I'm guessing that just about everyone who interviews people for a living has a wish list. It probably isn't an actual, written-down list (but it might be), but I know I carry a constantly evolving, fluid list of names of people I'd like to interview one day. And while I'm sure there are names on my list that will make sense to everyone, there are likely names on every person's list that only make sense to that person. For reasons that basically boil down to how talented I think he is, I've been wanting to talk to Adam Scott for years. I'm not even sure I can point to the film or television series that made me put him on my wishlist, but there he's been for years. And now, thanks to a rare starring role in a film for Scott in the divorce comedy A.C.O.D., I got a chance to chat with him on the phone for a few minutes recently.
I remember Scott initially as more of a dramatic actor in such television series as the glorious first season of "Murder One," "Party of Five," "Wasteland," and the explicit HBO series "Tell Me You Love Me." Then he began showing up in supporting roles in such films as THE AVIATOR, THE MATADOR, ART SCHOOL CONFIDENTIAL, KNOCKED UP, and STEP BROTHERS. Scott balanced TV and film work in the last five years or so, with his starring role in NBC's "Parks and Recreation" being his primary gig. But let us not forget his great work in the cult hit "Party Down," "Eastbound & Down," "Burning Down," OUR IDIOT BROTHER, FRIENDS WITH KIDS, and classics like PIRANHA 3D and THE GUILT TRIP (they can't all be winners).
But in the last couple of year, Scott has embarked on an endeavor that is so important, it's actual title is "The Greatest Event in Television History." Two episodes have been made for Adult Swim so far, and they feature shot-for-shot re-creations of some of the greatest opening credits sequences of TV series ever. The first installment featured Scott and Jon Hamm doing the "Simon & Simon" opening; this was following by a pairing with his "Parks & Rec" and A.C.O.D. co-star Amy Poehler doing "Hart to Hart."
And keep an eye out for Scott in a slightly villainous, bearded in Ben Stiller's THE SECRET LIFE OF WALTER MITTY and as John Cusack's son (in the future?) in HOT TUB TIME MACHINE 2 (ironically, not starring John Cusack). So much to talk about; so little time. Please enjoy my list-fulfilling interview with Adam Scott…
Adam Scott: Hi, Steve.
Capone: Hi, Adam. How are you?
AS: Good. How are you?
Capone: Excellent. I think the most important thing we're going to talk about today is which TV show opening is going to be the subject of the third installment of "The Greatest Event in Television History?
AS: Well, I can’t tell you what it is, but it comes out November 7.
Capone: So it’s been selected and filmed?
AS: Yeah, it’s all done and ready, and I will say that it’s incredibly dangerous.
Capone: Dangerous for you guys or for us?
AS: There's some major stunt work in it.
Capone: Excellent. Those are so much fun. How did you guys come up with the idea to not only do these, but just make these an ongoing series of ridiculous ideas?
AS: Well we did the "Simon & Simon" one originally because Jon Hamm and I were emailing each other links for opening credits from our childhood, and we both sent each other "Simon & Simon" at the same time and were like, “Wow, this is by far the best one.” And I had the idea that we just recreate it and then pitch it to Adult Swim, and an exec there are the time said, “We would love to do it, but we’ve got to fill more time." These were only one-minute long. “You need something to fill the rest of the time.” So we had the idea to make a self-satisfied making of documentary to fill the time with, and it sort of took off from there. It was just going to be a one off, but then they wanted to do some more, so we did three more.
Capone: Three more? Wait…
AS: Yeah, we have one coming out November 7, and then another one that will be in February.
Capone: Oh my gosh. I guess that’s how you spend your summer.
Capone: With this movie, you have a history with a lot of the actors in this film. Is that by design? Does that make it easier or more enjoyable when you have that relationship already there?
AS: Yeah, it is really enjoyable, because it’s just fun making things with your friends. So it was great getting to work with Richard Jenkins and Jane Lynch and Poehler and Clark Duke again, and then getting to work with Catherine O'Hara, Jessica Alba, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Ken Howard, and all these great people for the first time. But yeah, I love just sitting down and doing a scene with Jane; there’s nothing better and of course Jenkins is the best. Peohler and I work together all the time obviously, and that’s really fun.
Capone: Jenkins is kind of this gift, because there’s nothing he can’t do really well. He’s Oscar-nominated for this great drama, but then he’s also one of the funniest guys of that class of actor.
AS: I know. He’s so funny.
Capone: Some people may actually find this subject difficult to laugh at. How do you strike that balance with this subject matter?
AS: Yeah, I think it’s a painful subject, but I think a lot of great comedy comes from painful subject matter. I re-watched ANNIE HALL recently and was struck by how devastating it is. It’s a really painful movie and one of the funniest ever. FLIRTING WITH DISASTER, same thing. There’s a lot of pain in there, and I think there’s a catharsis in laughing at it. I think divorce is ripe for comedy.
Capone: I’ve seen enough interviews with you and Stu [Zicherman, director and co-writer] since Sundance to know that you both fit into this A.C.O.D. category, but were you surprised that this is even a thing? That there's a group of people that may have similar traits or shared behaviors? Did you even know that existed as a phenomenon?
