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Fresh off its season two renewal, The Mosquito Coast star Justin Theroux is already anticipating the future of his Apple TV+ series, which is based on his uncle Paul Theroux’s novel of the same name. The series chronicles an idealistic inventor and enigmatic fugitive named Allie Fox (Theroux) who uproots his family in order to seek refuge on the Mosquito Coast of Nicaragua and Honduras. With season one ending where the novel and the 1986 Harrison Ford and Peter Weir movie begin, Theroux explains the utility of saving the Fox family’s arrival on the Mosquito Coast for season two.
“It’s not a disingenuous thing to say or premise, but season one was really built as sort of a prequel. We needed a motivating force to get them out of the country in order to serialize it,” Theroux tells The Hollywood Reporter. “So I think our true north is really to try and get them to the Mosquito Coast. And eventually to Allie’s Shangri-La and hopefully the family’s, too. Those elements of the book are things that are important to me and to the rest of us, obviously. At its heart, this is a story of American colonialism that’s told through the lens of this small family, and thematically, that is going to be very interesting once we get into that zone.”
Theroux is also looking back at the ending of his critically acclaimed HBO series, The Leftovers, and says he regrets offering his interpretation of Nora’s (Carrie Coon) story.
“One time, I came down on one side or the other about the story, and then I regretted it. So I don’t want anyone to google what my answer would be,” Theroux explains. “I feel like a bit of a jerk for ever giving my opinion on it because I don’t want to deprive anyone else of their story and I don’t want to sway anyone either way. But at the end of the day, it doesn’t necessarily even matter, because I think what matters is that they’re together and they’re forgiving of one another’s stories, in sort of big quotes. It’s inconsequential to the love they have for one another, and I think that relationship was what Damon [Lindelof] was trying to underscore.”
In a recent conversation with THR, Theroux also discusses nonsensical Joker 2 rumors, the inspiration behind his Star Wars: The Last Jedi character and American Psycho‘s famous business card scene.
You’re currently playing G. Gordon Liddy on HBO’s White House Plumbers. When was the last time you had a mustache to this degree?
(Laughs.) I think I had one in 2000, maybe? Just as a sort of a gag. I don’t know. 2005? I had a mustache just recently in On the Basis of Sex, but that was the stick-on variety. So with the amount of time I have to shoot this, that was not going to work. (Laughs.) I’ve also learned that a stick-on mustache is frustrating. It really limits the way you talk because you don’t want to mess it up.
Moving to Apple TV+’s The Mosquito Coast, the series is based on your uncle Paul Theroux’s novel of the same name. Thus, had you been dreaming about playing Allie Fox for most of your life?
Not at all. It was one of those things that you think needs no touching. It had never even occurred to me that there would be another version of it other than the Peter Weir movie and Harrison Ford’s Allie. So when I heard about it, I thought, “Oh, that’s actually interesting. That’s a good idea. That would make an interesting show.” So I asked to see the scripts, and then I met with Neil [Cross]. And the rest was history. Obviously, I was very into playing the character. I thought he was a really compelling person.
Since you were 10 years old when the book came out, was the movie your first introduction to this story?
No, I think I read the book a few years after it came out. It’s written from the point of view of a 14-year-old. So it was actually perfect timing. I liked reading it as much as I could because I could identify with that character, Charlie. And then I saw the movie, of course, shortly thereafter.
Coming off of playing Kevin Garvey on The Leftovers, what were your priorities as far as your next big TV commitment?
I think they’re always the same. It wasn’t a conscious hiatus. I like characters that will remain interesting for the duration of what could, in theory, be four or five seasons. So that’s the handshake agreement that I made with Damon, for sure, and also with Neil, which was, “If this person doesn’t evolve or become different by the end, I would rather not do it.” I couch that in terms of cop dramas where the cop is always the same, and there’s a comfort in that kind of television that people like to watch sometimes. This guy comes in, he solves a crime and the episode ends. And he does that ad infinitum. I like characters that, even episode to episode, evolve, change and become different while, obviously, remaining the same person. But I think that’s the point of storytelling; characters have to arrive at a different place than when they started.
