Joel McHale is enjoying huge success on the small screen at the moment with hit show Community, series 2 is coming to Sony TV.
I caught up with him to talk about his time on the show, the character of Jeff as well as his big screen project Ted.
- The second Season of Community is set to launch on Sony TV so what can we expect from the show this time around?
I don’t remember it but I am sure it is great (laughs). No the second season goes over the inter-personal dynamics of the group and the group has to work out a lot of their problems - and that is manifested in some pretty fantastical episodes including Dungeons And Dragons.
They use to do this with a lot of situation comedies where they would burn off an episode by having two or three of the characters sit on set and reminisce and they would cut back to old scenes and other episodes, it was a way of saving money and they could shoot an entire episode in one day.
We do that exact same thing except all of the clips are brand new and they are all things that have apparently happened that no one realised. So it turned into this crazy episode where we shot seventy two scenes of it.
In the first season we had a thing called Modern Warfare, which was a huge paint-ball episode and it became a war and in this next season we have a two parter, it basically becomes a trilogy.
We also do a parody of both Pulp Fiction and My Dinner With Andre and that was directed by Britain’s very own Richard Ayoade from the IT Crowd and he directed Submarine. So there’s a lot coming up.
- You take on the role of Jeff Winger in the show so what was it originally about this character and the script that drew you to the project as you have been with the show for a while now?
Yeah we have just finished out third season but when I read the pilot I was on a plane and I laughed out loud of it, the guy next to me was watching the movie What Happens In Vegas and he was getting mad at me because I was interrupting the comedy that he was watching.
I loved the role because the character of Jeff is totally flawed, often when you have a lot of characters around and you have the person that is kind of leading the way that person becomes a bit of a straight man and he is not that.
He has got a lot of problems and I just love that, just like anyone in real life everyone has issues and they don’t shy away from my character’s issues. So I thought that it would be a really interesting role to get and so I went after the role with great enthusiasm, I really wanted it because it was unlike anything that I had read.
The series is so… I wouldn’t say it was out there but it is unlike anything else on television and that is what draws me to it.
- And so how can we see Jeff develop throughout the second season?
Jeff has got some real issues with women and parental issues with his father who he abandoned him as a child, boy this is hilarious.
There is a really great episode where Pearce, who is played by Chevy Chase, pretends to be dying and he says that he has found my father and that turns Jeff’s live upside down - and at one point he physically beats Pearce.
- We are also going to be seeing you back on the big screen this summer in Ted so can you tell me a little bit about that?
Ted is written and directed by Seth MacFarlane of Family Guy fame and it is his first foray into a film like this and it was an incredible pleasure to work with him, you can tell from the incredible experience that he has how good he is at directing actors and envisioning scenes. The man is a genius.
It starts out much like a children’s movie where a young boy wishes his bear comes to life and his bear does come to life.
The film then cuts to thirty years later and this bear that has come to life has ruined this guy's life. The bear has turned into a horrible person, or a horrible bear, he smokes pot and he is rude. Mila Kunis plays Mark Wahlberg’s girlfriend and I play her boss who is trying to woo her away.
- You have touched on my next question but the movie is directed by Seth MacFarlane so how did you find him as a filmmaker?
He is tremendous it’s like he has been doing it for years. He is very collaborative but he knows exactly where things should go, there is nothing vague about his direction and he knows which way the scene should go but within those parameters he lets you play.
It was a complete pleasure and blast to work with him and I would follow him to the ends of the earth.
- The movie looks like a fun one with Mila Kunis and Mark Wahlberg on the cast list so was it a fun movie to shoot?
Oh it was a great pleasure, if they said ‘Joel we need to add an hour worth of footage’ I would be like ‘just tell me where to show up and I will be there. It really makes for a pleasant work experience when the director is such a good guy and his attitude trickles down over everything.
So everyone was really happy to be there and happy to be working and I was just thrilled to be working with Mark Wahlberg and Mila Kunis, Giovanni Ribisi is also in it and Patrick Warburton; it’s a really cool and lovely cast.
- During your career you have also done some writing and producing so how much do you enjoy the behind the camera aspect?
Oh I love it. With The Soup I am one of the writers and the producers as well as the host and I really enjoy it and it really gives me a hands on look about trying to do every part of the show. With Community and The Soup going I don’t have nearly as much time to work on that stuff because there is not time in the day to do.
That said I love it and at some point in my career when they tell me to stop acting I will probably transition into writing and directing. But I am going to keep acting until they tell me stop, when the acting police come and take me away.
- You have answered my next question really I was wondering how much directing would be something that you would consider giving a go?
It is one of those things where for the last three years I have been buried with working on Community and promoting Community, that has been main focus for my professional career; my main focus is watching my two sons grow up.
But the main focus has been making sure that Jeff Winger is watchable and hitting the comedy and doing The Soup at the same time. Those have taken up so much time that directing something is in the back of my mind but it is not at the forefront - so much preparation goes into even directing an episode for television.
We will see down the line if I get the opportunity to do that. Talking of directing Richard Ayoade’s Submarine was one of my favourite movies last year if not my favourite movie.
- You have worked in movies and TV throughout your career so how do the two compare/contrast?
Wow. TV is different from you guys over there where you make six to eight episodes and that is a season over here in the US we beat it to death, no we don’t beat it to death but we do twenty four episodes.
A movie has a finite amount of time over three months or six months and it has a start and an end. Where TV goes ‘well we hope you get picked up next season’ and if all goes well you end up doing seven seasons and over two hundred episodes.
So they are different in that you can really see a beginning a middle and an end in a movie and with television it really becomes episodic and you enjoy each little mini movie that you make each week - and you work eight months of a the year on a schedule.
- Is there a particular medium that you prefer more than the other?
I think Kabuki Theatre is what I love the most, it’s tradition Japanese theatre. Boy I don’t have a preference my preference is making sure that the work that I am doing is quality work; you can be in some really bad movies and a really great TV show and vice versa.
I would say that it depends on the work and whether it is good or not. But over the last few years television has really exploded, TV has never been better with all the different cable channels making some of the most provocative art or visual art there is. So as long as it is good I am happy.
- Finally what's coming up for you?
Well right now I am in massive Community promotion, every day it seems like I am doing another promotion, then I will be getting ready to help launch Ted.
Before that I will hopefully spend time with my four and seven year old and my wife and doing some writing. Then if Community comes back I will start filming in July and I will be busy until March.
Community Season 2 launches on April 10th at 10.30pm on Sony Entertainment Television (Sky 157, Virgin 193)
FemaleFirst Helen Earnshaw