Q&A: Ed Helms talks identity, collaboration in new film

Usually recognized for his fresh ideas and spontaneous escapades, Ed Helms (“The Office,” “The Hangover”) takes on the well-intentioned persona of Pat in his latest movie, “Jeff Who Lives at Home.”

The film follows the childish adult, Jeff (Jason Segel), as he suspects his wife of adulterous behavior and is forced to make grown-up decisions. Helms plays Pat, Jeff’s mature older brother who helps with his self-discovery along the way.

Helms answered a few questions about his upcoming movie.


The State Press: How did you become involved with “Jeff Who Lives at Home” and what has been your experience?

Ed Helms: “Jeff Who Lives at Home” was a script that just got floated my way by (producer) Jason Reitman. (Directors and screenplay writers) Mark and Jay Duplass had written a script … and thought I might be a good candidate for it, and so Jason had just sent it to me directly and I loved it right away… and said, “Sign me up. Let’s do this.”


SP:  In which ways are you similar to Pat?

EH: I think that the character wants to do the right thing. He wants to be a good guy and I certainly share that. I don’t think I’m quite as dysfunctional as this guy — at least I hope not. But I do share that kind of struggle to be a better person… We also look a lot alike and we have the same voice, but we have a very different fashion sense, to be clear.


SP: How do you think audiences will respond to this serious side of you when they’ve only seen you in comedic roles before?

EH: I’m insanely proud of it. I’d still call it a comedy. (The movie) very much lives in that world but it’s ... more an honest look at dysfunctional people than most work I’ve done. This movie doesn’t shy away from the kind of painful aspect of a dysfunctional life. This is a little bit more played for reality and I hope that it resonates. It’s a nice treat, a little twist on the expectation.


SP: What is coming up next for you? What is your next project?

EH: Well, that is a fabulous question, and I have a bunch of things kind of churning right now. The L.A. Bluegrass Situation, which is a little music festival that I produce in the beginning of May. I’m looking at a bunch of different options and I’m actually very excited to see what the next few months bring.  But for now, it’s just finishing up “The Office.”


SP: How much freedom did Mark and Jay Duplass give you as far as working with the script and giving you direction?

EH:  They wrote a fabulous script. Down to the word, it is a wonderful, compelling, hilarious and moving script. They were the first ones to say, “Don’t say a word of this.” So we improvised almost every line of that movie … Mark and Jay Duplass really love that collaboration and that’s a rare thing in writers and directors. You just find these really authentic moments and it feels real when you're doing it. I’m sort of stunned by the result.  I think Mark and Jay got something out of me that I didn’t necessarily know (I had) as a performer.


Reach the reporter at mkthomp5@asu.edu

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