Kevin spent so much time in his head as he tried to figure out what was happening and what was happening to him. Conversely, Allie is very assured of himself, for better or worse. Was that an important distinction for you in terms of playing something new?
Yeah, it’s built into the DNA of the character. He’s this extremely forward-leaning person. If we’re comparing the two, Kevin always had a question mark, not a lightbulb, over his head. And with Allie, it’s always a lightbulb and not a question mark. But both are very fun to play. There’s a deep internal life for Kevin and a mental internal life, if there’s such a thing. But with Allie, what he says is essentially what he means; there’s very little subtext. He’s an executor in that he executes the things that he says, and there’s something virtuous about him in a sort of club-footed way. He’s actually pretty honest, and he’s one of those guys that when you meet them, you know them. They go, “Hey, you know what? We’re going to do this.” And it could be the worst idea in the world, but because they have such a belief in it, you go, “OK, yeah, I guess we are going to do that.” If Allie said jump off a cliff, would you do it? Probably, yeah. There’s an enthusiasm to him that I like.
Unlike Kevin, we don’t spend a lot of time in Allie’s head. So there’s an unpredictability to him, such as when he gambles with his wife Margot’s life (Melissa George).
Yeah, as I was reading it, I was trying to decipher what he was doing. He had already made certain assumptions as to what was being done to him. So in that respect, I think he had done the arithmetic and said, “She’s going to be fine. These are the people we’re here to see.” And then it becomes performative. So it’s a bit of a “Sophie’s choice” for him. If he’s wrong, his wife obviously dies. If he’s right and he gives up that information, then his family is cut off at the legs and they’re abandoned. So in a certain sense, he’s making the more virtuous decision because he’s putting family above himself, whereas to Margot, obviously, it has the appearance of being incredibly selfish.
Whether it’s the border crossing episode, the cartel episode or the jailbreak episode, I really appreciate the fact that each episode is identifiable. As much as I love binge-watching, it causes certain shows’ episodes to blur together and feel similar. Was distinguishing each episode purposeful?
Yes, but part of that is just a function of geography and where they were. We obviously tried to maintain the tone and at least make the show tonally consistent. But I think the rest was a function of geography. I don’t want to spoil anything with the possibility of a season two, but I can’t imagine that they can sustain this pace of going from such striking locations to different striking locations. You know what I mean? It’s not a disingenuous thing to say or premise, but season one was really built as sort of a prequel. We needed a motivating force to get them out of the country in order to serialize it. So I think our true north is really to try and get them to the Mosquito Coast. And eventually to Allie’s Shangri-La and hopefully the family’s, too. Those elements of the book are things that are important to me and to the rest of us, obviously. We want to get them to this place, so I feel like it’s going to get even more interesting once we arrive. At its heart, this is a story of American colonialism that’s told through the lens of this small family, and thematically, that is going to be very interesting once we get into that zone.
I also like that the show keeps the kids involved on a meaningful level, and while I don’t mean to keep tying everything to The Leftovers, one of Damon Lindelof’s regrets is that he wasn’t able to keep the kids as involved in season three. Were you and your collaborators determined to not turn Logan Polish’s Dina and Gabriel Bateman’s Charlie into baggage, so to speak?
That was intentional. We made a couple fundamental changes from the book and the movie. We wanted to push Margot, who didn’t even have the name Margot in the book or the movie; she was just called Mother. But we wanted to give her agency. We architecturally thought of her as the real patriarch of the family, and Allie as almost one of the children. And then we wanted to change the older child into a girl and give her agency as well. It dawned on us that if these two children have been raised in such a closed circuit, they would not be as evolved — or even devolved — as the parents. They would already have this doctrine sort of instilled in them. So they would be able to hold their own to a certain extent. They’re not going to be doing TikTok and getting ready for a high school prom. So in a weird way, we’d like to think of Charlie as the one who really wants to be like his dad and probably never will be; he’s mostly like his mother. And the character of Dina is the one who probably hates her father the most, but is the most like him. And also, you need those scene partners to a certain extent. They have to be functional. They have to be facile and they have to have skills if the story is going to propel itself. If they’re just a backpack, then it’s less interesting.
