Joseph Gordon-Levitt on "Bizarre" Mindy Kaling Teamup, Paying Tribute to Late Brother on 'Hit Record'

Joseph Gordon-Levitt is ready to press play on season two of Hit Record on TV.

The actor's collaborative variety show returns to Pivot Friday, with Gordon-Levitt getting a little help from friend Mindy KalingKaling wrote and performed in a key segment from the premiere — playing a nurse hopelessly in love with a former dancer (Gordon-Levitt) who has lost the use of his legs. Thanks to her knowledge of the dark arts, she sends him on a wonderful dream every night in which he can still dance. (Watch the video at the top of the post.)

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In a chat with The Hollywood Reporter, Gordon-Levitt talks about how Kaling became involved and what it was like recording a touching tribute to his late brother Dan, who died in October 2010.

How did you get connected with Mindy Kaling on this?

She's in Xmas, the [upcoming] movie I did with Seth Rogen and Jonathan Levine and Evan Goldberg. She asked me about Hit Record and I said, "maybe you want to do something?" I told her the themes of the different episodes, and she gravitated toward "The Dark," and she came up with this bizarre, dark comedy. She wrote it and then we ended up acting in it together in front of the green screen. She recruited [The Mindy Project's] Chris Messina to do the third part. We shot it in front of a green screen and then we put that footage up on the site, and illustrators and animators all contributed all these different elements that end up being the graphical world behind us.

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Gordon-Levitt in a video posted while season two was in production:

You had a moving tribute to your brother Dan, where you talk about being a second child and touch on his passing. How did you decide to do that?

The second episode of the season, the theme is "The Number Two." Someone contributed the idea of "let's talk about being the second child." I am the second child, so I just shot into the web cam on my computer like lots of other people do and spoke off the top of my head about being the second child for a few minutes. That ended up getting cut into the documentary along with lots of other people talking into their cameras about being second children. It ended up being a really moving, sweet documentary piece.

How would you say Hit Record differs from what else is on TV?

So much about television is "what's the formula so we can make a show that is very similar to shows that have made money in the past so we can make money?" Our show is not about that. If we wanted to make money, this is not the show we would make, but it ends up being something sincerely expressive and kind of fascinating to watch — and unique. What it's made out of is just a ton of people, some of whom are professional entertainers like me or Annie Hathaway or Mindy Kaling, and people, most of whom don't have professional entertainment careers, but are still very talented or just have an interesting perspective that are worth including.

In episode two, you and Anne Hathaway play superheros. Did that make sense with The Dark Knight Rises connection?

The theme was "The Number Two," and someone in the community — a girl who goes by CaptClaire in Australia — had the idea that The Number Two was about the plight of a superhero sidekick. Then it was Nick [Kocher]  and Brian [McElhaney], the two guys who play the two sidekicks, wrote this comedy short film. The supporting roles were the actual superheroes, and I figured I'd play one of them. When I thought about who could play the other superhero, I thought of Annie and she was so perfect for it. She gets a kick out of making stuff for fun. She's not the kind of actress who only wants to do it for big Hollywood productions.  

Hit Record airs Fridays at 10 p.m. on Pivot.