Judy Greer – Archer (TV)

June 22, 2012 by  
Filed under Interviews

TV fans have certainly seen Judy Greer around. From guest spots on live action shows like “Arrested Development,” “Two and a Half Men,” and “Californication” to the her unmistakable voice that is currently displayed in the FX animated show “Archer.” Though film fans might not know her by name, Greer has popped up in a lot of romantic comedies over the years, but more recently has been able to snag some really juicy dramatic roles in movies such as “The Descendants” and “Jeff, Who Lives At Home.”

At the first ever ATX Television Festival, I sat down with Greer to talk about “Archer,” geek out about talking to someone from “Arrested Development,” and to discuss her blossoming film career.

So I looked at everything you’re here for. Sounds like you’ve got a pretty busy weekend planned. Are you excited for the festival?

I’m excited for the festival because I think, not that I know of, there’s no other festivals about television. I think that television is kind of, well I don’t know, isn’t it kind of the most important medium? (Laughs) I mean, it’s kind of true. It’s free, most of it. So that was exciting to me. I love the projects that I’m here to talk about but I also have been, like all of us, watching television and why is there a million movie festivals and film festivals but only one TV festival?

That’s a great question. Regarding “Archer,” the show has really taken off. The ratings are great and it’s found it’s audience. What do you think makes it so successful to hit this audience that it’s now hitting?

I think it’s really smart and I think people are looking for smarter comedies. I think people like how raunchy, but like smart raunchy it is. Because it’s animated, [creator] Adam Reed can do whatever he wants. We can kind of say whatever we want. FX gives us so much leeway and Adam is such a brilliant writer. Then you have these cartoon people saying it and it’s not as horrible.

It’s what “South Park” has gotten away with for years.

Yeah, exactly. I haven’t even thought about that. So, I think it’s successful because of the script and the storylines and the comedy.

Your character in particular gets to push things pretty far. As an actress is it kind of freeing to be able to say whatever you want and FX lets you do whatever you want?

Yeah, I mean the last time I felt that way was on “Arrested Development,” which obviously was live action. But I mean, never has anyone ever let us just go as crazy as they let us. And it’s really fun to be in a room by yourself doing it, because you really can come up with all the craziest things and just go crazy. There’s no one watching you, there’s not a crew full of people that are silently judging you. So it does feel really freeing and really creative. And Adam’s so excited, always for us to come up with something better than what he wrote. And most of the time we don’t, but he’s the No. 1 at saying, “Yeah! Say it! Try it! Whatever!” So that makes it fun.

You just said something about being alone and recording. Obviously the way you make these TV shows are different from live action comedies, you have to record in a booth and everything. Do you find the same kind of chemistry with the cast that you do versus an ensemble live action cast?

No, but not in a bad way. I just literally see them two to three times a year at publicity events. We don’t all live in the same city and we don’t have a real reason to cross paths, except for that we genuinely like each other and when we do have these events and press and stuff that we get together for we’re like, “Ahhh!” but we don’t really get to visit because we’re doing work stuff. I think the chemistry is really great, but it’s not like if we were spending every day together. Although we’d probably hate each other.

That’s actually kind of interesting because to me, so much of the humor in “Archer” is really subtle. There’s a lot of pauses and people talking over each other.

Yeah, people can’t believe we don’t record it in a room together.

Does that kind of timing take a while to develop or did it just kind of come naturally. Or do you have people directing you?

I think its some of everything. I think some of it is natural to us, some of it is direction, and some of it is editing. They can do so much with our voices digitally now. And back to the chemistry thing, I was thinking, one thing that all of us have in common, the main members of the cast, is that we all have a similar sense of humor. And I think that’s why we all blend really well together. Because we all share the same comedy. I don’t know if it would work if one of the cast was really crazy. We all fit into this whole really well.

The show is coming up on Season 4. Is it something where you can make the show fast and cheap and go many seasons beyond or is it something that you think maybe has an end point in sight?

Well, I don’t know the answer to that question. I want to do “Archer” for as long as it’s as awesome as it is. And not to answer for Adam but I feel like he probably would feel the same way. He busts his ass, he writes every single script and he’s toast by the end of the season. So I want what’s best for “Archer.” I never want it to be one of those shows where it’s like, “Oh, it used to be so funny.” It’s so good that I want to preserve the goodness. I feel like Adam can do that and if he can, I want it to go on forever.

The one bad thing about TV is that some things go on way longer than they should.

I know and it’s really a bummer. And because Adam writes every single script, if he can keep doing that, (I want to do it) for as long as he can do it, because he’s brilliant.

I do have to ask…my favorite show of all-time is “Arrested Development.”

