings for advice. He was going to do it his own way. After getting work in a number of films such as Cowboys & Aliens, We Are What We Are, Folk Hero & Funny Guy, and more, Wyatt discovered that he not only has the chops for the business, but that he actually loves it. Wyatt’s recently made the transition to television. He’s the lead in AMC’s Lodge 49, a weird and whimsical show about an ex-surfer named Dud, who finds himself on a vision quest after the death of his father.Wyatt joins Off Camera to talk about the uncomfortable reality of fame, the mentor who helped him discover his independence, and why the locker room is the best place to learn about male vulnerability.
Aug 29, 2019
Sam Jones 2
Off Camera is back after a short summer break with all new episodes, and we’re kicking off the new season with a game of musical chairs. Writer, actor, and Saturday Night Live alum Jason Sudeikis takes over as host, and I take the hot seat for a change.The idea came to Jason while he was running on the treadmill a couple of months ago. Mid-exercise, he texted me to see if I was interested in celebrating 200 episodes of Off Camera by allowing him to interview me. I was incredibly flattered by the offer, but I’ve always gone off the assumption, “Who wants to hear about me?” As a director and photographer, I’ve spent most of my career behind the camera, trying to peel back the layers of the creative person in front of the lens. But as I thought about it, one thing occurred to me—I could for once see what it feels like in the other chair. And after seeing Jason make the rounds as guest host on talk shows like Ellen, it was clear I’m in good hands. Maybe too good, as it turned out. Jason surprised me with his thoughtfulness, deep research, and by connecting some dots in my own history that I had never thought about before. Dare I say I liked it?Jason and I sit down to talk about the similarities between multi-hyphenates and superheroes, how the smallest act of encouragement and praise can be the greatest gift for an aspiring artist, why we film Off Camera in a vast, white room, and more.
Aug 22, 2019
Robert Downey Jr. 2
Good old Robert Downey Jr. is back for a second time, and his career has gone quite well since his last appearance, on episode 5 of Off Camera. It is now our 200th episode, and Robert is here to remind us that great conversations should be unconventional, surprising, and sometimes just downright weird. Check, check, and check.Since the last time he was here, Robert’s Iron Man legend has grown exponentially—thanks to the massive success of Marvel’s Avengers franchise and the recent release of the final installment, Avengers: Endgame.  But if we rewind the tape, Robert’s journey on the project, like director Jon Favreau’s, started at a low point. “We were two people who had a film we were passionate about come out on the same weekend and bomb. His was Zathura, and mine was Kiss Kiss Bang Bang.” Their mutual comeuppance led to a creative bond, a big brother relationship. As Robert explains, “If that kind of synergy happens when you’re doing a movie, it’s going to be great. End of story.”Finding people who encourage and legitimize his creativity has been a theme for Robert, who despite moments of personal turmoil, possesses a deep-seated work ethic. Growing up, he was “Bob Downey’s kid,” the son of a groundbreaking, counterculture filmmaker, whose view of the industry was the following: “Anybody can act. Few can direct, and nobody can write.” Talk about humble beginnings.Robert joins Off Camera to talk about quitting (not getting fired from) Saturday Night Live after a year, why he thought (and still thinks) he could write a better script than William Goldman, and the great life advice he got from Figueroa Slim in jail.
Jul 18, 2019
Scoot McNairy
If Scoot McNairy hadn’t found acting, it’s possible he’d be mowing lawns for a living. Scoot grew up relishing the outdoors of his native Texas, and started his own landscaping company at age 13 to make some spending money. Towards the end of high school, he had some thinking to do about his future. Since he was dyslexic, college seemed out of the question, so one day, his father asked, “What is the one thing that you could do every single day, that would get you up and out of bed, that would make you want to go to work?” Scoot’s answer: being on a movie set.Aside from being outdoors, Scoot’s other great passion was watching movies. He was fascinated by the magic of it all. And as a kid who loved to take things apart, he wanted to know how everything worked. He decided to move to Los Angeles for film school but got relatively little out of it, and felt like he needed hands-on experience on a movie set. Scoot’s fastest way in was getting work as a background actor, also known as an extra. “I swear I learned more in two weeks as a background actor on The Practice than I did in the entire year I went to film school.”Background work turned to commercial work which eventually turned to acting in television and film—thanks to an acting teacher who politely kicked him out of class so he’d start auditioning for roles instead of compulsively going to class. Because of his unconventional education, he approaches his job from a unique angle, creating very real and emotional performances in projects like Halt and Catch Fire, True Detective, Narcos, and the upcoming Quentin Tarantino film Once Upon a Time in Hollywood.Scoot joins Off Camera to talk about the dark place he had to live in to embody his True Detective character, how growing up with a learning disability helped him embrace failure, and why the only time his heart beats at a normal rate is on a motorcycle.
Jul 11, 2019
Ramy Youssef
As the child of first-generation Muslim immigrants, Ramy Youssef grew up with a sense of practicality about his future. He was drawn to comedy and performing, but he saw no one who looked like him on TV. Add to that the fact that acting isn’t exactly a pragmatic career path in the first place. “I had parents who gave up everything to move to America, and I’m supposed to call them and say, ‘Hey, can you pay a bunch of money for me to study the Meisner technique?’ I didn’t have the balls to ask that question.”While in college, Ramy developed his stand-up and sketch comedy skills at UCB in his free time while studying political science and economics. He auditioned for a small role in the Nick at Nite series See Dad Run, and got the part, and decided to drop out of college and move to Los Angeles. That gig lasted for three seasons, and then Ramy got stuck in acting purgatory. According to audition feedback, he wasn’t good looking enough to be the lead; he wasn’t nerdy enough to play the nerd; and he wasn’t “ethnic” enough to play the ethnic guy. That’s when Ramy realized, “You never know where people are going to put you. It’s nice when you get to put yourself where you want to be.”Ramy took charge of his own destiny. He had writing skills, plenty of personal experience, and a unique cultural point of view. What he came up with was Ramy, his Hulu series based on his experience growing up in New Jersey and coming to terms with his Muslim faith. It’s being hailed as the first American television show to feature a Muslim family, but more importantly, it throws away Muslim caricatures and depicts rich and complex human storylines about family, faith, and cultural differences.Ramy joins Off Camera to talk about the moment his parents finally acknowledged he had “made it,” how puberty will be forever linked with global terrorism in his mind, and why stand up comedy makes everything else seem easy.
Jul 02, 2019
David Tennant
When David Tennant was a child in Scotland, he spent his free time running around the back garden pretending to be characters from the TV shows he loved. In honor of his favorite show, Doctor Who, his grandmother knit him a multi-colored scarf to wear, just like his favorite Doctor, as he let his imagination run wild.During that time, David realized he wanted to become an actor—he just happened to live in a place devoid of actors. His parents were pushing him towards a more practical, stable career, but David was having none of it. “Becoming an actor was something I was very set on, and it was an idea that grew up alongside me as I began to understand more of what being an actor was. I never wavered from it.” At 17, David got into drama school, and the world opened up for him as he met like-minded people. His dream slowly became a reality.Between his work with the Royal Shakespeare Company, his work in shows like Broadchurch, and most recently, Good Omens, David has amassed a large body of work on stage and on screen. Of course, his biggest claim to fame in the U.K. was his role as the tenth iteration of the Doctor in Doctor Who. If fate didn’t get him that role, then perhaps it’s because he’d been preparing for it his entire life.David joins Off Camera to talk about the self-critic that always seeks to undermine him, why losing your anonymity feels a bit like being flayed, and the retirement speech he prepares as a backup in case he forgets his lines on stage.
Jun 27, 2019
Sienna Miller
When Sienna Miller got her first big acting job on the short-lived FOX television show Keen Eddie, she had no grand plans for her career. Surrounded by a bustling crew and a shiny, big-budget production, she was simply happy to be there, and as a 19-year-old with zero drama school experience, she had no idea about the competitive side of the industry, which instilled in her a naïve confidence in auditions that led to early success.Although Keen Eddie was abruptly cancelled, Sienna’s film career was taking off. Within the span of a few years, she made her mark in films like Layer Cake, Alfie, and Factory Girl. Of course, she learned relatively quickly that success and fame in her profession meant the loss of her cherished private life, and in the eyes of the prying, often aggressive paparazzi, she was perfect tabloid fodder. “When I was at work, I was completely immersed and serious, but I just didn’t understand why I couldn’t be very serious at work and very frivolous outside of it.”Despite her challenges with the media, Sienna’s love for her work never wavered. In recent years, she’s taken on new, exciting acting challenges. Despite being initially terrified by the immensity of the role, she turns in a heart-wrenching, tour de force performance in Jake Scott’s new film American Woman.Sienna joins Off Camera to talk about the self-torture inherent in the profession, getting bribed with a pony and a rabbit to go to boarding school, and what it was like to spend an hour in the shoes of Tippi Hedren, getting pelted with flying birds.
Jun 20, 2019
Olivia Wilde 2
It’s been four years since Olivia Wilde last visited Off Camera, and a lot has changed—she’s had another child, taken a step back from acting, and embarked on a completely different career path as a director. “I almost feel like someone who’s come out of the closet. There’s this feeling of honesty about what I really want to do, and it's a level of comfort that comes from being true to yourself that I haven’t felt in a long time.” Booksmart, her first feature film, offers a unique perspective on friendship and identity during one of the most tumultuous times in life: the high school years.Being an actress for so many years allowed Olivia to see behind the curtain into the directing process, whether it was Martin Scorsese on set of Vinyl, Ron Howard on the set of Rush, or Reed Morano on Meadowland. But learning what not to do from her less positive experiences was equally important. “Knowing that my actors were walking onto a set that was the exact environment that I would want for myself felt really great. I used all my bad experiences for something good.” A perfect example of that was shooting a sex scene on a truly closed set on Booksmart.At times, acting in TV and film was an isolating experience for Olivia, who would often be brought in to shoot a scene and then promptly whisked away to her trailer. She felt more like a caged circus animal than a creative human being, and she longed for a more collaborative environment.Olivia joins Off Camera to talk about the importance of zooming out on your life every once in a while, why cell phones are the enemy of storytelling (and our souls), and how Converse high tops can double as chastity belts.
Jun 13, 2019
Fred Armisen
Fred Armisen is known as one of the funniest and most memorable Saturday Night Live cast members, but surprisingly, a career in comedy wasn’t something he originally envisioned. As a kid, he was obsessed with becoming a musician. Punk—his first love—was perfectly suited to his self-described “weirdo” sensibility. He and his band Trenchmouth had some success, but it paled in comparison to the record deals and acclaim his peers were getting. “The hardest part about watching all the bands around us get famous was that I wasn't able to enjoy music anymore because I was so jealous.”Fred wasn’t lighting the world on fire with his drumming, but he knew he had a gift for making people laugh with impressions—a valuable skill for entertaining band mates on long concert tours. Fred started wondering if he was supposed to be on a different path. “I worried for a moment that I was too late for this career, but the rewards were so huge that I made up for lost time. Within a few years, I was on Saturday Night Live. I went through the side door entrance, and even I wasn’t a traditional comedian, I had impressions and characters.”That side door proved to be the right one. Fred spent 11 years on SNL, developed and starred in Portlandia with Carrie Brownstein, did Documentary Now! with Bill Hader and Forever with Maya Rudolph, both fellow SNL alumni, and he’s at it again with Los Espookys, an upcoming Spanish-language show on HBO about goths, entrepreneurship, and chocolate. He’s keeping it weird, and that’s just how he likes it.Fred joins Off Camera to talk about finding a lifesaver and pen pal in director John Waters, why The Clash informs just about everything in his life, and the time he got sent to the school psychologist just because he wanted to burn down Main Street.
Jun 06, 2019
Ian McShane
Acting wasn’t really on the radar of young Ian McShane, who grew up in Manchester, England in the 1950s. Even though his father was a professional footballer for Manchester United, Ian had a normal, working class upbringing. He liked to play sports with his friends, but when a broken leg sidelined him from the field, his geography/drama teacher asked Ian to audition for the play. “I walked on the stage, and suddenly, I thought, ‘I know what I’m doing.’” After nailing the ambitious part of Cyrano in Cyrano de Bergerac, Ian and his teacher convinced his parents to send him to acting school at the Royal Academy…and the rest is history.In his nearly 50-year career, Ian’s developed a penchant for playing the rogue. The dye was cast early on. His first role ever was in The Wild and the Willing as a trouble-making college student who has an affair with his professor’s wife. The trend continued as he got older and grew into a natural gravitas. Take his performances in projects like Sexy Beast, Jesus of Nazareth, and American Gods.Of all the rogues he’s played, Ian’s best known as brothel owner and entrepreneur Al Swearengen in HBO’s Deadwood, which was cancelled abruptly after three seasons despite lots of critical acclaim. The show marks a seminal moment in Ian’s career: “Very few things live up to the experience on that show in terms of the quality of writing and the quality of people that you’re working with. You get spoiled.” Luckily for him and fans of the show, Ian will don Al’s signature pinstripe suit once again—Al Swearengen and Co. are returning to HBO with a two-hour Deadwood movie.Ian joins Off Camera to talk about his emotional return to the Deadwood set, his transformation post-sobriety, and the good old days in acting school, getting pissed with John Hurt.
May 30, 2019
Andrew Bird
Andrew Bird grew up no stranger to music, and he started playing the violin was he was four, using the Suzuki method. But Andrew argues he wasn’t “prodigy material.” Yes, he was naturally musical, but classical training requires strict adherence to rules and technique, and that just wasn’t his thing. “I always had this rebellious response to my teachers. I was trying to bust out of it before I had the basics. They would say, “Just learn what we’re trying to teach you, and then you can do that other stuff.” Of course, my response was, ‘But when?’”It took a bit of time, but in his late teens, Andrew finally discovered a scene that piqued his interest. “When I came out of music school, I started going to the club Lounge Ax in Chicago, and I was perplexed by this thing called indie rock. The guitars were spitefully out of tune, and the singing was a little waif-ish, but I was fascinated by it.” The DIY nature of the genre was even more appealing—he didn’t need to wait for permission or for someone to say, “Okay, now you have earned a place in the orchestra.”Once Andrew took the reins, he made a name for himself with his unique melodies and unconventional way of playing the violin. Over the years, he’s released music at a prolific pace—15 albums in the past 13 years. My Finest Work Yet is his latest, filled with infectious melodies, cinematic themes, probing lyrics, and his signature whistle. It’s clear that a large part of his success comes from his self proclaimed pride in “being the weirdo.” No wonder he’d love to call his early music teachers and say, “Hey, look! I’m breaking all the rules, and people are loving it.”Andrew joins Off Camera to talk about the madness that drives his songwriting process, why he hates headphones, and why he whistles when he works, constantly.
May 23, 2019
Jason Mantzoukas
Growing up on a little island off the coast of Massachusetts didn’t afford Jason Mantzoukas, an aspiring performer, much room to interact with the outside world, but it was a good place for Jason to hone his comedic skills. “I was a little Greek kid in a very WASP-y town. I very much felt like ‘the other’ and was subjected to lots of name calling and threats, but that’s where I came into being as a funny person—I diffused situations by making people laugh, and I never got into fights.”Jason’s world started to expand when he got bussed to a regional high school. That’s where his talent and passion for performing really took shape—he wrote and performed in sketch shows, played in bands, and did comedy bits for his class.After college, Jason received the Watson Fellowship to explore abroad. He was greeted by fear and loneliness the moment he landed, but working through that experience was essential to his growth. It’s why he got involved with improv and the Upright Citizens Brigade; it’s how he persevered through the rejection during his early acting career; and it’s why he writes, co-hosts a podcast, and has so much acting work on television and in film (The League, The Good Place, The Long Dumb Road, and John Wick 3 to name a few).Jason joins Off Camera to talk about his nervous breakdown in Morocco, why he’ll never stop doing improv, and why playing a maniac in The League made him a target for drunk bros everywhere.
May 16, 2019
Sarah Goldberg
All it took for Canadian-born actress Sarah Goldberg to realize she wanted to become an actor was a preschool production of The Owl and the Pussycat. And as she got older, the joy of acting in plays only intensified: “I discovered that being on stage is this point in time where everything goes quiet, and you’re completely free.” With that passion for the craft driving her, Sarah headed off for London to hit the boards as soon as she could leave home.After graduating from the London Academy of Music and Drama, Sarah found immediate success, booking a part in a play at the Young Vic Theatre, but it was the insecurity during the down time between jobs that she had the hardest time adjusting to. “Acting is a glorious job when you’re working. The job itself is a joy. We’re adult humans who dress up and play make-believe for money. But all the stuff around the job is really tough, like being unemployed for long stretches and being exposed in certain ways.”Sarah moved to New York, leaving the relative security of London’s West End for a shot at a film and television career. Instead she found herself doing any job she could to stay afloat and pay her rent, including video game voiceover work and Best Buy employee training videos. One particularly tough lull between jobs in 2016 was the straw that nearly broke the camel’s back. Sarah, very much unemployed, was sitting in her bathrobe at 3PM considering her career options when she got the call that would change her life. She was cast opposite Bill Hader in HBO’s Barry, the critically acclaimed, Emmy award winning series. And with Barry now getting picked up for a third season, Sarah not only gets another year of stability on a successful television show, she also gets to bask in the joy of playing a real, complex woman.Sarah joins Off Camera to talk about her most embarrassing audition story, about the Julianne Moore advice that completely altered the way she regards her job, and why being number two on the call sheet can be a good or bad thing.
May 09, 2019
'Weird Al' Yankovic
For years, Weird Al Yankovic was dismissed as a novelty musician—here today, gone tomorrow—but it’s been 40 years, and his weird and wonderful career shows no signs of slowing down. “People often think that if something is funny, it has lesser value and doesn’t deserve respect. Obviously, not me. I embrace it, and I encourage the people I work with to let their freak flag fly.”Al developed his “freak flag” pretty early on. “I was always a little outside the norm. Even in elementary school when everyone was playing together at recess, I would act out some TV show in my mind. I must have looked like a crazy kid, off by myself doing all these characters. It didn’t make me very popular.” An only child, Al did not make friends easily and had a hard time finding his crowd—a situation which was exacerbated by being two years younger than his classmates. But he was so smart and, well, nerdy, he skipped a few grades.Al found solace by listening to the radio, particularly Southern California DJ Dr. Demento, who brought unique, funny novelty music to the masses every Sunday night. Al already had a unique talent—he played the accordion. So, he tried his hand at making his own musical parodies, and one of them, a parody of The Knack’s “My Sharona” called “My Bologna,” made it onto Dr. Demento’s radio show and quickly became the number one song on the program.With wind in his sails, Al moved to Los Angeles to see if he could make it as a comedic musician, and the rest is history. After 40 years of success, he’s outlasted many of the artists that he’s parodied over the years, and as each new generation of twelve-year-olds rediscover Weird Al, his legend grows. “I’m kind of a novelty dinosaur at this point, but maybe society can only handle one Weird Al at a time.”Al joins Off Camera to talk about why MTV was such a catalyst for his career, how he once gave Madonna a business lesson, why parents of only children should not be given binoculars, and just how white and nerdy he really is.
May 02, 2019
Seth Rogen
Believe it or not, the origin of Seth Rogen’s incredible acting, writing, and producing career traces all the way back to Bar Mitzvah class in Vancouver. That’s where twelve-year-old Seth met Evan Goldberg, a fellow movie enthusiast who loved writing just as much as Seth did. A creative partnership between the two began instantaneously, and they started writing what would become Superbad, inspired by their own high school escapades, by the time they were thirteen. “We always wondered if our very specific high school experience would be relatable to other people, because we were just writing what happened to us as Jewish Canadian boys in Vancouver. It seemed pretty niche.” Of course, it became one of the most successful movies about high school of all time.As his writing career post-Superbad took off, so did his acting career. Within the span of a few years, he became the face of American comedy, working on hit films like The Pineapple Express, The 40-Year-Old Virgin, and Knocked Up. In fact, he had so much success over that span of time, he just assumed that was how the business worked: “I didn’t appreciate how miraculous that streak was. At the time, I was like, ‘Oh, great. You make a movie. It turns out great. Everyone loves it, and you make tons of money. Perfect.’”Eventually, he learned that wasn’t always the case—and as the movie budgets got bigger, so did the stakes, with more creative pressure and input from studio executives. It took one bad experience as a studio’s most expensive movie for Seth to realize that it was more important for Evan and him to maintain their artistic freedom than make the highest profile movie. To this day, he holds onto that philosophy and it’s why he still loves making movies, including his newest film Long Shot, a political romantic comedy starring Charlize Theron and himself. “When Evan and I make a movie like Long Shot, and we’re able to sit in a theater and watch the audience laugh at and feel what we hoped—it’s really gratifying. It means they’re invested in the same things we are.”Seth joins Off Camera to talk about why moving to Los Angeles for a role in Freaks and Geeks was his version of going off to college, how he and Evan turn an idea into a full-fledged movie, and why saying no to a role on a CW sitcom early in his career wasn’t a hard choice at all.
Apr 25, 2019
Busy Philipps
For over 20 years, Busy Philipps has been navigating the highs and lows of a being an actress in Hollywood. With unrivaled determination and a strong belief in herself, Busy left her home in Arizona at 18 years old for Los Angeles to pursue acting and briefly, college. Her dream came true sophomore year, when she was cast in the cult TV show Freaks & Geeks, and since that time, Busy’s been a staple of American television, with roles in popular shows like Dawson’s Creek, Cougar Town, and Vice Principals.Despite her success, Busy hasn’t been immune to the uglier elements of being a woman in Hollywood. She’s dealt with body shaming, inequality, and harassment by male colleagues while also fighting the insecurity that comes with the job. But overcoming challenges is in Busy’s DNA: “I only do things the hard way. It’s the only interesting way to do anything, and it’s a part of my personality.”In response to her traumatic experiences and as someone who has “wanted to be seen” ever since childhood, Busy chose to write a memoir, titled This Will Only Hurt A Little, to give herself a voice and to memorialize her story. Between the book’s success and the large social media following she garnered by posting snippets of her daily life, Busy had an epiphany: “Maybe I need to lean into the thing that people are responding to and saying is really interesting.” That led to the creation of Busy’s late night talk show Busy Tonight, currently airing on E!. She’s spent her entire career in the shoes of different characters, now, she gets to be herself.Busy joins Off Camera to talk about the double standard that exists for female actors, losing a job she knew was hers because the television network deemed her overweight, and the first gig she ever booked…as a life-size Barbie.
Apr 18, 2019
David Harbour
When David Harbour was growing up in the suburbs of Westchester County, he was an outcast. A self-described nerdy and intense weirdo who preferred to march to the beat of his own drum over assimilating with the popular crowd, David explains, “I basically felt like an alien growing up.” But his isolation from the group and things like team sports led him to pursue more solitary, artistic, and creative endeavors, and along the way, he discovered acting.On stage, David’s socially off-putting intensity was an asset, and it allowed him to explore all of the dark and complex emotions he was feeling at the time within the structure of a story. By the time he was 19 and cast as Hamlet in a regional theater production, David had hit his stride. “I played Hamlet, and I don’t think I’ve ever been better. I was so fired up and alive, so engaged with the world. Hamlet was just me. All the things he was feeling were all the things I was feeling.” As a naturally gifted actor who simply loved the craft, David made the choice to pursue acting as a career, and it was a no brainer.Over the years, David has amassed a large body of work in things like The Newsroom, Revolutionary Road, Pan Am, the upcoming Hellboy remake, and much more, but his role as Jim Hopper in the beloved Netflix series Stranger Things has really blown up his career over the past couple of years. In large part, David’s success as Hopper is a result of the humanity he brings to his character, an internally broken leading man that we’re all rooting for. David, now in his 40s, has come to leading roles late, but with all of that life and career experience, he’s bringing much needed nuance to our idea of what it means to be a hero: “One of the traps actors fall into with leading roles is that they think they need to present a strength, but I think most people really want to identify with someone who goes through the same vicissitudes of life and brokenness that we all do.”David joins Off Camera to talk about how a group of industry rejects turned Stranger Things into a massively popular phenomenon, how he dealt with the inner monsters that nearly cost him his life, and why he really doesn’t like his face.
Apr 11, 2019
Joey King
When Joey King went to the premiere of her upcoming Hulu show The Act, she didn’t anticipate watching the entire thing through her fingers, but the role was so personally and professionally momentous that she couldn’t bear to watch herself with clear, open eyes. “I was sitting in a room full of people that I knew, but I was sweating the entire time. I was so nervous—I’d never felt so vulnerable about a performance before.” The show, based on a real-life story of Gypsy Rose (played by Joey) and Dee Dee Blanchard (played by Patricia Arquette), explores the dark and disturbing dynamic between a teenage girl who wants to live a normal life and a needy, over-bearing mother who suffers from Munchausen syndrome by proxy and intentionally makes her daughter ill.Although Joey’s been acting since she was four, she rose to global fame nearly overnight after the release of the unexpected Netflix hit The Kissing Booth, a feel good teenage romantic comedy. Prior to The Act, playing a typical teenager who navigates friendships and relationships in the gauntlet that is high school had been commonplace for Joey but she was dying to try something different, to lose herself completely in a character. “As an actor, we dream of doing things that take us out of our comfort zone that we never thought we’d get the opportunity to do—wear fake teeth, shave my head, sit in a wheelchair, and study someone else’s movements. As an actor, it feels so good to do something like that.”Joey joins Off Camera to talk about why getting fired from her first pilot was a blessing in disguise, where she got her gift for tapping into emotions on command, and how she uses her social media platform (and her nearly 9 million followers) for the good of humanity and for changing chicken corsage protocol at KFC.
Apr 04, 2019
Brit Marling
Brit Marling has created one of the most original, mind-bending, and creative shows on television with Netflix’s The OA; an exploration of near death experiences, inter-dimensional travel, modern dance, and much, much more. But the thing the sticks with you, and the thing that underlies all of the sci-fi excitement, is a very human yearning for connection and community. Between The OA and her films Another Earth and Sound of My Voice, Brit’s talent for tapping into her childhood imagination to create unique stories is undeniable. In a case of life almost imitating art, Brit nearly took a radically different career path. The parent-pleasing, Georgetown valedictorian graduated with a degree in economics that landed her at banking behemoth Goldman Sachs. She spent a year crunching numbers and cans of Red Bull before she realized that she was terribly depressed. “I couldn’t understand why all of these bright, excited young people found themselves here. No one was asking us to reinvent anything. It was just, ‘Here’s the model. Plug the numbers into the model.’ I had a moment there where I was like, ‘I’m going to die—is this what I want to do day-to-day?’” Luckily, Brit got a taste of a more fulfilling and creative career when her two college friends, both aspiring filmmakers, came to NYC with an invitation to make a short film for a 48-hour film festival. The thrill of the experience forced Brit to recognize, “Either I can have this career with safe, predictable outcomes, or I can work my butt off doing something I love. Yes, it’s dangerous, and yes, I may be broke all the time, but I’ll be happy.” Goldman Sachs was left in the dust. Brit joins Off Camera to talk about how wading through the acting swamp led her to screenwriting, why collaboration is the key to her success, and why death needs a redesign.
Mar 28, 2019
Lauren Cohan
If you look at Lauren Cohan’s acting career, it’s clear she has a knack for playing strong and feisty women. She’s played a zombie killing badass in The Walking Dead, a secret agent in Peter Berg’s thriller Mile 22, and now, she’s chasing down international baddies in the action-packed ABC series Whiskey Cavalier. Rolling on the ground, shooting guns, and doing stunts can be exhausting work, but for Lauren it’s the opposite. “I naturally gravitate towards action. As soon as I started doing it, I felt exhilarated. I have an excess of adrenaline, so it’s good for me to have a physical element to acting.” Lauren’s career path wasn’t always so certain. She spent years slogging through auditions where the only requirement was to be a “beautiful woman.” She longed for the opportunity to do more, and that’s when Walking Dead came along. “Don’t get me wrong, it’s great to be an actor and get work because people want to see you onscreen, but when I got the role of Maggie, I was so relieved that it was a stripped down character study. I finally felt free.” Exploring the vast depth of human emotion is what ultimately drives her, even when she encounters moments or scenes that scare her. “I keep going back to this idea of embracing the challenge. It’s like, ‘That sounds painful and difficult…let me try it.’” Lauren joins Off Camera to talk about the Walking Dead scene that terrified her so much that she almost quit, why there’s no point in being an actor if you aren’t willing to be vulnerable and uncomfortable, and why finding your inner lion is all part of a day’s work.
Mar 21, 2019
Ray Romano
Before Ray Romano graced our television sets with Everybody Loves Raymond, he was a hustling stand-up comedian, hoping to break into television like his peers Jerry Seinfeld, Tim Allen, and Rosanne. He followed all the proper steps—performing on late night television, selling out road gigs, and getting featured in HBO comedy specials—but radio silence was all he got from the powers that be. After eleven years as a full-time stand-up, Ray realized, “Maybe this acting thing just isn’t meant to be.” But that’s exactly when he got offered the development deal that would turn into the hit show Everybody Loves Raymond, and make Ray not only the highest paid actor in sitcom history, but one of the most recognized people in the world. Despite all of his success and fame, Ray dealt with an unexpected identity crisis when Raymond ended. “It took about three months until the void smacked me in the head. It was this sense of, ‘What now? Where’s my passion? Where’s my direction? What am I throwing all my energy into now?’ I had this non-stop creative energy for nine years. And suddenly, I was empty.” But working through the existential void turned out to be a blessing in disguise. It’s what led to the creation of Men of a Certain Age, the show Ray co-wrote with his friend Mike Royce, and it led to a desire to flex his acting muscles in other, more dramatic areas. Getting people to see him as more than a sitcom actor was difficult, especially after spending nine years in the shoes of one character that was loosely based on himself. “I didn’t want to make everyone forget about my sitcom legacy, because I was proud of it, but my goal was to do what I wanted—and what I wanted was to stick my little dramatic toe in there.” Since he made that decision, he’s evolved into a versatile and relatable dramatic actor with his work in projects like Parenthood, Vinyl, Get Shorty, The Big Sick, and most recently, Paddleton, opposite Mark Duplass. Ray joins Off Camera to talk about the first and only time he was fired, how he turns real life into a comedic bit, and why it’s so hard for some men to say, “I love you.”