There’s a scene where Allie is being held at gunpoint in the desert, and he urinates himself out of fear. And I found that so interesting because there are certain actors who would have fought tooth and nail to avoid looking weak in that circumstance, but you’re an actor who’s always been willing to play those moments, whether it’s showing strong emotions or completely losing control. Do you embrace those opportunities to show weakness?
Absolutely! It was really evident in Kevin Garvey. There’s something called privileged point of view, which is when the audience gets to see something that he might not show in his exterior life. And that was all over Kevin Garvey on The Leftovers. I loved those moments because when he was out in the world, he was obviously very sort of chest-forward. But in his home life, that’s where the audience would have that privileged point of view, and they would see what was really going on. I actually think that those moments are essential to rounding out any character if we’re really going to live with them and understand them. Otherwise, you’re just Superman. Or you’re just that classic, square-jawed hero, and there’s no jeopardy, in a way. So I insisted on that moment where Allie peed his pants because it’s a normal physical reaction that would happen if you believed that you were going to die. The stakes are that high, so why not? And it also humiliates him and humanizes him. To have that happen in front of your children is a terrible thing, or at least for Allie, I imagine it would be. And they never really even discuss it. It’s nothing that would ever be discussed in this family.
There’s an amazing Leftovers reunion between you and Paterson Joseph.
How did that go down?
I won’t take credit for it. Obviously, we’re jumping around in the story, but that interrogation was a barn burner of an eight- to 10-page scene. So we needed someone incredibly charismatic, and I will always look for opportunities to work with Paterson because he’s so compelling. There was a lot of discussion, early on, about what kind of character it would be, who it would be. But I just knew that he could sell it, and obviously, we didn’t want to shine too bright a light on it. We didn’t want to, obviously, make it seem like, “Oh, we’ll just call Holy Wayne and ask him to make an appearance.” But he’s so versatile. So he just came in with a take. I obviously called to check to see if he was available, and then I just lobbied hard. I said, “It’s such a dynamic character, and we need to have someone whose chops are as dynamic as it’s written.” So I knew he would be fabulous. Everyone was a wonderful performer on The Leftovers, but he really stood out to me. I was so riveted whenever he was onscreen. And to be opposite Allie, it would need to be someone who’s at least that compelling, if not more so.
The information that Dina uncovers regarding her origin — and Charlie’s, potentially — is still a loose end. While it’s probably just a ruse that the agents used as part of their honeypot, do you already know the outcome of that story point?
No, I know exactly what you know, which is all the way up till we roll credits on episode seven. I think Neil is just now, in the hopes of a season two, digging into storylines in a very sort of blue sky way. I’m looking forward to the velocity slowing a little bit and being in one location hopefully. One location with a very broad canvas behind it. But I’m looking forward to the toenails starting to become a little ingrown as they get further and further off-piste.
Whether it’s the bodies that have piled up or Dina’s blow-up on the beach, are you optimistic that this family can overcome everything they’ve been through so far?
Yes. How well they overcome it is the question that I would have. Arguably, the person who I think is the most traumatized by this experience is Charlie. If you just tracked him, look at what he’s been through, as far as going through the desert and seeing several people die. Gabriel does such a wonderful job playing him as there’s something that’s starting to look a little dead behind his eyes, in a good way. Whether that goes anywhere or not, I don’t know; I really don’t. But just as an observer of his performance, it looks like there’s some trauma there, having shot someone. Families are such a strange thing. They’re so elastic. Some families, when they hit troubled waters, disband forever and can never find their way back to each other. But this is a very particular family, and they’re constantly becoming more and more indebted to each other in different ways. Allie has made a lot of deposits in the bank when it comes to his family, as have Dina and Margot. Each family member sacrifices for the other, and that kind of emotional bartering that goes on between them, if nothing else, will make for some very rich storytelling. But I don’t know; it’s a question mark. I’m sure you’ve seen the movie and maybe even read the book, but I think Peter Weir famously once said, “It’s a classic Hollywood story told in reverse.” So it does not have a particularly happy ending, but that’s up to Neil to try and square that circle.
