'The Campaign's' Dylan McDermott Reveals How He Broke the Ice His First Day on Set

The Campaign Dylan McDermott - H 2012
Warner Bros.

The Campaign Dylan McDermott - H 2012

The "American Horror Story" actor talks to THR about holding his own opposite Zach Galifianakis and Will Ferrell in Jay Roach’s comedy.

Dylan McDermott, known for his dramatic work on TV shows like American Horror Story and The Practice, takes a serious turn for the comedic in The Campaign, playing an intense political operative named Tim Wattley.

While McDermott, 50, was the new kid in the comedy world, he tells The Hollywood Reporter that he broke the ice quickly while working opposite Zach Galifianakis and Will Ferrell.

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How? By getting naked.

“I was totally nude in front of Will and Zach for 12 hours,” McDermott tells THR about his very first day of shooting for the Warner Bros. comedy. In the scene, which was cut from the final version of the movie, his character walks out of the bathroom naked and complains about the lack of hot water.

“From that moment, I was like, ‘You know what? I’m good.’ I stood there for 12 hours in front of these guys, and now I can do anything,” he says.

In Jay Roach’s film, McDermott’s Tim Wattley is the all-business, slightly creepy political advisor who helps Galifianakis’ character, Marty Huggins, shape up for his North Carolina congressional race against incumbent Cam Brady (Ferrell).

McDermott says his plan going into the project was to not try to “out-funny” Galifianakis and Ferrell because he was sure that was a game he would not win.

“I did a movie with Clint Eastwood and I knew I wasn’t going to be able to ‘out-man’ him. So I had to work on my vulnerable side for In the Line of Fire, and in this movie, I decided I’m going to be completely straight and my humor’s going to be completely different than theirs, but nonetheless, I hope some people get it,” he tells THR.

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McDermott adds that working with the two comedy heavyweights had him laughing -- and sometimes crying -- every day, which created a new challenge since his character is so stern and serious.

“They’re just naturally funny, not just when they’re on camera,” he says. “Some comedians are dark and they’re not that funny off camera, but these two guys are both funny off camera as well.”

While most people know McDermott for his dramatic roles, most recently starring on FX’s American Horror Story, he actually has experience in comedy, participating in stand up in New York and open mic nights.

However, if it weren’t for Judd Apatow, he may have never got his chance to try out comedy on the big screen.

McDermott says Apatow, the producer behind hits such as Bridesmaids and The 40-Year-Old Virgin, asked him to create a video for an event for Seth Rogen several years ago.

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“I did a funny thing around my pool, playing a pool man,” McDermott tells THR. “And from that moment, everything changed.”

The entire comedy community was present for the event, and so soon after McDermott hosted Saturday Night Live, and then he read for the lead in Step Brothers with Ferrell. However, the timing didn’t work out, and he had to pass on the role.

Luckily, he was cast as the suit-wearing, ninja-like political consultant in The Campaign, because he plays the role with a wicked confidence that makes every scene he’s in hilarious.

McDermott says that he’s brought the lessons he learned on the set of The Campaign to his next projects, including the dark comedy, Feed the Dog (working title), in which he plays a kimono-wearing strip club owner.

McDermott adds that while he enjoyed playing this kind of comedy, he’s still pushing himself to try out new roles to avoid being pigeonholed.

“As an actor, you always have to reinvent yourself or you end up in the gutter somewhere,” he says. “It’s my job to always change people’s minds. I’ve known that for a long time and I’ve had to do it.”

But those who enjoy McDermott’s comedic turn in The Campaign can bet on seeing him back in comedy sooner rather than later.

“I would love to stay in this world," he says. "If I can stay in this world I’d be happy for the rest of my life. It’s so great to go to work and laugh your ass off all day long. What’s better than that?"

The Campaign opens in theaters on August 10.

Email: Rebecca.ford@thr.com; Twitter: @Beccamford