Mar 14, 2019
Patton Oswalt
I was excited to have Patton Oswalt on the show, because I have been following his career ever since I first saw him on stage at the legendary Los Angeles club, The Largo in the mid-nineties, where he made me laugh harder than perhaps I have ever laughed before or since. But as I learned in this conversation, the road to that kind of insight and humor is a long uncertain one. As Patton says: “I worked for years doing very uncreative jobs, and for some people that’s fine, but for me, it felt deadly. It felt like a premature death in a lot of ways.” That’s how Patton felt before he was able to make a living off of his art, and it’s why he so values a career in the arts and specifically, those special creative moments, when a joke or an emotion lands and transcends all the social barriers we put between each other. Early on, Patton realized that staving off “life in a coffin” would be difficult if he let his self-critical voice take over, but he was so inspired by the arts, fellow comedians, and filmmakers that the creative doors in his head kept getting kicked open, making him realize: “Oh, I can go further because of what I just saw.” Instead of shirking in the presence of great comedians like David Cross, Sarah Silverman, and Zach Galifianakis, he stayed in the room with them and focused on working harder and getting better. With that work ethic, it’s no wonder that Patton has become successful in nearly every artistic medium he’s tried. He masterfully melds comedy and tragedy in his astounding Netflix special Annihilation, where he discusses the sudden and devastating loss of his first wife. He’s written two entertaining and insightful memoirs, Zombie Spaceship Wasteland and Silver Screen Fiend. He’s even developed a successful acting career with roles in projects like A.P. Bio, Young Adult, and Justified. There’s only one thing left for him to do now, and that’s to take on one of his first loves—filmmaking. And as I found out, that subject is a little more complicated. Patton joins Off Camera to talk about the terrors he had to conquer to make Annihilation, why making his own film scares the daylights out of him, and why you should think twice before you get a bowl of noodles from Yoshinoya on your lunch break.
Mar 07, 2019
Norman Reedus
Over the last ten years, Norman Reedus has been kicking zombie butt and endearing himself to audiences around the world in the massively successful AMC series The Walking Dead. Ten years is a long time for someone who grew up with a serious case of wanderlust and a “day-to-day” philosophy on life, but Norman wouldn’t have it any other way. “I’m so invested in The Walking Dead that I can’t imagine leaving on my own. I want to bookend it. I want to see it to its conclusion.” Norman came to acting relatively late, but he traces his desire to be an artist all the way back to childhood, when art supplies were his go-to presents for birthdays and Christmas. Along the way, he’s tried just about every artistic medium, from painting, to photography, to modeling, and even to being a muse for music video directors. But it wasn’t until he discovered a rich creative and artistic community in downtown L.A. that he found his way to acting, and as someone with a self-described “chip on his shoulder,” it wasn’t even something he took seriously until he understood the personal and emotional stakes of committing to a role. Prior to becoming a fan-favorite in The Walking Dead, Norman spent the majority of his acting career in film, most notably Boondock Saints. He’s followed a long, meandering path to reach this point, but now that he has, the road has opened up for him—and quite literally. These days, in addition to The Walking Dead, he’s filming his motorcycle travel/adventure show Ride with Norman Reedus, now in its third season on AMC. Norman joins Off Camera to talk about why being on a motorcycle is a singular experience, the moment he discovered the power of acting, and why flinging dead squirrels is more nuanced than you think.
Feb 28, 2019
Daniel Radcliffe
Before Daniel Radcliffe became the face of the global phenomenon that was Harry Potter, he was just a typical kid struggling to get through his schoolwork and get along with his teachers. Back then, his only acting credential was the BBC miniseries David Copperfield, but he made a good impression on fellow cast member Maggie Smith, who recommended him for the role that would change his life. Despite his parents’ initial reluctance, Dan was allowed to audition, and once they started filming, he discovered his happy place. “I felt pretty sh** at everything in school, so it was nice to be on a film set where my hyperactivity and all the stuff that was irritating my teachers was actually useful and encouraged.” Now nearly a decade removed from Harry Potter, he still finds acting to be a constant source of joy. When he made his first foray outside of Hogwarts, Dan bravely decided to take a giant risk, choosing the dark and psychologically complex play Equus as his coming out party. “I couldn’t do something half-assed for my first thing on stage. It was my chance to get far away from Potter as possible, both to show people that I was in it for the right reasons and to test myself.” From his work on stage to his other films like Swiss Army Man, Jungle, and Kill Your Darlings, Dan continues to challenge himself—his most recent example being his broad, playful, and comedic role in the hilarious new series Miracle Workers, opposite Steve Buscemi. Dan joins Off  Camera to talk about pressures that come with fame, taking on uncharted waters as a “magical dead guy” in Swiss Army, and how to get through a Japanese airport without dying.
Feb 21, 2019
Stephen Merchant
When Stephen Merchant grew to 6’7” as a teenager, he had a hard time blending in with the crowd, which was something he longed for. “Lots of kids in school would dye their hair pink, get lots of piercings, or do things to stand out, whereas I spent all my time trying not to stand out, trying to seem shorter, to be one of the crowd.” Despite the unwanted attention, being tall helped Stephen develop his comedic sense—“If people were just going to point at me for being tall, they might as well point and go, ‘Oh, it’s that tall funny guy.’” By the time he got to university, he decided to make a career out of standup comedy. Stephen put in the time experiencing the highest highs and crushing lows of life as a standup, but his career really took off after he teamed up with Ricky Gervais for the hit U.K. comedy series The Office. The two met while doing radio for XFM London, and their chemistry was instantaneous and undeniable. After years collaborating with Gervais and others on projects like Extras and HBO’s Hello Ladies, Stephen’s taking matters into his own hands, writing solo for the first time ever for the film Fighting with My Family, based on a real story about a wresting family in England with big aspirations to reach the WWE. Stephen joins Off Camera to talk about the expectations that come with a hit television show, why he went back to standup after a long hiatus, and how he turned his awkward dating experiences into art.
Feb 14, 2019
Regina Hall
Ever since Regina Hall showed up on screen as the hilarious, sex-craven Brenda in Scary Movie, she’s never had to worry about getting work. But what she did struggle with was getting the right kind of work, especially after discovering the flip side to success—typecasting. “I wanted great parts and interesting work. And as a woman, a black woman, I wondered if that was even possible.” Despite her concerns about a career ceiling, she continued to push for roles that were more nuanced, and less broad. Luckily, she had a thick skin, honed by growing up with three brothers, which prepared her for the ups and downs of the industry. While many female actors fear getting older in a business that values youth, Regina, now in her late-40s, is discovering that her career is blossoming with age. In the past two years, she’s been in the massively successful Girls Trip, has won multiple awards for her role in the outstanding independent film Support the Girls, and is now playing her self-proclaimed dream role in Showtime’s Black Monday, opposite Don Cheadle. Regina joins Off Camera to talk about her earliest (and wildest) career ambitions, how her father’s unexpected death jump started her acting career, and why becoming a nun is a lot harder than one might think.
Feb 07, 2019
Dax Shepard 2
It’s been 140 episodes since Dax Shepard last sat down with me, and a lot has changed since—he directed a film (ChiPs), started Armchair Expert, which is one of the best and most popular podcasts of 2018 (after stealing all of my secrets, of course), and learned a lot about what truly makes him happy in the process. In fact, his entire podcast is inspired by his fascination with true happiness.  “A lot of us go through life thinking, ‘I would be happy, if…’ ‘I would have self-esteem, if…’ ‘I would know contentment, if…’ But those are illusions that most people don’t get to find out are illusions.” Dax had the dubious honor of learning that lesson first hand. Early in his career, he had all of the status markers and money that he thought would make him happy, but none of that prevented him from reaching one of the lowest points in his life, magnified by his demoralizing addiction to alcohol and drugs. Huddled in an airport bar, sucking down Jack and Cokes, Dax took a moment to evaluate his situation. “My whole life I thought, ‘Man, if I had a million dollars…’ Well, I had a million dollars, and I couldn’t get on a flight to fly 35 minutes from San Francisco to L.A.” It’s with that wisdom that Dax asks his celebrity guests, “You’re rich, and you’re famous. Did it cure all of the things you thought it would?” In general, it doesn’t. Dax’s honesty is contagious—he brings it out in his guests and the people around him. It seems like his superpower is curating human vulnerability and talking frankly about the messiness of life, and that’s why he’s one of my favorite people to talk to. Dax joins Off Camera to talk about the misnomer that is "rock bottom," the magic osmosis that makes his marriage with Kristen Bell work so well, and why you shouldn’t compare yourself to your neighbor’s seemingly perfect life.
Jan 31, 2019
D'Arcy Carden
You may know D’Arcy Carden as the lovable, all-knowing, not-quite-robot-not-quite-human entity Janet on The Good Place, and while she may not know everything in real life, she certainly knew she wanted to act from the moment she saw her father in a local production of Thorton Wilder’s Our Town. By the time she was nine, D’Arcy had her mind set on child acting, and she tried to make her case to her father. But he didn’t buy her “I can handle it” argument, and instead, she was forced to pursue acting at school until she graduated. It was a compromise she didn’t want to make—“You’re ruining my life!” was D’Arcy’s initial reaction. But in retrospect, she wouldn’t have it any other way, proving that sometimes, parents do know whats best. (that last line was directed at my children). The struggles started soon after she graduated college and moved to New York City to conquer Broadway. “I shared a two-bedroom apartment with four, sometimes five people. I never had a dollar in New York, and I lived there for ten years. I kept auditioning, but I quickly realized, ‘It’s not going to happen right now. What the hell do I do?’” But through it all, she still tried to make a career out of acting, taking any job she could get, which often felt less like acting, and more like acting adjacent. This included being a temp, a waitress, a nanny, an extra, and even a tour guide. But it took seeing an Upright Citizens Brigade show for D’Arcy to really find her place. “I was sitting in the front row at UCB’s ASSSSCAT show, and the cast was Amy Peohler, Seth Meyers, Jason Mantzoukas, and Rob Riggle. An incredible cast. And something electric happened—it was this weird religious moment where everything came together and revealed the clearest path. I realized, ‘I don’t care what I do for the rest of my life, I want that. I want to be on stage with these people.’” D’Arcy immediately started taking improv classes, and discovered her authentic self by risking failure night after night. Over time, she gradually moved up the ladder at UCB, which ultimately opened up opportunities for television work, including her big break on Comedy Central’s Broad City. These days, she’s stealing the show on two critically-acclaimed television series: The Good Place and Barry. It turns out that nine-year-old D’Arcy was right—she really can handle the life of an actor, and she can only go up from here. D’Arcy joins Off Camera to talk about the secret mantra that keeps her confidence going, the college professor who told her she wasn’t “dark enough” to be a real actor, and why you should always be nice to the interns at UCB.
Jan 24, 2019
174. Ron Livingston
When Ron Livingston was a kid growing up in Iowa, he watched movies with the belief that being an actor meant you were transported to and fully immersed in the environment of the film. “I watched Star Wars and thought the actors were actually going into space and flying the Millennium Falcon.” Ron eventually discovered this thing called a “green screen,” but his desire to act and be fully immersed in the experience didn’t go away. A combination of talent and hard work, fueled by a (mostly) healthy dose of self-criticism, forged Ron’s career in projects like Office Space, Swingers, and Sex and the City. But it wasn’t until he was on set of Steven Spielberg’s Band of Brothers, surrounded by military tanks, explosions, and everything else a solider in a war zone might encounter, that Ron could look around and say, “When I was a kid, this is what I thought being an actor would be like.” Removing the artifice is a theme with Ron, because the less he has to act and pretend, the more he can focus on being in the moment. “All I try to worry about is showing up and being a real person. Ideally, yourself.” He’s taken that mindset to his most recent role in the dark comedy series Loudermilk as a former music critic and grumpy recovering alcoholic. His technique for getting into character? Going to some real-life AA meetings and going dry while he’s working on the show. “It makes that extra little bit miserable for those three months.” Perfect for a character like Sam Loudermilk. Ron joins Off Camera to talk about learning to listen to his instincts, why his self-critical voice is a blessing as well as a curse, and why his sleeping reel is so strong.
Dec 27, 2018
173. Steve Coogan
British actor, writer, and comedian Steve Coogan was first drawn to the magic and wonder of performing when he was a kid, sitting around the television with his family and watching comedies like Fawlty Towers and Monty Python. It was before the era of VCRs, so the only way to record something you loved was to memorize it in your head and talk about it afterwards. The whole experience left young Steve in awe: “Wow, how great would it be to do a comedy character who people had such affection for and made everyone laugh at the same time? That would be it for me—if I achieved that, I would be happy.” After spending years doing standup and impressions, Steve got a chance to achieve his dream. He created the massively popular character Alan Partridge, a lovable broadcaster who says all the things that most people think but don’t dare say. Unfortunately, Steve’s anticipated happiness only lasted until he discovered the drawback to success—typecasting. Under the heavy scrutiny of the British media, Steve, who wanted to branch out and try different things, was constantly criticized in the press when he did so. “Alan Partridge became an albatross. I had to find a way to escape from it.” Escape he did…to America. He took advantage of the fact that the Alan Partridge cult didn’t exist in the States, and he started working on different and interesting projects that spoke to him creatively like Happyish, 24 Hour Party People, and The Trip. But his ultimate escape came when he wrote the critically acclaimed drama Philomena—Oscar nominations have a tendency to shut up the critics. These days, Steve is taking on a new challenge in the film Stan & Ollie as one-half of the legendary comic duo Laurel and Hardy. For Steve, the film is a real love letter to comedy: “The paradox of good comedy is the more effortless it looks, the harder the work that went into it. It’s like a curse, because people think it’s ephemeral or trivial, but in actual fact, good comedy sheds light on the human condition. That’s what this film is about.” Steve joins Off Camera to explain why comedy is a universal language, discovering the similarities between writing comedy and drama, and why telling him he’s boring is the most insulting thing you can say to him.
Dec 20, 2018
172. Emily Mortimer
It’s hard to believe that a person who chooses to be an actor, a profession ripe with exposure and vulnerability, can also be painfully shy at the same time, but that was the reality for a young Emily Mortimer, who couldn’t even raise her hand in class without blushing. However, Emily handles fear different than most—instead of avoiding the things she’s most afraid of, she dives in head first. “I couldn’t just be a little less shy; I had to do the bravest possible thing in front of the most amount of people to overcome that feeling.” It took some more bravery from Emily to truly commit to an acting career. As an Oxford educated woman who was fluent in multiple languages, acting seemed “a bit frivolous, not a proper job,” and because she wasn’t classically trained as an actor, she felt a bit like a fraud. It wasn’t until she got the role in Nicole Holofcener’s acclaimed Lovely and Amazing, that the whole career started to make sense—it just took one incredibly emotionally and physically exposing scene to get her there. “I was standing there butt naked for minutes while this man analyzed my body, and there was no dividing line between me and my character. I finally understood what actors meant when they said ‘being in the moment.’ I could feel it.” Since then, she’s amassed an outstanding body of work in projects like The Newsroom, Shutter Island, Transsiberian, and more. She also co-wrote and co-starred in the miniseries Doll & Em, loosely based on her life and experiences in the acting business. These days she’s back on the big screen in the timely reboot Mary Poppins Returns to show us why at this juncture in history, we all could use a little Mary Poppins in our lives. Emily joins Off Camera to talk about how real genius lies inside your inner child, about how a film set can make you paranoid, and why having a catchphrase isn’t always a good thing.
Dec 13, 2018
171. Ted Danson
Ted Danson, first known to most as Cheers’ charismatic bartender Sam Malone, is now in his seventies—yet even after nearly 50 years in the business, the passion that fuels Ted’s love of his craft shows no signs of subsiding. “I think the thing that has given me any degree of career longevity comes from the fact that I love going to work. When I started acting, I didn’t think, ‘Am I going to make it? Can I support myself? Will I have a career? Will I be famous?’ I just wanted to do the next scene with the next scene partner.” Ted acknowledges that he still struggles with the darker elements of the business such as insecurity, ego, hypocrisy, and fear, but he says turning them into strengths is the key. “Shame and guilt are some of my favorite motivators in life. If you’re about to step in front of a camera and you don’t have some nerves, you’re usually headed for a really bad performance. You want that edge of fear. You want that adrenaline pump because it keeps you sharp.” These days, he’s dealing with the very essence of good and evil in NBC’s The Good Place, opposite Kristen Bell. The show explores the consequences of using a point-based evaluation system to sort people into the “Good Place” or the “Bad Place,” and it’s as entertaining as it is unique…which is exactly how Ted likes it. “My motto is to find the most creative person in the room and ask them very nicely if you can be part of whatever they’re doing, because that way, you stand a chance of being in something authentic and original. Ted joins Off Camera to talk about why Sam Malone scared the crap out of him, about finding a great partner in wife and fellow actress Mary Steenburgen, and how a simple “hey” can speak volumes, if you do it just right.
Dec 06, 2018
170. Carey Mulligan
When Carey Mulligan first stepped foot on set of 2005’s Pride & Prejudice, she was convinced she won the lottery. It was her first professional job and her first time acting in front of a camera, but there she was, acting alongside Judi Dench, Keira Knightly, and Jena Malone. “The entire experience was like summer camp; it didn’t feel like work at all.” Carey was living her dream, but she was still convinced it was all a fluke. “I remember thinking, ‘After this, I’ll reapply to drama school.’” In reality, her acting career had just begun—with the best yet to come. Her first lead role came in 2009 with the coming-of-age film An Education. Her compelling performance led to an Oscar “Best Actress” nomination and widespread critical acclaim, even though Carey was originally devastated when she first watched her performance: “It was like listening to your voice on the answering machine and wincing because of how awful you sound—but multiply that by 500.” She had gotten so used to flying under the radar in supporting roles that she was unaccustomed to the pressure and spotlight of the lead. Carey was convinced her first shot would be her last—“Sundance is going to be a disaster. They’re going to send me home.” Of course, the opposite happened. Since then, she’s amassed a stunning body of work onscreen and onstage (Shame, Far From the Madding Crowd, Mudbound, Girls & Boys, and many more), and her incredible performance in Wildlife, Paul Dano’s directorial debut, is the newest addition. She plays a unique female character, struggling to find her identity underneath the crippling expectations that come with her role as a wife and mother in the 1960s. As a complicated and volatile woman, her character is not without controversy for those used to more idealistic portrayals of women—“It’s amazing that we still live in a world where a real, complex woman, expressing herself in a multitude of ways, is dismissed as unrealistic because she’s not what we want to see.” But she cherishes the opportunity to change hearts and minds through her work. Carey joins Off Camera to talk about battling stage fright, learning how to put her insecurities in perspective, and why sometimes the key to unlocking a character is to…take off your shoes.
Nov 29, 2018
169. Bo Burnham
Before YouTube became a ubiquitous and unavoidable black hole of viral cat videos, self-aggrandizing entertainment, and misinformation, it used to be a place to share your homemade videos with family and friends. That’s how the origin story of comedian, writer, and director Bo Burnham begins, anyway. It was 2006, and 16-year-old Bo—a lover of the performing arts—wanted to share his creations, musical bits, and jokes with his brother in college. That’s where YouTube, an easy place to upload and share videos, came in. But little did he know, his videos appealed to an audience that expanded far beyond his family, and it highlights what became his key to artistic success: “The most interesting and complex thing you have to offer is what is personal to you—your subjective experience.” Bo’s interest in comedy grew as his audience expanded, and by the time he graduated high school, he decided to forgo college to pursue a stand up career, much to the initial dissatisfaction of his parents. With years of experience interacting with his internet audience, Bo, nearly instantaneously, found success on stage as a stand up comedian. By 2010, he released his first stand up special, Words Words Words, on Comedy Central, only to release two more specials, what. and Make Happy, on Netflix in the next few years. Bo recognizes that a large part of his success comes from his willingness to embrace change: “I knew to take advantage of the fact that I wasn’t going be the same at 18 and 20 and 22, so my specials changed very rapidly because I was changing very rapidly.” Even his shows are dynamic and include various theatrical elements like lighting and sound to create a stunning and unique experience. Bo’s most recent project, Eighth Grade, is yet another example of his evolving artistic identity. The film, which he wrote and directed, follows the trials and tribulations of a 13-year-old girl living in the social media era. It’s a realistic and compelling portrayal of the dissociative effects of social media. It’s not an autobiography, but the themes and feelings behind the story are still very real for him, who still identifies with his anxious and awkward teenage self. “My work is about presenting the things I’m struggling to understand rather than the things I’ve figured out—it’s what you don’t know that’s interesting.” Bo joins Off Camera to talk about the panic attack that led him to step down from stand up, why it’s so important for kids to be able to fail out loud, and why being miserable isn’t a prerequisite for good art.
Nov 22, 2018
168. Matt Damon
For those of you watching this week’s Off Camera episode, do not adjust your sets…that is me sitting across from Matt, humiliatingly dressed head to toe in a Red Sox uniform, having lost a bet to Matt when my beloved Dodgers lost in the world series for the second year in a row. And for those of you listening or reading, well, just imagine my shame. For as long as Matt Damon can remember, he wanted to be an actor. So much so that he started his college essay with those very words. But before all the accolades and success, Matt was just a kid from Cambridge, MA who loved playing sports and watching movies. His chances of becoming a pro athlete came up short (both literally and figuratively), but he was determined to make a career out of acting after the seed was planted by an influential theater teacher and nurtured by his best friend and fellow cinephile Ben Affleck. They had no road map for success, but Matt and Ben had an advantage over their teenage peers—they just wanted it more. They took the train from Boston to New York regularly for auditions, using money drawn from their communal acting bank account to cover expenses. Eventually, one of those auditions turned into a small part in the 1988 Julia Roberts feature Mystic Pizza, but Matt’s “big break” proved to be elusive. He auditioned for the eventual Academy Award winner Dead Poets Society but was rejected in favor of Ethan Hawke, and the cruel reality of the industry smacked him in the face when he was working at the local movie theater the following summer: “I went from the possibility of being in this great film to the guy tearing the movie ticket and watching people come out crying because they’re so moved. That’s the range in this business.” So Matt and Ben decided to take fate into their own hands and write a great film that they could both star in. That was how Good Will Hunting and the acclaimed acting careers of Matt and Ben came into being. It’s been 20 years, and Matt’s career is still going strong. As our first two-time guest, Matt joins Off Camera to talk about his acting mid-life crisis, the gamble that almost cost Matt and Ben Good Will Hunting, the invaluable wisdom he’s gained from directors, and why the Boston Red Sox and specifically Fenway Park carry so much significance for him.
Nov 15, 2018
167. Rosamund Pike
Early on, the stage was set for Rosamund Pike to pursue a career in the performing arts. Born to two opera singers, Rosamund had a front row seat to familial emoting. She tried her hand at both music and acting, but a bout of stage fright while playing the cello forced Rosamund to recognize that she really didn’t want to play herself on stage—she was much more interested in playing other people, where her imagination was free to roam and explore. “Acting was like diving into a place where you actually felt alive, where things felt real.” Soon after finishing college, Rosamund got her first break as a Bond girl opposite Pierce Brosnan in 2002’s Die Another Day. But playing Miranda Frost—the “epitome of icy English blondness”—in your breakout role has its drawbacks. For years, Rosamund was cast in similarly cold and confident roles, and she longed for the opportunity to do more. Enter director David Fincher, who saw something unique in Rosamund. He offered her the role of Amy Dunne in Gone Girl, and her breathtaking performance earned her a slew of awards and new opportunities to evolve as an artist in films like A United Kingdom, Hostiles, and now her latest film playing slain journalist Marie Colvin in A Private War. Her deep dive into the Marie’s life led to an intensity that was as fulfilling as it was terrifying. "You are trying to trick your brain into getting to a place where you are out of control, and that is a scary place.” But as Rosamund explains, she’s waited her entire life for the opportunity to disappear into somebody else, and in A Private War, she does just that. Rosamund joins Off Camera to talk about her fascination with human emotion, the elaborate plan she concocted to meet with David Fincher for Gone Girl, and her intimate knowledge of bone saws.
Nov 08, 2018
166. Hasan Minhaj
Ten years ago, a timid and fearful Hasan Minhaj turned down the opportunity to go to his dream school, UCLA, and instead made the safe choice: to live at home and commute to UC Davis. A year after making this decision, Hasan sat under the Michael Jordan poster in his childhood bedroom despondently wondering, “What have I done? I had the golden ticket, and I just chucked it out the window.” As he watched his childhood friends spread their wings and grow, Hasan made an important decision—he would never hedge ever again in his life. For Hasan, a child of Muslim immigrants, it was a tough philosophy to adopt, especially considering his upbringing: “Growing up, my dad’s rules were don’t talk about politics, and don’t tell people you’re Muslim. There’s nothing to be gained from it.” What Hasan didn’t hedge on was his comedy career. Unbeknownst to his father, he started secretly performing stand up comedy in the Bay Area. He’d sneak out and sometimes drive two hours to hit an open mic at a Laundromat, while he let his LSAT scores expire. His decision not to hedge in his Daily Show audition (where he cracked a joke about Jon Stewart to his face) helped get him the job as a correspondent, and since then, his career has taken off. Between his acclaimed comedy special Homecoming King, his monologue at the 2017 White House Correspondents’ Dinner, and his new Netflix show Patriot Act with Hasan Minhaj, Hasan is redefining what it means to be brown in America. Hasan joins Off Camera to talk about surviving 9/11 as an American Muslim, how he approached the highly publicized and controversial White House Correspondents’ Dinner in 2017, and why Chris Rock is the real reason he’s a comedian.
Nov 01, 2018
165. Ryan Bingham
If you ask award-winning musician Ryan Bingham where he’s from, he’ll tell you that there really isn’t one right answer. Ryan spent most of his childhood bouncing from one small Texas town to another because his father had a hard time keeping a job for longer than six months at a time. Ryan kept a half-packed cardboard box by his bedside, just in case they had to leave at a moment’s notice. “We always knew it was time to move when we’d come home, and the lights wouldn’t come on.” “Home” was less about the place and more about the people by his side, and his extended family of grandparents, aunts and uncles all played a part in raising him.  “I looked up to the men in my family. They all wore cowboy hats and boots and rode horses. They were cowboys, so that’s what I grew up wanting to be.” He took up a career as a bull rider before moving on to a less life-threatening career as a musician, thanks to his mom who bought him a guitar when he turned 16. After spending so many years feeling “misplaced," music became a powerful tool of self-discovery. “Once I found the guitar and began playing music, I finally started saying things out loud. Things I was surprised to even hear myself say.” His confessional and acutely personal songs became like therapy for him and others, who found comfort in his raw and painfully honest songwriting. Ryan joins Off Camera to talk about writing his very first song, how his life has changed since winning an Academy Award, and his adventures in the rodeo…including the time he lost all of his teeth.
Oct 25, 2018
164. Mary Elizabeth Winstead
Mary Elizabeth Winstead’s first true love was the ballet, but her body had other plans, and she grew a bit too tall for the grande jeté. Luckily, her favorite parts about ballet—performing, telling a story, playing different characters—are all essential tenets of acting, and Mary found herself in love anew. Her early experiences acting reinforced her love of the craft, but as she got older, she struggled to find her artistic place in an industry where women are often saddled with objectification and unwanted sexual attention. But it was when Mary faced the prospect of quitting that she found her voice, and became willing to say no. She also started choosing roles that weren’t based on her beauty or desirability. “I’d always prefer to take a great role in a weird horror film over playing somebody’s girlfriend in another actor’s big vanity piece.” Her dedication is evident in her work. She’s turned in incredible performances in films like Smashed, Alex of Venice, and in Noah Hawley’s hit television series Fargo. That trend continues in her newest film All About Nina in which she plays a standup comedian who is struggling to grapple with her own emotional turmoil. Mary joins Off Camera to talk about the challenges she’s faced as a woman in Hollywood, why making a performance human and believable is so essential to storytelling, and why she’ll never step foot in a casting office bathroom.
Oct 18, 2018
163. Sissy Spacek
Growing up, award-winning actress Sissy Spacek sang and danced her way through small town Texas talent shows, eventually realizing she was too big a fish for her small pond. By the time she was a teenager, Sissy set her sights on the music industry in New York City at the expense of a college education. “I went on a trip to New York, and I made friends who, at 14 years old, were top models and already working. I thought, ‘Oh god, I’m missing the boat! I’m getting old—I’ve got to get started.’” Sissy was searching for a creative experience more than anything, so when her music career failed to take off (“We like you, but you sound like an artist we already have. Her name’s Loretta Lynn.”), she was grateful that it opened doors for a career in acting—something she realized was equally fulfilling. “You know how you lose yourself in music? I remember singing to a thousand people and coming back into my body. It’s that idea of being swept away, getting lost in the creative process. And when I started acting, getting swept away by a scene, I realized it was the same thing.” She didn’t have to wait long to feel that way. Her second job was Terrence Malick’s 1973 film Badlands, and while she was falling in love with the creative process of filmmaking, which included things like falling asleep on set to wake up in character and chasing a breathtaking full moon for Malick’s perfect shot, she was also falling in love with her future husband Jack Fisk, a production designer on the film. Badlands set the bar high, but Sissy still marvels at the mysteriousness of the creative process and why/how it works. Even more remarkable—after such a long, acclaimed career, she still gets “swept away” by a powerful scene and a great character. Sissy joins Off Camera to talk about the life-changing role that she never wanted to let go, experiencing the “Robert Redford effect” for the first time in her new film Old Man and the Gun, and why it’s so important for her, as an artist, to live in the real world.
Oct 11, 2018
162. Javier Bardem
Acclaimed Spanish actor Javier Bardem comes from a long line of artists and filmmakers, but his love of cinema officially took shape when his mother, a working actress herself, snuck him into a movie theater to see Bob Fosse’s All that Jazz when he was 6 years old. It wasn’t exactly a Disney movie, but that didn’t matter—Javier was in awe. He wondered, “What is this mechanism of people, feelings, dance, music, colors, drama, and comedy? I want to be a part of that.” His passion and dedication to the craft are evident in his work—take his award-winning performances in the Coen brothers’ No Country for Old Men and Iñárritu’s Biutiful, to name a few. In his newest film Loving Pablo, Javier takes on the legend and mythology of Columbian drug lord Pablo Escobar and takes on an intensity and physicality that was even intimidating to his costar and wife Penélope Cruz. But Javier and Penélope know the difference between fiction and reality. As Javier says, “At the end of the day, I give her flowers and chocolates and say, ‘That was a lie.’ Even though it’s a part of my truth as a human being.’” Honesty is everything for Javier, even though it’s hard to attain on a daily basis. “We tell so many lies during the day because we need to protect who we are for others. When you play a character, you have to give up on that and be naked. And that’s why actors love acting—it may be the only time in the day where we are honest.” Javier joins Off Camera to talk about how being the target of senseless violence led him to discover his worth as an artist, why his marriage to Penélope Cruz works, and why therapy is the perfect tool for an actor.