In a recent profile, Damon mentioned that you weren’t interested in playing the lead character on Lost. Did you still have an aversion to network television at that point?
Yeah, Lost was so groundbreaking, but at the time, I don’t think anyone could have convinced me to go back to network television. Back then, there was no Lost that was breaking the parameters of television like they ended up doing. So I don’t really even recall it. It could have come across my desk and I just dismissed it out of hand, but I think I wasn’t really looking to do anything. I can’t even remember what I was doing at the time, but I wasn’t looking to do anything that could resemble a soap opera, which a lot of network television was at the time. And so, yeah, I don’t really remember it. I saw that he said that, but I don’t remember it as vividly as he does. Who knows?
So every once in a while, I’m in a situation where someone’s mind is blown because they’ve just learned that you co-wrote Tropic Thunder. Out of curiosity, do you have your own version of this story?
I’ve had the experience where people who I’ve known for a long time come up to me and go, “Oh my God, you wrote …” And I go, “Yeah.” And they go, “I just heard that …” It doesn’t really track with people, I guess, because of my acting career. And like much of my acting career, it’s a bit of a UFO, you know? You can’t quite figure it out. (Laughs.) There was no plan in mind. So it’s one of those factoids that people just wouldn’t peg. I’m not a comedian. I’m not someone who you would peg as that kind of writer, so it does shock people. It’s usually people reporting it back to me and going, “I just learned that you did this.” And I go, “Yeah.” And they go, “Are you serious?” And I go, “Yeah.” But I don’t think I’ve been at a big table and gone, “And by the way …” (Laughs.) So I don’t think there’s any version of that, but it’s usually someone just saying it back to me and going, “Oh, I didn’t know that about you.”
You did a retrospective recently, and I was shocked that they didn’t bring up American Psycho‘s business card scene with you, Bale and Leto to name a few. So what comes to mind from that day?
That was so much fun. I was actually shooting Mulholland Drive at the same time. So I was bopping back and forth between Mulholland Drive and American Psycho. It was such a great crew of New York actors like Bill Sage, Matt Ross and Christian, who is not known for being a New York actor. It was one of those movies. There was a bit of a hubbub about making that movie. No one wanted Mary [Harron] to make it because the book had been interpreted by some as a very misogynistic, hyper-violent, sort of gore-fest. And Mary, who’s so smart, understood it as satire, which is what the book was, too. Satirizing these horrible Wall Street guys that existed and still exist. And I think we all were in on the joke, obviously, when we were shooting that scene. Four or five adult men were sitting around, sort of jerking off onto each other’s business cards and also getting frustrated as to who has the better one. I remember there being a lot of laughs between takes and going, “This is so stupid.” And the intensity with which Mary was shooting it with those close-ups, push-ins and extreme close-ups so you could really see the stock of the cards. I remember we just thought it was hilarious. We thought a lot of that movie was hilarious. I wasn’t present for the more horrific parts of that movie, but Mary even did that tastefully and beautifully.
You also told your The Thin Red Line audition story, and while listening, I kept thinking, “Even if he got the job, he’d still have to contend with Terrence Malick’s infamous cutting room floor.” Once you heard all the stories involving actors who went from lead to supporting or were cut out completely, did you feel a little bit better?
