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After more than 25 years of working in Hollywood — with recurring roles on Friends, Parks and Recreation and co-starring in the Wet Hot American Summer ensemble — Paul Rudd has a lead role on the small screen.
In the Netflix series Living With Yourself, Rudd plays a man who undergoes an experimental therapy treatment, only to be replaced in his own life by a new and improved clone. The series marks the actor’s first starring TV role, though he says his choice to dedicate himself to films was never intentional.
“I didn’t differentiate film or TV. I just looked at the project and the story and the character. Obviously the idea of playing two parts was appealing because I’d never done anything like this, but I just liked the scripts,” Rudd told The Hollywood Reporter at Wednesday’s Los Angeles premiere.
He also noted how the evolving TV and streaming landscape has changed the industry. “It’s such an interesting moment in time, where there is so much content all across the board in movies and television,” he said. “But I think, at the end of the day, most actors just want to do things they’re passionate about, that are interesting to them and that might be challenging. A good rule of thumb is to always just try to go after good material.”
The material is something Rudd is becoming increasingly involved with, producing a growing amount of projects in recent years and co-writing the screenplay for Marvel’s Ant-Man and the Wasp. He executive produced Living With Yourself as well, his first time being so heavily involved in the production of one of his own starring vehicles.
“In the last several years, I’ve been involved in projects earlier, when they’re just starting off, so as a result they turn into very collaborative efforts,” Rudd said. “It’s nice to be on that side of things as well because it gives me a say, and to take on other responsibilities that are outside of just acting makes me feel really connected to the project.”
While making calls behind the scenes, Rudd was also pulling double duty for the cameras, playing two sparring versions of the same character in what creator Tim Greenberg jokingly called “a fucking nightmare” to shoot logistically.
“Technically it was a pain, and having to shoot it multiple times was a pain. Paul did such a good job and had such control over his performance, and just mentally was able to remember not just the technical things, but all of the things he normally has to remember,” Greenberg told THR. “He’s playing two characters and we’re shooting it all at the same time, and we block-shot the whole thing so everything was out of order.”
Aisling Bea, who plays Rudd’s wife, said that Rudd’s performances were so transformative she felt like there really were two versions of the star.
“He wasn’t doing anything Daniel Day-Lewis-y; he wasn’t walking around like, ‘Call me something else!’ But just with his posture and his energy, you’d know just which one he was being,” she told THR. “And in between those, he was Paul, so I did feel like there were almost three of them.”
Although Rudd is largely at the forefront of the series, Bea added that she was drawn to Living With Yourself because her character is deeper and more fleshed out than just playing the role of the main character’s wife.
“What you might find watching episodes one and two are, ‘Oh, she’s just the wife.’ But in episode five, everything gets told from my point of view. I loved that as an act of storytelling,” she said, noting how she was given all eight scripts for season one before signing on. “Sometimes what happens is you get, ‘Oh, we’re going to make that part bigger once we get into the series,’ and you’re like, ‘Are you, though?’ You can’t trust it. Tim had already made this beautiful episode all from her point of view, and sometimes as women we just have to get used to an actress doing a rolling-her-eyes thing and imagining what separate life she had, whereas in this we actually get to see things from her point of view.”
Living With Yourself, which also stars Alia Shawkat, Karen Pittman and Desmin Borges, starts streaming on Netflix Friday.
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