Oct 04, 2018
161. Eric Idle
With Monty Python’s 50th anniversary coming up, Eric Idle thought it would be nice to put things in perspective for himself by writing a memoir, so he did, and the result, Always Look on the Bright Side of Life: A Sortabiography, is a comprehensive history of his life in comedy, and also a beautiful snapshot into the creative zeitgeist of London in the 1960s and 70s. But it also details the incredible hardships he overcame as a child and the double-edged sword that fame can be. Enlightenment came at a price for Eric, and his candor and honesty make his story engaging. Monty Python had a great impact on my own sense of humor and view of the world, and I was eager to talk to Eric about his origins in subversive humor. I found out that his anti-authoritarian personality has been a part of Eric’s identity ever since he was dropped off at age seven at boarding school, amongst a crowd of crying boys who had all lost their fathers, like Eric, in World War II. Despite his feelings of abandonment, boarding school taught Eric an important lesson about surviving hardship, whether it was bullying from older students or getting whacked with a cane by the headmaster. “I was funny and quick and that stopped me from being bullied. It’s hard for people to hit you if they’re laughing. It was a survival skill I developed there.” He also developed a keen eye for the absurd abuse of power that would become the basis of Monty Python’s unique sensibility. Somehow Eric made it all the way from the boarding school that “wasn’t the end of the world but you could see it from there,” to Cambridge University, where he found fellow future Pythons John Cleese, Graham Chapman, and Michael Palin. The rest, as they say, is comic history as Monty Python revolutionized sketch comedy on television (Monty Python’s Flying Circus), in film (Holy Grail, Life of Brian), and on stage (Spamalot) by being subversive and exploring hot-button subjects like religion, government, politics, silly walks, and dead parrots. Eric joins Off Camera to talk about why comedians feel compelled to seek approval and attention from strangers, about the challenges of being a solo writer, and the best advice he ever received…which just happened to be from a Beatle.
Sep 27, 2018
160. Elizabeth Olsen
It’s safe to say that Elizabeth Olsen didn’t have a normal childhood. As the other sister to the Olsen twins, Elizabeth Olsen had a front row seat to her sisters’ experience in the spotlight, media circus included, and she also witnessed what it was like to be a working actor—something she wanted to be but was embarrassed to admit. “I had this fear that people would think I didn’t earn or deserve the things I worked for because of who I was naturally associated with.” The nepotism critique motivated her to prove her worth, but that turned out to be the easy part. Elizabeth’s a hard worker by nature. After all, you don’t get dubbed NYU’s notorious “Rehearsal Nazi” for nothing. And very soon, people started taking notice, and Elizabeth started getting roles, including the one that led to her breakout performance in Martha Marcy May Marlene. Since then, Elizabeth has conquered the world of independent film (Wind River, Kodachrome, Ingrid Goes West) and the blockbuster world of Marvel’s Avengers franchise as superhero Scarlet Witch. Elizabeth is the kind of actor who loves the work and the craft, and she’s also the kind of artist who wants to take risks. In her newest project, Sorry for Your Loss, a Facebook Watch series that explores grief, she plays a widow trying to piece her life back together—not easy subject matter, but as you’ll see, Elizabeth will rise to any challenge thrown her way. Elizabeth joins Off Camera to talk about the biggest lesson she’s learned from her family, why she may be one of the few actors who likes to audition, and why she’s the most Zen type A person you’ll ever meet.
Sep 20, 2018
159. Chris Messina
If things turned out differently, Chris Messina might have been the next Baryshnikov. But growing up, the other kids in his small Long Island town wouldn’t let him dance without a fight—the ensuing nickname “Ballerina Boy” and other more graphic homophobic slurs followed him around for most of his adolescence, as did a persistent questioning of his own identity. By the time Chris was asked to be in his school’s rendition of the musical Pippin, he almost didn’t do it. As he explains, “I was so scared to be in the musical, and scared to show people my dancing because I got beat up so much for it. But I remember going to school the day after my performance, and it felt like I was finally seen.” After that experience, Chris fell in love with the hard work of the craft. He dropped out of college to pursue acting full time, and after a brief stint trying to be Jack Kerouac, started winning roles in the theater and playing dark, complicated characters. In his mind, he was on his way to becoming his heroes (or antiheroes, more accurately) like DeNiro, Hackman, Walken, and Duvall. But then movies and TV happened, and Chris found himself with a “nice guy” problem. A series of roles in rom-coms like Julie & Julia and Vicki Cristina Barcelona and his multi-season work on The Mindy Project was taking him, in his mind, further from the mean streets of his acting dreams. And the simple fact is, Chris has the ability to disappear into any role he is offered—nefarious, noble-hearted, or otherwise. But for an actor who tends to question everything, Chris wondered if he saw himself differently than Hollywood did. Then along came Sharp Objects, director Jean-Marc Valée’s dark and disturbing discourse on family dysfunction, murder, and self-harm. Chris landed the part of the out of town detective, and turned in a performance that is subtle, dirty, and so realistic that you could swear that he wasn’t acting. Which, as he explains, he barely was. And for Chris, who longs to “get inside the engine and get dirty,” it was an experience that changed his whole approach to acting. Chris joins Off Camera to talk about feeling like an outsider, living a real-life actor’s nightmare, and the benefits of watching Chinatown over and over and over again.
Sep 13, 2018
158. Paul Feig
Writer and director Paul Feig has an uncanny ability to reflect humanity. He showed us the cringe-y and torturous moments of adolescence in the cult television show Freaks and Geeks, and in his female-centric, hit comedies Bridesmaids, Ghostbusters, and Spy, his characters are honest and realistic, in addition to hilarious. Paul’s at it again with his newest foray into the art of self-examination in A Simple Favor, a film starring Anna Kendrick and Blake Lively that examines the unsettling, dark underpinnings of friendship, marriage, and mommy blogs. A self-described “gentle giant,” Paul was an overly sensitive kid growing up, making him an attractive candidate for bullying. As Paul says, “When someone says the phrase ‘locker room talk,’ all I hear is me getting tortured. I don’t know why there aren’t laws against kids taking showers at school." But Paul’s sensitivity was also a blessing—it made him a better writer and performer, two things he always wanted to be. Luckily, being on stage (brandishing an amateur magic kit) was one of the few places where Paul felt appreciated as a teenager: “I used to do my magic act at retirement homes; that’s the circuit when you’re a young teen magician. I’d been so tortured in high school, so the only time I ever felt lauded or admired was when I was onstage.” With that little bit of positive reinforcement, Paul decided to strike out for Hollywood. He took an initial 20 year detour as an actor, but eventually found his way to writing and directing after a particularly inspiring conversation with director John Landis. Paul walked out of that conversation saying, “I want to be that guy. I want to be a director.” And we’re all better off for it. Paul joins Off Camera to talk about the humiliating moment that led him to give up acting in favor of directing, the key to making a successful comedy, and why he hates questions that start with “Why…?”
Sep 06, 2018
157. Uzo Aduba
After a particularly disheartening audition, Uzo Aduba sat on the NYC subway in tears, resigning herself to the fact that she’d never be a working television actor. “Uzo, acting is not for you. This is the universe telling you that this will never be yours,” she said to herself. So, with sushi takeout and a bottle of wine in hand, Uzo made her decision to quit, praying, “God, if you can figure out a way for me to go back to school and become a lawyer, I will go.” Of course, the universe had other plans. Forty-five minutes after arriving home, Uzo received the call offering her the role of Suzanne “Crazy Eyes” Warren in Netflix’s Orange is the New Black. Growing up in a nearly all-white Massachusetts suburb, Uzo was accustomed to feeling her otherness and perceiving those differences (from her Nigerian heritage, to the food she brought to lunch, to the gap in her teeth) as undesirable. Coming to terms with her self-image was a struggle, but she received a lot of help from her mom. “My mom’s the most amazing person in the world—she gave me the belief that I was enough, just the way I was.” She’s carried that lesson to Orange is the New Black. Uzo’s own personal struggle with identity is a large reason why the show, which has such a diverse and wide-ranging female cast, is so powerful to her. As she says, “Having been someone who felt unseen since childhood, to be on a show that tells the story of people who are unseen is powerful. I work with a cast of women who have been unseen, so for us to be sitting on television, being celebrated for our work is the greatest gift that I have ever been given.” Uzo joins Off Camera to explain why she’s so protective of her character Suzanne, how her mom perfected the art of Miyagi-ing, and why acting is really just like skydiving.
Aug 30, 2018
156. Awkwafina
Awkwafina (also known as Nora Lum) is having quite a moment. She's a part of the impressive cast of female icons (Sandra Bullock, Rihanna, Cate Blanchett, and more) in Ocean’s 8, and she’s so hilarious in Crazy Rich Asians that you’ll barely hear her next line over the sound of your own laughter. What does this moment in the spotlight feel like? Awkwafina likens it to this: “I compare it to a wall opening up and transporting you to an alternate dimension where there is no gravity, and everything is weird.” Her initial shock isn’t so strange when you consider the fact that she never allowed herself to dream of a career in the arts, and there weren’t exactly any female Asian-American actress/rapper hybrids to pave the road to possibility. Awkwafina tried to follow the path that her friends took after college, but living the buttoned-up office life of a publicity assistant in Manhattan wasn’t really her thing. When her boss made her choose between her music and her unfulfilling job, it wasn’t much of a contest—not only because she got fired, but especially because her identity was at stake. As she explains, “If I didn’t have my music, then I didn’t have an identity.” With nothing to lose, she decided to post her “My Vag” music video on Youtube, in which she hilariously raps about the superiority of her genitalia. After the push of a “Publish” button, Awkwafina became a viral success—and the rest is herstory. As the first Asian-American actress/rapper of any consequence, Awkwafina acknowledges, “Being the first sucks, but I found what I love. I found what I always dreamt of as a kid that would connect with adulthood. It’s so powerful for me. I finally feel like I can walk and know what I’m doing. I know why I’m there.” Awkwafina joins Off Camera to talk about embracing the responsibility that comes with being an Asian-American actor in Hollywood, discovering her comedic talents post personal tragedy, and why Margaret Cho is her spirit animal.
Aug 23, 2018
155. Chris O'Dowd
Since his role in Bridesmaids as the charming and lovable cop who really hates littering and broken taillights, Irish-born actor Chris O’Dowd has taken audiences by storm. There was his captivating Tony award-winning performance on Broadway as Lenny in John Steinbeck’s Of Mice and Men, and Moone Boy, a show about his upbringing that he wrote, produced, and starred in. Most recently, he’s kicking butt and taking names (and scripts and meetings) as an Irish-mobster-turned-Hollywood-producer alongside Ray Romano in Get Shorty. Though you can find Chris on television, in films, and in theaters these days, Hollywood success wasn’t always a sure bet for Chris. In fact, for many years, his career was so touch and go that he had to watch his first appearance on Conan at a local bar because his cable had just been cut off due to not being able to pay his bill. Chris tried his luck in America after achieving enough fame in the U.K. to realize the limits of staying in London. He didn’t have much of a plan, but he was lucky enough to have a few people in his corner, including Bridesmaids’ director Paul Feig, who was a huge fan of Chris’ work in the British sitcom The IT Crowd. After seeing the impressive list of actors he was up against, Chris was so sure he wasn’t going to get his iconic role in Bridesmaids that it actually took all of the pressure off the audition, which in turn, helped him get the role. Or as he says, “I’ve learned to lower my expectations, and that has worked out for me.” Chris tells me about that epiphany and much more when he joins Off Camera to talk about the moment he discovered he was into the “drama weirdos,” why tragedy is an essential element of comedy, and the proper way to speak pirate (Hint: It’s not “Oo-argh!”).
Aug 16, 2018
154. Rose Byrne
Even with all of her success, Rose Byrne still spent years of her career wailing and breaking down in audition rooms. As she says, “Women often have to start with a break down scene in auditions. Do guys have to do this? No. It’s such a cliché, but it’s always crying…or she’s got her top off. The classic hits of what the female character’s doing.” Luckily, Rose hasn’t been limited to those “classic hits.” Her break out performance in America came opposite Glenn Close in FX’s thrilling legal drama series Damages, a show that was ahead of its time with two strong female protagonists. Since then, she’s flourished in big budget comedies like the female-centric films Bridesmaids and Spy, and she’s shown off her “rowdy Aussie” side (not the stereotypical woman-as-buzzkill-in-comedy side) in Neighbors, opposite Seth Rogan. Her most recent film is Juliet, Naked, a small film based on the Nick Hornby novel of the same name. Shooting a small film in a quiet, seaside village in England is a big change from big budget Hollywood, but the experience is quite familiar to Rose, bringing her back to her Australian roots. Reflecting back on where she’s come from is a theme for Rose, especially when she’s struggling to maintain a “thick skin” after rejection or when the harsh self-critic is a little too loud in her head. After taking some advice from a friend, Rose agrees, “You have to look back and look how far you’ve come, because it’s the only way you can give yourself a break.” Indeed. Rose joins Off Camera to discuss the most challenging aspect of being an actress in the public eye, how following her intuition serves her well as an actor, and why a successful comedy film like Bridesmaids is really just lightning in a bottle.
Aug 09, 2018
153. Betty Gilpin
Before she was body slamming opponents as her wrestling alter-ego Liberty Belle in GLOW, Betty Gilpin was coming to terms with her own self-perception—the beta personality who sat with the bugs and observed human behavior as a kid wasn’t matching with what the industry saw on the outside. They noticed her beauty and her body, but failed to notice her “monster soup.” She pulls no punches about her own career, describing many of the parts she got as one-dimensional female stereotypes, or “Voldemort Drag Bimbo Barbies.” All Betty wanted was a role that reflected her ultra-creative insides, which makes sense when you consider that both her parents were theater actors, and she spent her childhood in the playhouses of New York City. “I grew up with the sense that there’s a magic underbelly to the world—a tribe of these special clown people who gossip while putting on false eyelashes and hand out Werther’s candies while you listen to the play over the intercom.” The magic she experienced as a kid is something she's trying desperately to hold on to and not take for granted. As someone who has struggled with insecurity, Betty warns, “You don’t want all of the doors to creativity to close because you’re so worried about being judged.” After five arduous auditions for GLOW, the role of a lifetime was finally hers, and it represented a sea change for Betty. She’s valued for her insides, the weird creative parts that want to roam free, and her body is seen as an example of female empowerment, not as a sex symbol custom made for the male gaze.  "I'm in a race to get to a place where I love myself, so when the things that the patriarchy has told me are valuable about myself start to leave and fade and wrinkle beautifully, I can say, 'Oh, I don't think that about myself anymore.'" Betty joins Off Camera to discuss why her brain resembles a Pixar movie, what “monster soup” is and why it’s so important to her, the emotional and physical break down that changed her life, and what it really feels like to be an actress. Like, really, honestly, what it feels like.
Jul 05, 2018
152. Keri Russell
After an exhausting 16-hour workday on the set of Felicity, Keri Russell treated herself to a matinée at a movie theater in Santa Monica, and a group of girls her age caught her eye. She remembers, "They were just a group of friends going on a fun road trip together, and I cried because I wanted that life. I just wanted to be a teenager." Fame and the responsibilities of work are not without their challenges, especially for a girl whose childhood was put on hold after being cast in Disney's Mickey Mouse Club and later, the hit WB series Felicity. As Keri explains, "You’re supposed to mess up when you’re a kid, and it’s supposed to be okay. When money is riding on you, you grow up so fast." Keri had the wherewithal to take a break after Felicity and catch up on what she missed: wandering New York City, reading books, and being a young adult without a hit television show riding on her shoulders. After her hiatus, Keri found that delicate balance between working as an actor and having enough breathing room to be happy doing it. But getting out from under the image of the aspirational, good natured America's sweetheart as Felicity proved to be difficult. Keri says, "I certainly played a lot of nice moms for a long time. In my 20's and 30's, there was something about my face that screamed nice pregnant girl.” Luckily for Keri, The Americans came along and mixed things up for her, professionally and personally. In the hit FX series, she plays the anti-America's Sweetheart—a Russian spy—along with her on- and off-screen husband Matthew Rhys. For someone seeking a balance between her work and personal life, she really nailed it with The Americans. (Even though you'll never hear her say, "Nailed it!" after an audition.) Keri joins Off Camera to discuss the creepy factor of being a child actor, what makes her Americans' character Elizabeth so unique, and how taking her favorite disguises from the show out for a spin can give her a taste of the simple life. 
Jun 28, 2018
151. Alison Brie
After spending seven years on AMC’s Mad Men and NBC’s Community, Alison Brie decided to take some time off from television. It wasn’t until she read a script based on the 80’s female wrestling show G.L.O.W. (“Gorgeous Ladies of Wrestling”), that Alison decided to dive back into TV. Problem was—even with her past success, the show’s executives just weren’t convinced she could do it. Alison had to fight for the role of Ruth and endure a drawn out, emotional rollercoaster ride of an audition process. As she says, “I would go from thinking, ‘Yes! I’m amazing!’ to sobbing in my car and thinking, ‘Oh god, it’s never going to happen!’” She was content to let her desire show, ignoring the old adage of never letting your desperation show in an audition. “I don’t really care for being aloof, so it’s never going to be the vibe I put out. I wear my heart on my sleeve, and that’s definitely a similarity I share with Ruth.” Her journey to the show may have been difficult, but her experience on the set of GLOW has been magical. She says the show is like fantasy fulfillment—she gets to play a woman who goes after what she wants. Alison’s also getting a taste of the empowerment that comes when women have ownership over stories about women. Alison joins Off Camera to discuss how the stunts on GLOW are real and really dangerous, how dealing with sexual harassment in character forced her to come to terms with her own #MeToo experiences, and what to do when you are acting with Meryl Streep. Hint: Keep your mouth shut and try to steal all her tricks!
Jun 21, 2018
150. Rachel Brosnahan
Ever since she was a little girl traveling back and forth between Chicago and London with a carry-on bag filled with books, Rachel Brosnahan has been a lover of storytelling. Eventually, the joy of entering the world of fantasy and exploring her imagination opened Rachel’s eyes to the performing arts. By the time she applied to college, becoming an actress was her goal, despite the concerns of her parents. As Rachel says, “Nobody wants their kid to come home and say, ‘Mom, Dad, I’m going to be an actor.’ My parents were terrified. They were like, ‘But you’re so smart! Please do something else.’” Rachel wouldn’t budge from her dream, but the resistance from her parents served her well, and fostered a sense of independence and determination. As she says, “If you tell me I can’t, I’m going to do it, and I’m going to go all the way.” That focus paid off. After four years at NYU’s prestigious Tisch School, Rachel landed a role in Netflix’s hit series House of Cards as the mysterious call-girl Rachel Posner. What was originally a two-episode commitment turned into a reoccurring role and a launching pad for Rachel's career, including projects like Manhattan and most recently, The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, for which she won a Golden Globe. As Midge Maisel, Rachel takes on her first lead role as a housewife who accidentally discovers she is a comedian in 1950’s New York City. The role required a deep commitment into research about the era, feminism, and stand up comedy, which came with a fair amount of discomfort. As Rachel says, “When I really love something, I’m the most anxious about it and feel the most vulnerable doing it. I feel fulfilled and petrified simultaneously, and it’s the best feeling.” That’s why Rachel believes suffering for her art is a necessary part of the process because if “[she] doesn’t feel absolutely terrible, it’s probably not very good.” She did draw the line at actually performing stand up, however, explaining that if she was playing a doctor, she wouldn’t actually perform surgery as part of her research. Fair point. Rachel joins Off Camera to discuss why it's so difficult to teach art, the depths she’ll go to research and mine a character, and what really happens between chapter 3 and chapter 4.
Jun 14, 2018
149. Sarah Paulson
From the outside, it would appear that Sarah Paulson, after her Emmy award-winning performance as prosecutor Marcia Clark in The People v. O.J. Simpson, has "made it." She's got a role in Ocean's 8, her first "big sh**-kicker, popcorn movie,” and has the luxury of sifting through multiple film and television offers to choose a part that “sparks something inside of her.” What more could an actor want? But that's exactly the problem for Sarah. She wants the want. Without it, she finds herself in a bit of an identity crisis. She wants to fight for roles and be challenged by an acting part that requires total commitment. As she explains, “Before Marcia Clark, I was full of all that want. I don’t have that anymore.” The road to this point was not an easy one for Sarah. She never had her Cannes or Sundance moment like peers Carey Mulligan or Maggie Gyllenhaal. She fought hard for many pilots that never saw the light of day. When she did get her big break, on Aaron Sorkin’s Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip, it was cancelled after one season. Luckily, Ryan Murphy eventually came into her life. The prolific producer, writer, and director saw Sarah’s unique talent of being able to completely disappear into characters, and immediately started casting her in projects like The People v. O.J. Simpson and American Horror Story. She's finally being seen, and she gives full credit to Murphy for continuing to throw her "the juiciest, meatiest bones on the planet." And lucky for us, she’s still hungry. Sarah joins Off Camera to discuss why being an actor (or a person, for that matter) is not for the faint of heart, what's behind her decision not to watch her own performances, and why you’d better not fall asleep on a plane!
Jun 07, 2018
148. Natasha Leggero
How long can you continue to hear the word “no” before you lose confidence in your dream? If you’re Natasha Leggero, the answer is never. Rockford, Illinois was not a kind place for the aspiring actress. There was the art teacher who told her she’d never be an artist, the English teacher who told her she’d never be a writer, and her mother, who told her not to go to New York City. As Natasha says, “They aren’t looking at the big picture in a small town. They’re raising people to work at Walmart.” When she finally made the decision to buck conventional wisdom and go to New York, she was met with more emphatic “no’s”—including one from a talent agent who told Natasha that she was too short to be an actress. (Al Flanagan, where are you now?) Despondent but undeterred, Natasha left New York to try her luck in Los Angeles, and shortly thereafter stumbled upon the Comedy Store in Los Angeles. After watching an aspiring actress friend at an open mic, she was hooked. As she says, “I never really knew what standup was. I didn’t know you could dress cool and talk about how dumb everyone was. I didn’t know you could be a modern girl and talk about your thoughts.” With some hard work and a little courage (in the form of Valium), Natasha’s first set went amazingly well, which was exactly what she needed after all those “no’s.” As she explains, “If I had bombed, I don’t know if I would have gotten back up there.” Thankfully they all laughed, because since that night, Natasha’s comedy and acting careers have been on a forward march. She’s the showrunner and costar of Comedy Central’s Another Period and her joint comedy special with her husband and fellow comedian Moshe Kasher called The Honeymoon Stand Up Special is out now on Netflix. Natasha joins Off Camera to discuss why comedians make the best company, why public transportation can be a comedy goldmine, and why nothing is sacred when you’re in a relationship with a comedian.
May 31, 2018
147. Peter Krause
Peter Krause has been a fixture on quality television for the past 20 years, starting with Aaron Sorkin’s critically acclaimed and gone too soon debut, Sports Night. Soon after, Peter played Nate Fisher in HBO's Six Feet Under, exploring the concept of death in a way that was deeply moving to both the audience and to Peter personally. Then came Parenthood, another deeply moving series, in which his character Adam Braverman became the benchmark for being a good husband and father.  These days, Peter's trying to save lives as Bobby Nash, a Los Angeles fire captain with a dark past, in Ryan Murphy's "procedural drama on steroids," 9-1-1. What ties all of these shows together is Peter’s ability to illuminate the human condition, a skill he learned in acting school at NYU, and something he takes very seriously. Part of what makes Peter so magnetic as an actor is his ability to shed light on the inner struggle that we all go through. He has a way of communicating subtle emotions that hold a mirror up to the audience. But that doesn’t come without a price. As Peter says, "It can be hard to live inside a character's skin. I don't think you ever completely abandon yourself when you take on a character, but your sense of self does become fluid in the process. Sometimes I just want to be me for a while.” He's been grappling with questions of identity and authenticity ever since he was a kid growing up in Minnesota, observing and analyzing the behaviors of those around him. And that wasn’t always easy either. Peter struggled with his relationship with his father, and often had to find his own way without the support or understanding of his talents and desires. All of that introspection has served him well in his career and in his life because, as Peter says, "To understand your powers and your limitations is the point of being a human being."  Peter not only understands his powers and limitations, he understands ours, and that is why he is so mesmerizing to watch. Peter joins Off Camera to discuss discovering acting, why playing a character who is too familiar is terrifying, how the baritone horn became the source of his teenage rebellion, and what it's like to be a hero to funeral directors nationwide.
May 24, 2018
146. John Mulaney
It all started with Ricky Ricardo and I Love Lucy. That's when young John Mulaney discovered the appeal of life in show business. Add his love of "everything funny" and some outrageous childhood experiences to the mix, and it's no wonder John became a comedian, even if it's an unexpected choice for the son of two lawyers. John had a knack for wordplay and joke rhythms as a kid, but he started fleshing out his skills when he joined Georgetown's improv troupe, a breeding ground for comics like Nick Kroll and Mike Birbiglia. Discomfort and anxiety plagued John early on, but joining Birbiglia's standup tour helped him overcome the awkwardness of being on stage. As John says, "Mike absolutely turned me into a comedian. The tour was life-changing; I wanted to do standup every night after that." John also spent six seasons as a comedy writer for Saturday Night Live, and he was the brains behind fan-favorite sketches and characters like Bill Hader's Stefon. The job came with a lot of responsibility, but John loved it. He says, "I was like a producer of live TV at 25. Once my sketch was picked, I would go around to every department, discussing with them how it would look, the costume, set, everything you were hoping for." These days, John's making us laugh with his standup. His Netflix comedy special John Mulaney: Kid Gorgeous at Radio City offers a hilarious glimpse of his childhood and family life. When he's on tour, John spends his nights onstage talking about the things that make him absolutely crazy or delight him. Looks like his Ricky Ricardo dream lives on. John joins Off Camera to discuss mining his life for comedy, why the best approach in life is one without expectations, and why we all need a little bit of Street Smarts in our lives.
May 17, 2018
145. Jason Isbell
Growing up poor to parents barely past their own adolescence was not without its struggles, but luckily for Jason Isbell, familial bonds run deep in rural Alabama. Unable to afford daycare, Jason's parents often dropped him at his grandparent’s, where he spent the day playing music. As Jason says, "From the time I was seven years old, I would take this huge Dreadnought guitar and play old gospel rhythms and country with my grandad. It was bluegrass all day long, and that was my first real interaction with anything creative." Jason's obsession with the guitar was evident to his family. So much so, that the one punishment that was off-limits was taking away said guitar. He even slept with guitar because once he realized he could play, being a musician was the only thing that entered his mind. His passion and focus led teenage Jason to the live music scene in Muscle Shoals, a recording studio mecca in Alabama. He played alongside seasoned musicians like David Hood, who provided wisdom and expertise to Jason, whose confidence was "way beyond where it should have been." Eventually Jason joined Drive-By Truckers, Hood's son Patterson's band, which exposed him to the spoils and temptations of the rock and roll lifestyle. After a number of tumultuous years with the Truckers, Jason realized that collaboration was not necessarily his strong suit. After a stint in rehab, Jason began his solo career and formed his own band, The 400 Unit (wait until you hear about the origin of that name!). Since that time, Jason has developed into one of the greatest songwriters of his or any other generation as evidenced by his singing and songwriting on Southeastern, Something More Than Free, and his newest album The Nashville Sound. It's refreshing to sit down with an artist who is so focused on protecting the integrity of his art, because, as he says, "Good art reminds you of your similarities rather than your differences, and bad art reminds you so much of your differences." Jason joins Off Camera to discuss the moment he discovered that he was a songwriter, how there's no such thing as writer's block, and why it's cool to walk around with his pants down (emotionally, that is).
May 10, 2018
144. Christina Hendricks
If there's one thing Christina Hendricks thought she would never be, it's a professional actor. It took years for her to realize that getting paid to be an actor was an actual thing ("I don't know how it passed me by. I was a real bozo."). But if there's one thing Christina always wanted to be, it's an artist. And a suffering one at that. Ever since she saw 1980's Fame, Christina was sold on a life in the arts. As she says, "I wanted to be a suffering artist when I was like nine. There was something very romantic and passionate about that idea to me. It was about reaching beauty, and there was something about that that swept me off my feet." It helped that she grew up in a place like Twin Falls, Idaho—which may have been a small town, but the community really cared about the arts. Christina got a rude awakening at 13 years old when her family moved to Virginia. Starting in a brand new environment for high school is hard enough, but realizing that the thing you love, the thing your old town took so much pride in, is "100% not cool" must have been devastating. Luckily for Christina, embracing her individuality was much more appealing than conforming to what was "cool" as evidenced by her black lipstick, fishnets, and combat boots. That independent spirit is what led Christina to start modeling after high school and later, to pursue a career in acting, once she realized that was something she could do, of course. For eight years, Christina played Joan Holloway in the critically-acclaimed AMC series Mad Men. The show was a pioneer for hour-long dramas on cable television, and Christina's excited to bring some of that pioneering to NBC's Good Girls, an unexpectedly nuanced, dark, and interesting network show. Christina joins Off Camera to discuss why her dad's such a tough audience, how she once lost feeling in her hands and feet on stage, how she dealt with bullying in high school, and why she really wants to see another Björk in a swan suit.
May 03, 2018
143. Josh Radnor
"I will never do a sitcom. Never. You hear that universe?” That's what Josh Radnor said to himself after some early rejections in Los Angeles. Little did he know that a few years later, he'd star in How I Met Your Mother, one of the most successful sitcoms in the history of television. Josh learned quickly that fame isn't all it's cracked up to be. The more successful the show got, the unhappier he became. But as Josh says, "The gift of my discontent with fame was that it punctured the illusion that a hit show would save my life, and it actually made me get very serious about what matters."   Josh's course correction included writing and directing two films, Happythankyoumoreplease and Liberal Arts, and starting his own band, Radnor & Lee, with Australian musician Ben Lee. Oh, and he’s back on television too, playing the lead in Jason Katims’ new show Rise. Josh has noticed his life imitating his art in the hour long drama series on NBC, as he finds himself the veteran among a cast mostly made up of high school age students, whom he mentors both on and off screen. Josh joins Off Camera to explain why every creative life requires taking risks, why mistakes are always welcome at Radnor & Lee shows, and why he would make a pretty good defense attorney.
Apr 26, 2018
142. Mae Whitman
Mae Whitman started her career in tears. As a two-year-old, Mae accompanied her mother, a successful voice actress, to one of her auditions which was cut short when Mae burst into the room crying. The casting folks were sold and said, “Hey, she’s really cute. Does she want to be in a commercial?” Within a few years, Mae had landed a role in the blockbuster action film Independence Day and was witnessing the magic of moviemaking for herself. Though she had an early start as an actor, her life wasn’t always easy. In high school, Mae was bullied, and eating lunch in the bathroom seemed like the best way to escape the incessant criticism and gossip. As Mae says, “It was truly a challenge to be in this adult world of acting, and then enter back into the world of school, stress, and kid stuff.” For someone who had such a tough time at school, it’s ironic that even a decade post-graduation, Mae Whitman still found herself in cinematic high school, often playing the well-adjusted teenager with the weight of the world on her shoulders in projects like Parenthood and The DUFF. As great as she was in these roles, it is refreshing to now see Mae take on adulthood, motherhood, (and burglary) in NBC’s new series Good Girls. What’s it like to finally act her age? Mae fills us in. Join my Off Camera conversation with Mae as we discuss why she’s stalking Taylor Kitsch (a.k.a. Tim Riggins of Friday Night Lights), how a career in acting is really a test of endurance, and why she fears she might be a “secret monster.”