(Laughs.) Yes, I heard all the stories, but no, I didn’t feel any better. I still probably would’ve enjoyed that experience. And I still, to this day, think the job is the experience. It’s not whether you get to become central to the story or not. That story is sort of like calling a plumber to come do a job and saying, “Don’t bring your tool kit.” You don’t say, “You can’t use a hammer.” You don’t just completely deprive them of everything that is necessary, including a script. So there’s a point where things become so secret that you go, “Well, what’s the point?” I’m not going to be able to paint the Sistine Chapel if you don’t give me some idea of what you want. There are a million versions of that kind of audition. And again, it wasn’t even for Terrence Malick. He probably didn’t even know the audition was taking place. It was just some casting director. I don’t think it was even the casting director. It was probably an assistant to the casting director who just stuck me in front of a camera and said, “OK, make war.” And I was like, “OK, so you want me to make a Terrence Malick war scene? Well, I might need Terrence Malick words here to at least attempt that.” Every actor has some sort of frustrating story like that.
So do you mind if I be that guy who insists on telling you his interpretation of The Leftovers ending?
(Laughs.) Sure. I don’t mind at all.
In the post-Departure world, Nora’s (Carrie Coon) job was to expose people’s fraudulent Departure-related stories, such as Brett Butler’s character’s claim that the Pillar Man (Turk Pipkin) departed. Matt (Christopher Eccleston) even pleaded with Nora to let people have their stories, but she refused to let them cope in that manner. So the irony is that, in the end, she needed her own bogus story to feel better about leaving Kevin behind and not going through with the machine on the off-chance that she might see her kids again. If she really went to the other side and saw that her kids were happy, then that is the right decision. It’s certainly not one that would cause you to hide out in Australia under a different name. When Kevin found her, she tried to flee because she had to finally face the music and tell her made-up story, which she herself wouldn’t have believed years earlier. So she became the very person she opposed, and realized that it’s OK to cope in this fashion.
That’s a good take. I haven’t heard that take.
I told this theory to Carrie last year, and she patted me on the head and gave me a cookie since she’ll never reveal the way she played it.
(Laughs.) Well, I love it. That’s a character observation. It’s a theory and a character observation, which I think is interesting. I’ve always thought it’s strange. One time, I came down on one side or the other about the story, and then I regretted it. So I don’t want anyone to google what my answer would be. But in the same vein as Matt being, “Let people have their stories,” I very much enjoy hearing both sides of the story. I feel like a bit of a jerk for ever giving my opinion on it because I don’t want to deprive anyone else of their story and I don’t want to sway anyone either way. But at the end of the day, it doesn’t necessarily even matter, because I think what matters is that they’re together and they’re forgiving of one another’s stories, in sort of big quotes. It’s inconsequential to the love they have for one another, and I think that relationship was what Damon was trying to underscore. Even though he says, “Oh, I wish I could’ve utilized the kids better,” I think Damon is nitpicking. I think he definitely zeroed in on how this story was going to end, and so those things sort of fell away and became less important.
Between New York, Texas and Australia, what was your favorite Leftovers shooting experience?
I mean, they were all great. If we’re just talking about my favorite place to live, it was certainly Austin, Texas. But all of those locations, the scripts and the work on set was equally fabulous. So I don’t have a preference; I liked each season.
You also recurred on another one of the all-time great shows, Six Feet Under. Did that show further remind you that premium cable, like HBO, was the ideal fit for you?
Yeah, it did, but that’s a belief that I had early on. I did a terrible cop show early on — or it was terrible for me, I should say. But it would just drive me crazy. It was so mobbed up on a corporate level. There were too many masters, you know? So it would drive me nuts when you just couldn’t say the words “fuck” or “shit.” And it’s not because I adore those words; it’s just that people say them in life. So any time there was a restriction put on what you can and can’t do on a show because of some corporate whatever, like having to say, “I’m going to go get a coffee at Starboocks,” since you couldn’t say Starbucks, it just drove me nuts. All of sudden, it becomes so removed from reality that you think, “This is absurd. This is pantomime.” It’s just ridiculous. When we were doing the ABC show Mulholland Drive before it became a film, David Lynch was furious because the network kept insisting that my character couldn’t smoke. I’ve talked about this before, but he wanted to do a shot of dog shit and they wouldn’t let him shoot dog shit. So he couldn’t wrap his mind around that and my character not being allowed to smoke. He said, “But people smoke in life! We hope they don’t and we wish they wouldn’t, but they do! It’s just a fact!” And with the dog shit thing, I think he said, “If they can bring me one person at any age that has not seen dog shit, I will not shoot it, but they have to produce that person. Everyone has seen dog shit, therefore it’s not like graphic sex or something like that. It’s dog shit.” So anyway, those kinds of constraints are frustrating when you’re working on network television because eventually, you can’t accurately reflect what life is like.
