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Ed Helms, a veteran correspondent on “The Daily Show,” catapulted to fame with recurring roles on “The Office” and “The Hangover.” With his new film “Jeff, Who Lives at Home,” Helms explores his comedic range in a more realistic setting. He spoke to The Daily Aztec about his criteria for choosing a project, his improvisational skills and how working on a TV series is similar to going to school.
The Daily Aztec: How did you get involved with “Jeff Who Lives at Home” and what has the project been like?
Ed Helms: “Jeff, Who Lives at Home” was a script that got floated my way by Jason Reitman, who was one of the producers on it. He’s a friend and we worked together on a couple of “Office” episodes. And then Mark and Jay Duplass had written the script and Jason jumped on to produce it. They thought I might be a good candidate for it, so Jason just sent me it directly and I loved it right away. I watched all of the Duplass brothers’ movies and said, “Sign me up. Let’s do this.”
DA: How are you similar to your character in “Jeff, Who Lives at Home?”
EH: Well, I think that character wants to do the right thing. He wants to be a good guy. And I certainly share that. This guy gets in his way a lot and I certainly get in my way a lot. I don’t think I’m quite as dysfunctional as this guy. At least I hope not. But I do share that struggle to be a better person. And then, of course, we both look alike and we share the same voice.
DA: What are the differences between working on a TV series versus working on a film, and which do you prefer?
EH: I love them both equally. The differences are when you work on a movie it’s a summer camp feeling. Because everyone just comes together for this one event. And you’re there for six weeks, eight weeks, whatever it is, and it’s all kind of run-and-gun. There’s this exciting energy to get this one thing done. And a lot of times, a movie might be on location somewhere and you have that added exotic feeling of being away from home. This movie is shot in New Orleans, which is one of the greatest cities on planet Earth, and so that added to the excitement and fun we had.
In Jeff, Who Lives at Home, Ed Helms plays a smalltown guy in the middle of a crisis, the employee of a tiny local company whose entire identity is threatened by the potential exit of a crucial person in his life. As any fan of his TV show, The Office, will tell you, that sounds like a pretty familiar premise, except that the potential exit could threaten Helms’ real life, not some fictional existence.
But at the New York City premiere of his new film, Helms seemed unworried by the fact that NBC looks to be moving forward with a spinoff that would take Rainn Wilson‘s Dwight Schrute character out of Dunder Mifflin.
“Well I think obviously Steve [Carell] left last year and it just opened up all kinds of possibilities and opportunities not just for myself but the whole cast,” Helms told The Hollywood Reporter. “I think any time the boat is rocked, it’s a good thing and an exciting thing and an opportunity.”
The boat looks to be rocked in more ways than one; writer and co-star Mindy Kalinghas her own pilot at Fox, while James Spader, who joined the show this season as CEO of Dunder Mifflin’s parent company Sabre, hasconfirmed his departure.
Of course, last year’s boat rocking certainly worked out for Helms, as his character, Andy Bernard was promoted to manager of the Scranton paper company. In addition to that move, Helms has gotten behind the camera for two episodes of the series this season — one has yet to air — but right now that’s a limited engagement.
“I loved it. It’s an absolute thrill,” he said of the experience. “I’m not in any hurry to stop acting, but I’m eager to cultivate different avenues of creativity.”
That includes writing, and Helms teased that he hoped to have a project he’s written announced shortly.
Ed Helms may not have seen the movie “Signs,” or really buy into the metaphysical journey his onscreen brother takes in “Jeff, Who Lives at Home,” but “The Office” star does have some very cogent thoughts on how one little green guy could solve all our problems. Seizing on a brief bit of dialogue in his new slacker comedy, Helms riffed on “What Would Yoda Do?” as a way to fix our economy. Turns out, all we need to do is call George Lucas.
“Signs” is sort of the backbone for “Jeff.” Have you ever seen it?
No. (Shakes head). I mean, I understood Jeff’s point of view, the metaphysical goal and his hopes and dreams for the world
What’s your viewpoint on whether the universe is giving you signs on a daily basis?
I am not a believer in signs. If some crazy sign were to happen to me, I would certainly be open minded. I’ve yet to be convinced is anything other than just abject chaos.
Do you have a brother?
I do. I have an older brother and a sister who’s the oldest.
I’m guessing your relationships are nothing like this movie.
