James Marsden likes playing nan jackass.
Especially erstwhile that jackass is nan entitled type of himself he’s playing successful Amazon Freevee’s breakout drama “Jury Duty.”
The improvised docu-style bid follows Ronald Gladden, a existent personification unaware nan progressively chaotic assemblage he’s recovered himself connected is wholly fake. Everyone astir him — including Marsden’s portrayal of himself arsenic nan out-of-touch personage — is an character playing their portion successful nan ruse.
The acclaimed bid has earned Marsden immoderate of nan champion reviews of his career, astatine a infinitesimal erstwhile it seems for illustration he is everywhere. Because he is.
In nan past year, he closed nan book connected Netflix’s “Dead to Me” pinch its last season and popped by Starz’s “Party Down” revival for a fewer episodes playing different spoiled — albeit fictional — movie star.
Being nan consummate comedic characteristic fresh and consenting to make a fool of himself for nan liking of nan worldly isn’t wherever a young Marsden thought he would beryllium astatine 49.
“When you’re young, you want to beryllium taken earnestly arsenic a melodramatic character and sure, if fixed nan chance, show that you tin besides do comedy,” says Marsden. “I ne'er thought location was 1 point that was my strength, but complete nan years, I conscionable find myself being pulled backmost to making an ass of myself.”
Marsden has had his adjacent stock of melodramatic turns successful projects for illustration “X-Men” and HBO’s “Westworld,” nan 4th and last play of which resurrected his robot characteristic past summer. Again, he’s everywhere.
But nan longer he’s been successful nan industry, nan much honorable he’s been astir nan roles he takes. At nan extremity of a agelong time connected set, nan ones that nonstop him location pinch a grin connected his face, quiet for more, person often been nan weirder, left-of-center drama projects.
“I’m measurement much comfortable playing that than I ever was playing nan starring man,” he says. “Even successful precocious school, I would ever do musicals and plays wherever I was nan goofy feline who did impressions. I would spell to schoolhouse and do ‘Saturday Night Live’ bits and Eddie Murphy stand-up. Comedy is thing I person ever respected.”
And while he idolizes improv legends for illustration Christopher Guest and caller co-stars for illustration Ben Schwartz who are trained successful nan “yes, and…” style of improv, his profession hasn’t been flush pinch opportunities to spell off-script.
Until “Jury Duty.”
There were nary scripts for nan series, only communicative thumps and prompts that cue up scenarios from which nan actors tin return nan wheel. Marsden’s first awesome punctual instructed him to inquire nan judge to disregard him from nan assemblage excavation because he thinks his prima position will bring unnecessary distractions to nan trial.
Unfortunately for nan cocky Marsden he’s playing, nan bid doesn’t situation disregard its biggest sanction connected time 1 — nor did he want to leave.
“The projects I activity connected that do really well, I ever look backmost and effort to find nan communal thread,” he says. “I consciousness for illustration those are nan ones wherever I’m having a ball, and I’m having a shot successful ‘Jury Duty.’”
What really stuck pinch him from nan first transportation was nan opportunity to usage himself arsenic a alloy to flick and prod astatine nan modern conception of celebrity.
“You’re telling maine I get to play immoderate type of myself I want to beryllium and lampoon nan Hollywood entitled, petulant brat?” he says. “It’s conscionable excessively overmuch nosy to return nan piss retired of that.”
While “Jury Duty” and “Party Down” connection a akin marque of humor, “Dead to Me”’s last play remains thing of a departure for Marsden.
What attracted him to nan acheronian comedy, led by Christina Applegate and Linda Cardellini, was nan chance to play Steve, Cardellini’s character’s horrible fellow successful Season 1.
This time, he wasn’t conscionable nan jackass. He was nan bad guy.
“I for illustration playing nan cocksure feline who gets his comeuppance successful nan end,” he laughs. “And boy does he.”
Steve winds up dormant successful nan excavation successful nan first season’s finale, putting a convulsive front connected his one-season arc. But erstwhile he told creator Liz Feldman he would miss moving pinch nan formed and unit and jokingly suggested she could bring him backmost arsenic his character’s copy brother, she took him seriously.
The show ever leaned into soapy storytelling, she told him, but Marsden was skeptical. He didn’t want to spoil a bully point by selfishly holding onto it beyond its prescribed expiration date. But Feldman convinced him different by asking a elemental favor: spot her.
He did conscionable that, making his debut successful nan Season 2 premiere arsenic Steve’s twin, Ben, a funny, messy and loving balm to his brother, who still has his ain flaws that fresh correct successful connected nan tragicomedy.
“I retrieve still being nervous, particularly because there’s a batch of dense lifting successful his communicative successful Season 3,” he says of playing Ben. “But Liz masterfully layers nan full characteristic pinch complexity. He wasn’t conscionable this nebbish, goofy, insecure feline successful emotion pinch Christina’s character. He was besides wrestling immoderate existent dragons pinch his alcoholism and nan nonaccomplishment of his brother. It became a batch much for maine to dive into. That’s nan worldly you sprout for.”
With 4 TV projects successful a year, Marsden jokes he mightiness person overextended himself. But really, he’s conscionable proud of nan activity because it confirms a suspicion he cautiously embraces astir his profession — he’s recovered his groove.
“I’m benignant of emotion myself,” he says, pinch a grin and a caput nod. “You ne'er want to get stuck doing 1 thing, but it’s difficult not to look backmost and spot what’s really working. It’s nosy to get into a groove. I don’t want to beryllium an character who is looking for longevity successful this business but is timid aliases frightened to spell for it. Some of these roles person been astir conscionable going for it.”
Having been bitten by nan improv bug, he’s talking pinch “Jury Duty” creators Lee Eisenberg and Gene Stupnitsky astir what other they could activity on, and he already has 1 idea.
“I deliberation location could beryllium a show astir nan jackass James Marsden,” he says. “It’s conscionable him walking nan world trying to do benevolent things for group but he conscionable makes it astir himself.”
Whether aliases not he takes nan jackass James Marsden show connected nan road, he is astatine slightest indebted to his change ego for 1 thing. The distraction declare whitethorn person not gotten him retired of “Jury Duty” connected TV, but nan show’s occurrence mightiness make it intolerable for him to ever service connected a existent assemblage again.
“I deliberation I’ve sewage my retired for nan remainder of my life,” he says, arsenic nan epiphany rolls astir successful his head. “I didn’t deliberation of that. I could really show a judge I did a show astir this and now everybody is going to deliberation it is fake. Not that I’m excited astir not doing my civic duty, but I deliberation I whitethorn person a compelling case.”