You’ve made a number of cameos in projects such as Joker and The Last Jedi. Are cameos one of the fringe benefits that you love most about this profession?
Yeah, I’m not averse to doing those at all. “They” sort of tell you, “Yeah, you shouldn’t really do that because you’re doing so well. You don’t really need to do that.” Well, why wouldn’t I do that? It’s super fun. Joker was just random. Todd Phillips just called me and said that they were shooting in New York, And since I was in New York, he said, “Hey, do you want to do this quick little thing?” And I said, “Sure, yeah.” It was shooting in a week or two weeks. I was like, “Yeah, I’ll do it.” If I wasn’t free, I wouldn’t have done it, but I was free, so I said, “Yeah, I’d love that. That would be super fun.” What’s wrong with sitting around and giggling for a day with Robert De Niro and Todd Phillips? I’m not averse to that. I don’t have too much pride around those things. I won’t say, “Well, that’s not a big enough part,” or, “If you give me some more lines …” Same with Star Wars. I got to go to London for a couple of days and see this incredible set with all of the incredible animatronics, puppetry, design and wardrobe. Yeah, it was absolutely fun.
Because of the white tuxedo and red boutonniere, your Star Wars character, the Master Codebreaker, is often compared to James Bond or Indiana Jones from Temple of Doom. Were they on your mind at all?
No, I thought of it as Dabney Coleman. That’s how I kind of approached it. (Laughs.) That was the idea for the mustache, but I didn’t think of it as anybody, really. I thought of him as singular. I mean, I don’t want to overthink it, either. It wasn’t a guy where I needed to live a month in his shoes before I could play him. It was kind of already there. That Dabney Coleman mustache, a streak of white hair, a class act and a high-end gambler. So I didn’t overthink that too much. (Laughs.)
I hate to subject you to the rumor mill, but have you heard about the headline that said you were “vying” for a role in Joker 2?
(Laughs.) I haven’t. All I can say is I haven’t spoken to Todd in forever, and I have not approached him about doing anything for Joker. I won’t say any more than that. Unless he has some brilliant way to weave in that small character, that would really be shoehorning a character into the movie that probably doesn’t need to be there.
So are you and Woody Harrelson enjoying yourselves on White House Plumbers? I’m shocked that this is the first time the two of you have acted together.
Yeah, we have worked together, just not on camera together. We did this Live in Front of a Studio Audience thing with Norman Lear, on opposite sides of the camera. When I say hilarious, it’s been hilarious. A good portion of our day [on White House Plumbers] is spent laughing and ruining takes because we enjoy each other’s sense of humor so much. He’s a wildly funny man, and has that perfect balance of professionalism and goof-off-edness. Obviously, when the work needs to get done, it gets done, but we’re enjoying ourselves thoroughly while doing it. And it’s also one of those great things where we’re shooting in upstate [New York] and it’s summertime. So it feels a little summer camp-y because we’re all up there and it’s just fabulous. We’re really having a fun time with the tone of it. It’s nice to be on the set of a comedy again and do scenes where we get to have giggles between takes and during, obviously.
I loved Maniac, especially your big swing as Dr. James K. Mantleray.
(Laughs.) I really love it, too — and not because I’m in it. I loved everything about it, start to finish. I could’ve done 30 more episodes of that. It took some big swings in storytelling. Patrick Somerville is such a fabulous writer, and Cary [Fukunaga], obviously, knows his way around a camera. And I just thought the performances were great, universally.
Since the industry has positioned you as a leading man, do you relish those opportunities, like on Maniac, where you get to be a character actor?