Apr 19, 2018
141. Zach Woods
We all know that adolescence is rife with tumultuous changes, puberty, pimples and braces, but those are also our formative years, and our artistic identities begin to take shape. And no one I know took more of a left turn, post-orthodontist, than Zach Woods. You see, Zach really wanted to be a jazz musician, and as a highly motivated kid, he would force himself to practice trumpet for hours a day with a “spartan-like, self-inflicted discipline” (complete with a fedora!). But things changed when Zach got braces. Unable to practice, he reluctantly let go of his dream to become the next Miles Davis and instead filled his newfound free time with an improv class at Upright Citizens Brigade in New York City. Surprisingly, for someone who was so rigid in his approach to the arts, Zach was drawn to the high-wire nature of improv comedy. As he says, “The threat of humiliation is so present in the moment that you can’t look ahead or back. It’s like a weird terror based form of meditation.” But discomfort is the price of doing something worthwhile, and Zach quickly rose up the ladder at UCB. By the time he was in college at NYU’s Tisch School, he was teaching improv to adults twice his age. These days, Zach is known for his television roles like the motherly Jared Dunn in Silicon Valley and the duplicitous Gabe in The Office, but he is still considered a master improviser by those who work with him, like Silicon Valley creator Mike Judge and fellow “terror meditators” Thomas Middleditch, Kumail Nanjiani, and Martin Starr. This unlikely troupe of comedic actors have created a unique bond on Silicon Valley, propelling the show to five successful seasons and counting, despite being, in Zach’s words, “a lot worse looking than their stand-ins.” Zach joins Off Camera to discuss the strange characters who influenced his childhood, why Jared is a bit more like Zach than he would like to admit, how it’s possible that he was cursed by his Wiccan piano teacher, and why he starts everyday with a "death prayer."
Apr 12, 2018
140. John Goodman
John Goodman wasn’t always the imposing presence he is today, but he’s always had his charisma. As an eighth grader in Missouri, John charmed the “hard guys” in school with a spot-on Gomer Pyle impression so they would protect him. As he explains, “I was a little fat kid. I had the glasses with the tape in the middle. I was nerdy, man.” Heavily influenced by Marlon Brando and captivated by the language of Shakespeare, John discovered his dream to become an actor and left the Midwest to make it happen. After a stint as Thomas Jefferson in a dinner theater rendition of 1776, John found commercial success in New York City, but his career really took off when Roseanne came along in the late ‘80s. He’s also been a fixture in Coen brothers’ movies (Raising Arizona, Barton Fink, The Big Lebowski, and more), bringing his characteristic physicality to roles that simmer with an explosive energy. Exhibit A—screaming obscenities and beating the bejesus out of a Corvette with a crow bar in The Big Lebowski. That on-screen volatility was also present in John’s off-screen life. Decades of heavy drinking forced John to confront his demons, and as a self-described “egomaniac with an inferiority complex,” he has come out the other side with humility, grace, and an endearingly self-deprecating sense of humor. His perspective on his life and career is downright fascinating. John brings candor and wit to our Off Camera conversation. We discuss why “everything is on the page” with the Coen brothers, how Roseanne came back after a 21-year hiatus, why John looked for trouble in Central Park, and how the movie Animal House was a terrible influence on him.
Apr 05, 2018
139. Dan Stevens
Dan Stevens rose to fame in the popular British period drama Downton Abbey. And don’t say you didn’t get a little weepy when good old Matthew Crawley met his untimely death due to a lack of seatbelts and a desire to leave British costume drama behind. Dan had this crazy idea to move to America and test his mettle in roles and environs as far from Highclere Castle as possible. You might think he was mad for leaving a show at the height of its popularity, but Dan’s pretty comfortable with madness. As he explains, “Filmmaking is an exercise in collective madness; it’s one mad person saying, ‘I have this mad idea. What do you think?’ When you find another mad person who thinks you’re maybe not so mad, it’s the most beautiful thing in the world.” An appetite for expanding his oeuvre has led Dan to team up with fellow madman Noah Hawley as the lead in his mind-boggling television show Legion, very loosely based on the Marvel comic book series of the same name. Dan plays David Haller, a seemingly schizophrenic mutant whose mind has been hijacked by a disturbing and hilarious parasite, played by a maniacal Aubrey Plaza. And if that sounds confusing, you don’t know the half of it. Dan joins Off Camera to discuss what he loves about the uncertainty of Legion, how he found his voice for Beauty and the Beast, why you might catch him at the local deli taking a new accent out for a spin, and why we must hold on to our invisible wrist watches.
Mar 29, 2018
138. Bill Hader
As a high school kid growing up in Oklahoma, Bill Hader received a progress report from his French teacher that had remarkable foresight: “Bill is very funny in class. He’ll probably be on Saturday Night Live one day. He has a 37% in class though. He will not be speaking French.” Bill had a natural gift for doing voices and impressions, and years later, he would indeed join SNL. For eight years, he brought memorable characters to life, including fan-favorites like his exasperated Vincent Price, the lecherous Italian Vinny Veducci, and Weekend Update correspondent Stefon. As one of the most talented cast members on the show, it’s hard to believe Bill when he tells me that it was never his dream to be on Saturday Night Live. After his eight-year stint on SNL and roles in a number of films (The Skeleton Twins, Trainwreck, Inside Out), Bill’s finally realizing his dream with Barry, his upcoming HBO show about a hitman who really wants to be an actor. Bill directs, writes, and stars in the show, and because he favors truthfulness over funny gags, it’s one of the most unique shows on television: “In comedy, it’s so easy to come up with gags and little bits. It’s a lot harder to make a person’s emotional journey make sense.” Bill Hader joins Off Camera to discuss storytelling in Barry, struggling with anxiety on SNL, why he waited so long to pursue his dream to become a filmmaker, and why everyone in town thought he was on drugs in high school.
Mar 22, 2018
137. Andie MacDowell
When Andie MacDowell was a curious and wide-eyed 8-year-old, a trip to the university theater with her mother planted a seed. The adults on stage were playing make believe, her most favorite game in the world, and she was mesmerized. Add a penchant for prank calls and some improv with unsuspecting barkeeps, and the seed that was planted would later grow into her passion for acting. And Andie is nothing if not passionate. Over 30 years in the industry and she’s still chomping at the bit to stretch and grow despite how challenging it can be for women to find roles of substance.  As a model, Andie was often held to an impossible standard of perfection, but she knows her success transcends what people see on the surface: “I’ve always known the real reason people would connect with me would not be for the way I looked, but for how I made them feel.” That is exactly why she feels so rewarded by her most psychologically complex character to date in the film Love After Love. In the role of Suzanne, a codependent matriarch who loses her husband, Andie straddles the line between strength and despair beautifully. “I was starving for this role,” Andie declares. When I asked her why, the conversation got interesting really fast. Andie joins Off Camera to discuss why her role in Love After Love is her most interesting since Sex, Lies, and Videotape, how to move past gender inequality in Hollywood, why her childhood struggles have made her a better mom, and how to properly cook a steak (in butter, of course!).
Mar 15, 2018
136. Jason Katims
Jason Katims, like many kids growing up on the east coast in the early 80’s, wanted to be Bruce Springsteen.  But with some encouragement from an English teacher, Jason discovered that he was a born storyteller, if not quite not born to run. So instead he became Jason Katims—writer and producer of some of the most successful dramatic shows on television. From Friday Night Lights, to Parenthood, and now, to Rise, Jason’s been creating characters and stories that resonate in powerful and often tearful ways. The key to Jason’s writing is that he creates characters who are “always putting their best foot forward,” fighting against others’ expectations, and reflecting back to us our own humanity. Some writers say the key is to create “flawed characters,” but Jason sees it differently: “They’re not flawed characters—they’re people, and most people are striving to be the best version of themselves, even if they fail a good portion of the time.” Jason had to overcome high expectations when he took on Friday Night Lights and was met with a phalanx of executives and agents who questioned his ability to build upon the success of Peter Berg’s feature film and subsequent pilot. The pressure he was under gave him insight into the character of Coach Taylor (played by Kyle Chandler), and helped him find a way in - a process he has tried to replicate ever since. When I spoke with Jason, it became clear how real these characters are to him, which begins to explain the emotional attachment viewers, myself included, have with his shows. Jason joins Off Camera to discuss how he is revolutionizing the way stories are told in ensemble drama series, why Parenthood was his most personal project to date, and why wanted to tell the story of a small town drama teacher who has a unique gift in his newest show, Rise.
Mar 08, 2018
135. Taylor Kitsch
Taylor Kitsch has come a long way from cleaning the toilets on Buntzen Lake in British Colombia, and if it weren't for a knee injury that ended his dream of becoming a professional hockey player, he might never have graced our screens as the beloved Tim Riggins in Friday Night Lights. Despite not having a backup plan post-hockey, Taylor found his way into an acting class in NYC that changed his life—after his tough, no-nonsense acting teacher forced him to ditch the cocky attitude. It was through that process that Taylor discovered his love for acting and an appreciation for self-exploration. His acting career took off after an explosive audition with Peter Berg that earned him a role in Friday Night Lights, but Taylor acknowledges that success only comes with hard work and sacrifice: "Just like when I was playing hockey—I was never the first line guy. I'm always grinding, always fighting." Taylor brought that work ethic to his most recent role as cult leader David Koresh in Waco, and the preparation was rigorous. In the months prior to filming, Taylor spent his time memorizing scripture, learning to sing and play guitar, and losing 30 pounds. He likes to dive deep and set the bar high, and his subsequent transformation is nothing short of astonishing. Taylor joins Off Camera to discuss the lengths he'll go to prepare for a role, why Friday Night Lights was so unique, why he almost dropped out of Waco, and also reveals just how many snakes there were on that plane!
Mar 01, 2018
134. Common
Common is a man who is anything but, and he’s been evolving as an artist since the start of his three-decade-and-counting career when he was a young musician rapping about his love for hip-hop. These days, in addition to being a Grammy-winning artist, Common is an established actor, known for his work on AMC's Hell on Wheels and films like American Gangster, Selma, and Just Wright. Common is what you’d call a conscious artist—someone who uses his platform to encourage social and political change. He believes it’s the responsibility of an artist to say, “I see what you’re going through, and I’m going to stand up and use my voice, my talents, and my energy towards making your world better.” In his song “Black America Again,” he uses the power of music to show us the problems that arise from systemic racism and what we can do to resolve them. Despite his success, he's not living a life disassociated from the, er, common people. You might even catch him writing a new song in his car if you find yourself in traffic on the 405. Ultimately, Common is an artist who cherishes the opportunity to grow and evolve, so if he has it his way, he’ll be freestyling into his seventies. Common joins Off Camera to discuss the responsibility of an artist, the socio-economic underpinnings of hip-hop braggadocio, and why he loves to feel nervous when he’s starting a new project.
Feb 22, 2018
133. Danai Gurira
The talented and worldly Danai Gurira has been bridging the gap between disparate worlds ever since her family moved from Grinnell, IA to Africa when she was a toddler. In school, the self-described Zimerican (Zimbabwean-American) was the “African kid with a twangy American accent” who got along with everybody regardless of race and class. That ability to cross borders both artistic and geographic has defined Danai’s career. On the blockbuster side, Danai inhabits the character of Okoye in the highly anticipated Marvel film Black Panther and the character of Michonne, the butt-kicking zombie killer in AMC’s hit series The Walking Dead. On the literary side, she’s a playwright with Broadway success who mingles with the high-brow theatre crowd. But don’t get caught up in Western delineations between actor and writer because at her core, Danai is a storyteller—a woman who uses her unique perspective and artistic talent to reveal the shared humanity between seemingly different worlds of Africa and America. Danai points out that talent must be nurtured and distractions must be set aside because "the whole goal of storytelling is to became a worthy enough vessel for the story to come through you." Danai joins Sam Jones to discuss the nuanced world of Ryan Coogler's Black Panther, auditioning for The Walking Dead, overcoming grad school breakdowns, and discovering her artistic mandate.
Feb 15, 2018
132. Jenna Fischer
As Pam Beesly on The Office, Jenna Fischer worked her way into the homes and hearts of Americans for nine seasons. As herself, Jenna charmed her way into the hearts and minds of the entire staff here at Off Camera with her endearing humility and self-deprecating nature. Born and bred in St. Louis, Missouri, Jenna grew up far away from Hollywood or New York City. But from the moment she took the stage as Toto (the dog) in The Wizard of Oz, she knew she wanted to be an actor—everything else be damned! There was only one problem: she had no idea how to engineer an acting career. Sure, you can go to acting school and learn how to act, but nobody tells you how to get an agent, how to deal with rejection, what's it's like to bomb in an audition, or how to navigate screen actors guild vouchers. With a little delusion (reinforced by some magical thinking by her mother: "If Oprah did it, so can you!") and a lot of perseverance, Jenna established herself as a working actor, but it certainly it didn't happen overnight. She struggled for eight long years as a starving artist before she got her big break as Pam Beesly on The Office. And although she had a nine season run on one of television's all-time most popular shows, Jenna still didn't take her career for granted, believing, "You're always one horrible performance away from not getting the next job." So what did Jenna do? She wrote the book that she so desperately needed in her formative years, The Actor's Life: A Survival Guide. And it is like no book about acting that has preceded it. It is filled with advice about the important minutia that actors need to survive, but more importantly, it is a handbook for survival, a testament to perseverance, and a hilarious accounting of her early years hustling jobs in Hollywood. And as an added bonus, it even teaches aspiring thespians how to deal with getting fired, which is exactly what happened to Jenna while she was writing the book. Jenna joins us to talk about that experience of getting fired, her undeniable chemistry with John Krasinski, sneaking into an SNL party to meet Molly Shannon, and dealing with self-judgment and social anxiety. In other words, required viewing for every struggling artist out there!
Feb 08, 2018
131. Diane Kruger
Diane Kruger is the prototypical international actor. She's trilingual and has a career that spans across the globe—from France to Germany to the United States. In America, she's known for roles such as Helen of Troy in the the big-budget, star-studded film Troy (2004) and her role in Quentin Tarantino's Inglourious Basterds (2009) as Bridget von Hammersmark, the glamorous German movie-star-turned-spy-for-the-Allies in Nazi Germany. Once dubbed to be "too beautiful for a role of substance" by The New York Times, Diane, a former model, is no stranger to criticism about her looks, but she's been proving that line of thought wrong over and over again. The most recent example of her pushing against people's expectations is her award-winning role in the German film In the Fade. It's a film that came at the right time for Kruger, who believes age and maturity have made her a better actor: "The older you get, the more life experience you have to bring to the table as an actor. You’ve experienced grief, heartbreak, real love, lust; you can have a more nuanced performance." Her role as Katja, a grief-stricken woman who brutally loses her husband and son to a neo-Nazi terrorist attack and must deal with the aftermath, is devastating and incredible. Kruger, who is in nearly every frame of the film, prepared meticulously for her role in order to bring a voice to survivors of terrorism who are often overlooked when the dust settles after a tragedy. It is a role that will not leave her, in a film that will not leave us. Diane joins Off Camera to discuss In the Fade, how she discovered acting, overcoming typecasting, and why she's hopeful that the culture in Hollywood is changing with the help of women and upstanding men navigating the journey together.
Feb 01, 2018
130. Pete Holmes
You may know Pete Holmes as the creator, writer, and star of the Judd Apatow-produced HBO series Crashing—the semi-autobiographical series about an aspiring standup comedian whose life turns upside-down when he discovers his wife cheating on him. As someone who wears his vulnerabilities on his sleeve, Holmes isn't phased by exposing his personal life to scrutiny: "It feels really good to make jokes, find the lighter side, and share some of the wisdom that comes through painful experiences by bringing them into a story." Holmes also hosts You Made It Weird, a podcast dedicated to having real conversations with fellow comedians. The fact that he can start with a question as basic as, "How was finding parking?" and reach something as complex and deep as "What is the meaning of life?" by the end, keeps him, and us, coming back for more. Holmes joins Off Camera to discuss what it's really like to get divorced, why a little delusion goes a long way in pursuing your dreams, why being vulnerable is the best way to connect to others, what we can learn from comedians, and why he'll never tire of having amazing conversations. As Holmes says, "I feel qualified to talk about Pete Holmes, because I'm Pete Holmes-ing the hell out of this Pete Holmes." We're glad we get to talk to an expert.
Jan 25, 2018
129. Neil Patrick Harris
Step right up to the Neil Patrick Harris Show! He acts! He sings! He dances! He writes! He hosts! He magics! But the showman behind the curtain is… pretty much the guy you’ll meet here. And that’s okay – now. In the public eye since age 15 and saddled with an unshakeable teenage M.D. alter ego, he was unsure of who he was, and unable to stop worrying whether people thought whoever that might be was a jerk. He sought help in a forum most celebrities would do anything to avoid, but NPH likes challenges. And once he felt free to embrace them full-throttle, it opened up roles from über-bros to an East German rock star with something to teach him about self-acceptance. As it turns out, though, the kid who never wanted to dance in public is still a misfit. But now that kid’s a storyteller who’s out to convince us that’s the best possible thing you can be.
Dec 21, 2017
128. John Doe
To many, John Doe and his L.A. band X represented music and fans that were scary and unknowable. To others, punk was poetry set to a visceral sound that connected way beyond words. Before we talk to one of the most influential poets of the punk movement, we offer some context from Kierkegaard: “What is a poet? An unhappy man who hides deep anguish in his heart, but whose lips are so formed that when the sigh and cry pass through them, it sounds like lovely music. And people flock around the poet and say: 'Sing again soon….the cry would only frighten us, but the music, that is blissful.” To blissful, add electrifying, defining, and the inspiration for a generation of kids, bands, artists, punks and future poets, all bound and determined to do things their own way.
Dec 14, 2017
127. Octavia Spencer
If you have debilitating stage fright and dyslexia, good luck becoming an actor or a writer. Octavia Spencer had both, and became both, and luck was not involved. What was: A strong work ethic (thanks, mom), a love of mysteries (thanks, Ms. Bradford), and unshakeable faith in her own talent. She looked at what people told her she was, and saw something different. It took awhile for others to see it. The Help helped (thanks, Academy) – and in some ways, didn’t – same with Hidden Figures. Now she’s after roles that have nothing to do with her race, like next month’s The Shape of Water. She’s penned a book that turns “different” kids into superheroes who become strong by attempting what scares them. She should know. Early in her career, Spencer was told not to go to Hollywood, because “Hollywood is for the beautiful people.” If so, she’s right where she belongs.
Dec 07, 2017
126. Sam Rockwell
Sam Rockwell will tell you it’s not good enough to be good in a movie, and it’s not good enough to be good in a good movie. You’ve got to be good in a good movie that people see. After years of being good in good movies that enjoyed most of their success in the afterlife, he’s hit the jackpot with this month’s buzz-generating Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri. As a cop who goes “from Barney Fife to Travis Bickle” before we know what’s hit us. Rockwell reminds us that “professional actor” is not an oxymoron – just a rarity. Given how often his performances teeter between loose and completely unhinged, the studious, technical approach behind them is surprising. Rockwell’s reverence for his craft and a generation of actors and films we may never see again signals a depth that still demands – and will doubtless reward – further exploration.
Nov 30, 2017
125. Jeff Daniels
It’s been said that seeing ourselves clearly is the project of a lifetime. Coming from Michigan might be a shortcut. Jeff Daniels grew up in a small town playing basketball. Now he lives in a small town, playing guitar. In between, he played roles from The Squid and the Whale to Dumb and Dumber, creating a range he hoped would let him remain in his hometown both physically and spiritually. Daniels didn’t buy Hollywood, never saw himself as a star. He was just a good actor who could be finished at any moment. At this moment, he looks farther from finished than ever. He’s won an Emmy for The Newsroom and a bucket-list role on Godless. He’s also touring with his son’s band. Daniels talks about being a perennial outsider, the speech he waited 35 years to make and why being Springsteen in Oshkosh, WI is enough. He’s always known who he is and what he can do. Having others see it now means a lot. He’s lucky because it doesn’t mean everything.
Nov 23, 2017
124. Pamela Adlon
FX’s brilliant Better Things premiered just over a year ago, but Pamela Adlon’s been writing it for the last 20. She hoarded her experiences as an actor (hirings, firings, countless pilot seasons), and a single mom (three kids, untold fights, guilt and joy) –and wondered how she’d fictionalize it. The answer? Barely. Better Things resonates hard because Adlon doesn’t glamorize, force or standardize her stories, so they unfold on screen much as they do in your house. With the determination she’s had since finding herself an agent at 11, Adlon’s found her voice, not only as a writer and actor, but as a showrunner and director. Rave reviews have made Hollywood listen; too bad that doesn’t work with her own kids. But then we wouldn’t have one of the most honest, touching and relatable shows on TV. Let the second season of tears, hugs and door slamming commence.
Nov 16, 2017
123. Michael Connelly
It was a dark and stormy night… Okay, so it was a dark and sticky-floored movie theater, but the story’s just as good. It’s where Michael Connelly first saw The Long Goodbye, and where he first fell in love – with Raymond Chandler, Phillip Marlowe, and most of all, with Los Angeles. He didn’t make it there for another 12 years, but when you come as a reporter, you see places – and things – most of us don’t. His beat became the beat of one Harry Bosch, the cynical, hopeful hero of Connelly’s best-selling crime novels and Amazon’s acclaimed TV series Bosch. As a journalist, Connelly covered the City of Angels; as a novelist, he brings it to life. The master storyteller spun us a tale of guns discovered, dreams pursued, movie deals gone wrong, principles avenged, and messages buried in a single sentence. We made inquiries.
Nov 09, 2017
122. Emmy Rossum
Emmy Rossum has come a long way from singing for hot dogs at the local butcher shop. Of course her voice made her famous at 18 in The Phantom of the Opera, and she could’ve played Princess of the High E for years to come. But her decision to stretch, while difficult, landed her a surprising role on a surprising TV show. The Gallagher clan has done America a favor by demonstrating that you can screw up – really screw up – and the world doesn’t implode. Fiona Gallagher has done Rossum herself a solid or two. Playing her has made Rossum more confident, free, outspoken – and, a director. Once asked how to combat shyness, she advised, “Remember how you felt when you were five, when you were fearless, and thought no one would judge you.” In her world, judgment comes with the job. Now she knows the trick is to be fearless anyway. Or should we say shameless?
Nov 02, 2017
121. Rebecca Hall
Night after night, a five-year-old Rebecca Hall witnessed her mother losing her s**t, ripping off her clothes and wailing operatically while holding a severed head. What could’ve been a scarring experience instead underscored the beauty of committing to a role. And from about that age, Hall’s been certain about what she was meant to do, and how deeply she loves doing it. The proof is in Vicky Cristina Barcelona, Please Give, Christine, and now Professor Marston and the Wonder Women, a lush piece of period eye-candy with a very un-Masterpiece center. She plays a smart, conflicted woman who longs for an unconventional life. Maybe Hall portrays her with such compassion because she knows the joys of such a life. We talk to the actor about succeeding as an artist on her own terms, the toughest role she’s ever played, and the cabin in the woods we’re convinced she’s keeping secret from us.
Oct 26, 2017
120. Willem Dafoe
Willem Dafoe is an actor who often seems a million miles from Hollywood, no matter where he is. It’s apparent in the roles he’s chosen, and how he’s chosen to play them. He’ll take Tanzania or a desolate Florida motel strip over a sound stage any day. He’ll show you the good side of a bad guy. And once he falls in love with an idea or a world, he’s all in. “There’s a pleasure to having someone tell me what they want to express or what they’re interested in, and then sending me in there like an explorer.” And that journey is only risky if it’s not risky. “If it’s scary, you’re trying something. Something will happen. Something will be learned. If you already know what something is, that’ll kill you creatively.“ Few actors with careers as long and respected as his are lucky enough to still be a bit terrified. Few actors are Willem Dafoe.
Oct 19, 2017
119. Chadwick Boseman
When Chadwick Boseman got the call about Marshall, he was worried. Where’s the hard part, he wondered? The screaming muscles, bone-deep exhaustion and verbal abuse he endured to play Jackie Robinson (42), Vontae Mack (Draft Day) and James Brown (Get on Up) didn’t seem required to play future Supreme Court justice Thurgood Marshall. He found it soon enough – you try leading a courtroom drama when your character is silenced at the opening gavel. For Boseman, the hard part is always the best part. “If I can show up and breeze through it, it’s not going to make me better.” Ideally, he wants to make us all better – by expanding our view of the black experience through more diverse storytelling. With the upcoming Marvel-ization of his career (Black Panther) the hard part now might be getting to all of those rich, untold tales. We’ll wait. Not patiently, but we’ll wait.
Oct 12, 2017
118. Nick Kroll
Any number of things can fuel success. There’s talent and ambition, the usual suspects. But don’t discount fear, insecurity or being a wise ass, either. Check all of the above for Nick Kroll, but also add the belief that a career you love can’t be handed to you by anyone other than yourself. He’s created some of the funniest characters in modern sketch comedy for Kroll Show, two of which escaped to the surprise hit Oh, Hello on Broadway. Not all his ideas are brilliant (kale lollipop, anyone?), but Big Mouth, his new animated show about puberty (yes, puberty), may be his best yet. It’s definitely his most personal and brashly original. And likely his most disturbing. It’s also really, really funny. But when someone comes along to give voice to one of our most common, unsettling and hard-to-talk about human experiences, maybe laughs are just icing on the cake.
Oct 05, 2017
117. Tom Papa
Tom Papa is a happy, well-adjusted, family guy who's fine with being labeled clean. So how the hell did he ever become a comedian? He had no idea if he could make it in standup, and no roadmap to get there. What he did have was the certainty that nothing else felt right. It took a lot of observation, a lot of hard work and a certain comedy chiropractor, but mostly it took learning to be himself. He's now a successful standup, show host and actor. What keeps him going? The possibility of more success, yeah, but that's not what'll keep him jumping planes for Eugene, Oregon when he's 60. "People leave a show and their stomachs hurt from laughing. Their faces hurt. You get to go to work and share that with them every day." For a guy who started without a map, he wound up in the right place.
Sep 28, 2017
116. Alan Tudyk
When you think about how many brilliantly wacky characters have sprung from Alan Tudyk's imagination to the screen for the past two decades, and then factor in his history of prank calls and high school improv competitions, it's a bit hard to fathom that his early career plan was to be a hotel manager. Sure, if Basil Fawlty is your idea of a hotel manager, but he was actually serious. Sometimes, the path not taken is a good thing. Alan's path has led him to Broadway, too many film and TV roles to count, and every Disney Animation Studios movie to date. The only place it hadn't led was the one place he really wanted to be: The Middle of Everything. It took a Con Man to change that. Read on for a tale of bloody knees and sharp-eyed teachers, Broadway dreams crushed and revisited.
Sep 21, 2017
115. Jay Duplass
Here's a question: How many years do you have to spend watching actors through a camera before you realize maybe that's what you were meant to be doing all along? If you're Jay Duplass, you might also wonder why your brother Mark didn't let you in on how fun and freeing it can be a little sooner. But no matter. At a time in life when most actors are rushing the directors chair, the elder Duplass brother is running in the opposite direction on Transparent, and killing it. It's the second time he missed the obvious. Fourteen years ago, surveying the wreckage of 27 failed projects and desperate of ever becoming a filmmaker, he was ready to chuck it for grad school. That's when he finally discovered the crucial ingredient to building one of the most successful creative careers in the business. Someone should really tell him these things up front.
Sep 14, 2017
114. Mike White
If you've always thought of Hollywood as a competitive, jealousy-ridden place where success is watched, compared and envied, Mike White is not here to disillusion you. And his latest film suggests the world inside your own head might not be so different. Few writers understand our inner dialogs better, and that can be embarrassing. Not to mention touching, depressing and yes, funny. We talk to one of the business's most talented screenwriters (and directors, and actors) about why he feels more alive the further he gets from it, and his uncool struggle with the siren call of ambition. But if the result is work like Chuck & Buck, School of Rock, Year of the Dog, Enlightened, Beatriz at Dinner, and Brads Status, can ambition be so bad? Throughout his career, White has worked to create an alternate kind of story and protagonist. It makes me feel like I'm not completely crazy. Us, too. Thanks, Mike.
Sep 07, 2017
The Call-in Show 2
Hi Folks! Well, summer is almost over. Kids are shuffling back to school, the sun is setting a bit earlier, and over here at the Off Camera studios, we are hard at work on our fall season. To kick things off, we proudly present our second annual Call In Podcast, chock full of conversations with listeners like you, as we touch on a multitude of creative and show related topics.That podcast is available right now, right here. Opening up the phone lines is a lot of fun for us over here, and we were flattered by all of the calls and emails we received. I was particularly struck by the stories of our listeners forging their own creative identities through struggle and risk, and honored that Off Camera is a part of their journeys. We are fortunate to have so many thoughtful, curious listeners, and I hope you enjoy hearing their questions, critiques, and creative conundrums as much as I did. I also want to apologize to anyone who I didnt get to talk to. I am overwhelmed by the support and loyalty of the Off Camera listeners, and I feel lucky to be a part of this community. Thanks to everyone who called in and reinforced something we really believe here at Off Camera Headquarters nothing beats a great conversation. Our regularly scheduled programming starts next week with a lineup that I am very excited to share with you all. Enjoy the waning days of summer, and I will see you. Off Camera! Thanks, Sam
Aug 31, 2017
113. Holly Hunter
It's ironic Holly Hunter won an Oscar for The Piano, in which she did her own playing. If she'd had the chops she wanted, we'd never have seen her in that movie, Raising Arizona, Broadcast News or so many others that made us swear she was born to act. Fortunately, she found acting almost as sacred and transportive as music, her original dream. Working with a string of the best directors in the business right out of the gate helped - and led to some later-career disillusionment. But Hunter's not as ambitious for her career as she is for her characters and what they can tell us about each other. An actor's actor talks about empathy, and how she makes us feel things we never see on screen in The Big Sick and Strange Weather. She also shares what it's like having Bill Hurt call bullshit on you, and why she will not be having the stuffed crab, thank you.
Jul 27, 2017
112. Lauren Lapkus
The woman huffing in impotent rage in a frozen Marshalls' checkout line with an armful of bras. The jubilant loudmouth barely able to articulate the awesomeness of a Monster! Truck! Rally! The lady blithely terrorizing passengers with her wheelie as she pushes up to the boarding gate. Nobody wants to be these people. Except Lauren Lapkus. She loves them. She wants to inhabit them. If it means being odd or ugly, it's also license to say and do anything she wants without repercussion. Oh, to be free of self-awareness and filters, if only for a few exhilarating moments. Oh, to be Lapkus, one of the best improvisers and sketch comics in the business. Just don't look too hard at the fine print about exposing yourself on stage without a script, props or any idea what's going to happen. Despite the thousands of people jumping into improv these days, she says - and proves - it's not for amateurs.
Jul 20, 2017
111. Michaela Watkins
We all have one or two turning points in life, but Michaela Watkins' life seems like an endless string of them. There was the classical music camp that unleashed her inner comic. The spontaneous road trip that became five years of regional theater. There was the backstage decision that doing Shakespeare actually kinda sucked. And then the double epiphany: she should be on a TV show in Los Angeles and join The Groundlings. Getting cast on Saturday Night Live and then inexplicably dropped after one season was not a turning point she'd anticipated. It was never even in the plan. So, she found herself at yet another: Wallow, or move on? Well, the suspense isn't killing anyone who's been watching TV for the last 10 years, but watching one of the most gifted supporting actresses around finally show what she can do with a lead role is one of the best endings we can think of.
