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LAist Interview: Adam Scott

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Adam Scott is one of those actors that you always recognize but can't always quite place. He's worked all over film and television for the last fifteen years, but it's only in the last few that people have started to put name to face. For me, he's as good a working actor as we have right now. His breakout role in Step Brothers -- where he repeatedly stole the movie out from under Will Ferrell and John C. Reilly -- was the funniest supporting turn in recent memory (see here and here for proof). His latest film, The Vicious Kind, just opened in limited release. LAist recently had a chance to speak with him.

LAist: How are you doing?

Adam: I'm good, man. How are you?

LAist: I'm great. I'm great, actually. When Hilary told me you were promoting this movie I was really excited because I'm a huge fan of your work.

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Adam: Oh, thanks!

LAist: So tell me a little bit about The Vicious Kind.

Adam: Well, I hope you'll like it, first of all. We did it in the spring of '08 in rural Connecticut. It's about a guy who's kind of a loner who I play named Caleb. He's estranged from his father, who J.K. Simmons plays. They live a couple of miles from each other, but they haven't spoken in eight years. And then his little brother comes to visit for Thanksgiving with his girlfriend. And, little by little, my character becomes obsessed with the girlfriend. And we began having this secret relationship where we just hang out together and smoke on the front porch of my father's house. It's kind of an intimate, platonic relationship that we're keeping secret from my brother and my father -- whom I still haven't spoken to for eight years. It just becomes a very dark comedy of manners. And then, little by little, everyone starts confronting these deep-dark secrets of the family and my character, Caleb, begins to face where he has placed himself in the world.

LAist: How did you initially get involved in this project?

Adam: Lee Krieger, the writer-director, just sent the script to my agent, and I loved it. I thought it was really funny. You know, when I initially met with Lee, I told him I thought it was really funny. He told me he thought it was funny, too, but most people thought it was really dark and depressing. But we both thought it was funny, so I think that was a good sign.

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LAist: I saw a movie that you did at the LA Film Festival this year.

Adam: Passenger Side?

LAist: Yeah. Is this film like that in terms of the scale of production? Is it a really small movie?

Adam: Yeah, it's a really small movie. It's not quite as small as Passenger Side was.

LAist: And how do you make those choices? You were in Step Brothers last year which was obviously a huge studio movie. And then you were also in Passenger Side which as you said was a really small movie. I'm sure you're getting offered a good bit of material, so how do you determine when to choose something that's a bit more of a -- I don't want to say financial consideration -- but it is to a certain extent. You have to live your life, and you have to pay for your life. Whereas the smaller stuff is really about -- at least I would guess -- the artistic purpose or intent of the film. How do you balance that?

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Adam: You know, I just look at material. I just try to find something that I'll be good in. I don't want to be bad in stuff so I try to pick things that will challenge me and that I can contribute something to. If there's something that's too far out of my wheelhouse that I know someone else can do better, I just stay away from it. Step Brothers was a total fluke just because I got the material, and I thought it was awesome, but just figured they would hire someone else. So I went to audition for it and really just sort of went for it in so far as trying to do the weirdest version of that character that I could do. And then they happened to like it so it was just a fluke that I got that part. But, other than budget, I don't think there's any difference between The Vicious Kind and Step Brothers. I think Step Brothers is a very artful, subversive movie. It just happens to be a giant, studio movie with Will Ferrell. But I think that those guys are just as independent-minded as Werner Herzog or Wim Wenders or any of those guys.

LAist: Yeah, I loved Step Brothers. I thought Derek was hilarious. The line, "helping my family makes my dick hard" is so brilliant.

Adam: That was from -- do you remember the HBO Ali G series where Bruno was interviewing Jonathan…that hairdresser who had that reality series for awhile?

LAist: I know who you mean.

Adam: Jonathan Antin, I think? He was interviewing him back when no one knew who Bruno was, and he was asking him all these ridiculous questions. And that guy Jonathan was giving him all these ridiculous answers, but they were totally serious answers. And one of his answers was something about "charity work making his dick hard". And that's how I got that.

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LAist: It's so brilliant and it's totally in keeping with that character. It sets him out in such sharp relief. I loved it. I loved it.

Adam: Thank you.

LAist: What about when -- so you get the script and you like the script. What's your process or do you have a specific process for getting to the character? Do you get to the character through the script? Do you get to the character through yourself? Do you get it through your director? Is there a typical way you do it? Is it different every time? How do you approach it between getting the script and then first showing up on set?

Adam: I guess it depends on how different the character is from myself. I mean, if I read it and immediately get it then I try not to mess with it too much. And just go with my gut and do what I feel is right for it. You know, most of the time I have a lot of questions, because I don't want to overdo it -- put too much frommage on it -- so I try to ask the right amount of questions. If the writer's there or the director -- I try to look to them for help. I try to find a way in that won't look too labor intensive to the audience, because I don't think the audience likes to watch someone trying. I think they just want to see some behavior.

LAist: What about Party Down? That is definitely coming back on Starz, right?

Adam: Yeah, we just wrapped Season 2. That starts airing in April.

LAist: Is there you can talk about with respect to what's going to happen this year? It ended last year with a bit of a cliffhanger regarding your relationship with the character played by Lizzy Kaplan.

Adam: As the season starts, Henry is the team leader at Party Down Catering. LIzzy is still on her cruise ship doing stand-up comedy. Ron is running his Super Crackers franchise. So it's just me, Martin Starr and Ryan Hansen on the catering team along with Megan Mulaly who's now a series regular. And Lizzy does return from her cruise ship fairly quickly. And then the whole thing starts going again. It's a really good season. We have a lot of good guest stars, a lot of hilarious stuff. Other than hanging out with my family, Party Down is my favorite thing to do. I just love all those people and we all have so much fun. It's really just my favorite job ever. I just hope we can continue to do it forever.

The Vicious Kind is currently playing at the Sunset 5