Yeah, absolutely. It sounds like I’m being disingenuous, but I really don’t think of any character as a leading man character. I really try not to. I don’t really think of the position of each character on the call sheet. I really think of them as the next most fun character to play. And Kevin Garvey was certainly that. Dr. Mantleray was certainly that. Allie Fox is that. And this idiot that I’m playing now is so much fun, and certainly not a leading man even though he might be a leading role. I don’t think I play leading men very well, to be honest. I don’t really think I’ve even played one yet, and I don’t really think I want to — at least not in the traditional sense. I really like good characters.
So what’s the latest with you and screenwriting?
I’d love to say that I came out of quarantine with a great screenplay, but I didn’t. I did not want to write anything during quarantine. I was sort of petrified. I have a couple things that are on shelves that I’d love to pull off the shelf again and do; I just haven’t had time, frankly. There’s one project, in particular, that I really want to make, but I won’t bore you with it. So hopefully, if I catch a break on hiatus, I’ll dust it off and start trying to make some moves on it.
On the heels of Tropic Thunder and Iron Man 2, did you ever entertain the idea of becoming a writer primarily?
No. My career, if you charted it, it would look like a cardiograph. It would look like someone having a sideways heart attack. There’s no real rhyme or reason. I certainly have no grand plan. I was always kind of like, “Oh, if a good acting job comes up, I’ll take that. If a good writing job comes up, I’ll take that.” And I’ve done a lot of work putting mortar between bricks with rewrite work and things like that where you don’t necessarily get credit nor want credit. I’ve filled my time, certainly. Maybe I should plan things better, but I don’t really think of it in terms of, like, “And then next year, after this is over, I’m going to do this and that and the other thing.” I really sort of am built like a dog in that whatever is in the immediate future is the thing that I think about. I don’t do well when I’m splitting focus. I could never be one of those people that’s, like, “I’m acting in this, producing, writing a thing for the side, and also casting that to get that going while I do this.” I feel like I have to be trained on one thing and sort of wring that out, and then I can move on to the next thing.
So your Instagram stories involving dinner with your dog, Kuma, were a reliable source of levity during the height of the pandemic.
(Laughs.) Oh good.
But at the same time, I also felt bad because she eats better than I do.
(Laughs.) Like we all did, I had hours in the day to make dinner, basically. I mean, I would make breakfast, lunch and dinner, but I had way too much time on my hands, like we all did. I wasn’t making sourdough bread, but I was doing my version of it, which was, “I’m going to learn how to cook filet of sole. I’m going to learn how to cook eggplant lasagna.” Or whatever the hell. I did it many more times than I even posted about it. But I took such joy in making little dog-friendly portions of my food, obviously without chili peppers, white onion or things that would upset her stomach. But it was just such joy. And so I started filming it and then I thought, “Oh, this would actually be fun for people to maybe see. I don’t know.” But yeah, she was eating dog food as well; she wasn’t just eating my food. (Laughs.) But it was just fun, and when you’re lonely, it’s nice to have a companion in the middle of a pandemic.
Has she cameoed in any of your work?
There was some thought of putting her in Mosquito Coast. We were going to put her in a scene because she was there with us in Mexico. But I actually thought, for people who know me or know my whatever, I thought it would take people out of the story. It’s like throwing a speed bump in the middle of something where you might go, “Whoa, wait. That’s weird. That’s his dog.” So I denied her the role she was promised, I guess. (Laughs.) She lost a part in Mosquito Coast because of me.
Leftovers season two had a dog kennel that would’ve been perfect, but I’m not sure if you had her back then.
I don’t know if you have seen it, but she is in Lady and the Tramp. She is in a dog kennel. Yeah, I didn’t have her when we did the dog kennel in Austin, but she absolutely was in Lady and the Tramp. She went down to Georgia with me when they were doing the live-action portions and we put her in the dog pound. It’s just a really quick tracking shot when Lady is coming into the pound, and they pan past the cages where she’s barking away. So she does have her SAG card. (Laughs.)
Interview edited for length and clarity. The Mosquito Coast is currently streaming on Apple TV+.
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