Jul 13, 2017
110. Zoe Kazan
What makes a kid cry on her birthday? The occasional cake-induced stomachache or bouncy-house bruise, sure. For Zoe Kazan, it was a sense of what she was leaving farther behind, and she cried every year. A direct and unselfconscious view of our imagination and its creative expression gets harder and harder to find in the rearview mirror unless you cultivate and protect it. Kazan tries hard to do just that through work that she loves, in a business she often doesn't. Acting is a joyful challenge (just watch Olive Kitteridge and The Big Sick); writing, especially stage plays, is a painful one. Both expose her voice and ideas - her soul - for all of us to judge. If you believe the only true art is personal, you must decide if you'll risk your ego to make it. If the answer's yes, you're in the right place. It's a thrilling, terrifying place, and Kazan rather likes the neighborhood.
Jul 06, 2017
109. Zoe Lister-Jones
Struggle is just how Zoe Lister-Jones rolls. She watched her parents struggle to make a living from their art, and tussled with her own decision to pursue acting versus stability. She struggled to break into film, finally deciding that instead of fighting the system, she'd create one, co-writing and acting in her own projects. The biggest yet is Band Aid, which just happened to help women battling for a place on a film crew. It's a comedy about artistic and personal failure, and our struggle to understand each other as men and women. In exposing her own insecurities - Do other people have it more figured out? A better relationship? - she reminds us that if we're far from perfect, we're about as far from it as everyone else. Lister-Jones will continue to struggle for her art, but she's learned it doesn't have to be so hard - it's about your mindset, not your circumstances.
Jun 29, 2017
108. Kumail Nanjiani
When you don't know who you are or what you want to do, and you have no real intention of doing what your family wants you to do, and then you decide you have to do something you have no idea you can do, what should you do? First, avoid thinking about it. Lie to your loved ones a little. Then, write a movie about it. So far, so good. But how do you know if your life is entertaining enough to be a movie? If Judd Apatow tells you it is, that's a start. Standup-turned-leading man Kumail Nanjiani puts a face on immigration, religion, racism, family and ultimately, growing up in The Big Sick. Coming to the U.S. from Karachi, he found a career and a woman he loved, then nearly lost her to a mysterious illness and his own uncertainty. It's an uncommon story he's somehow made completely relatable. In the process, he's given us one more reason to embrace our differences: They're funny.
Jun 19, 2017
107. Sam Elliott
With a slew of acclaimed films and several TV series in the last two years alone, it seems Hollywood's come gunning for Sam Elliott. Fair enough; four decades ago, Elliott came gunning for Hollywood. But not for stardom or money. "It wasn't about anything but making film, and I knew the kind I wanted to make." He admired Gary Cooper, Jimmy Stewart, John Wayne - and the dudes who wrangled their horses. Guys who stood for simple, honest acting; guys we didn't want to watch being anyone but themselves. That less-is-more approach linked Elliott indelibly with Westerns and inscrutable tough guys for most of his career, but is now proving just as mesmerizing in a surprising range of new roles. When Elliott talks about his (very) storied career, he mentions luck more than talent, but adds that good luck is usually the residual of hard work. Well raise a Coors to that.
Jun 12, 2017
106. Jim Jefferies
Jim Jefferies is an Australian comic who found success in America by mocking our laws, hypocrisy and leaders - and don't get him started on actors. But before you take offense, know that he's an equal-opportunity berator. The most patriotic thing you can do, whether youre British, Australian, American, South African, whatever the fuck you are, is speak out about things you don't agree with. Also, know that he loves the country that gave him both a permanent home and In-N-Out. It's just that he points out our flaws as bluntly and uproariously as he does his own. That's probably why he gets away with it. The guy who puts himself on full public display shares a few things you might not know: the lowest moment of his comedy career, his SRE (standard rate of embellishment) and what to expect from The Jim Jefferies Show. And if you're after positivity and inspiration Well, enjoy the conversation anyway.
Jun 05, 2017
105. Danny McBride
As a film-obsessed 10-year old stranded in a rural suburb of Virginia, Danny McBride went with his parents to pay the cable bill so he could see where all those movies were made. Maybe the magic didn't happen in that small strip mall office, but a film he made in a small strip mall 20 years later launched a career he never imagined. He made it with friends he still works with today, a group with the hubris to think they were just as talented as the guys they saw working in Hollywood. When you're right, you're right. McBride's genius lies in pulling the rug out from under his characters, and often, his audience; he lulls us into stereotypes and comedy tropes one minute only to detonate them the next. We chat about the hard work of comedy, the Foot-Fist Business Model and the joy of finding your fellow bees.
May 29, 2017
104. Billy Crudup
Billy Crudup's post-theater school plans for a steady, workmanlike, and hopefully long career spent perfecting his craft were jackhammered by Almost Famous. Suddenly he was Hollywood's Next Big Thing, and completely unprepared for the dubious responsibility that comes with that crown. In fact, he was pretty sure he didnt even want the crown. "It throws you into some confusion about yourself and what you do and how each next move could affect that." Going with his gut and opting instead for interesting, "weird-ass" parts that would foster growth meant saying no to really smart people who made really big movies. Not becoming a "star" also meant he had to keep reaching for something, and to find out what kind of an actor he really was. As it turns out, he's the best kind - one who does it for all the right reasons.
May 22, 2017
103. Chris Shiflett
From the this-just-in file: "Being in a band is not a normal job." Chris Shiflett knows it's a laughable understatement, especially when the band in question is the Foo Fighters, one of the few remaining rock acts that can record, tour and provide a (very) nice living for it's members. So why does he still take guitar lessons, humble himself in songwriting workshops and log 14-hour days in the back of a van? The answer is love, friends - an all-consuming passion for making, discovering and understanding music. He didn't always work so hard; he dropped out of school to enjoy the L.A. rock scene and make it in a band. Improbably and inevitably, he did. Yeah, there's a lot of story in between. Shiflett shares it all, including his harrowing brush with bookkeeping, whoring, drinking and gambling. The last three of which come in handy when you're writing excellent new country songs.
May 18, 2017
102. Elisabeth Moss
Listen closely to Elisabeth Moss' monologue in Queen of Earth and underneath it, you'll hear her heartbeat. It's not nerves; it's love. When Moss loves a scene, or hits her groove in it, her heart pounds so hard her mic has to be adjusted. She can't remember ever not loving acting, something she's done with confounding brilliance since the age of eight, but most recognizably since 17 in The West Wing, Mad Men, countless films and now to devastating effect in The Handmaids Tale. But if you're here for tips, she ain't spilling. She can't. Rules and techniques that apply one day (or hour) go out the window the next. She's willing to ponder it, though, and offer observations on character, directing, sucking, feminism and more. If we fail to solve how a true artist plies her craft, at least we fail alongside one of the best and most instinctual actors of our time.
May 11, 2017
101. Colin Hanks
Colin Hanks was just looking to fill time between acting jobs when he decided a documentary about Tower Records might be interesting. He had no idea how much it would change his outlook, his approach to acting, and essentially, his whole career. He also had no idea how to make a documentary. But that's what he loves about his trade "you're never done learning it. Anyone who says they're done learning is really saying they're done trying to learn." Here, he shares just a few of the lessons he's picked up so far: The biggest, truest stories emerge in the smallest moments; ask the right question, and the possibilities are endless; and, work begets work. Oh, and more work can beget a case of total body failure. Which in turn can finally beget Colin Hanks in your studio for a long-awaited conversation.
May 04, 2017
100. Ron Howard
Yep, it's our 100th episode - or issue, in magazine speak - and we can't think of a better guest to mark the occasion than Ron Howard. He hit his 100th episode at 10, but hey, he had a head start, acting on some of the most iconic shows of our time. But from about that same age, he knew his future as an artist was behind the camera, and once he saw it might happen, "The only rule I gave myself was that I loved the medium, and I wanted to explore it." And he has, in many genres and subjects. A self-described nonintellectual, he's educated himself - and us - about space, parenting, journalism, schizophrenia, racing, and now, Einstein, with one desired outcome: "I want people to be able to say, 'Wow, that must be what it's like." He tells fascinating, human stories, and we're honored to hear him tell his own.
Apr 27, 2017
99. Matt Walsh
Do you suspect you might be an improv geek? If you're not sure, let us help. Symptoms include - but aren't limited to regular interjection of the phrase, "Yes, and" in dinner table conversation, no discernible fear of ASSCATs, and a strange feeling of dejà vu when watching Veeps feckless press secretary Mike McLintock hand out another doleful "No comment." If you are experiencing any of these symptoms, you are likely a) already beyond help and b) a big fan of Matt Walsh. The improv legend and Upright Citizens Brigade co-founder shares the story behind the iconic theater, the horrible trauma of being the middle child in a big family, why he loves making improv films (turns out it's not for the money), and why trying to be funny is exactly what you don't want to do.
Apr 20, 2017
98. Freida Pinto
Remember Slumdog Millionaire? "It's about an underdog who has a dream and goes gunning for it, refusing to stop. You struggle and fall on your face and you pick yourself up and get what you want." Freida Pinto was describing her first film, and perhaps unwittingly, foreshadowing her own career. In the eight short years since, she managed to work with some of the best (and most baffling) directors in the business. But she didn't always manage to get them to see beyond her looks. If finding substantive roles worth her time and talent requires some fight, okay then. "Even at 15 or 16, I could see myself being a superhero. I never saw myself as the sidekick or someone who didn't have a voice." She's found one in Showtime's Guerrilla, in which she is quite literally, a revolutionary. It's a radical departure from what most folks thought she could do, except Pinto herself. Surrender, Hollywood.
Apr 13, 2017
97. Jenny Slate
If you want to know about Jenny Slate, you could see her standup, TV shows (Married, Girls, Bored to Death), or movies (Obvious Child, Gifted, My Blind Brother). But at the heart of her work and her identity as an artist is a child - a beautiful, eccentric, wounded, wishful girl who saw a garden and wanted to live in it. Slate knows its a metaphor, but like all good allegories, it carries a lesson: Find what is precious to you and about you, then guard and cultivate it with everything you have. Water your garden. Pull the weeds. And don't forget to sit in the sunshine for a while when you're done. We talk about the experiences that shaped her as an actor, her creative process, and the accidentally appropriate Marcel. But mostly, we talk About the House.
Apr 06, 2017
96. Courteney Cox
So no one told her life was going to be this way. Except Friends director Jimmy Burrows, who took Courteney Cox and her fellow cast members to dinner in Vegas, telling them to enjoy the last time they'd ever be able to go out together in public without causing total pandemonium. For Cox, who never had a master plan, it was the start of what was arguably the most successful 18-year run on series television, after which some actors might welcome a break and a margarita or two. Others might freak out just a bit. You probably know what camp she falls in. We talk to Cox about her meteoric acting career, what it's like to simultaneously finance and direct an independent film, learning her craft on the fly, and how none of it would have ever happened if Brian De Palma had actually listened to her back in 1984.
Mar 30, 2017
95. Hank Azaria
Hank Azaria became a character actor because With this face, I had no choice. But it's the plastic voice that really gave him no alternative, along with whatever mysterious, uncanny power has allowed him since childhood to hear someone once and mimic them for the rest of his life. What sets him apart even further is an innate emotional connection that makes characters out of what would otherwise be just caricatures. He never understood his ability, but he was grateful for it, because all he ever wanted was to be anyone but himself. Turns out, that doesn't work so well for an actor. In an animated conversation, we go inside baseball, The Simpsons, fatherhood, his career, and his head. Yes, he's one of the most talented and successful actors around, but we think you'll find a lot of common ground there.
Mar 23, 2017
94. Maggie Siff
For as long as she can remember, Maggie Siff has been measuring herself. It wasn't vanity or self-obsession; she was after honest self-assessment in the name of getting better at her craft. It's why she entered NYU grad school at 27, where the most important lesson she learned was how to deal with criticism, especially her own. Her unexpected television success since then has erased a lot of doubts, but not the eternal question of artistic fulfillment versus commercial success. Thankfully for Siff and her obvious talent, it's no longer an either/or proposition. Join us for some talk therapy as we discuss her roles on Billions, the film that made her revisit the path not taken and the six-month art project that launched her TV career. She's proven herself the serious actor she knew she could be. Now if someone would just put her in a screwball comedy.
Mar 13, 2017
93. Jerrod Carmicheal
Jerrod Carmichael grew up in Morningside Manor, which lest there be any confusion, is a far cry from Wayne Manor. His mom's goal was just that he graduate high school. Carmichael's goal was to have an HBO special and an NBC Thursday night TV show. Check, check and check, and he hadn't yet exited his 20's. You could question whether primetime is ready for a standup who cites Richard Pryor, Mark Twain and Socrates as references and builds his 30-minute "The Carmichael Show" around transgender issues, prayer, gun control, Cosby, cheating, abuse, abortion and gentrification - You know, just your happy sitcom stuff - and were not even going to touch kale. Or, you could question why its taken 37 years (All in the Family's last episode aired in 1979) to have a very adult - and very funny - conversation about it all.
Mar 09, 2017
92. Gillian Jacobs
It took a minute or 92 for people who watched Gillian Jacobs' stunning performance in Don't Think Twice to connect her with Community's Britta Perry. That she could inhabit such different roles so believably without ever having trained in comedy or improv is a tribute to her talent. Whether it's a tribute to Julliard is up for debate. A quirky, independent kid jettisoned by friends who saw her as a drag on their popularity, Jacobs threw herself into theater; later, Julliard almost threw her back out. It took her awhile to realize control can't fix an alcoholic parent or a conventional performance. But eventually, the kid who comes home with gum in her hair may also come home with a stronger sense of self. We talk to Jacobs about scaring herself silly, hanging out at celeb hot spots like the La Brea Tar Pits and playing the sex and drug addicted wrecking ball Mickey on Netflixs Love. Which we love.
Mar 01, 2017
91. Sam Richardson
If youve seen Veep, you likely know Richard Splett, which could mean you know Sam Richardson. It more likely means you know what it is to be so convinced by a performance that youre unsure where the actor stops and the character begins. How does an artist make that happen, especially when hes the newcomer to one of the most talent-packed comedies on TV? Well, it might be a stretch to say Richardson grew up on the mean streets of Detroit, but growing up on the citys tough comedy stages taught him a thing or two. Now, Motor City serves as backdrop and inspiration for his own TV show. We discuss the parallels between playing a pitchman on Detroiters and actually pitching Detroiters, and how growing up between two countries inspired its unique take on race and traditional sitcom relationships. He also explains why a fake laugh is no courtesy, but a crime against humanity.
Feb 23, 2017
90. Kenneth Lonergan
Let's face it, Kenneth Lonergan will never be the Mr. Rogers of Hollywood. He's learned (kind of) to placate studio brass, but mourns the days when writers and directors had more artistic control (Nobody told John Ford to make Grapes of Wrath less depressing), and wishes he could just be left alone, trusted to deliver great films on his own timeline. After Manchester By the Sea, maybe that will finally happen. He's proven three times now that no writer possesses a keener ear for dialogue, no director a better sense of story, and no observer of life a more merciless grip on how it really works. The subject of his films? Us. Human beings. So why are they called small? Its not often we get inside the head of someone who's given so much thought to his craft and the world he makes it in. We didn't emerge unscathed, but we also didn't leave without hope.
Feb 16, 2017
89. David Oyelowo
It has been said that David Oyelowo makes film stardom look as easy as laughter, and it is a joy to watch such a truthful and talented artist find success. But friends, it was not easy. He had to stand up to a much-loved father who had different ideas for his career. When he tried to build on his UK success with the fascinating real-life story of an unknown boxer, he was told viewers wouldn't be interested in people they knew nothing about (that would be black people). Feeling his only chance to move forward was in the U.S., he uprooted his family and struggled to get his breakout role in Selma. His agents were told, David Oyelowo is not Dr. King. Someone higher up told him otherwise. We talk about characters and character, storytelling, and why who does the telling really matters. Yes, he's a joy to watch. And to talk with.
Feb 09, 2017
88. Elijah Wood
When you start acting - and very successfully - at eight, its easy to be jaded, obnoxious, or in rehab by the time you're say, 12. Elijah Wood ran the gauntlet of childhood fame unscathed (thanks, Mom), only to sign on at 18 to what no one, including Peter Jackson, knew would be one of the most massively successful cinema franchises ever. He could've gone a number of ways from there, the most obvious being spending the rest of his career trying to top The Lord of the Rings. But that's not really Wood's deal. He chooses interesting filmmakers over star-making roles, loves fulfilling his compulsion to get weird, wonderful stories out in the world, and calls Fantastic Fest his favorite week of the year. Artist? Explorer? Definitely. Calculating careerist? Not so much. "If I'd thought strategically, I might be in a different place, but I'm so happy being where I am." For someone with no strategy, he's one of the smartest guys we know.
Feb 03, 2017
87. Ricky Carmichael
Ricky Carmichael would like to be able to explain what made him The GOAT. The work - figuratively and often literally backbreaking - is a given. But how do you explain split-second instinct, something that you just do? You can't. So motocross fans and riders everywhere just sat back and watched in awe as he won race after race. It was, after all, what he was expected to do - and did do - from the age of six. He might've made it look easy, but it wasn't. Nor was it always happy. Carmichael talks about his motivation, the strategies he used to beat the best riders in the business, and his decision to retire from racing at 27 (not that there was much left for him to accomplish besides possibly paralyzing himself). Now, he's seeking his challenges on the other side of the handlebars and finding new joy in the sport that made him a legend.
Jan 26, 2017
86. Aaron Paul
If you'd happened to be skulking the seamier alleyways of Albuquerque around 2008, looking to bum a 3:00 a.m. cigarette - or perhaps a more powerful stimulant - you might've encountered a guy who looked a lot like Aaron Paul. He was looking to score an understanding of the role that changed his life. It was one he'd fought ten Ramen-fueled years for, and he was going to give it everything he had. Extreme research, maybe, but the connection he forges to each character he embodies is so deep, we not only believe them, but feel their every blow, doubt and happiness as our own. In acting parlance, it's called commitment. In Paul's case, love seems the better word. He cherishes and cares for his characters as friends, and embraces his job with the joy of someone who gets to prove time and again that he's really good at the only thing he's ever wanted to do. We talk about his road from small-town Idaho to sin-filled L.A., his fateful audition for Breaking Bad, and The Path almost not taken. And, why you probably don't want to mess with his mom.
Jan 19, 2017
85. Rachel Bloom
Rachel Bloom remembers it all. The childhood neuroses, her first taste of humiliation at the hands of a stranger, the awkward locker room glances and every middle-school taunt. She also remembers how her talent and love of theater could erase so much of it. As they say, its all material. Material, as it turned out, for Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, one of the most original, subversive and strangely uplifting shows on network TV. Her rollercoaster journey there can be traced from a copy of The Martian Chronicles through stints as a singing/floating waitress and one hostile writers room. Bloom fills us in on her life-changing shift from musical theater to comedy, how structure informs creativity, and the show that for all its darkness, offers viewers an empowering, entertaining invitation to discuss our common, but not commonly discussed issues and insecurities. What motivates us to write the show is the pursuit of true inner happiness, which often defies not only stereotype, but what you think should make you happy. We might just break into song.
Jan 12, 2017
84. Greta Gerwig
Fortunately, Greta Gerwig was never comfortable being the charming, likeable ingenue who exists (in Hollywood, anyway) to be adored and/or saved by a male lead. When she came to the realization that she probably couldn't sit by the pool and wait for the scripts to roll in, she decided she had the power to write them herself. Creating your own destiny can be a lot of work, but there's comfort in knowing the result will ring true not only to you, but also to the artists whose work you find most exciting. It's also the best way to use your own peculiarities and gifts, which in Gerwig's case include a rare lack of artifice, a writerly ear for dialogue, and a way of turning the standard story tropes a few degrees askew. As you'll gather from the following pages, she actually is quite charming and likeable. Just don't tell her you "liked" Hamlet.
Dec 28, 2016
83. Andrew Garfield
It's hard to come by any better example of a true artist-and split personality-than Andrew Garfield. He came out of the womb as "a lunatic, a wild animal, a clown," who couldn't hang with rules, threatened to tear up our studio, and regularly butted heads with a father who wanted him to choose a "safe" career. He's also piled up acclaim for consistently soulful, vulnerable performances in a career full of uncannily successful projects. He admits to having both a Caligula-like ego, and an "inner accountant" who reminds him he'll never be enough. He loves a scene one day and is horrified by it the next. It makes you wonder how he's able to survive as an actor; and also how he could ever survive any other way. Garfield muses on working with directors as diverse as Scorsese, Gibson and Fincher, why he loves acting, and the role of storyteller in celebrity culture. You will never see Death of a Salesman or listen to "Vincent" the same way again.
Dec 22, 2016
82. Riz Ahmed
When you grow up ping-ponging between three very different worlds on one very small island, you learn a lot about your place - or lack thereof - in life. Turns out you also learn a lot about acting. Not that Riz Ahmed ever assumed that was an option; despite the joy he found in school plays, he took a look at the entertainment cultural complex and just didn't see playing Taxi Driver Number Three as a feasible way to make a living. Then again, he didn't see much future as a desk jockey either, and over the last 10 years, he's built one of the most diverse and acclaimed artistic careers we've ever had the pleasure of digging into. He's come to realize that specific personal experience resonates across all borders, and why shouldn't it? As he points out, we're all mongrels in one way or another. We sit down with Riz to talk about how his culture informs his art, how life is likely to change after The Night Of and Star Wars, and how one night in a London club taught him that the place where you think you don't belong is exactly the place where you should be.
Dec 15, 2016
81. Michael Shannon
Michael Shannon is not here to entertain you or amaze you with the awesomeness of his performances (though that's usually what winds up happening). So why go into acting, let alone do ten films this calendar year? In the beginning, theater was a way to get a few things off his chest without being told to shut up. Even though he maintains that it's a mystery how anyone acts, time and experience have taught him why: Plain and simple, he's here to help somebody tell a story; and if that story can provide a fuller experience of life for him or his audience, all the better. To do that, "You have to be able to understand people that you otherwise wouldn't even attempt to understand." These days, maybe that's not bad advice for any of us. Shannon shares how the art he found to avoid pain turned into a career, and what he loves about it today. He still has a few things to get off his chest (like people who watch Hitchcock films on iPhones), so read on before you invite him to your next fish fry.
Dec 08, 2016
80. Mackenzie Davis
Mamas, don't let your babies grow up to be actors. At least not until they've had a nice chat with Mackenzie Davis. A late bloomer who was always "too loud, too tall and unable to figure out the secret potion of femininity" would seem a ready-made victim for an industry that tells aspiring actors they should be "grateful for whatever garbage role we give you, until you become famous." Instead, Davis has managed to become famous (and rather quickly) in roles that crush the Bechdel Test, and in the process, set an example for any artist who loves and values both herself and her work. It hasn't been a bump-free road, and as the Halt and Catch Fire star has barely left the starting gate, it's one she's still navigating. That's what makes it all the more interesting - and inspiring - to watch.
Dec 01, 2016
79. Rob Lowe
If you've watched Rob Lowe in St. Elmo's Fire, About Last Night, The West Wing and Parks and Recreation, you know he's got some acting chops. As it turns out, he's also a skilled writer with an intimate voice and a gift for setting a scene. Maybe that shouldn't have surprised me, coming from a guy who cites David Niven as his model memoirist. A raconteur without good stories is just a guy who talks a lot, but Rob's whole life is made of tales that you'll inhale like Häagen-Dazs - some with disbelief, some with laughter, and all with sympathy that might surprise you. He figures anyone can write about being on a hit show, so you might find it more interesting to hear what it's like to be on one that's going down the toilet. There's the one about the casting director who begged him not to give up on his lifelong dream of acting until his 18th birthday - the very day he was cast in Francis Ford Coppola's The Outsiders. Or the one about bumping Tiananmen Square off the front pages before entering rehab. But for going viral, you can't beat the one about a sober, loving dad who tries to contain his emotions as he sends his first son to college. But we'll let him tell you, because he is, after all, a storyteller - by profession and by nature. Rob always knew he was more than a pretty face, but too many times, his looks blinded the business to just how much more. Luckily, Lowe knows how to take a punch (who else calls his celebrity roast "the greatest night of my life"?) and go on working, creating and risking. And The Grinder is perfect proof that he should; if you haven't seen it go to Netflix and watch all 22 episodes now - you can send us a thank you note later. You won't want to miss a minute of this episode, unless your head is especially susceptible to exploding. If so, you might just want to mute the part about the dead guy strapped to the chair.
Nov 24, 2016
78. Mike Colter
Like a lot of superpowers, the chip on Mike Colter's shoulder isn't visible, but it's there when he needs it. Cursed with a stable home and supportive parents, he often manufactured his own chips to keep himself motivated as an actor (which he planned on being from the age of eight). But later, the chips got real: Acting teachers who told him he wouldn't make it. Years of broke-ass struggle pursuing his art. Agents who said he could only play one kind of role. Well, throw obstacles at a guy like Colter and he'll thank you for them - before smashing them to pieces. He's at a point now where he could be kicking back and enjoying the ability to pay for groceries, but he has something else to prove: If you think you know who Luke Cage is, you don't. We'd add that if you think you've seen everything this actor can do, you haven't. Not by a long shot.
Nov 17, 2016
77. Thandie Newton
One of the most joyful and rewarding experiences we can have as humans is the discovery of something we passionately love to do-- and even better, the discovery that we're really good at it. For Thandie Newton, that revelation came as a naïve 16-year-old on her first film set. It also came with a horrific experience of abuse. Unfortunately, and incredibly, it was not the last one dealt her by the business she loved. So she had a choice. Be a victim, or do something about it. Newton fought hard for herself, and then seemingly couldn't stop. As she's achieved success, she's used her position to champion women and children not only in her industry, but throughout the world. It wasn't easy finding her voice, but now that she has, look out. Here, she uses it in one of our most wide-ranging, honest and inspiring conversations yet.
Nov 10, 2016
76. Mark Duplass
Mark Duplass says that early on, he and his brother Jay wanted to be the Coen brothers. After 10 painful years of failure and self-doubt, he realized they were much better off being the Duplass brothers. Sticking to their shared gut got them promoted to Hollywood, where Mark found that success came with too many strings-and meetings-attached. That's when his creative genius (he calls it "fear of making a bad movie") turned to the business itself. What emerged was a model for making films exactly the way he wants to, while earning enough to keep making them. As they say, if you want something done right (not to mention better, faster, and cheaper) do it yourself. Could he be any happier? Yeah, probably- if we stuck him in a grimy old 110-degree shed with a drum kit and a Walkman.
Nov 03, 2016
75. Ewan McGregor
You might not have recognized Ewan McGregor in his very first stage role, since he was in blackface and a turban, but it likely thrilled him as much as any role he has embodied since. The chance to do anything on a stage in front of people-even if it was just moving a chair-was magical. Some (okay, most) would say dropping out of school at 16 with no prospects or training to pursue acting was a risk. But audiences worldwide witnessed the payoff as he quickly became one of the most successful and versatile actors around, happy and creatively fulfilled. Except for the one story he wanted so badly to tell that he gambled again-this time as a director. If it meant a Scotsman taking on the greatest living American writer, well, where there's no risk, there's usually no magic. And for McGregor, where there's no magic, there's usually no point.
Oct 27, 2016
74. Nick Offerman
Nick Offerman will never, ever, have enough time. But then, he's not much inclined to put his feet up. Like most creatively restless artists, his interests abound. But for Offerman, they're not hobbies; they'e disciplines to be studied, mastered and revered for the values they represent. Juggling it all requires defining your priorities and being clear on who you are. Parks and Recreation's comedic secret weapon has built a career, canoes, and a soapbox for sharing lessons so simple we seem to have forgotten them. He joins us to talk about writing, ranting and why he loves his new film The Founder, despite having called its subjects "purveyors of the McShit Sandwich." He also shares why he won't be playing Ron Swanson knockoffs for the next 10 years. That's fine with us, as long as he keeps playing Nick Offerman. You read on for an inspiring, thought-provoking conversation; we're going to go build some birdhouses.
Oct 20, 2016
73. Kate Beckinsale
There are a few things people forgot to tell young Kate Beckinsale about being an actor: Not every film experience is Much Ado About Nothing; most minors working in foreign countries have chaperones; and, don a pair of rubber trousers at your own risk. Oh well, you learn. And keep learning, if you view yourself as a life-long artistic apprentice. Beckinsale talks to us about the impact of sudden family loss on her life and career, why she chose Russian and French over drama school, and what made her decide to come to the U.S. when things were going just fine in the U.K. She also shares lessons learned (through both tears and laughs) on films as diverse as Emma, Underworld, Nothing But the Truth and Love & Friendship. Beckinsale's path was never conventional and rarely easy, which seems to be exactly how she wants it. It also makes her one of the most intriguing actors-make that people-we know.
Oct 13, 2016
72. Mindy Kaling
Ever since banging out plays on her mom's typewriter at age six, Mindy Kaling wanted to be a comedy writer. That line of study wasn't on offer at her college, but Dartmouth taught her at least two things: If you hole up in your dorm and deconstruct Woody Allen films, you discover what works. And, in a town where there's nothing to do but drink and sled, almost any crazy play you writer can pack a theater. It can also launch your Hollywood dream career quicker than you ever imagined. But when the first show that hires you is getting creamed, and someone else is cast in the pilot you wrote for you, about you, and named after you, well, that's when you see what you're really made of. Here, Kaling plays herself in a conversation about that first fateful play, race and gender in comedy, and why it's totally cool to love your parents.
Oct 06, 2016
71. Vince Vaughn
It's a funny thing, how we're taught from a young age to wait for permission-to be excused, to have a cookie, even to pursue a dream. But what if there's no one around to grant it? Early on, Vince Vaughn decided not to ask for permission to skip school for auditions, to talk to the ladies, or to move to L.A. to be an actor. That just-do-it approach worked well for creating his breakout in Swingers, and his hilarious turns in films like Old School and Wedding Crashers. Vaughn joined us to share the stories behind some of his most iconic films, his decision to take on more dramatic roles in True Detective and Hacksaw Ridge, and the importance of challenging what you know-especially when you're already pretty damn successful. When you combine a well-documented gift for gab with a philosopher's spirit, this is the conversation you get. Enjoy, and take some notes.
Sep 29, 2016
70. Adam Scott
Like a lot of kids, Adam Scott loved movies, but it was a 5-inch black and white TV and David Letterman that really blew his mind and cemented his secret plan to become an actor. When he finally arrived in L.A., it seemed the welcome mat had gone missing. Fifteen years and countless auditions later, roles in Step Brothers, Parks and Recreation and indies like The Vicious Kind have made him one of the busiest and most versatile actors around. Now in a position to choose and make projects that resonate with his own sensibility, he's also added producing to his busy schedule. In our chat, he talks about overcoming nerves, the amazing stuff you can learn on YouTube, and why he's so excited about chasing new creative material. Maybe it's because, like a certain band, he still hasn't found what he's looking for.