Any family has a certain amount of dysfunction, misunderstanding, frustration. But I’m very lucky to have siblings that appreciate the value of family and we’re pretty tight. We still have our hiccups, but it’s pretty great. I think that the family in this movie has some really tough struggles and they’ve let their relationships get a little warped. The nice thing is that it’s not too far gone. They’re able to make these relationships whole through the events of this crazy day. There’s a redemption there.
GQ: Let’s begin at the beginning. How did you get involved with the movie? Ed Helms: One of the producers on this movie is Jason Reitman. He’s been a good friend for a long time. We met because he directed a bunch of Office episodes back in the day. A lot of time you get scripts submitted through your agent and what not, but Jason just emailed me this thing directly and said, “Hey, I’m putting this thing together, the directors are Mark and Jay Duplass, and we’re talking to Jason Segel, and let me know what you think.” So I read it and I didn’t like it. [Laughs]I didn’t like the character of Pat for like the first 40 pages. I was about to put the script down but thought, It’s Jason, I should just finish the script. And then I got all the way through it and I was like, Whoa, this is actually really cool. This is a nuanced character; he starts out kind of a jerk, but there’s a very kind of complicated redemption worked in there and I got really excited about it. And here we are.
GQ: At the outset he seems so dissimilar to the characters you usually play. Did that appeal to you? Ed Helms: I wouldn’t say I was consciously looking to change up my game. When I read anything it’s really just about if the story resonate for me, do I think I can play this character well, and can I have fun with it. And then of course it’s who are the people involved, do I want to work with them, am I inspired by them. And in this case all of that came together, but no, it wasn’t really a conscious effort to do something different. Honestly I thought this movie would be a little more overtly comedic than it is, like a lot of the audience will probably expect going in. But I couldn’t be more excited and proud of what it is.
Taking a decidedly more dramatic turn than fans might expect, Ed Helms stars opposite Jason Segel in this Friday’s Jeff, Who Lives at Home, written and directed by Jay and Mark Duplass (whose past films include Baghead and Cyrus).
Helms plays Pat, a stressed-out working man whose marriage is on the rocks while also looking out for his brother Jeff (Segel), whose own life is falling apart because of his carefree belief that the universe will sort everything out on its own. Opposite both of them is Susan Sarandon as their mother Sharon, who has still not quite found her own life’s path.
“I think this movie might surprise a lot of audiences,” Helms says of the Duplass Brothers comedy, “because Ed Helms and Jason Segel kind of conjures a very specific thing and this is not that thing.”
Speaking with ComingSoon.net, Helms talks about his personal approach to the role, working opposite Segel and Sarandon and playing a brother in a film directed by brothers. Check out the full interview below and catchJeff, Who Lives at Home in theaters this Friday.
ComingSoon.net: You tend to play characters that come off as very familiar to audiences as people we know; friends, co-workers or neighbors. This is a really a role, though, where the audience is sort of forced to admit that they have elements of Pat within themselves.
Ed Helms: Yeah, I think Pat’s just a very flawed guy and probably one of the most “real” characters that I’ve played. It’s unusual, especially in my experience doing comedy. You’re generally doing characters that are likable and sort of fun and ridiculous in some way. This is a character who is kind of hateful early on. I think he’s someone who is kind of in an ongoing war with his own pettiness and insecurity. He’s losing that war but, through a sort of complicated and very poignant redemption, he starts to get the upper hand in that war. I just think that’s a very great story and I totally relate to it.
The Playlist recently caught up with Ed Helms while the actor was out promoting his dramedy “Jeff Who Lives at Home” for the Duplass Brothers. In the film, Helms plays Pat, who is going through a mid-life crisis and believes his wife (Judy Greer) is having an affair. He teams up with his brother Jeff (Jason Segel) to spy on her and a journey unfolds with all sorts of unintended consequences. It’s another fine comic outing from Helms, and we’ll have more from the actor discussing the Duplass project later this week. For now, we hit up Helms on some upcoming project news, including the recent rumors that he would be stepping into the shoes of Clark W. Griswold for a “Vacation” reboot and plot details of “The Hangover Part 3.”
While Helms admits to being a big fan of the Chevy Chase classic “Vacation,” he hasn’t a clue where the rumors originated and has not been approached for such a project. “I have no idea where that bubbled up,” Helms told us. “I don’t know where that came from. It’s nothing I know of.”