(Laughs)

Your character in particular, there’s so much memorability to that character. What was that experience like? I’ve never got to talk to anyone from that show before, so this is really exciting. Did you know while you were making it how important and special and unique it was?

Hmm…I didn’t. But I was only on like 5 or 6 episodes. The more prominent cast members…maybe they did. I don’t know, it was real lightning in a bottle, you know? I think it was a hard show to make because it was so new. Like the concept of it and the humor of it. So many shows that we love now, and I probably shouldn’t say this, I think derivative of that.

Oh yeah.

So I think that when you’re making something like that…oh also, no one was watching it! So like, we’re making this weird show and I don’t mean to lump myself in with the series regular cast because they are the heart and soul of the show. But they were making this show that was totally weird and totally different that people didn’t really support and no one watched. You know what I mean? It’s this crazy phenomenon that really finally caught on. And at the time, it was like the number one TiVo’d show. But that wasn’t giving us the ratings that we needed to make more. So that was a drag.

But there’s a second life though.

Yeah, we’ll see!

Is that something that you would jump at the chance to be a part of?

Dude…yes. Definitely.

That was a stupid question, wasn’t it? (Laughs)

No, not a stupid question but oh my God. In fact I was just at a party last weekend and I saw Portia [de Rossi] and we’re like, “Do you know anything? Do you know anything?” We’re excited if we can do it. I’m hoping I’m a part of it. I think I will be. But I never know until I’m sitting in the theater or watching it on television.

That’s what I’ve been saying for years. I won’t believe it’s back until I’m watching the opening credits.

That’s how I feel, too.

I wanted to just briefly touch on your film career. In the past year you’ve had some really good dramatic roles. “The Descendants” was great and I thought a really underrated performance in “Jeff, Who Lives at Home.”

Thank you, I really love that movie so much. I really, really love it.

It’s very good. As an actress, what was it like to be able to tackle these dramatic roles and not only that, but be alongside great performers who are giving great performances.

For me it was awesome because I don’t usually get the opportunity to play parts like that. So it was a huge compliment and then the actors I was working with…I’m always blown away by other actors. Whether it’s someone as famous as George Clooney or Susan Sarandon, down to someone whose name you might not know yet. I love actors and I love working with them. Sometimes it’s nice to work with people you don’t know because you don’t bring anything with you. You can be this whole new person. Not to say that I was approaching it in a method way, but it is fun to create this new Judy as well as creating the character with people. It helps on set because going to work people aren’t like, “Oh, you’re the funny girl, who’s the funny one, be funny!” because they didn’t really know me that way. It was cool. I was really thankful for the opportunity and hopefully it will give me a chance to do more of that. Although I don’t like to think of it as too dramatic because I always think all the comedic roles I have played could have easily had scenes like that. But it was great, and it was great to do it with both Alexander Payne and the Duplass brothers, who I hope to work for for a really long time. The Duplass brothers are a-ma-zing and like here they are gods. So anyway, it was kind of a career high, I have to say, thus far.

Mark & Jay Duplass – Jeff, Who Lives at Home & The Do-Deca Pentathlon

April 8, 2012 by  
Filed under Interviews

With two films out this year, directors Mark and Jay Duplass continue to add to their unique independent filmmaking repertoire. After breaking onto the scene in 2005 with “The Puffy Chair,” the Duplass brothers have since etched out a formidable place for themselves in the film industry and have proven to be directors to keep a close eye on. Following another micro-budget project in 2008, the horror/comedy “Baghead,” Mark and Jay were given the opportunity to make their first studio film, the 2010 dark comedy “Cyrus,” which starred Jonah Hill, John C. Reilly, and Marisa Tomei. Hill played the title character, an extremely dependent young man who butts heads with his mother’s new boyfriend.

This year, the Duplass brothers give movie audiences “Jeff, Who Lives at Home” and “The Do-Deca-Pentathlon.” In “Jeff,” Jason Segel (“The Muppets”) stars as an apathetic man living in his mother’s basement who is waiting for a sign that will lead him to his true calling in life. In the smaller-budgeted “Do-Deca-Pentathlon,” Mark and Jay tell the story of two rival brothers who challenge each other to a 25-event Olympic showdown.

During an interview with me at the South by Southwest Film Festival in March, Mark and Jay talked about their own sibling rivalry, which centers on the sport of ping-pong, and the intimate feeling they want all their films to have, no matter what the budget.

Both of your latest films, “Jeff Who Lives at Home” and “The Do-Deca-Pentathlon,” feature brothers who have some issues with each other they have to work out in different ways. Specifically in “Do-Deca,” there is some sibling rivalry. Can either of you admit when your brother is better at something than you are?

