If you’ve heard the name Rainn Wilson, you probably know him from his bizarre role as Dwight Schrute in “The Office” or as that nerdy guy from “The Office” that’s in “Juno.” You know, the guy at the beginning that sells Juno the pregnancy test and says something about Etch-A-Sketches and doodles. Yeah, him.
Regardless of how familiar you are with the Seattle-born actor, Wilson is living the dream as a cast member on one of the most popular TV shows opposite Steve Carell. His stock will automatically rise with a small part as a college professor in the 2009 foreseeable blockbuster sequel “Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen.” Currently, Wilson stars in “The Rocker” as Robert “Fish” Fishman, a washed up drummer who joins his nephew’s high school rock band for a second chance at fame.
Sure, Wilson might refer to himself as a “minor television sitcom celebrity,” but with his new film he’s ready to star downpouring over the industry like Dee Snider’s golden locks of the ’80s. He took some time to talk to me about his glamorous rock ’n’ roll days and what he likes to watch when surfing YouTube.
“The Rocker” is your first lead role, so did you call Steve Carell up and let him know you were only three lead roles away from catching up to him?
That’s exactly what I did. I called him and was like, “Nya nya nya!”
Tell me about your garage band days.
I was in a band in high school. I was the lead singer and the band was called Collected Moss. We were awful. We were the worst band ever. I wish to God we would have tape recorded ourselves so we could release it to the press. We did covers of our favorite songs but everyone in the band had different tastes so we did everything from the Grateful Dead to the Clash.
You were quoted a couple of weeks ago saying that legendary rockers like Black Sabbath and Led Zeppelin are too girly because of the make-up and women’s clothing they wear. Are you worried about any physical retaliation?
I think that they would have to take off their high heels to do anything so they won’t fall over so I’m not really worried.
Did you feel like you were in good hands with a director like Peter Cattaneo (“The Full Monty”) since you do have some nude scenes?
Yeah, I was very excited to work with him. One thing he helped bring to the project was that absurd as it is – this rocker dinosaur joining up with these teenagers on the road – he was able to find the heart of these characters and this story.
Your character becomes a worldwide sensation when he is seen drumming naked on YouTube. Does it ever surprise you today how someone can become famous on the internet?
Yeah, I mean it’s crazy. Like that guy who is famous for dancing all over the world [search “Where the hell is Matt”]. That guy is like a superstar. It really shows how contemporary a movie like “The Rocker” is. You couldn’t have even put that as a plot element two or three years ago.
And now it’s water cooler talk; people ask each other if they’ve seen a certain video online yet. Do you keep up with that?
I click on the links. I just saw one the other day about a lion that is reunited with a couple who raised him [search Christian the Lion]. These people raised a lion in the 70’s or 80’s but it got too big so they reintroduced him into the wild. Then they flew to Africa to meet the lion years later and the lion runs up to them and hugs them. It’s so incredible. You can’t even believe it. It’s one of the coolest things you’ll ever see.
Well, “The Office” is still as popular as ever, but do you ever think about your life post-“Office”? Would you like to be part of the film world on a more regular basis?
Yeah, definitely. I think “The Office” has opened a lot of doors to do more films. I actually want to do more theater, too. I started in theater in New York City and I’d like to get back to that.
What are some of your favorite comedies about music?
I was a huge “Spinal Tap” fan. I love rock ’n’ roll movies. “Almost Famous” was one of my first movies [he plays a Rolling Stone Magazine editor]. I had a small part in that. It’s been quite a journey from “Almost Famous” until now.
And then of course there was “Juno” in the middle of those. Do you get people coming up to you all the time now wanting to hear your catchphrases from that movie?
Yeah, kids in the mall will come up to me and be like, “Hey, that’s one doodle that can’t be undid home skillet!” It’s funny because there are a lot of kids that only know me from “Juno” and not from “The Office.”
When did the dream to become a rock star end for you?
Well, it never did. I moved to New York City when I was 20 to go to acting school. I wanted to be a performer. It might have changed a little bit from rock ’n’ roll, but cut to 20 years later and I get to play a rock star, play gigs in front of audiences, and have a good time. I’m as close to a rock star as you can get.