Sep 22, 2016
69. Todd Phillips
Imagine yourself in a cage being pelted with spit and various other disagreeable bio-wastes. That would be a fairly bad day for anyone, except maybe Todd Phillips, who comes from the "by any means necessary" school of filmmaking. Photography was a way into film school, dropping out of film school was a way into documentaries, and documentaries were a way into Sundance, and... Well, if you meet Ivan Reitman on the street and he asks you if you can write, you do what's necessary. After making The Hangover series and Due Date in a five-year span, netting Warner Brothers a tidy $1.7 billion in the process, Phillips no longer needs to resort to extremes to make movies. But that doesn't mean he has nothing to prove. Take his upcoming film War Dogs, where he proves that you can remove most of the gags from a buddy movie, mix in a complex political issue and still create a provocative and entertaining film. One we urge you to see in a theater with some of your fellow human beings.
Sep 15, 2016
68. Luke Wilson
Luke Wilson is not an actor who works hard to grab your attention. Maybe his natural screen presence is why he plays "average guy" roles so much better than the average guy. But it's his less mainstream work that reveals him to be a truly nuanced actor who absolutely loves what he does. Wilson's Dallas childhood, populated with cultural figures like Jim Lehrer, writer John Graves, Richard Avedon, and his own parents, was certainly far from average. That tight, idyllic Tenenbaum-esque world included brothers Andrew and Owen and close friend Wes Anderson (Woody Harrelson, FYI-your admission request is pending). Herein, Wilson shares Sisyphean tales of making films like Bottle Rocket and Satellite Beach and his transition to playing more dramatic roles. Famously laid back, he admits there are times when winging it doesn't pay off-like when you're in an elevator with Gene Hackman and a falcon. Unlike his filmic cohort Dignan, Wilson never had a grand plan for his career; but when you're making art for the purest possible reasons, you don't really need one.
Jun 23, 2016
67. Thomas Middleditch
We really wanted in, just to see what goes on in there. The quick, pinging pinball machine that is Thomas Middleditch's brain seems a veritable bouncy house of voices, characters and jokes that might spit you out exhausted and a bit queasy, but having thoroughly enjoyed the ride. Long before landing the lead on HBO's Silicon Valley, he paid his dues in improv, sketch and standup, all while writing and making hopeful, hilarious use of the Internet. But Middleditch knows the most effective humor has bass notes of sadness, and his early years reverberated with them. In our talk, he opens up about the effects of a rather lonely and picked-upon childhood. If he rebounded with a bit of arrogance, well, sometimes hubris is the only thing that keeps you going in the face of half-empty theaters and failed auditions. Looking back, he says he doesn't regret a moment of his roundabout career path through the cafeterias, dog parks and high seas of comedy. To our followers, we extend an invite to board the Off Camera Fun Cruise with First Mate Tom Middleditch. To Darren Lindsay (wherever you are), we extend a kick in the arse.
Jun 16, 2016
66. Imogen Poots
Imogen Poots has the resume of an actor twice her age and the chops to match. When you've worked with Peter Bogdanovich, Terrence Malick, Richard Linklater, and Cary Fukunaga, all by the time you're 27, your bulb would have to be sputtering pretty badly if you didn't learn a thing or two about your craft. Poots is smart, sure, but more importantly, wise. Smart is trying to choose good projects; wise is knowing the outcome isn't guaranteed and thriving on that uncertainty. (A good tip for surviving not only Hollywood, but life in general.) Smart is knowing the size of the bra that wardrobe hands you on day one of a shoot can signal a creative issue; wise is knowing, "You're here on Earth for a hot second, so you may as well spend your time doing something you believe in." Even though her career has consisted mostly of films, Poots believed in Cameron Crowe's Roadies enough to make an open-ended commitment to a TV series, and she's chosen well. Turns out music-albums, please-is a treasure she hoards and enjoys sparingly, wanting to preserve her sheer enjoyment of its magic. Which is kind of how we felt about this conversation.
Jun 09, 2016
65. Kathryn Hahn
Kathryn Hahn swears she is horrible at selling herself, but these days, Hollywood sure seems to be buying. With film and TV roles multiplying in both quantity and scope, she's proven herself among the most versatile, funny and increasingly acclaimed actors working today. That has to give you some confidence, right? Well, maybe. It's taken Hahn a minute to find and own herself and her talent, and she says she's still figuring it out; but at this point, she's wise enough to know what she values not only in the projects she takes on, but in life. As well she should--given the opportunities she's had to work with and learn from some of the best, including Will Ferrell, Jill Soloway, Jeffrey Tambor, and her six-year-old daughter. In this issue, Hahn describes the smell of too much comedic gas (sweaty), the role childhood plays in art (crucial), and how Catholicism screws up everything (we're officially going to hell now). All, while proving that the best conversations happen with guests who bring two mugs to an interview.
Jun 02, 2016
64. Keegan-Michael Key
Keegan-Michael Key doesn't encourage people to make decisions out of fear, but it did work for him-at least for a while. Fear of being left behind and not accepted made him decide that making people laugh could come in handy some day. And fear of uncharted artistic territory resulted in a U-turn towards a career he never could've imagined for himself. Yet this is a guy who somehow found the confidence to turn down his second shot at Saturday Night Live-most sketch comics' very reason for existence. Now, as the lead in Don't Think Twice, he gets to flex new acting muscles, or perhaps better put, give the old ones a rest. Keegan's insights about nature versus nurture, code-switching, and decision-making are worth the read alone, but you'll be completely sucked in by his observations on the high-wire act that is improvisational comedy. It's a world we rarely get a good look inside of, and one that becomes more fascinating the more you explore it. To unravel its mysteries, you can go see Don't Think Twice, or read this issue. We hope you'll do both.
May 26, 2016
63. Krysten Ritter
Though it's probably not what Shakespeare meant when he had Hamlet pondering "...the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune," it's a phrase that comes to mind in pondering the fortune of Krysten Ritter. For years, she's patiently taken every small, prescribed, and hard-fought step to acting-mall discovery, modeling, commercials, countless 'friend' roles and a couple of cancelled shows-before landing the lead in Marvel's Jessica Jones on Netflix, a role Rolling Stone called "...the sort of conflicted, damaged anti-heroine who's right in Ritter's sweet spot." Ritter didn't mind the journey, believing each step prepared her for the next. But nothing quite prepared her for Jessica Jones. With exponential opportunities, success (and minor injuries) came an outrageous new schedule, responsibility, and fame that she's still learning how to handle without throwing up or fainting dead away. But she'll take every arrow in the quiver if it means continuing to do what she loves. Ritter talks about her tough but formative adolescence, being at the forefront of an unprecedented new TV format, and why you might want to pick up a pack of Post-Its the next time you're at the store.
May 19, 2016
62. The Edge
At least once, and hopefully many times, each of us has experienced the rush of being completely transported by a musical experience - one concert, one song, or even a single riff. For 15-year-old Dave Evans, Moment One was playing guitar (loudly) for his classmates in a high school auditorium with a band of three friends. One of those friends thought maybe the band could become as big as The Beatles. Evans' reaction? "Yeah, right." How U2 struggled out of Dublin's small music scene and actually became the world's biggest band is one of the best stories in rock, but even more amazing is how they've managed to stay that way for decades. Equally proud and humble about the journey, The Edge recounts it from the inside, sharing the origins of his iconic guitar sound, the unique songwriting process that both confounds and inspires him, and how the band chased - and then adjusted to - success. And, why success is never a good place to stop.
May 12, 2016
61. Glen Hansard
Despite his promising start as a vendor of illegal fireworks, there was never much question that Glen Hansard's street trade would be anything but busking music-a practice, it's safe to bet, would never be outlawed in his hometown of Dublin, Ireland, where it's also apparently not illegal to leave school at 13 to take it up. He rose to decent acclaim in his rock band The Frames, but it was a no-budget, quickly shot little film called Once that changed the trajectory of his life and fame. At height of that success, he began work on his latest and most deeply felt album, only to be told his songs were essentially no good. If there's one cliche we're happy Hansard perpetuates, it's that the Irish are delightful storytellers. The singer, songwriter, and reluctant actor talks about his complicated family life, the folly of courting the muse, and the risk of tunnel-career-vision. He also divulges how you can sell the same piano four times and improve your songwriting by replacing words like "heart" and "love" with... something a bit less romantic.
May 05, 2016
60. Titus Welliver
To quote noir crime master Raymond Chandler, "When in doubt, have a man come through the door with a gun in his hand." Given that Titus Welliver was once put on a "Nastiest Villains of All Time" list, we weren't sure what to expect when the Bosch star stopped by for a visit. Turns out he's a lot less ominous than you might think, not to mention a lovely and intelligent guy. Above all, he's a keen observer of internal and external environments and the people who inhabit them-a trait common to great detectives, and great actors. Luckily he's a bit less stoic than his alter ego, and offered up a fascinating, honest conversation on the lessons of his challenging childhood, how he approached the delicate business of inhabiting a character that already lived in the imagination of thousands of fans, and how picking up a paintbrush after 25 years changed his relationship with his father, a well-known artist. He also offered up some impressions that are hilariously spot on-just ask Christopher Walken. Or maybe, don't.
Apr 28, 2016
59. Bob Odenkirk
It's hard to believe now that Breaking Bad was clinging to life for its first two seasons, but that was just long enough for Bob Odenkirk to be offered a turn as its lawyer-to-the-shady, Saul Goodman. Odenkirk didn't see fit to memorize his lines before starting; he just requested that Saul sport a comb-over. If that seems a flippant approach to a role that wound up changing his career, you can't blame him. Years of "getting my ass kicked in Hollywood" have gifted him with remarkable sangfroid. He just does what he's always done - work hard and write funny stuff. Simple, right? Well, anyone can work hard, but very few can distill all existence into absurdly, exquisitely true moments. We talk to the co-creator of "the most influential flop on TV" (i.e., Mr. Show) about the turn his career has taken, what Bryan Cranston taught him about taking on a series lead, and how not to dress for an audition. He also reveals his never-ending source of comic fodder: "People are fucking ridiculous." Be insulted if you want, but be honest - you're laughing right along with him.
Apr 22, 2016
58. Richard Linklater
Richard Linklater’s films have been said to carry “the shock of the real.” Funny, when you think about it. Why should we be jolted to see ourselves reflected in the profoundly mundane moments he’s become a master of capturing? Maybe it’s because he distills them so beautifully and honestly that watching them, we suddenly remember having lived them. Linklater didn’t go to film school, but it never crossed his mind that he couldn’t make movies. Blind confidence helped, especially in standing up to people who questioned his choices, which were often based on “just a feeling.” Sometimes, that’s all you have to go on; a lot of the time, it’s the best thing to go on. We talk to the director about sinking 12 years into a movie that made absolutely no sense, and Everybody Wants Some!!, its incongruous follow up. He lets us in on how he makes natural, spontaneous conversation actually sound that way, and why people who want to be directors might want to start at the library. Or the baseball field.
Apr 14, 2016
57. Kristen Bell
Kristen Bell’s early career dream was not singing or acting. She wanted to be a Disney princess. So tread carefully, karma-deniers. We put her self-described mix of “bubbles and rainbows and sunshine” at a good 90 percent of her DNA, but it’s that little ten percent that may reveal the most about her. A lifelong struggle with depression and anxiety will either stunt you, or help you take a good look at yourself and make some life-defining decisions. It can make you a good actor, too. Coming up, the emotions Bell felt she couldn’t express in real life lent nuance and believability to characters across the good-to-bitchy spectrum. In a candid and funny conversation, Bell shares personal and professional challenges, the surprising things that bring her joy now, and why everyone needs Veronica Mars as their imaginary friend. She also explains why she married a hillbilly from Michigan. That would be Dax Shepard, who wasn’t with us. . .or was he?
Apr 07, 2016
56. Don Cheadle
We’ll let Judith Martin and Martha Stewart debate the merits of starting a poker game at a wedding; but we will argue, however, that any kid who picks “actor” as a profession with “musician” as a backup is already a gambler. Luckily for Don Cheadle, he was really, really good at both. Lucky for us, too, because his work offers increasing proof that his is a voice we sorely need in cinema. We talked to Don about art, music, rodent psychology, and the long and winding road that led to his writing, directing, and starring in Miles Ahead, a film he hoped would be preceded by the apocalypse. It wasn’t, so check your preconceptions at the popcorn counter and see just what pushing against constraints and definitions can yield. And because he is a bit of a shark (who uses his skills largely for charity purposes), we had to request some poker tips. He obliged: “Great cards only come around every 40 hands. If you’re just sitting around waiting to bet, you’re not really playing poker.” In other words, you only lose by holding back.
Mar 31, 2016
55. Michelle Monaghan
Michelle Monaghan’s is not a face you want to cover up, though that’s exactly what she was once asked to do. In the 10 years since, she’s learned a lot about her craft. Having no formal training, she gained that knowledge largely on the job, feeling in over her head and questioning her abilities, but persevering anyway. The result is a combination of humility and confidence that’s as rare as it is enviable in an actress—or human. Watch her work sequentially—try Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, Gone Baby Gone, Trucker, and True Detective for starters—and you can see her coming into her own on screen. And what of the people who’ve questioned the decision of someone so genuinely nice and unnervingly beautiful to take on a string of less-than-likeable characters? With all due respect, she’d like to punch them in the face. “I don’t need you to like them, I just need you to spend a moment in their shoes.” Michelle and our host discuss her path, The Path, how sex is rarely just sex, and learning the meaning of “improv” the hard way. And after all these years, they lift the veil on their past.
Mar 24, 2016
54. Dan Patrick
When SportsCenter icon Dan Patrick said goodbye to ESPN, he had no idea what was next. For someone who never dreamed of anything but being a sportscaster, leaving the network he helped build took more career balls than Nolan Ryan ever threw. But such risks are usually mitigated in direct proportion to how much you love what you do. And Patrick loves to talk about sports, which he decided to do from his attic, and now does on one of the most successful—and unique—shows on national radio (or TV). What he doesn’t love is toeing anyone’s line but his own. His irreverence, intelligence, and ability to put sports in a larger cultural context put The Dan Patrick Show in a league of its own. One of the best hosts in the biz talks about calling his own shots, what makes great radio and why you should be concerned with the amount of wood paneling in your boss’s office. This is a guy who finds motivation in every challenge, and for whom “every day is the Super Bowl.” So should we be concerned he’s eyeing the Off Camera host slot? As Patrick himself might say, “You can’t stop him, you can only hope to contain him.” We’re not sure we even did that. Let’s go to the highlights…
Mar 17, 2016
53. Joanne Froggatt
Joanne Froggatt is now quite clear that performing in front of the TV doesn’t mean you’re actually on TV, but when she was three, all she knew was she needed to get in that box and live the exciting lives of its inhabitants. At 16 she did, as an unwed teen mom on Coronation Street, a role that still informs her craft today, but did little to prepare her for the phenomenon of Downton Abbey. Audiences worldwide fell in love with the show, and Froggatt’s Anna Bates, a servant whose kindness, honesty and bravery made us question whether the manor’s true ladies were living upstairs or down. Now that Froggatt is no longer required to maintain discreet restraint, we talk about her early career struggles, the art of conveying emotion as a character whose job de-pends on not showing any, and why neither she nor our host became veterinarians. We were also curious what one does after six years on one of the most acclaimed shows in TV history. “You chuck a brick and run after it.” Well, that clears that right up.
Mar 10, 2016
52.5 Sam Jones
52.5 Sam Jones by Sam Jones
Feb 04, 2016
52. Matt Berninger
For someone who admits that “relaxed” is not his natural setting, The National frontman Matt Berninger seems pretty okay with himself. What’s more, he seems pretty okay with anyone else seeing him for who he is, even when he’s perhaps not at his best. But more on that later. Berninger and the band came late to careers in indie rock, and without the youth or cool that serves as the usual currency of that scene. He was doing well in his nice desk job as an ad agency creative director, but as he told The Telegraph, “Once I entertained the thought that maybe I wouldn’t ever have to go and sit in conference rooms with MasterCard to discuss web ads again, I couldn’t shake it.” As a family man, was he confident he could make a living in his new chosen profession? And what of the fact that his music experience comprised absorbing large amounts of vinyl and live shows versus the more tried-and-true approach of actually playing an instrument or reading music? Neither mattered much, really; he’s a guy that enjoys climbing out on the thin branches. If Berninger and The National did come to rock late in the game, they came to it not only more confident in who they were as artists, but also more tolerant – and even appreciative – of the failures, though there haven’t been many to date. After a lot of rehearsal space toil (there’s only so much magic in art, folks), their complex, biting songs gained traction with each new release, from their self-titled breakout to subsequent successes like Boxer, High Violet and Trouble Will Find Me. In 2015, Pitchfork mused about the “surprisingly long shadow” the band has come to cast over alt-rock. “The National have emerged as a big-tent indie mainstay because their widescreen melancholia has proven durable and difficult to emulate.” For a former ad man, there’s probably some good irony to be mined in all The National songs that have landed in commercials, TV shows and even political campaigns, even if it hasn’t brought them widespread fame or magazine covers. Ascendance has come through their giant base of live-show fans, many of who were looking forward to the band’s first documentary in 2014. Instead, they got Mistaken For Strangers, a film The Guardian called “a nail-biting, cringe-inducing study of self-destruction and fraternal love, a film full of emotional explosions…and how you can find beauty in disaster.” A few of those emotional explosions are courtesy of Berninger as he deals with his younger brother’s attempt to be The National’s assistant tour manager while also shooting a film about the band. If, as Berninger says, “I wasn’t trying to hide what an asshole I am,” he also doesn’t mask a very human need to love and understand the people he’s closest to. Understanding his unusual approach to finding melodies and lyrics that stick is harder, though we certainly make the attempt in this conversation. He’s constantly throwing out one set of musical chemicals in search of another and is more tempted than terrified at the prospect of a flop. Six acclaimed albums and one well-reviewed side project in, he says he’s just in middle of figuring out how to be a songwriter. For Berninger, the magic trick seems to be in staying there.
Jan 28, 2016
51. Tim Robbins
At 6’ 5”, Tim Robbins is the tallest actor ever to win an Academy Award, but until they start handing out statuettes for height alone, he’ll have to be content with a regular old Oscar and slew of Golden Globes recognizing his talent. Cutting such an imposing figure could’ve made it easy for Hollywood to serve him up time and again as the loveable, lumbering galoot he played so successfully in his breakout role as Bull Durham’s “Nuke” LaLoosh. But even a passing glance at his long filmography is a startling reminder that Robbins is an artist whose physicality is completely overshadowed by his versatility. He plays innocent and shrewd, hero and scoundrel, with such careful shadings and intelligence that watching him, we’re kept tantalizingly off balance. His boyish, wide-open countenance can conceal a menace that’s all the more disturbing because it’s felt more than seen. In other words, Robbins is a master manipulator – he’s playing us, but gleefully and with the best of intentions. He’s the naïve screwball in the Coen brothers’ Hudsucker Proxy, and the new neighbor in Arlington Roadwho’s so nice and normal that we can never quite put a finger on why something about him just doesn’t seem right. Though inarguably well deserved, the acclaim he’s received for his astounding performances in films like The Shawshank Redemption,Mystic River and The Player can make it too easy to overlook some of his most important contributions to his craft, as well as how he’s chosen to shape his career. While still in college he founded The Actors’ Gang, which changed the landscape and status of L.A. theater and created an incubator for both great plays and talented young actors. His passion for theater also pervaded the chaotically joyous, collaborative spirit of Bob Roberts, a film Robbins wrote, directed and starred in his early 30’s. Long before “mockumentary” became common film vocabulary, it incisively and uproariously presaged the media’s trivialization of politics. Come to think of it, it’s mandatory election year viewing. Though he admits his success has put him in a position to pick and choose, Robbins has always been an admirable purist, writing, directing, producing and acting in only the projects that speak to his sense of moral and artistic integrity. He knows his legacy may not matter to the public, but it matters to him. That integrity – and his standing as one of our true auteurs – prompted Robert Altman to call him the second coming of Orson Welles. High praise; but like Welles, his standards don’t frequently align with those of his industry, making his film projects increasingly rare. Our conversation reminded us of the treasure we have in Robbins, and as much as we hate to bother a 6’ 5” former hockey player, we respectfully demand more.
Jan 21, 2016
50. Aubrey Plaza
When the notoriously poker-faced Aubrey Plaza says that she’s wanted to be an actor since she was 13 and thus isn’t surprised it’s happening, or that perhaps the universe responded to her acting daydreams, you have to wonder, does she really mean that? Understandably, Aubrey Plaza used to hate the word “deadpan,” as associated as it’s become with the detached, almost unreadable delivery she’s cultivated as characters like Julie Powers in Scott Pilgrim vs. the World, Darius in Safety Not Guaranteed and perhaps most famously, Parks and Recreation’s wryly impassive April Ludgate. Then her Ned Rifle director Hal Hartley cast the term in a different light: maybe it occasionally serves a character to drop lines with a certain lack of personal involvement. Though no one expects much from a zombie in the way of emoting, The Guardian said of Life After Beth, “…Plaza steals the show with one foot in the grave, her rotting heroine ricocheting between adolescent snarkiness and cadaverous rage…” When you think about it, it takes a certain amount of equanimity to put a line out there and let it sit without telegraphing what we’re supposed to think about it or how we’re supposed to react. If that means viewers remain a bit off balance, all the better to hold our attention while we supply our own context. But back to those comments. She was (we’re pretty sure) quite sincere, though Plaza herself likely had more to do with moving her career along than the universe. Philosophically, she seems to fall somewhere between fatalism and determinism. When her mom introduced her to Saturday Night Live, young Aubrey decided it was her dream job. When she looked up cast member bios and saw standup comedy as the common thread among her idols, she went promptly into improv, and later actually interned at SNL. Shortly after, she started growing the career she’s still building today with drolly arresting roles in films like Funny People and About Alex and The To Do List, often playing younger, still-at-that-awkward-stage characters. Perceptive viewers of her arc on the recently-ended Parks and Recreation might have noticed Plaza’s very intentional efforts to add layers and different choices to April Ludgate,  without any overreaching departures from the essence of her character. Now able to poke her head up take a look around after six seasons on Parks, Plaza plans to continue her attempt “…to be considered a well-rounded actor, not a weirdo.” That starts next year with Dirty Grandpa and Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates. Given her peppy, workmanlike embrace of masturbation (The To Do List), doll parts (Playing It Cool), and, um, quirky guest appearances (any number of talk shows), she’s demonstrated she’s unafraid to attempt almost anything, including being herself – no small feat in her line of work. If part of the outrageousness allows her to remain a bit of an enigma, we can live with that. What we most want to see is what Plaza does next, because if there’s one thing that’s obvious, the woman’s capable of almost anything.
Jan 14, 2016
49. Linda Cardellini
Every successful actor will tell you how lucky they are to do what they get to do; it’s pretty standard actor PR speak, and in most cases, probably true. Still, it’s genuinely refreshing to come across someone who seems to be happier practicing her craft the longer she does it. Linda Cardellini believed her dad when he told her it would be possible to build a rollercoaster in their back yard. Perhaps that’s where she got the “screw-loose optimism” responsible for making her think she could be an actress in the first place, and what led her to L.A. to audition for roles she thought (or was actually told) she wouldn’t get, one being her breakout series Freaks and Geeks. She even managed to find a small moment of pleasure in the rather sudden late-night announcement of its cancellation. And she believes there’s benefit to be found in even the most nerve-racking auditions. It's a testament to Freaks and Geeks and Cardellini herself that she’s still best known (and rightfully lauded) for work on a show that was cancelled after just 18 episodes in 1999, not even beating the 10th season of Cops in the ratings. The show was unusual and ahead of its time in ways too numerous to mention, all of which probably boil down to its just being too good for TV at the time. On the bright side, the current streaming, watch-when-you-want age that enabled its phenomenal post-cancellation embrace gives us hope that such honest, sui generisshows and the people who create them will endure. Recalls Freakswriter Paul Feig, “Lindsay Weir was the only character not based on someone I knew, but Linda Cardellini was the exact person I had in my head.” Chalk that up to her innate ability (at 24) to bring an authenticity to a teenage character that completely matched the spirit of the show. “Life is filled with moments where you have to sit alone with yourself, and the show let us do that in a way that wasn’t normal at the time,” she told Vanity Fair. “You don’t know what to say or do, so you have to sit there in that uncomfortableness.” For a more recent example of her instinct for telling a story through silences and a complete lack of vanity, seek out the extraordinaryReturn, and you’ll be way ahead of the deprived people who are bound to stumble across and love it years from now. As her career progresses, she’s reflecting the experience and motivations of a widening range of grown-up women with roles in Mad Men, Welcome to Me, 2016’s The Founder and yes, even Avengers: Age of Ultron, which prompted theWashington Post to praise the calmness, clarity and wisdom of her performance – in a superhero movie. It’s a maturity she seems to find satisfying, and one that will likely ensure a long future as an artist. And the optimism just gets worse from here. As someone whose stated acting ambition is working with as many of her peers as possible to observe their approach, she’s landed in a series of jackpots, the latest of which is Bloodline with Sissy Spacek and Sam Shepard. So if you don’t like happy stories, stop here. And definitely don’t see her in the slightly sweet, slightly off-kilter, full-on funny Daddy’s Home this Christmas. But if like Cardellini, you believe the best is still to come, read on.
Dec 17, 2015
48. Bill Lawrence
Have complete confidence in each decision you make. If you’re wrong, have complete confidence in the next one. You could stop reading here and have all the advice you need from one of the most talented, inventive writers and producers in the TV business today. But that would be a mistake, because Bill Lawrence, as you might suspect of one of the most prolific creators of network sitcoms, tells a great story. Many great stories, actually. He was one of the youngest writers ever hired for Friends on its first season, and created Spin City at the ripe old age of 26. He went on to write, create and/or produce Scrubs,Cougar Town and Undateable – the show NBC said wasn’t “a good fit with our brand” and subsequently went on to renew for three seasons running (that one’s a particularly good story). As early as high school, Lawrence had visions of being a standup comedian until he figured out other people were better at delivering his material than he was. Though he says he’ll always be a comic at heart, he had too many ideas and too much confidence not to take his “spec script scam” out to Hollywood, where he quickly progressed from writing shows to running them to producing them, working with some of the best mentors in the business along the way. But here’s the thing about Bill, who at this point is a pretty successful guy with a nice pool and his own busy production company. Like any true and restless creative, he can’t resist a challenge or pushing on walls – in case of Undateable, the fourth wall. When NBC’s marketing commitment for the show seemed more likely to doom than promote it, Lawrence launched a grass-roots, whistle-stop bus tour that included throwing himself (a “below-mediocre comic”) into standup shows with a lineup of some of the best comedians in the business. Cue the flop sweat. After experimenting with a live broadcast ofUndateable, which involves on-the-fly live script changes and re-directing of actors during commercial breaks, he decided to do the whole third season that way, essentially creating a live scripted comedy-variety show hybrid. Ideas that would have most execs downing Costco-size doses of Pepto-Bismol just don’t seem to faze him; in fact, in a sort of meta way, he seems to make navigating the business sound like a sitcom itself. So tune in as Lawrence discusses what it takes to succeed as a TV writer, the inner workings of pitching, producing and marketing shows in the shifting TV landscape, and two shows he and George Clooney decided would never work: Friends and ER. Like he said, just have confidence in the next decision…
Dec 10, 2015
47. Paul Dano
In its review of Love & Mercy, simultaneously lauded Paul Dano’s portrayal of the young Brian Wilson, and bemoaned his under-the-radar status. “Despite boasting an impressive list of credits, Dano is frequently left out of the cultural and critical conversation, and doesn’t receive the recognition he deserves for his powerful performances. He’s arguably one of the greatest actors of his generation, but his subtle presence in strong material hasn’t been enough to gain him awards season traction or long-term attention.” The article speculated Love & Mercy would change all that, but it raises a question: Does an artist have to be a widely known and/or “award-winning” to be appreciated or validated in some way? With the proliferation of social media and “entertainment news”, it seems we need to know an actor as a person, that he has to exist publicly and consistently in the “real” world to exist as an artist. Few who’ve seen Dano’s work in films like L.I.E., Little Miss Sunshine and 12 Years a Slave would question his disconcerting ability to absorb and then stun us with a kaleidoscopic range of characters. But try and describe Paul Dano the person and most of us would search long and hard for adjectives. And that’s fine. “Fame looked horrible to me,” says Dano. Though he still can’t completely articulate why he got into theater at age 10 and is just now starting to figure out what he does want as an actor, instinct has always led him away from what he doesn’t: Early on, he got the feeling that films like his 2004 teen rom-com The Girl Next Door would likely define him before he had a chance to do so himself. So his next choice was indie The Ballad of Jack & Rose with Daniel Day-Lewis, “Because someone there believed I could be nothing like me.” He’s since shone in a string of highly acclaimed performances in some of the most intriguing releases in recent years, including Prisoners, The Extra Man, and There Will Be Blood, of which Texas Monthly said: “Dano is so electric that the movie sags whenever he’s not around.” But it’s the aforementioned Love & Mercy that truly bears witness to his sensitivity as a performer and a vulnerability Dano says came from an almost personal regret about not being able to protect someone who couldn’t do it himself. The result was a portrait far more real than any degree of physical mimicry could ever convey. Dano takes the long view of his career, asking of each new role, “Why would I do this?” As much as he questions what he can give to each project, he wants to know what he can take from it for the next – and how it’s going to be different from the last. Dano’s never going to be the guy wearing the lampshade at your next dinner party. He will, however, take on a new and meta persona in the upcoming Youth, playing the kind of actor he never wanted to be, and prompting us to ask, how does an actor prepare to play an actor? We loved getting know him at least a bit better, and as far as adjectives go, we’ve landed on “necessary.” Because as long as Paul Dano continues acting, we know there will be films we really want to see.