Mark Duplass: Oh, yeah. We’ve been through tons and tons of therapy and have no egos left at all. I’ll go ahead and rattle of a few things for you: Jay is more patient, elegant, and a better long-distance runner than me. He’s a much better editor than I am in general. When he’s improvising as a lead guitar player, his solos are more spiritual than mine. He’s better at…Wait, I don’t know if that’s true anymore. I was going to say you were better at portion control with your food than I am, but I think now I’m doing better than you on that front.

Jay Duplass: You’ve got that shit on lockdown, dude. I had to switch to eating food I don’t even enjoy. It’s portion control because I don’t enjoy what I eat anymore. You are far more evolved than me in the food category. I would just have to say Mark is infinitely better than me at compliments. That was wonderful, Mark! Thank you! What a great way to start an interview!

MD: Absolutely!

JD: My god. Well, even though people think I am the more spiritual and sensitive one, I think Mark just might be more spiritually evolved than me, which would probably be a surprise to our friends.

I read “Do-Deca” was actually shot before “Jeff” and even before your film last year, “Cyrus,” although most people won’t get to see it until later this year. When you revisit a film like this two years later, do you see how you’ve evolved as filmmakers?

MD: Yeah, it’s kind of like watching a video of yourself when you’re like 16 years old. You would immediately say, “Oh, my god, I was so different.” And then you’d see something else and you’d say, “Oh my god, I haven’t changed at all.” That’s the way we feel. “Do-Deca” is a shaggy, micro-budgeted movie with some actors who are also some of our best friends. It represents a time in our lives, like with “Puffy Chair” and “Baghead,” when we were running around like maniacs with a camera trying to figure out what we were doing. While in some ways it’s rougher and less refined, the heart and the spirit and the tone of what we are doing is exactly the same.

What are your family reunions like, if you actually have them?

MD: A lot of ping-pong.

JD: Yeah, well, our parents live in Los Angeles near us now, so we get together a lot. And, yes, there is a lot of ping-pong. We’re an activity-based family. We like to do things. We don’t like just sitting around talking. There is definitely competition. When Mark and I were younger – before I left for college – when we were both in high school, we had these raucous two-on-two ping-pong competitions where my mom and I were on one side and Mark and my dad were on the other side. It was freakin’ epic. What would we play, like best two out of three every day after school?

MD: Some people remember McEnroe vs. Connors, but they had nothing on us.

Would your family consider the both of you the successful Duplasses?

MD: Well, that’s weird because we’ve never discussed that and we’ve never thought about it in any way, shape, or form. I know my parents were super proud of us. There were no industry connections for us growing up. We grew up in the suburbs and just found our way to filmmaking by making up the process. There is definitely this feeling like, “How the hell did we get to the point where we can make a studio movie?”

OK, so now what I’m going to do is name a competitive event and you tell me who would win. Arm wrestling?

MD: I would win.

Laser tag?

MD: Jay would win.

JD: Yeah, the problem is I will sacrifice my enjoyment of the event to win.

Skee-ball?

JD: Mark would win.

MD: Yeah, I would win that one.

I was going to ask about a game of midnight ping-pong, but I’m assuming it’s too close to call.

MD: Yeah, midnight ping-pong would be a toss up. I think that would probably be our closest event. Jay was clearly dominant in the early years. Then when Jay went to college, my dad and I got really good. When he came home, we would destroy him. Those were dark years for Jay. Then he joined forces with Susan Sarandon and her ping-pong club. Now, it’s a dead heat.

Speaking of Susan Sarandon, I really enjoyed “Jeff, Who Lives at Home.” Would you consider it your most mature film to date?

MD: Interesting. We don’t know. I love all my children, but I love that one a little bit more.

JD: I think it’s definitely the one we’re most proud of.

In your last three films you’ve had similar types of male characters who go through life without much responsibility – almost like a grown-up kid. If these kinds of men existed in real life, which I’m sure they do, would you consider them losers? Do they need to get a life?

JD: No, we’re very much the opposite of that. I think we approach all of our characters with the ultimate love. In the case of “Jeff, Who Lives at Home,” what excites us about that story is that we’re taking a character who lives in his mom’s basement and smoke a lot of pot and has been judged by society about what kind of person he is, but we’re focused on a completely different side of the story. We introduce him as such, but 99 percent of the movie is spent on the other side of that character, which is usually neglected [in other movies]. It’s the heroic side of this person who is cautiously choosing not to go down the normal road in life and take the road less traveled and wait for what he feels is the grand design for his life. Mark and I see that as somewhat tragic, but also beautiful and exciting.