On the subject of whether developing “The Hangover 3″ will center around a plot line involving Alan’s (Zach Galafianakis) escape from a mental institution, Helms wouldn’t say it was untrue. “I will neither confirm nor deny anything about ‘Hangover 3’ other than the fact that we want it to happen,” says Helms. The actor did add that the project isn’t quite ready and, while he’s not ruling out the rumored summer shoot, it’s not on his plate as of this moment. “We’re just not there yet. We’ll have to see what happens.”
We’ve reported on a few promising Helms projects in development over the past little while including a remake of the French comedy “Le Mac,” an ambitious Civil War time travel comedy and “True North” a high concept identity crisis dramedy. As of now, Helms confirms that all of these projects are moving along as planned, but no confirmations or start dates are set at the moment. “They’re all in very active development and I’m hoping that we get to pull the trigger on one real soon and all of them eventually,” says Helms. “They’re all near and dear and I think that they’re fantastic stories. I’m working with some insanely talented writers. It’s very exciting.”
Usually recognized for his fresh ideas and spontaneous escapades, Ed Helms (“The Office,” “The Hangover”) takes on the well-intentioned persona of Pat in his latest movie, “Jeff Who Lives at Home.”
The film follows the childish adult, Jeff (Jason Segel), as he suspects his wife of adulterous behavior and is forced to make grown-up decisions. Helms plays Pat, Jeff’s mature older brother who helps with his self-discovery along the way.
Helms answered a few questions about his upcoming movie.
The State Press: How did you become involved with “Jeff Who Lives at Home” and what has been your experience?
Ed Helms: “Jeff Who Lives at Home” was a script that just got floated my way by (producer) Jason Reitman. (Directors and screenplay writers) Mark and Jay Duplass had written a script … and thought I might be a good candidate for it, and so Jason had just sent it to me directly and I loved it right away… and said, “Sign me up. Let’s do this.”
SP: In which ways are you similar to Pat?
EH: I think that the character wants to do the right thing. He wants to be a good guy and I certainly share that. I don’t think I’m quite as dysfunctional as this guy — at least I hope not. But I do share that kind of struggle to be a better person… We also look a lot alike and we have the same voice, but we have a very different fashion sense, to be clear.
SP: How do you think audiences will respond to this serious side of you when they’ve only seen you in comedic roles before?
EH: I’m insanely proud of it. I’d still call it a comedy. (The movie) very much lives in that world but it’s … more an honest look at dysfunctional people than most work I’ve done. This movie doesn’t shy away from the kind of painful aspect of a dysfunctional life. This is a little bit more played for reality and I hope that it resonates. It’s a nice treat, a little twist on the expectation.
When I meet Ed Helms, he is clean-shaven. Gone is the goatee he had for “Jeff, Who Lives at Home,” the latest movie from the sibling filmmaking team of Mark and Jay Duplass.
I tell him that when I saw him in the film, which opens Friday, his goatee somehow reminded me of that “Star Trek” episode in which Mr. Spock sported one in a parallel evil universe.
“Maybe that’s an evil version of Ed Helms,” he muses.
Not likely. It’s hard to imagine an evil version of Helms running around. The star of NBC’s long-running sitcom “The Office” – a Georgia boy from a preppy background who plays the banjo – comes across as an all-around nice guy.
In the offbeat comedy “Jeff, Who Lives at Home,” Helms plays Pat, the brother of the title character (Jason Segel). The two are polar opposites. Jeff – a fan of the film “Signs,” M. Night Shyamalan’s 2002 thriller – sits around smoking pot, living with his mom (Susan Sarandon) and looking for portents in his daily life. Pat, on the other hand, has just bought a new Porsche he can’t really afford and races through his life, oblivious to others, including his long-suffering wife.
Helms says about 40 pages into reading the script he was wondering why he kept going. “It’s a good story but I didn’t want to play this Pat character. He’s an ass.”
But the actor kept reading and by the end found it compelling.
“I don’t like evil characters,” admits the 38-year-old, who is also known for his role as the missing-tooth dentist Stu Price in the “Hangover” films. “You’re probably not going to see me as a child molester anytime soon. I have to find a way to really like the characters that I’m playing or sympathize with them.”