Dec 03, 2015
46. Joseph Gordon-Levitt
One of best ways to enter and appreciate the original, prolific brain of Joseph Gordon-Levitt is through the lens of hitRECord, the open, collaborative production company he founded in 2005, and one of the most creative and inspiring uses of the Internet ever. Its nearly 100,000 members submit projects – films, stories, songs, drawings, you name it – for other members to edit, build on and evolve. Gordon-Levitt credits directing short films on hitRECord with teaching him what he needed to know to make Don Jon, his first feature film as a writer, director and star. It was a darkly comic but ultimately hopeful tale about what happens when we become too connected to our devices, consuming people as things and communicating at versus with each other. His effort was rewarded with critical acclaim rare for actors who have the audacity to become auteurs; more importantly, audiences dug it. A lot of artists might find hitting it out of the park on their first time at bat daunting, but it just made him want to do more, and on a more collaborative level. That’s because Gordon-Levitt has never been fond of one-way streets – not for communication, not for critiques, not for creating, and especially not for careers. He could’ve ambled down his own pretty easy and lucrative path after early childhood success in commercials, films and most famously, NBC’s hit sitcom 3rd Rock from the Sun. Instead, he went to Columbia University, largely out of a desire to reclaim the feeling of “not knowing what I was going to be” – an open question for many college freshmen, but few actors who’ve worked steadily from the age of four. When he found himself roaming the streets of New York with a video camera, he knew a return to acting was inevitable, but he knew it would have to be in unexpected roles – not to make an artistic statement, but to prove to the business (and himself) that he didn’t have to be just one thing. When such roles weren’t immediately forthcoming, his restless creativity found an outlet in hitRECord. The roles he was seeking eventually surfaced in films like 500 Days of Summer, Brick, Inception and Mysterious Skin; and hitRECord projects began to take on momentum. Good times for someone who “gets off on the stuff I never anticipated would happen.” He believes we should welcome versus dread the unexpected, that change is the most natural state, that good becomes great when we all participate and, as poignantly demonstrated by his late brother Dan, that “people can be whatever the hell they want to be.” All of which posits that the best artists are collaborators, and the best collaborators tend to have a stubborn optimistic streak. Maybe it’s that enthusiasm (and a certain degree of DIY showmanship) that invests his performance as funambulist Philippe Petit in Robert Zemekis’ The Walk with such verve and authenticity. That, and his superior make-believe skills – a blank green screen is no match for a fertile imagination. In this issue, we talk to him about that film, the role of technology in modern life, what he’s learned from being on both sides of the camera, and his hopes for future of hitRECord. For those still unclear on that concept, tune in to our broadcast episode for Gordon-Levitt’s demonstration – and the musical results. Thanks, well,…everyone.
Nov 25, 2015
45. William H. Macy
Ask William H. Macy about any number of the hapless losers, downtrodden everymen and debauched miscreants he’s portrayed over the course of his career, and he’ll tell you he’s played the hero as every one of them. That makes sense if you believe that an actor’s job is to find something worth fighting for in every character he assumes. That doesn’t mean Macy doesn’t judge his alter egos; “There are a lot of stupid assholes in the world, but they don’t think they’re stupid assholes.” They’re simply human, and telling their stories truthfully is how he answers our questions as viewers about why they are the way they are. Let’s start with the hapless losers, namely Fargo’s Jerry Lundegaard, who he embodied so convincingly we weren’t completely sure they weren’t the same person. On reading the script, Macy knew he was the guy; problem was, the Coen brothers didn’t. So, putting both his career and Ethan Coen’s dog on the line, he launched an offensive that more than paid off. Macy didn’t have to seriously audition for another role thereafter. After years of steady work, though, he began to find the movie roles he was offered less than scintillating, and decided it was time to take on series TV. Enter Frank Gallagher, another less-than-upstanding citizen he’s made us love. Shameless, which Macy says is like getting paid to return to acting school, has completely renewed his love for his craft. Maybe that’s why he’s so fun to watch – and possibly why received an Emmy nod for Lead Actor in a Comedy Series even after he spent a season dying of liver failure. So things were going well in TV land. That’s when he decided he wanted to direct a feature film. Macy is nothing if not ambitious, and thought he could do it as well as, if not better, than anyone else; but he calls his first feature effort “a real sock in the nose.” No Minnesotan could understate it better. The first day of prep for Rudderless left him feeling completely overwhelmed and under-qualified to take it on. But he needn’t have worried, guided as he was by the same principle he’d adhered to for over 30 years in the business: Tell the truth, and cut out everything else. What we’re left with is a difficult but authentic story, beautifully scored and acted. In this conversation, Macy tells the truth about acting technique, the perks and pitfalls of series TV, the process of putting together a feature-length indie, and what he’s learned from his experience on both sides of the camera. We talk about everything, including how to fire George Clooney so he stays fired. Well, almost everything… Sorry, Bill.
Nov 19, 2015
44. Connie Britton
Why is it that even if you haven’t seen more than a few minutes of Connie Britton on screen, you feel like you somehow already know her. And not only know her, but really like her. Maybe we relate so instantly because we get the feeling she’s a lot like us, only maybe just slightly improved. Watching her work in shows like the dearly departed Friday Night Lights, you’re sort of inspired to be a better person. In Hollywood years, Britton is a bit of a late bloomer, having no family or industry connections, and majoring in Asian studies instead of acting. All of which she came to see as an advantage; it forced her to take a good look at herself and figure out what she had to offer as an artist that was truly unique, versus what everyone else was doing, or was expected to do. Another late-bloomer advantage? Once you know what your particular gifts are, you can fight to stay true to them. When no (that’s zero) drama schools accepted her after college, Britton figured she’d better just take those gifts to New York and start auditioning. Based on how that was going, she had nothing better to do than take a part in a small independent. No one, including Britton, had any reason to expect The Brothers McMullen would garner any attention or box office, so she felt they made it for the best and most pure reasons – art, and the experience of creating it. Still, it’s nice when (thanks to Ed Burns and his magical backpack) it becomes a box office hit, and your breakout role. So when that led to her first screen test (with Tom Cruise for Jerry Maguire, no pressure), she couldn’t be blamed for getting her hopes up – and subsequently completely crushed – when the director passed her over for Renée Zellweger. Britton has said it took her an xx to get past the devastation of that experience, so we invited said director to come back and talk to her about that. Here at Off Camera, we’re all about closure, folks. But, as strong and buoyant as the hair that now has it’s own Twitter account, Britton kept working, kept learning, and increasingly, kept fighting for characters and storylines that rang true. Having learned a lesson about character arcs on Spin City she turned down NBC’s dearly departed Friday Night Lights countless times, until series director Peter Berg assured her Tami Taylor would stay “strong and messed up” and not on the sidelines. He listened, and everyone scored. Britton says the show’s “independent TV” approach of allowing great mistakes to happen was empowering, and pushed her to take risks as an actress. A strong believer that “it’s not a risk if there’s no way to fail,” Britton saw promising potential disaster in singing on the hit series Nashville. No disaster ensued, but some great TV sure did. In a funny, real and downright uplifting conversation, Connie Britton shares tales from her winding career path, how she discovered what she had to offer as an artist, and how resilience comes from finding a higher purpose in her work. We’ve wanted to have Connie as our guest for a long time. Now we also want her for our best friend, career counselor, coach, cheerleader and role model for our kids. After all, how busy can she be, right?
Nov 12, 2015
43. Carrie Brownstein
“No matter how dreary and gray our homes are, we people of flesh and blood would rather live there than in any other country, be it ever so beautiful. There is no place like home.” – L. Frank Baum, The Wizard of Oz Ol’ L. Frank had it right, and maybe that’s why we all try so hard to find one. And if you never had much of a home to speak of in the first place, you try that much harder. That’s where the story of Carrie Brownstein, or at least her new book, Hunger Makes Me A Modern Girl, begins. Brownstein, who’s now probably best known for co-creating and starring in the cult hit Portlandia, began her search as a fan of bands, and then by being in one, and ultimately, by breaking it up for the perceived shelter of various and sundry office buildings. With parents who for their own reasons were largely absent, Brownstein was at once free and compelled to immerse herself in the Pacific Northwest music scene of the 90s, and pursued it with the hunger and passion to connect that drives so many artists. What eventually emerged was Sleater-Kinney, a band [with singer/guitarist Corin Tucker and drummer Janet Weiss] as fiery and original as its members. They lived the floor-sleeping, van-touring, equipment-schlepping, basement-practicing existence of most scrappy bands while they built a small but loyal following. Then to the surprise of everyone, none more so than the band itself, Time magazine named Sleater-Kinney the Best Rock Band in America. Another surprise was their first feature article in SPIN, one that drove home what happens when your life is no longer just your own. So Sleater-Kinney was “famous”, or about as famous as you could be in the modest Northwest indie rock world back then. Though Brownstein had begun to realize the same scene that embraced them as outliers had its own set of rules more restrictive than the mainstream, she nevertheless sabotaged a meeting with a bigger label that came calling. At the time, Brownstein thought she was being loyal to a scene where “selling out” was anathema; in hindsight it might just be what happens when three very tough but vary naïve young girls try to navigate a career without management, agents, or even parents to provide guidance and an objective voice of reason. They returned to their small Olympia, WA label, and to hauling their own equipment down broken stairs to a cat-pee scented basement. Misfiring on the verge of mainstream success was a pattern that sadly defined the rest of the band’s career. Ambition and talent go a long way, but making a band your substitute family puts a dangerous amount of weight on a creative partnership. It’s Band Psych 101’s top reason for a breakup, and that’s exactly what Brownstein did, in dramatic fashion, before a show in Brussels. For Brownstein, the end of Sleater-Kinney marked the beginning of a 10-year stint of “day jobs” that seem unimaginable for a creative soul who spent 15 years touring the world as her own boss. But the schedule and structure of the office buildings where she worked – as a substitute teacher, an animal shelter and an ad agency – seemed like just the solid vessel she needed to hold her. It took another traumatic incident and a lot of reflection to realize the most stable home is the one you build inside yourself. In this episode we talk to the musician, writer and actress about the birth, death, and rebirth of Sleater-Kinney, the disparity between the perception and reality of fame, what she’s learned from the process of writing her book, and what might be next for Portlandia. That, and the fine line between drawing too few and too many cats. Brownstein says she wrote ‘Hunger’ in part to figure out how to make decisions that put you at the center of who you want to be. We think she’s home.
Nov 05, 2015
42. Jack Black
Thanks to movie posters and pull-quote "reviews", we've heard "electric" used to describe a performance so often that it barely registers as an adjective. But think back for a moment to the first time you saw High Fidelity. Now, think about the first moment Jack Black appeared on screen and jolted that film alive. It’s a great movie with a great cast, but let’s face it – his very presence flipped the switch. And that movie flipped the switch on Black’s film career, though it was a part he came within inches of turning down. But as the Guitar Pick of Fate would have it, he said yes, ending a 10-year struggle as a glorified extra that followed his first film role as a rabid political acolyte in Bob Roberts, where his real-life nerves turned out to be all the prep he needed to turn in another performance you must to go back and see. The good news about that flame-out decade is that he met a certain KG, and you know what rose from those ashes. But let’s flash-Black for a moment to our guest as a teenager who began auditioning for commercials because he so desperately wanted his friends to see him on TV, and even more desperately the acceptance and attention he figured would follow. A stint in Tim Robbins’ The Actors Gang followed, as did high school plays and musicals; and though he lost the girl (and wrote the requisite power ballad) he quite literally found his voice. Through music, The D, the hilarious Mr. Show and eventually film, he got the totally merited attention he wanted, if not the confidence he probably thought would come with it: “Man, I spend my life just trying to relax.” But he achieved at least some degree of artistic peace in figuring out that his way in to any role – or any song, for that matter – was with a chaser of comedy. If that covers up some vulnerability, well, as he puts it, "You can't hurt the clown." So back to the present, where under all the over-the-top antics and outrageousness it’s not hard to scent the sensitivity and empathy that no amount of good-humored depravity can disguise. It takes one very human clown to connect us immediately with otherwise improbable characters and films (for more must-see proof, we offer School of Rock and the truly excellent Bernie). As an artist Black says he doesn’t seek out challenges as much as he does resonance. In this high-minded and philosophical discussion, we will hit you with lessons on artistic angst and toehold moments, as well as true tales of Cannes-crashing, the fearsome warlock powers of Stephen Frears, and a fever-dream nightmare of an Elliott Smith tribute gone horribly wrong…then right. That, and a scholarly debate on the merits of Gene Krupa vs. Buddy Rich vs. Peter Criss – Sam and Jack hologram it out. By now, Jack Black knows who he is, and what he’s here for. So watch his work for the subtle or the shenanigans, but watch you will, because it’s impossible not to. He’s proof you can’t underestimate the power of a raised eyebrow, wait-for-it timing or an unexpected turn of phrase. In that regard, he ranks up there with Jack Benny and other masters of comedy who simply knew how to deliver a line. Ladies and gents, we give you the Bard of Off Camera.
Oct 28, 2015
41. Olivia Wilde
If you could see Olivia Wilde's toes right now, they'd be wiggling. Since you can't, you'll have to take her metaphor for it – she's hit an artistic stride that feels as satisfying and freeing as "taking off an uncomfortable pair of shoes." It shows. In Meadowland, she’s riveting as a mother whose reaction to a tragically random event first seems shocking, then increasingly real. In other words, more human than Hollywood. It's a role she was told she likely wouldn’t get, and one she knew she'd do anything to play, including working with a first-time director, locking her fiance in his room for three hours and eventually, signing on to produce. How do you know "Goddamn, I have to play this role?" When you recognize a version of yourself in the character, even if it's one you may not want to see. It's a performance that makes any of us question how we’d behave once the worst has already happened. Meadowland also appealed to Wilde in its refusal to offer closure, which also sounded suspiciously like real life. And should neatly answering all our questions be the function of film, or any art? Not for Wilde, anyway. "If it's not messy, I’m not interested." Wilde has been acting for over a decade, but says her career truly started when she learned to commit to a choice without knowing what its outcome would be, a lesson she credits to the under-appreciated Drinking Buddies, a movie in which she plays another messy character, and one that comes closest who she really is. She didn’t have much choice about trusting the outcome, since almost the entire script was improv and all the information she had about the movie before flying out to film it was scribbled on a napkin. (Another lesson about absorbing beer and information simultaneously followed, but you'll have to read on for that one.) Drinking Buddies was an artistic stretch, but a big confidence builder – confidence she's now channeling into writing: "Fear was going to stop me until I just made the decision to do it.” It also underscores one of her favorite quotes from Steinbeck's East of Eden: "And now that you don’t have to be perfect, you can be good." Not to mention a lot more interesting and authentic. Early in her career, Wilde made the smart decision to work at a casting agency to learn the business in "the belly of the beast." When an agent advised her to drop her theater-training enunciation and "just be a human," she realized that most actors "spend their careers unlearning how to act and just be a person." That kind of authenticity is informing the more complex characters she’s choosing to take on these days. And as an audience, we relate and respond. So why don’t we see more complicated, real women on screen? Wilde figures it's because Hollywood is pretty invested in the shiny, young and new, the food of fantasy. Certainly there's a place for escapism in film or any art, but if we don’t truly connect, how much does it enrich us in the long run? Wilde shares stories from the jobs that shaped her career, reveals her fondness for brown corduroy and explains why Coming to America is a feminist movie.
Oct 22, 2015
40. Tatiana Maslany
Remember the unquestioned belief and magic of playing pretend as a kid? You were a dinosaur, no, a spy – no, wait, Queen of the Mermaids. You lost yourself for hours, aided and abetted, if you were lucky, by a few props and indulgent adults who agreed you were the Maharaja and became your willing subjects. Then you grow up, abandon make believe and yourself become the indulgent adult, which is a little sad, when you think about it. At the very least, it makes you ponder the “natural” progression of things. As someone who never wanted to let those fantasies go, Tatiana Maslany has won the lottery with Orphan Black, and the prize looks like the biggest costume box of make believe ever. Though Maslany – like so many “overnight ‘successes – came to wide attention for her role (make that roles) as about a dozen different clones in the cult favorite Canadian series, she’s been acting since the age of nine; earlier if you count the living room theatricals she staged for her parents as a youngster. That didn’t give her much opportunity to have the typical high school student experience and social structure that comes with it, but for a kid with acting ambitions and a hyperactive imagination, a school improv team proved the only peer group she needed. To this day, it inspires and fuels some fairly uncontrollable urges to go off script, usually to the benefit of her work. After a year or so of college, she focused fully on work. Acting jobs, acting coaches and Emmy nominations followed, as did the certainty she’d eventually set off a Fraud Alert; inevitably, someone would discover her for the acting fake that she was and hire someone more qualified for the job. It’s comforting to know that feeling can plague even the most successful and talented among us, but it’s also a cautionary tale about judgment. The danger of regulating creative impulses based on what you think is right or wrong, or worse, what you think someone else will judge as right or wrong, is that you stop risking. That said, Maslany knows that as a society, we’re hard-wired to judge; heck, even awards shows that recognize artistic achievement are complicit by nature, designating “best” and by default, not-so-worthy. So what to do? Allow yourself to “put it out there” before you judge. “Good” or “bad”, at least the idea, the impulse, had a chance to be born. Maslany still works at this, and looks to a favorite quote from Martha Graham as a reminder: “There is only one of you in all of time, this expression is unique. And if you block it, it will never exist through any other medium and it will be lost. The world will not have it. It is not your business to determine how good it is nor how valuable nor how it compares with other expressions. It is your business to keep it yours…” Or in Maslany’s slightly more earthy paraphrase, “vomit first, and try to make something pretty with it.” In this issue, she talks about what she learned in the transition from improv to scripted roles, what it’s like to play the multitudes of Orphan Black, why monsters scare her more than robbers and why she once faked sleeping for 17 hours. So go ahead and judge Tatiana Maslany; we did, and found her as fascinating, funny and relatable as they come.
Oct 15, 2015
39. Ellen Page
In the years since Ellen Page came to wide attention at 20 for her “overnight” success in Juno, a lot has changed in the world, but maybe not enough when it comes to how our increasingly diverse culture is reflected by Hollywood. A lot has certainly changed for Page, who very publicly came out as gay in February 2014 and hopes to see a more realistic and holistic on-screen portrayal of all the groups that comprise our society – including LGBT and other minority communities. No one can accuse her of not doing her part to move that along; she’s currently starring in and co-producing a string of films with gay characters at their center, including the excellent Freeheld. Still closeted when she began work on Freeheld, Page says she didn’t feel compelled to come out by the project’s impending release. The mandate came from a more personal tipping point; she simply could no longer handle living in a way that wasn’t true to her. Though the decision wasn’t an easy one, the personal and artistic benefits were more than worth it. Page is not only happier than she’s been in years, but also doing her best work in years, Freeheld being a case in point. While it largely avoids hitting the audience over the head with moral messages, it does deliver a blow to the heart, showing the us sad compromise required of a closeted relationship, and reminding us that as humans, the things we cherish the most unite us the most. In this episode, Page talks about the benefits of missing her “sitcom years” while enjoying a pre-fame career in Halifax with all of the ambition but none of the delusions that can derail a young actor in Hollywood. She did leave home at 15 to act and study, but did not “get up to shenanigans.” Maybe that’s just not done in Canada. We discuss her concerns about playing a real-life character for the first time, her conflicted feelings about being closeted and depressed while at the same time enjoying the privileges of being a successful actress, and the best film experience she’s ever had – though we’re still not clear if asking Julianne Moore for her phone number in a parking lot beats 10-hour days shooting a motion-capture French video game.
Oct 08, 2015
38. Cindy Crawford
In one sense of the word, Becoming seems a woefully inadequate title for a coffee table book full of images of Cindy Crawford, one of the most beautiful women in the world. But in its more Aristotelian definition – “any change involving realization of potentialities” – it’s more than apt. If you’re already rolling your eyes at an introduction that attempts to link models and philosophers, consider this: Crawford was a straight-A student who won a full ride to Northwestern to study chemical engineering (the instructor thought she was in the wrong class, though we’re guessing he wasn’t unhappy to be mistaken). To mark her 50th (!) birthday, the woman who virtually defined “supermodel” wanted to connect iconic images from her career with the lessons behind them; ones she believes are universal. And Cindy Crawford is someone who never stops learning. Some of those lessons were tough, like what the death of a three-year-old sibling can do to a family. Others were easier, like standing around in a bra for 30 minutes beats picking corn for minimum wage all day, anytime. And still others you learn only by having absolutely no blueprint beyond the one you draw for yourself: What to do when at age 17 you’re making five times more money than your parents, who have no advice to give you about what to do with it? Should you stay in Illinois (and school) or go to New York to be a model when you have absolutely no idea if you’ll succeed – when, in fact, the most important photographer in Chicago tells you that you won’t? How do you handle yourself when suddenly you’re part of a moment that changed the way the world sees you and your industry forever? Is posing forPlayboy a powerful statement of femininity or a career-ending decision? And finally, how do you become, to use a famous Vanity Fairheadline, “Cindy, Inc.”? A life like hers presumably belongs to someone with big ambitions and self-confidence to match, but Crawford tells Off Camera she never dreamed big enough for herself. The wisdom in Becoming belongs to someone who’s earned it through experience, observation, hard work and humility. For anyone forging a path in or outside of fashion, this is textbook stuff. With way better pictures.
Oct 01, 2015
37. Jake Gyllenhaal
Jake Gyllenhaal has become somewhat synonymous with beyond-brutal physical transformations for movies like Nightcrawler, and more recently (and even more brutally), for the role of boxer Billy Hope. But after crying three times over a first-draft script for Southpaw, he knew it was worth taking some punches for. He’s no masochist, but calls any work needed to tell the story of characters that fascinate him a joy. Gyllenhaal is the kind of actor who knows not only that his character bears a certain scar or walks a certain way, but why. He’s become known for going deep, and seems embarrassed and proud in equal parts about how seriously he takes his work; the same guy who’ll spend five months in a boxing ring or memorize an entire script just to sound as robotic as Louis Bloom will also tell you the best analogy for acting is Super Mario Brothers. Level One, to be specific. Though much has been made of his on screen metamorphoses, his most profound change in recent years is one we didn’t realize we were seeing. After coming to wide attention and critical acclaim in films like Donnie Darko and Brokeback Mountain, he found himself in the enviable position of being very young and very successful in Hollywood. That’s when everyone in the business will tell you exactly which projects and path will guarantee you a lucrative career. And that’s when Gyllenhaal stepped back and decided it was time to listen to his own voice about what he wanted to do and what his work would say about him. The results are sometimes perplexing (Enemy), or darkly comic (Nightcrawler), but always worth watching. And for Gyllenhaal, richly rewarding – the spoils being the experience, worldview and friendships he takes with him from every role. From Southpaw, he learned that a mere five pounds of pressure is all it takes to knock a guy’s brain against the side of his skull and put him down, if you know just where to land it. It’s the kind of instinct that told him just how to play one of the most touching and terrifying scenes in that film, and the same instinct that now guides the career he’s designing for himself. In this episode, Gyllenhaal discusses his work ethic, how he chooses and prepares for roles, and why he’d like to see someone else take a shot at playing them – really. It’s an esoteric conversation, but don’t worry; you’ll love it even if you’re not into Talking Heads, Bruce Springsteen or Wild Geese.
Sep 24, 2015
The Call-In Show
On this episode of OFF Camera with Sam Jones the guest is YOU! It’s the first ever Off Camera Call In Podcast in the spirit of old timey radio and it stars listeners, viewers, and fans of Off Camera. So pull up a chair and listen in!
Sep 21, 2015
36. Dax Shepard
Actor, writer, director, thrill seeker, and comedian Dax Shepard joins Sam to talk about risk, both the real life kind on a motorcycle and the kinds he took to become the actor, father, and husband he is today. He also shares the gift of perspective and gratitude that he’s learned from his “current wife” Kristen Bell (his words folks). Pull up a chair and listen into this honest and revealing conversation.
Sep 07, 2015
35. Kevin Bacon
As someone whose been famous for the majority of his life, Kevin has learned a lot from navigating the ups and downs of a career in the public eye which also made for some interesting conversation. He’s one of the rare artists that bridges the gap between the modern actor and the era of the classic movie star. In this episode, Kevin joins Sam to talk about his early days in a family that valued creativity above else, he shares the unexpected joys of doing a network TV show, and admits to some really awkward guitar moments. Sam has admired Kevin’s work for a long time and his chat with him was truly worth the wait. So pull up a chair and listen in.
Aug 24, 2015
34. Rashida Jones
Rashida is someone who has always made her own luck in her career. She figured out early on that creating her own projects puts her in the driver’s seat and as a result she has become a multi-hyphenate creator with a unique voice whose made people take notice. She gets personally involved in socially conscious projects that she believes in and isn’t scared to aim high which is probably why she has been handed the keys to one of Pixar’s beloved movie franchises, Toy Story. She wrote a great film called Celeste and Jesse Forever and had the confidence to not only attach herself as the lead but to refuse to let the studio make the film without her. That takes balls. In this episode, Rashida discusses her relationship with her iconic parents Quincy Jones and Peggy Lipton, her uncertain transition from academia to acting, what she learned from her time on The Office and Parks and Recreation, and her Steve Carrell produced comedy Angie Tribeca. She also shares her eye opening and sometimes painful experiences producing Hot Girls Wanted, a documentary about the amateur porn film industry. You might want to take your kids out of the room for that one folks.
Aug 10, 2015
33. Chris Moore
You know few jobs demand more skilled straddling of the line between the creative and business sides of an industry than a film producer. And there’s perhaps no one better suited. “Born to” is not a stretch for that unique role than independent producer and independent thinker Chris Moore. After 3 years as a very successful agent, his creative side no longer allowed him to sell scripts he loved. Never to see them until they emerged on screen as almost unrecognizable versions of their former selves. Hooray for Hollywood. He didn’t do badly out of the gate as a producer. Betting bigger than any studio on two unknown screenwriters Matt and Ben who insisted on starring on their own movie. Then he went on to produce films like The Adjustment Bureau and Promised Land and TV shows like Project Greenlight with said unknown writers. Relentlessly curious and original, he’s made somewhat of a career of on-air experiments and taken some heat for them too. The Chair, his latest on-air what if is a fascinating look at what happens to the same story in the hands of two different directors. These are interesting times in filmed entertainment and Moore has seen a sea change in the making, funding, and promoting of it over his career. The embarrassment of riches occasioned by the explosion of film, TV, video choices and the way we watch them has scattered audiences to the point where return on investment is impossible and risk taking is at a minimum. Moore might lament the fickle economics of choice if he wasn’t too busy on working how to reinvent and adapt to them. For starters he thinks filmmakers need to open up their process, focus less on marketing their products, and more on marketing themselves. Well, interesting times call for interesting minds. Call him opinionated, self promoting, or a control freak and also call him if you got a good story because if you do he’s a guy who you want in your corner. He says he got into the business to tell stories about people he would want to hang out with. We loved hanging out with Chris Moore. So pull up chair and listen in.
Jul 27, 2015
32. Lizzy Caplan
You know it’s funny and sometimes not so funny how an actor’s earliest role can influence the rest of their career. Lizzy Caplan’s first acting job was convincing everyone around her that she was just fine when her mother passed away. Caplan was 13 at the time and the tough hold it in and laugh it off persona she cultivated as a result landed her a seemingly endless string of flirty funny side kick roles. Caplan was surprised and disappointed when the toughness she brought to her characters didn’t result in bigger parts. She stuck it out and resigned herself to a career of cool comedies that no one would see. A fate she didn’t mind except for the fact that she knew she could do more. The folks at Showtime finally realized that too and cast her as Virginia Johnson on its break out drama Masters of Sex. Caplan joins Off Camera to discuss the influence of her early childhood on her acting, feminism on and off the screen, and the value of terrifying yourself on a daily basis. And nudity. We discuss nudity. So pull up a chair and listen in.
Jul 13, 2015
31. Zach Braff
In one review of Zach Braff’s “Wish I Was Here,” Sheila O'Malley quoted a T.S. Eliot poem “And indeed there will be time to wonder. Do I dare? and Do I dare?” Well folks, Braff dared. He dared to bring a small passion project to life via crowd-funding. He dared to veer from the standard studio sanction story arc to see the film he wanted to see. He dared to write, direct, and act in it though he lives in a town that prefers ponies of the one trick variety. He dared to share emotional and personal stories through his work only to have his means and material eviscerated. Maybe it’s no surprise that one of his favorite lines in the movie, delivered by Kate Hudson is “At least i’m trying.” Well he never assumed to bring a small passion project to the screen would be easy, he also never assumed his quest to do so via Kickstarter would spark wide spread vitriolic backlash. With hard earned hindsight and rare honesty, Braff discusses the experience of shaping very personal stories through his art. Maybe it was bound to happen to a hyper sensitive theatre geek who’s vulnerability served him well for 9 seasons on Scrubs but less so as an indie filmmaker. But the audiences and critics who jumped on the poop slinging bandwagon overlooked what wish i was here did offer: a subtle humorous look at family dynamics, modern masculinity, and what we owe our kids vs. what we owe ourselves. This episode sparked an engrossing conversation about Braff’s early introduction into theatre, the horrible auditions that saved his career, and the parallels between his life and his films. He doesn’t mind taking a punch or two on screen but says the virtual one he took from the internet will shift his future work away from personal heartfelt projects. This makes us sad but also skeptical, Braff is a filmmaker not just by choice but by unalterable DNA. We’re betting and certainly hoping he can’t keep his unique voice quiet for long. So pull up a chair and listen in.
Jun 29, 2015
30. Jennifer Beals
How does a 17 year-old with one credit as an extra end up in the audition room for the lead of one of the most seminal movies of its decade? And perhaps more importantly, how does an introspective not highly social student deal with the surreal experience of having her privacy go away overnight? For Jennifer Beals, feeling like a equal opportunity outsider due to her mixed race and the one-two punch of losing her dad and discovering her family was shockingly poor at age 9 may have provided the best if uninvited coping mechanisms. As humble as she is beautiful, the actress who said she would never make it on So You Think You Can Dance? shares the blow by blow experience of her Flashdance audition, which was the breakthrough role she came very close to turning down. She also talks about dealing with the boys club that was Hollywood filmmaking in the 80s and returning to school at Yale immediately afterward. Given that she has continued to take on roles portraying strong independent women and often using them to integrate acting with activism, it’s surprising to learn that she’s often happiest retreating back to the rich solitary realm of her imagination. But when she tastes a role she wants watch out, she’s ready to come out swinging. Talking to Jennifer Beals is inspiring in so many ways but perhaps most so because after decades of work in what could be a challenging business and tough for women in particular, she still feels joy at the the thrill of jumping in. So pick up a chair and listen in.
Jun 15, 2015
29. Lake Bell
Lake Bell wasn’t discouraged when her first punchline didn't get a laugh. Granted she was two years old and most toddlers aren't easily discouraged but subsequent events indicate it may have had more to do with her steadfast belief in her destiny as a comedic writer and actress and most admirably her willingness to do the work to get there. Though Hollywood called soon after college, she went to England first to train professionally at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art. Once in LA, she landed a couple of TV shows and could have easily traded on her looks for more but she wanted to write. So she befriended a writer, learned the trade, and wrote a script. Only to have it fall apart shortly before being produced. Undaunted, she went on to write In a World, offered the chance to direct and star in it, she first wrote and directed a new short film just to get the experience she felt she needed. It paid off. In a world mined her own comedic vulnerability and fraught relationships to commercial and critical success. In this episode Lake discusses the family dynamics that spurred her creativity, her love and pathological need for storytelling, the experience of simultaneously starring in and directing in her first feature, and the best writing advice she received along the way.