We’ve seen your films grow in production over the years. I’m wondering, is it easier to make a movie with more money to spend?

MD: It’s not quite that simple. I would say one challenge we face making bigger-budget films is doing big things but still making them feel intimate. We’re not trying to leave behind our small-budget roots. We’re trying to incorporate smaller, personal stories into bigger-budget filmmaking. In doing so, we want all these elements to shape the tone. It’s nice to have some money to throw at it, but we still have to curate it, creatively speaking.

Do you feel like there are different levels of independent filmmaking? If so, do you think those levels are dictated by the budget or the mindset of the filmmakers? I’m just wondering if you’ve ever rolled your eyes at someone who calls themselves an independent filmmaker that you feel doesn’t fall under that category.

JD: We don’t really obsess over categories and qualifications whether it’s with other people or with ourselves. We’re just super busy trying to make something that doesn’t suck, which we find very challenging. We feel like making movies is very hard and making good movies is almost impossible and takes 100 percent of our attention, love, care and effort. We did have a discussion one time with John C. Reilly, which I think we subconsciously go back to. What he said was that he’s been on $100,000 movies that have felt like the most controlled studio set you’ve ever been on, and he’s been on $100 million movies that have felt like someone making a film in their backyard because there is an element of freedom and chance. We’ve felt that, too, as we’ve been through the system. It really emanates from the mindset of the creators themselves.

Jeff, Who Lives at Home

March 16, 2012 by  
Filed under Cody, Reviews

Starring: Jason Segel, Ed Helms, Susan Sarandon
Directed by: Jay and Mark Duplass (“Cyrus”)
Written by: Jay and Mark Duplass (“Cyrus”)

As basement-dwelling stoner Jeff (Jason Segel) opens the film waxing philosophical, relating life to the film “Signs,” we know exactly what kind of person he is. He believes in fate; that everything happens for a reason; that there are no coincidences. Of course, at first we might think it’s the pot talking. But as the new Duplass brothers’ film “Jeff Who Lives At Home” progresses, we see that Jeff truly does believe in fate and audiences are taken on his journey to find whatever his destiny may be.

After he gets a call from a wrong number from someone looking for “Kevin,” Jeff curiously ventures out to run an errand for his mother Sharon (Susan Sarandon). When he sees someone on the bus named Kevin, he takes it as a sign from above and lets this mysterious name guide him throughout his day. Along the way, Jeff runs into his elusive brother Pat (Ed Helms) who is in the midst of a fight with his wife Linda (Judy Greer) over among other things, frivolous spending. Meanwhile at work, their mother Sharon is dealing with an online secret admirer who is showing a romantic interest in her.

Segel is the heart of the film, which is hardly unimaginable for anyone who has seen his fantastic performance in “Forgetting Sarah Marshall.” Segel creates a character that is strangely vulnerable, but beyond that, a character that moviegoers will really want to see succeed. Helms’ character is the polar opposite of Jeff and a somewhat different turn for an actor who has spent a lot of his recent career doing goofy things in a totally different type of comedy. His chemistry with Segel is clearly evident, especially as a source of subtle wit. The Duplass brothers rely more on throwaway lines, facial expressions or strange situations for their laughs and Segel and Helms prove to be a great team for this brand of humor. Although it’s a smaller role, Greer is having a great last few months with solid dramatic turns in both “The Descendants” and now “Jeff.” Although there is nothing wrong with her performance, the B-story of Sarandon at work is the one storyline that seems a tad misplaced and disruptive to the flow of the film.

With the frequent documentary-style zooming in and out and heavily improvised dialogue, the Duplass brothers don’t stray far away from what they have become known for. It is a unique style that is likely to be polarizing and might come down to personal preference on whether or not it bothers the individual viewer. However, while their style remains unchanged, it is evident that with both “Jeff, Who Lives At Home” and with 2010’s “Cyrus,” the Duplass brothers are maturing as filmmakers. While their debut “The Puffy Chair” is raw and emotionally powerful, their latter two films come off as more polished with bigger named actors and an obviously bigger budget. But even further, there is far more charm to their last two films, especially with this last contribution.

While the film does meander and take a while to develop, the final act of “Jeff, Who Lives At Home” is blindsiding and beautiful as everything culminates in one fantastic sequence. It is a film that may not immediately connect with viewers, but those who stay with it may find themselves surprised as to just how much it grows on them. Perhaps what Jeff is experiencing throughout the film isn’t fate, but rather a random string of coincidences. But Segel brings such sincerity to the character that audiences are inclined to just let Jeff believe whatever he wants if it brings purpose to his life.