Comedic actors take on more serious roles


Ed Helms and Jason Segel have gone to some extremes to get a laugh. From marrying a hooker in Vegas to stripping down in front of the camera, it seems like they’ve done it all.

However, the comedic actors recently threw their fans a curveball and teamed up for a more serious film, “Jeff Who Lives at Home.”

Mark and Jay Duplass, who also worked on “Cyrus” starring Jonah Hill and John C. Reilly, wrote and directed the film.

The comedy-drama focuses on 30-year-old Jeff (played by Segel) who lives in his parents’ basement, unable to determine his fate. His brother (Helms) is also struggling, while trying to cope with a failed marriage. The film takes place over one day with the siblings trying to discover their destinies together.

“It might not be what you expect from Jason Segel and me,” said Ed Helms during a recent conference call with student journalists. “This movie, kind of in keeping with the Duplass brothers’ tone, it sort of rides the line into drama a little bit.”

Segel said he was able to relate to his character, Jeff, by thinking back to his early- to mid-20s.

“I think I related back to this time where you’re kind of bopping around and you have a sense that your destiny is to do something,” he said. “Mine was to be an actor, but I was kind of waiting for the world to present that opportunity to me.”

While the roles are different for the comedic duo, Helms said he hopes the film will resonate with the audience.

“This movie doesn’t shy away from the kind of painful aspect of a dysfunctional life, whereas my character on ‘The Office’ is arguably very dysfunctional, but you don’t really see the pain very often,” Helms said. “It’s played for comedy. This is a little bit more played for reality and I hope that it resonates.”

Although the Duplass brothers wrote the film’s script, Helms and Segel improvised most of their lines.

“It’s funny because they wrote a fabulous script,” Helms said. “They were the first ones to say, ‘Don’t say a word of this.’ So, we improvised almost every line of that movie and it was really exciting because Mark and Jay just really love that collaboration and that’s kind of a rare thing in writers and directors.”

Improvising might make achieving the perfect shot more difficult. For an actor, it might be hard to know when you’ve nailed a scene.

“It’s my least favorite thing to like catch a little glimpse of when I’m watching a movie, to see someone be a little proud of themselves and you really can see it if you watch carefully,” Segel said. “And so I try not to think about that too much.”

As a director, Mark Duplass also mentioned  a basic rule of thumb when it comes to getting the best take.

“If you’re ever asking yourself the question ‘Do we have it?’ you definitely don’t have it,” he said. “So as soon as you stop drilling that question, you usually feel like you’ve got a sense of it.”

The film hits theaters March 16.

Tyler Cooney contributed to this report.