Jun 01, 2015
28. Jon Hamm
Could you see Jon Hamm on Dawson’s Creek? Neither could he nor anyone else in the youth obsessed Hollywood of the 80s when he drove to LA with $150 in his pocket and no real master plan to make it as an actor. And no, he didn’t get the Dawson’s Creek part. Moving to Los Angeles was a big risk at a time when no one was looking for mature, square jawed, slightly world weary men. Enter Don Draper and a certain amount of irony. His status as a Hollywood unknown landed him the role of a lifetime as the suit and hat clad personification of an era rapidly losing relevance on a network undergoing seismic shifts itself. Eight seasons, a Golden Globe, and multiple Emmy nominations later, exit Don Draper. And the question becomes: Once your famous for defining a character, how do you avoid being defined by him for the rest of your career? Struggling for years before officially making it on Mad Men and subsequently spending each hiatus wondering if the show would be coming back for another season. Jon Hamm has developed a Draper worthy take on that question. Over the course of his career, he has seen a lot, learned even more, and has a passionate but clear eyed grip on the industry to show for it. This is a man who understands the value of his own hard work and the importance of surrounding himself with people as smart and curious as himself. I think he will be just fine. So pull up a chair and listen in.
May 18, 2015
Ethan Hawke
Success came to Ethan Hawke when he was young. He landed the Explorers, a major motion picture at age 13 off his first audition no less. His second film at 18, under Robin Williams’ tutelage on and off screen was the now classic Dead Poets Society. He’s been an established star ever since. At age 24, in the midst of his early film successes he published The Hottest State. Hawke admits that adding novelist to his resume made him an easy target for ridicule. The word pretentious has been thrown at him many times, often by foes, a few times by friends, and even by himself. His response: It beats not trying. He did keep trying and with his true renaissance man’s every career milestone over 20 plus years, the neigh saying is drowned out by the praise. His roles in Reality Bites, Training Day, The Before Sunrise trilogy, and most recently Boyhood have entrenched him in the top tier of the film industry with four Oscar nominations. He has the faith of stage producers and directors as well. He’s done Shakespeare, Chekhov, and three plays with Tom Stoppard. His second novel Ash Wednesday was a best seller. In his latest film he has moved behind the camera to show the world someone who has played the game of life even more skillfully than he, an 87-year-old piano player named Seymour Bernstein who embodies an ethos that Hawke has embraced. In the grand scheme, it’s not about growing up, it’s not about growing old, it’s simply about growing. So pull up a chair and listen in.
May 04, 2015
26. Will Ferrell
Just mention Will Ferrell’s name or glance at a picture at him and chances are you are already smiling. But the really funny thing is that it’s not necessarily because his best known characters are so gosh darn lovable, you see Ferrell never bought the conventional movie truism that comedic leads have to be likable and he went on to prove it perhaps most pointedly with the iconic Ron Burgundy. In fact, he doesn’t even think comedy has to particularly funny to be hysterical. While working a number of regular jobs like valet and bank teller, Ferrell did stand-up in small comedy clubs. Clinging to his father’s surprisingly helpful advice that his ever making it would be a long shot, it was just that take it or leave it approach that allowed him to pursue his unique comedic style free from the angst that might have otherwise crushed it. It might also explain a small sadistic streak that underlies his performances. If you don’t like what he’s doing, sit back and enjoy it anyway, or else. In Sam’s chat with Will, he describes his stomach churning, knee buckling Saturday Night Live audition and the even more daunting experience of joining the legendary show at one of it’s lowest points. He also shares his writing process, stories behind some of his best loved impersonations, and his long and sometimes perplexing film resume.
Apr 20, 2015
25. Jessica Chastain
What does it take to feel confident that you’ve made it in Hollywood? “Coming from nowhere with no connections” and going almost overnight to A-list status with leads in a string of the most highly acclaimed films in recent history would do the trick. So would a modest but steely belief that acting is what you’re meant to do, and always will do. Jessica Chastain wasn’t always certain of her path, but she never questioned her destination. That helps when you find yourself going to audition after audition with zero film work to show casting directors. Though daunting, it allowed her the rare opportunity to enter wide public and industry consciousness with a series of performances as revelatory as they were different in Jolene, Tree of Life,The Help and Zero Dark Thirty. While deeply appreciative of the experiences those films earned her to work with some of the most innovative and talented directors and cinematographers in the business, Chastain says she still feels the need to eventually take her roles away from the writers and directors with whom she collaborates. Call it an overdeveloped sense of ownership; but it’s the kind of ownership that creates characters whose inner life is so transparent that we’re along for the ride from first frame. But perhaps the most admirable and inspiring aspect of her position in Hollywood is how she’s using it to advocate for a much-needed increase in female presence, perspective and opportunities in the industry she loves. She knows bringing Off Camera votes Jessica Chastain for Best Actress…and maybe for President.
Mar 23, 2015
24. Chris Pine
If some actors enjoy the privileges of descending from families of acting royalty, Chris Pine reaped the lessons of the blue-collar version – his dad, mom and grandma were hardworking actors, if not red carpet regulars. And Pine wanted none of it. Fighter pilot, maybe; baseball player, sure; acting, not so much. But when the family trade eventually caught up with him, it caught up fast. What else are you going to do with an English major anyway, right? After some early theater work and less than a year of the requisite waiter gig, he started landing jobs and soon faced a career-defining choice: Play a homosexual, homicidal detective in James Ellroy’s White Jazz, or go be Captain Kirk in Star Trek? The decision wasn’t easy, but perhaps it was inevitable. Kenneth Branagh, who directed him in Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit, once compared him to Paul Newman, calling him “…the character actor in the leading man’s body.” But many projects in – from popcorn fair like The Princess Diaries 2, Smokin’ Aces and Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit to critically acclaimed turns in Bottle Shockand plays like Neil LaBute’s Fat Pig, Farragut North and The Lieutenant of Inishmore – Pine still claims to have no idea what he’s doing…except having a good time.
Mar 07, 2015
23. Jason Sudeikis
As a high school sophomore, Jason Sudeikis switched schools in pursuit of serious basketball dreams and, of course, a girl. Instead, he discovered classes in radio and TV and debate – and a new career option. Soon after swapping Final Four tickets for a video camera, he gave up on college hoops and eventually college itself to go pro in the improv leagues. He honed his chops at ComedySportz, the Annoyance and ImprovOlympic before getting drafted by Second City and eventually Saturday Night Live, where some of his most memorable work occurred behind the scenes writing skits for Justin Timberlake, Amy Poehler and buddy Will Forte. Along the way he happily stole (a term he prefers to “borrow”) from lifelong mentors to develop his own comedic DNA (watch him in the We’re The Millers and guess who he’s channeling). In this issue, Sudeikis discusses his improv roots, his development as an actor and writer, his early love-hate relationship with SNL, the art of guest host management, and of course, hoops. To this day he’s a flashy, joke-cracking point guard who never lets you see how hard he’s working.
Feb 21, 2015
22. Jon Brion
A long time ago, Jon Brion asked some fellow musicians, “What if there was a performer that made up every song on the spot?” Consensus was, the songs would suck. “But what if they didn’t?” persisted Brion. The short answer is his legendary live show at L.A.’s Largo, the key components of which are mind-blowing musical genius, an audience-generated set list and surprise sit-ins by a list of musical luminaries. It’s almost as fun to watch the audience sitting in slack-jawed delight to see and hear what happens next. It’s a truly rare experience that tends to turn people into “you just have to see it” evangelists. As word got out, Brion found himself in increasing demand as a producer for artists like Fiona Apple, Kanye West and Elliott Smith. A more unexpected line of work emerged creating quirky, curious film scores for directors like Paul Anderson and David O. Russell. Brion’s artistic path hasn’t always been easy, but it’s always been clear. He’s defined his career by taking things he didn’t like (school, most live music shows, needle-drop film scores) and turning them into something new and completely his own. He’s a one-man case study on how truly unique talent can succeed in an industry that rarely embraces iconoclasts. Sometimes the biggest victory is getting away with being yourself.
Feb 08, 2015
21. Laird Hamilton
It’s understandable that “Oh My God” was the only caption Surfer magazine could come up with for their cover photo of Laird Hamilton, whose drop into Tahiti’s Teahupo’o break on the morning of August 17, 2000 established him as the greatest surfer in the sport’s recorded history. How he got there (and lived to get there) is the story of a life lived far outside the confines of tradition. Hamilton has always seen himself as an outcast, first as a white boy growing up among native Hawaiians, and then as a world champion surfer who refused to prove it in any organized surf competition. Brought to the island as little boy by a single mom, he grew up young, fast and precariously. Ironically, the same ocean that was always one wave away from taking his life at any given moment was probably what saved it. His passion for the sea and finding unheard of new ways to ride it gave him focus, direction and an enviably heightened connection to our environment. You don’t spend a lifetime doing certifiably insane things in the awesome, powerful sphere we inhabit without developing a deep appreciation for it. After all, why are we on earth if not to really be on it? Off Camera invites you to enjoy some epic stories and life lessons from a master who reminds us that we’re all equal before a wave. We doubt he’ll be catching his last one anytime soon, but if he does, you can bet it’ll be with no regrets.
Jan 26, 2015
20. Taylor Goldsmith
Some artists do what they do because it’s simply impossible for them to do anything else. Meet exhibit A: Taylor Goldsmith. At just 28, the songwriter and front man of LA-based band Dawes is already hailed as one of our most mature song crafters. His work has been compared not only to some of the greatest classic authors (whom he reads avidly) but also to some of the musical poets who inspire him: Bob Dylan, Jackson Browne, Robbie Robertson, Warren Zevon – many of whom he seems undaunted by actually having worked and toured with. Goldsmith grew up in a musical household, and has played music with his brother Griffin since age 10. He appears to somehow have sprung from the womb with an almost fully developed sound and lyrical approach. He’s stayed true to both while still managing to evolve over Dawes’ last three albums. So who better to discuss the mysteries process of songwriting than one of its most authentic and thoughtful practitioners? What experience informs a great song and makes its story valid over time? What role should the writer’s life experience play in a song? And if great songs are deeply personal, how do they still connect with thousands? And also, why does a guy whose songs are widely associated with the Laurel Canyon sound and who indeed recorded his band’s first album in Laurel Canyon not actually like LA that much? Whether you’ve pondered these questions before or not, we guarantee you will enjoy the conversation.
Jan 13, 2015
19. Jeff Bridges
For someone who balked at entering the family business, Jeff Bridges has one well-developed CV. He won the Academy Award for Best Actor for his role as Otis “Bad” Blake 2009’s Crazy Heart and has received multiple nominations and accolades for his brilliant work in such iconic films as The Last Picture Show, Starman, True Grit, Fearless,Tucker, The Fabulous Baker Boys, and perhaps his most successful “unsuccessful” film ever, The Big Lebowski. Such a lineup could make a lesser actor all too ubiquitous, but watching him perform remains nothing less than pure cinematic joy. Attribute that to his canny choice of roles, or according to him, sloth – “All these jobs are messing with my laziness, man.” We think New York Magazine film critic Pauline Kael nailed the truth when she wrote that Bridges “may be the most natural and least self-conscious screen actor that has ever lived.” In this episode, Bridges shares his often unorthodox means of finding his way into characters, and how each has influenced his many creative paths. When Bridges immerses himself in a role he never comes out…at least not without a new skill or passion that enriches both his films and his reputation as a creative polymath. As apt and interested in his music, sculpting, photography, philanthropy and drawing as he is in film, he admits to some anxiety about being all of them versus, well, just being. But with time he’s cultivated an enviable lack of worry and the ability to embrace the yin while on occasion “yanging my ass off”.OC and Bridges wax philosophical on life, art and the creative process, so just abide and enjoy the ride.
Dec 29, 2014
18. Judy Greer
Say you’re an actor who’s been in over 50 films and on just about every TV show known to modern audiences, but no one can ever figure out where they’ve seen you before. You might start to wonder what you’re doing wrong. If you’re Judy Greer, you realize it means you’re doing everything pretty right, and you write a hysterical book about it. The archetypal sweet, hardworking Midwesterner who moves to LA with dreams of making it big, did – as everyone’s best friend, playing sidekick to the stars in films like The Wedding Planner, 13 Going on 30, 27 Dresses, and The Descendants. Between movies, she piled up appearances on TV shows such as Arrested Development, My Name Is Earl, Californication, ER, House, Modern Family and The Big Bang Theory. So naturally, she’s written the book on what makes a great co star. Really, she did. It’s called I Don’t Know What You Know Me From: Confessions of a Co-Star. An inveterate hustler whose already-long, successful career is marked by equal parts talent and persistence, Greer admits she still struggles with fears and insecurities, including whether she’s actually even an artist. In the course of becoming comfortable with herself and her place in the industry, she’s accumulated some wisdom, which she generously shares: judge books by their covers, really fuck up auditions, and most importantly, give up your dreams. She joins Off Camera to talk about forging her way Hollywood, her dreams of resurrecting the big romantic comedy, and what it’s like to finally play a leading role on her new TV series, Married. We loved talking to the first lady of second fiddles, who calls her whole career “a luck-out”. But don’t let the nice Midwest exterior fool you. She’s a mouse-killer, friends. And she really, really wants a gun.
Dec 15, 2014
17. Jackson Browne
Jackson Browne is a master songwriter whose artistic journey spans the evolution of folk music and in many ways, the evolution of the music industry itself. That journey began with the de rigueur cross-country van trip from suburbia to NYC financed with $50 and his mom’s credit card. Few such aspiring-artist journeys result in an offer to gig with Warhol superstar Nico and a record label deal – at 18, no less. His timing was good. As music began moving away from the circumscribed pop of 50s and 60s, musicians were searching for more original, personal fare. And Browne had plenty, writing for himself, and also for the likes of The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, Gregg Allman, Joan Baez, the Eagles, Linda Ronstadt and The Byrds to name a few. Recording his own material proved more challenging; challenging enough that early champion David Geffen was forced to start his own record label just to make one. You’re welcome, David. Browne’s lyric genius and mind-boggling ear for melody gave us some of the most iconic entries in the American rock songbook – “These Days”, “Running on Empty”, “Doctor My Eyes”, “Somebody’s Baby” –anthems that evoke images and emotions with that rare ability to morph and bend to resonate with each new generation. Perhaps that’s because he takes the time to let the songs take shape and become what they need to be. Jackson Browne is a legend yes, but one with the discipline, and relevance and plain old love of craft to keep creating and moving forward. Aspiring songwriters, here’s your User’s Manual.
Nov 30, 2014
16. Ed Helms
What, me worry? Editor, musician, actor, comedian – Ed Helms makes it all look easy. And for him, it kind of is. The secret? A supportive, if showbiz-ignorant family helps, as does a seemingly bottomless supply of self-confidence. Helms left a happy, successful career as a commercial editor to take his chances in comedy with none of the attendant anxiety you’d expect with such a move. Why? He was just pretty sure he could do it. And he was right, landing at The Daily Show as one of its best writers and correspondents. As far as Helms was concerned, he was pretty much in his dream job when he was offered a role on The Office, but with no guarantees Andy Bernard would live beyond a couple of episodes. Risk an established career for what could easily be a rapid sitcom death? He figured he could do that, too. And we all know how that worked out. Helms talks to Off Camera about the arc of his career, his band (Andy Bernard’s mad banjo skills are real, kids), how The Hangover impacted his life and his rampant curiosity about, well, almost everything. Don’t mistake Ed’s confidence for arrogance – chalk it up to his hard work and equal parts respect and disregard for fear. But mostly, this most happy fella simply loves every moment of what he does, whatever that happens to be at the moment. Which is probably why we do, too.
Nov 04, 2014
15. Matt Damon
When a kid tells you he wants to be an actor and starts holding regular meetings in the high school cafeteria with his “business partner” it’s kind of cute. When they establish a joint bank account to fund New York audition trips and the occasional arcade game, well call it naive. Unless you are Matt Damon and said business partner is Ben Affleck, then call it a no Plan B laser like focus on a goal. One that spawned the Academy Award winning script for Good Will Hunting. What started as an attempt to write themselves into acting jobs garnered Damon not only accolades but also some early lessons about fame, career choices, and the industry he was determined to be a part of. It also enrolled him in a 20 year on the job master class with the best film makers of our generation including Martin Scorsese, the Coen Brothers, Steven Spielberg, Clint Eastwood, Steven Soderbergh, Francis Ford Coppola, and Gus Van Sant. Along the way he also developed an uncanny ability to disappear into any character and become someone believable different in every film. So what could possibly be next? Damon tells Off Camera why no matter what it is, it will be something that he absolutely loves. So pull up a chair and listen in.
Nov 04, 2014
14. Sarah Silverman
As a third grader, Sarah Silverman had already narrowed her future career to three options: Comedian, actress or masseuse. She landed pretty quickly on comedian and never looked back, dropping out of college with the support of a father who financed her NYC apartment and three-year curriculum of comedy club work. Success came rapidly and almost unbelievably when she was hired as a Saturday Night Live writer at just 22 – sans audition. She was fired almost as rapidly, without any of her work ever appearing on the show. Former SNL writer Bob Odenkirk said, “I could see how it wouldn’t work… because she’s got her own voice, she’s very much Sarah Silverman all the time. She can play a character but she doesn’t disappear into the character – she makes the character her.” Despite some noted guest TV and film appearances, Silverman never looked at standup as a stepping-stone to an acting career. She is a stand up comedian “the way some people are gay”. Compulsively revealing the painful (she dealt with depression and bed wetting into her teens) and the uncomfortable, the more she becomes herself, the funnier (if more shocking) we find her, whether we admit it or not. Her combination of honesty and true comedic skill results not in a series of jokes, but a series of insights that connect – all the more stealthily for being cloaked in humor. Sarah Silverman talks to Off Camera about her breakout special Jesus is Magic, the decision to film the more recent We Are Miracles in front of a vast audience of 39, and living the low-overhead dream.
Apr 30, 2014
13. Michael B Jordan
Drug dealer, football player, alcoholic, shooting victim. In his first decade of acting, Michael B. Jordan has found ways to humanize characters that, on the page, may seem stereotypically what he dubs “the black guy.” In The Wire, a young and very sheltered Jordan asked fellow actors to help him understand how to simulate a cocaine high onscreen, and through that surreal experience discovered his unfettered love of acting. In Friday Night Lights, Jordan started journaling as an acting exercise, and amassed a detailed back story for quarterback Vince Howard that made the character seem shockingly real. With Fruitvale Station, Jordan dug even deeper. Playing a real person for the first time, he inserted himself deep into the family of the slain Oscar Grant, who was killed by a police officer on a train platform in Oakland in 2009. Jordan spent time with Oscar’s former girlfriend, mother, daughter, and all of his friends. The result was an intensely real portrayal of an innocent young man in a film that exposes our ongoing race problem in this country, and Jordan’s performance was nuanced, understated, and masterful. Perhaps his ability to play characters with the odds stacked against him comes from his own desire not to fall into that lifestyle. Jordan started working very young, doing modeling and acting in commercials, and saw an acting career as a way out of the tough urban environment of Newark, New Jersey. In his words, he saw “plenty of Wallaces, Bodies, and Avon Barksdales,” and was determined to make a better life for himself. Not only does Jordan not want to just “play the black guy,” he also doesn’t want to compare himself too closely to actors that came before. He says he doesn’t want to be the next Will Smith, or the next Tom Cruise--he just wants to be himself. When you are around Jordan, his optimism and ambition are infectious and endearing. He doesn’t just want to star in films – he wants to produce them. He doesn’t want to just be on television, he wants his own channel. And he doesn’t just want to be the face of a studio, he wants to run a studio. At Off Camera, we wouldn’t bet against him doing anything he sets his mind to.
Feb 03, 2014
12. Will Forte
Anyone reading Wikipedia’s entry on Will Forte couldn’t be blamed for suspecting it’s the prank of a fellow jokester. High school class president and football player? College history major? Promising financial broker? Seriously? Entries for his more recent past (That ‘70s Show writer, The Groundlings, Saturday Night Live) seem more like the real Will Forte – until you watch his subtly astounding turn in Nebraska. Director Alexander Payne considered over 100 actors for role of David, all of who wanted it – badly. It’s understandable, given the Oscar buzz and critical acclaim the film and cast have generated since the movie’s release. So how does MacGruber wind up as the kind voice of reason in a bleak cinematic landscape populated by bitter, deluded characters? Forte says maybe Alexander Payne had the best answer when he said that directors often choose actors “because they think 80% of the character is already you.” Indeed, Forte’s performance is so genuine, honest and stripped down it makes us wonder if the whole wacky funny guy thing is just an act. Any comedy we see in his character is of the absurdly sad sort that Payne has a genius for capturing. It’s hard not to draw parallels between the physical journey David takes in the film and Forte’s journey as an actor. Forte is grateful for every moment of it and excited about what comes next. At Off Camera, we will be watching to see exactly what that will be.
Dec 03, 2013
11. Martin Short
Martin Short grew up in a family full of funny people. He staged make-believe talk shows in his attic and absorbed a steady TV diet of comedy masters like Carson, Rickles and Paar, and yet inexplicably dreamed of becoming a doctor. Or a dentist. Always serious about success, Short gave himself a one-year contract to make it in comedy before returning to school for a master’s degree in a respectable medical field. Though we all know how things worked out, it’s rare to find a budding comic with a backup plan. But Short is a rare comedian – one you’d both want to go out and drink with and who you would allow to watch your kids. Maybe due to his upbringing as the adored baby of a family who never discouraged his comedic pursuits, Short developed a self assurance uncommon to the standard performer’s psyche. But it’s as hard-earned as it is innate: Short prepares. He practices in mirrors. He plots sketches with index cards. He does his homework. He knows his audience, and when it comes to talk shows, he knows his hosts. He’s an encyclopedia of the style nuances of everyone from Kimmel to Letterman. Short will tell you that confidence is the most important factor in any good performance, and it’s likely what kept him on a steady rise through the ranks of improv and sketch comedy, and helped him avoid imploding from the pressures of being the new guy in the room with some of the genres’ most intimidating names. Harry Shearer, Christopher Guest, Billy Crystal and Lorne Michaels were just a few of his early colleagues. It’s not hard to imagine that Short’s self possession is also at the root of some of his most precocious and obnoxious inventions. We find Ed Grimley and Jiminy Glick hysterical in direct proportion to their complete lack of self consciousness. Short’s most beloved characters are his finely observed, albeit magnified versions of people we all know. Off Camera attempts to reconcile the frenetic showman, consummate comedy student and urbane purveyor of talk show banter as we ask, “Is this guy serious?”
Nov 28, 2013
10. Stacy Peralta
Stacy Peralta recalls his earliest and most visceral memories of skateboarding as the rumbling of the sidewalk coming up through his feet. Metaphorically, what he might have been feeling was the oncoming explosion of skateboarding, which would carry him to places he couldn’t imagine as a grade schooler on his inaugural ride down an especially smooth stretch of Venice Boulevard in Southern California. By age 17 he was inventing iconic tricks and earning more money than his parents as a skater, and by 19 he was the sport’s highest ranked pro. His skate team, Powell Peralta, launched the careers of legends like Rodney Mullen, Steve Caballero and Tony Hawk. His Bones Brigade Video Show virtually invented the skateboard video, creating the sport’s first marketing vehicle and enabling kids worldwide to see the sport’s best athletes up close and personal. And for his next trick? Peralta walked away from it all. Peralta abandoned what had been his whole identity to attempt a writing and directing career in film and television. This leap of faith is even braver (or perhaps more foolish) in light of his own complete lack of confidence in his chances of succeeding. And his fear seemed justified by an initial run of projects that Peralta says “just got worse and worse”. But because doing anything else seemed even more impossible, he did succeed: His documentary Dogtown and Z-Boys premiered at Sundance, winning the documentary Directing and Audience Awards and selling over a million DVD copies. His Crips and Bloods: Made in America won acclaim as a hard hitting, and thoughtful look at the circumstances that led to the creation of two of the most violent gangs in U.S. history. Peralta talks about weathering the highs and lows of a truly remarkable career and tells Off Camera that for the first time in 15 years he doesn’t know what he’s going to do next. Whatever it is, have faith it’ll be rad.
Nov 27, 2013
09. Laura Dern
Any 7 year-old who inhales 19 ice cream cones in a row for her first movie appearance, arranges a clandestine meeting with an agent at 11 and inflates her age by an improbable 8 years to audition for the role of a 19 year old really wants to be an actress. Maybe Laura Dern never really had a choice anyway. The daughter of acclaimed actors Bruce Dern and Diane Ladd was assured of her destiny by Martin Scorsese, who saw her future in the fact that she didn’t throw up the aforementioned ice cream cones. He was right. Dern gives us complicated personalities whose often baffling behavior we somehow understand due to the firm and uncompromising grip she keeps on their humanity. It’s a rare ability to find in any actor. It’s a crucial ability for an actor whose carefully-selected projects started and largely remain with directors like David Lynch, Alexander Payne and Martha Coolidge, whose films aren’t widely populated by America’s sweetheart-type characters. In this interview, she discusses what she’s endeavored to bring to some of her early roles in films like Foxes, Smooth Talk, Wild at Heart and Blue Velvet, and those films’ effect on her as a young actress growing into womanhood on camera. To understand her approach is to understand how the best in their craft can suck us into their characters’ psyche without our ever realizing we’re there. Dern also touches on some of her enviable mentors, age and sexuality in the movies, and getting closure on the wrap of her brilliant HBO series Enlightened. Obviously and deeply in love with every aspect of film making, Dern is as fascinating to talk to as she is to watch; she’s the friend you’d want to stay up with all night for the most fun and interesting conversation. Off Camera apologizes in advance – this interview will leave you wanting more.
Nov 27, 2013
08. Judd Apatow
What kid tells himself, “I know being a high school loner who reads comic books all the time will pay off for me”? One who winds up being a loner who reads comic books all the time. Or, one who winds up creating iconic comedies like Knocked Up, Superbad, and most recently, This Is 40. Enamored with comedy and comedians as a grade schooler, Judd Apatow set about interviewing his idols for WKWZ. The first thing he learned is that they’re kind – no one kicked him out when they realized WKWZ was a high school radio station. While his comedies and the actors in them are household names, most fans are unaware they’re the beneficiaries of a filmmaking approach Apatow is largely credited with developing. Fueled by self-doubt or maybe just any comedian’s compulsive search for the ultimate killer line, Apatow shoots and tests multiple versions of almost every scene he films. His true genius may be his knack for identifying new and often unlikely talent, and letting it inform his scripts. This approach has elevated the not only the films themselves, but the careers of James Franco, Lena Dunham, Seth Rogen, Melissa McCarthy and Steve Carell, to name only a few. Perhaps due in part to his own painfully geekish childhood, he continues to remake Freaks and Geeks in work that lays bare our foibles, anger, lunacy and occasional transcendence. At once eviscerating and empathetic, he holds a mirror up to us and we laugh in recognition. Apatow has seen us naked, and we don’t mind. Off Camera sits down with the crazy voice in all of our heads for an in-depth interview.
Nov 27, 2013
07. Dave Grohl
Being a bona fide badass is the price of entry for a career in rock and roll; and if you ask Dave Grohl, it’s the key ingredient for just about anything worth doing. His approach to life has fueled the Foo Fighters’ 20 year,11 album career and garnered him a following of very stoked rock fans, many of who gathered at this year’s SXSW music conference to hear Grohl’s keynote address. The hipsters, rockers, start-uppers and next-big-thing developers packing the room were no doubt curious to hear how one goes about dropping out of high school, rising to fame as the drummer in Nirvana (a small Northwest act you may have heard of), and then go on to lead one today’s few remaining true rock bands? For Grohl, the answer’s pretty simple: figure out who you are and what inspires you and don’t look back – develop that individuality by working as hard as you can at what you love. That clarity of approach drove not only his Nirvana/Foo Fighters trajectory, but numerous musical side projects like Queens of the Stone Age, and Them Crooked Vultures. And most recently, a new artistic title: documentarian. He didn’t know anything about the film making process except what he needed to know most: Passion for your subject is sine qua non; and not one to do anything without it, Grohl didn’t question himself. Nor apparently did Rick Springfield, Neil Young, Stevie Nicks, Paul McCartney, and Tom Petty, all subjects of Sound City, his fascinating documentary about the people behind the studio that launched an amazing roster of legendary music acts. For a guy who admits to still feeling like a 13 year old and dressing like a 17 year old, Grohl has something to teach all of us…and shares it with Off Camera in one of our most inspiring interviews to date.
Nov 26, 2013
06. Tony Hawk
If pro skateboarders have resumes, Tony Hawk’s is undoubtedly among the longest and most envied. Though he’s the most decorated skater ever with the highest contest win percentage of any sport and a $1 billion video game series, Hawk has arguably given more to the sport than he’s received. Watching Hawk skate is testament to creativity and artistry as much as athleticism, as is his autobiography, which required a glossary to catalog the tricks that are his legacy to the skateboarding lexicon. His Tony Hawk Foundation has contributed over $4 million to develop 500 skate parks around the world. He’s also been skating’s foremost advocate, promoting it through some of its darkest days (though smashing his pelvis while attempting a full loop dressed in a gorilla suit probably doesn’t count). Hawk joins Off Camera to talk about the evolution of the sport from its scrappy underground beginnings to X Games behemoth. He shares his thoughts on the vital role of creativity and artistry in athletics and his continued love and commitment to the sport. Now a father of 4 that can still stick the most difficult tricks ever invented, we learn why at 44, he still makes his primary living on four wheels.
Nov 25, 2013
04. Aimee Mann
A wall of bad presidents, German lessons, and touring on her own terms: this is what happens when the artist whose reputation was defined by fighting with her record label doesn't need a record label anymore. Aimee talks about her approach to song craft, her obsession with comedians, and her early days as a reluctant video star.
Nov 24, 2013
05. Robert Downey Jr
For an actor who has starred almost simultaneously in three of today's biggest action blockbusters, Robert Downey Jr. is an unlikely hero, though his journey from an early run of flops and personal troubles to the Iron Man franchise has been epic. The very human RDJ goes beyond that well-chronicled ride and talks to Off Camera about lessons learned over his long career, why he's both skeptical and enamored of his art, and his ability to bring mass-market aspects to the small movies and independent spirit to the big ones. That, and tap dancing...
Nov 23, 2013
03. Blake Mills
At 26, guitarist/producer/ songwriter Blake Mills has racked up what would constitute a lifetime of career experience for any musician. The low-key virtuoso has worked with Band Of Horses, Lucinda Williams, Conor Oberst, Fiona Apple, Kid Rock, Nora Jones and Danger Mouse. Mills discusses his musical influences, how music is changing for performers and fans today, and making the personal universal with his gripping solo album, Break Mirrors.
Nov 22, 2013
02. John Krasinski
Walking out of a college basketball practice might have been the smartest career move John Krasinski ever made. On the cusp of leaving his show The Office behind for the unknown, Krasinski discusses his surprisingly accomplished resume, co-writing his newest film with Matt Damon, and what not to say to George Clooney.
Nov 21, 2013
01. Val McCallum
Whether or not you’ve heard of Val McCallum, you’ve heard him play the guitar. He discovered the instrument at age eight and hung on to it for dear life through some tough twists and turns to become one of today’s most in-demand studio musicians.Val talks about growing up in a famous family, his experiences backing many of the industry’s most iconic musicians, and why it took him 30 years to release his first-ever solo record.
Nov 20, 2013
Coming this Thursday
Jan 01, 2011