AS: No, but as soon as I read the script, it made perfect sense. Yeah, this is a group of people. This is a generation of people who, by in large, are from divorced families, so there are things that everyone can relate to.
Capone: I think it takes a certain talent to be the actor at the center of any group of insane people. Is there a key to playing straight to these great comic actors?
AS: Yeah, I think how great they all are makes my job a lot easier, because I can just stand there and react and enjoy watching them. We really got the best of the best to fill out the cast in this movie, and it was just a real joy to be able to watch them.
Capone: It’s bizarre watching you and Amy hate each other, let alone her being your step-mother. Years of therapy have certainly been built around much less. What was that like, being able to unleash a little bit rather than make kissy faces at each other like you’re usually doing?
AS: It was a blast. It was really, really fun. It was only a few weeks after we had wrapped "Parks" that season, and we were in Atlanta doing this movie where we just hate each other’s guts. So it was super fun.
Capone: Where did the "Hart to Hart" shoot fall into the chronology here?
AS: We shot that a year after we shot A.C.O.D. So that was this past spring, and A.C.O.D. the spring before.
Capone: I’m a huge admirer of the "Parks & Rec." I can’t wait to see the premiere tonight. What is the schedule? Nick Offerman is going to be in Chicago next week doing his one-man show; it feels like everyone is on a break right now for some reason.
AS: Every four or five episodes, we get a week off. So we all kind of stuff stuff into that week every month or so.
Capone: So do you get to go on this London trip that’s starting off the season?
AS: Yeah, I was there in London. It was super fun. It was really, really fun, and the episode is great. It’s really a good one.
Capone: Yeah, our TV critic absolutely loved it. It isn’t a secret that you’re losing a couple cast members this season. Is that kind of strange that that’s happening and you know that's coming?
AS: Yeah, it’s really sad, but I’m happy for them, because they are both moving on to other stuff. It’s just really bittersweet. I think it’s bittersweet for them as well to be moving on to other things, and at the same time we're all going to miss them, and they're going to miss being there. But they were ready to move on, and I’m happy for them, but definitely going to miss Rob [Lowe] and Rashida [Jones].
Capone: Can you give us any ideas of what might be happening in your storyline in the next few weeks?
AS: Leslie is dealing with this recall election this season, and by extension Ben is starting to go through his career crisis as well and reexamining where he is career-wise.
Capone: Ben is one of the great TV nerds around. I can’t remember, were you in the room when Patton Oswalt did his great geek stream of consciousness last season?
AS: [withe mock anger in his voice] No, I wasn’t there, but I got to work later that day, and everyone was still talking about it. So I got to watch it that day what he had done, and I knew that if they would put that out there unedited it would become a thing, and it certainly did.
Capone: Definitely. I saw Q&A with him a couple of months ago, and people were still asking him questions about that. You’ve also got at the end of the year THE SECRET LIFE OF WALTER MITTY. Tell me what you do in that and what that experience was like.
AS: Well I’m, in a way, the sort-of villain. It’s the kind of movie that defies definition, and so "villain" is a very loose term. But yeah, I’m not a nice person and I have a beard. That’s about all I can really say.
Capone: I think that goes hand in hand, yeah.
AS: Exactly! [laughs]
Capone: Then I saw that you’re also in this HOT TUB TIME MACHINE sequel playing John Cusack’s son in the future, working with Clark Duke again. I guess they go in the future this time. You shot that…?
AS: We shot that over the summer.
Capone: Okay, so that’s done. When is that supposed to come out?
AS: I think it comes out in the spring.
Capone: I’m sure this comes up every once in a while when you’re being interviewed by certain writers, but you must get asked about the possibility of a "Party Down" movie, and in this age of Kickstarter getting a lot of stuff made, is that something that’s even in the cards? In any reality, is that something that has been discussed?
AS: You know, I really don’t know where that is. I think making a movie out of a TV show is a risky proposition that doesn’t really always work, but John [Enbom], Dan [Etheridge] and Rob [Thomas, the co-creators] always write the best version of any situation for those characters. I don’t know about a movie or maybe more episodes the way "Arrested Development" did. I don’t know if any of it will ever happen, but I do know that the show itself has lived on, and people love it, and if we never did anything else, I think that would be just fine as well.
Capone: It’s strange how it’s hung on though; people found it at some point. Most people found it after it went away, but they still found it.
AS: For sure, that's when most people found it.
Capone: All my friends for some reason in the mid-1990s got hooked on "Murder One," and it’s funny that the big criticism of the show was the single storyline going through a whole season made it hard for people to jump in. And now, every show does that and is applauded for it. It seemed so far ahead of its time, but it was a great show. What do you remember about doing that?
AS: Oh wow. It was really good. It was one of my first real big jobs, so I was all kinds of taken aback by the whole thing. It was the real buzzed-about show that season, and then it didn’t end up dong particularly well, but it was a great experience.
Capone: That was Steven Bochco, right? Who was the king of TV drama at the time.
AS: Well it was really a good show.
Capone: Do you have anything else planned beyond these two Adult Swim episodes?
AS: Yeah, I don’t know. I’m not sure what I’m going to do next hiatus, just mulling over a couple of things, and hopefully by the time we finish the season in the spring, I’ll have something to jump into.
Capone: Alright, great. Well Adam, thank you so much for talking.