Jason Lee (Memphis Beat, My Name is Earl) recently spoke to the press about his upcoming guest starring role on NBC’s Up All Night. He talked about working with Maya & the rest of the cast, his role compared to his previous ones, and what he thinks makes for good comedy, so check it out!
On how his character meets Ava & who he got to work with on the show
Jason: Well, I think it’s just – it’s a – you know, it’s a reflection of, ultimately, who she is. I think Eva is very likable, sweet, innocent, you know, and she brings out – he brings that out in her. And I like that she’s not afraid to be that way around this guy that – you know. She’s still very kind of smart-assy and jokey and – when they’re around other people and whatnot, and it’s all fun and endearing. But, yes, I think it brings out a cool side of her, and it certainly allows me to kind of do something a little different which is very cool — kind of play it a little straighter and be a little bit more, I guess you could say, leading man – whatever the term is – or just kind of “the guy,” you know, which I’ve never – I never really do, coming from Earl and things like that.
So far. I’ve done three episodes so far which is really cool and gotten to play with everybody, you know, which is great — mainly with Maya, but some with Will and some with Christina so far. And everybody’s amazing.
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On how his guest role came about
Jason Lee: Well, you know, they just reached out to me, and of course, I was very excited—great cast and great show. I had seen it, and it was good to be back on TV. And Memphis Beat got canceled, and, you know, it had been a while since I had done any kind of comedy on television, so it was really, really cool to come back and work on a great show. And so, they keep having me back, which is great.
On working with the cast
Jason: It – fortunately, they’re all very cool people, and so, as a guest star, you hope for that, because, you know, you want to be able to just blend right in and have fun and have it feel comfortable. And certainly, great show regulars help that immensely. And so, fortunately, all of these people are very cool. And with Maya, I think there’s great chemistry there. She is very playful.
And everybody’s just been totally inviting. There’s a lot of improv and goofing off. And, you know, I feel right at home, and so I thank them immensely for making it comfortable for me.
On whether or not he can identify with Regan & Chris
Jason: Oh, my gosh, totally. I’m a father twice over. So, yes, absolutely. And, you know, it also helps playing a dad on the show, because I can totally relate and, you know, identify with that energy of being a father. And, you know, so, hopefully, that translates well. The – my character’s daughter on the show is – I think she’s, like, maybe 11 or something. So, it seems to be a good fit anyway.
On why he thinks the show is working so well
Jason: I mean, it’s definitely the chemistry, but it’s also the talent of the actors and that there’s certainly a lot of talent between the three of them, and the writing is really sharp. And as I like to see personally, it’s got heart. It’s accessible. It’s not better than thou. You know, it doesn’t have that sort of undertone—that comedy undertone—to it. It’s accessible. It’s identifying. And, you know, at the end of the day, you ultimately kind of – you know, you relate to the people.
And so, you know, there’s a sweetness to it too, which I think is very cool. And, you know, like with my character coming in and sort of grounding Maya’s character a little bit. You know, I – there’s a – it’s a well-rounded show. It’s believable and very cool in that way. And so I think that’s a big part of the appeal for me — is that it feels like a well-rounded, real show.
It’s not just funny, you know?
On how hard it was to get through the scenes without laughing
Jason: Yes, I mean, there was definitely some laughing with me and Maya messing up lines and goofing off and, you know, adding things that make the other person kind of chuckle and, you know, but that’s the fun of working on a comedy, is that you get to play like that. And it’s been nice to play and – you know, and to have fun and – you know, because I – again, I – you know, I hadn’t really done that in a while, because it’s been a few years now since Earl.
So, it was good to get back into that comedy world and play. And what helps is when you have great, you know, cast members to work with that are actually really cool, and they aren’t jaded and all of this stuff that you sometimes hear about. They’re just good people that like to have fun. And it’s also cool that every single cast member is a parent. Like, we all have kids. So, that’s really cool.
On his character versus Earl from My Name is Earl
Jason: Oh, man. He’s way more straight-laced, a little bit more clean-cut, doesn’t have an awesome mustache, unfortunately. But, yes, he’s – this is sort of like, you know, me kind of playing it straight, I guess, you know. It’s definitely funny and – but it’s nice that it’s just sort of, like, this sweet kind of guy from next door who sort of grounds Maya’s character.
And I like that, you know, I get to be funny, but it’s also a little bit sweet. And, you know, he’s just a good guy. Like, it’s nice to kind of just rely on, you know, just the relationship with Maya and try to make it real and fun and believable. And, you know, going from Earl which was kind of outlandish at time, and certainly a blast to do, it’s kind of nice just to see, just as an actor, like, what does it feel like to play it straighter, you know? Which I haven’t really done much of, so that was cool.
On what his character has in common with his previous characters/roles
Jason: Well, you know, I try to have everything that I do, hopefully – I don’t know – contain and maintain some sort of humanity or believability or likeability. You know, I think that’s kind of important. You know, I – you know, when I filmed Chasing Amy, I was really worried about – because there’s such harsh language and, you know, such sort of negative talk of lesbians here and this thing and that, I said to Kevin, “I worry about that a little bit, you know, because I’m a good person, Kevin, and I don’t want the audience to hate my character and to hate me.” He said, “Don’t – you don’t have to worry about that.” And I didn’t really know what he meant at the time, but basically, he was saying, you know, “It’s more of an insecurity.” He’s saying it’s more of a little boy thing. It’s – you could never be dick, in other words, is what he said, which I thought was very flattering.
But, I think, if you commit and you add some sense of sensitivity or some reality or humanity to it, and it’s a little deeper than just what you might see on the surface, I think it comes across as being a little bit more human. And so, yes, I guess I’ve just never really been afraid to just commit and be vulnerable. And I think that’s important.
On the differences between movies & TV
Jason: Well, you know, it all depends on the material. But technically speaking, TV is much faster. I personally think, you know, a lot of TV is getting really, really good. And I like being on TV. I like the schedule. I like the workload. I like the consistency of the workload and having a job that is fun that I get to do every day. And have a big character arc over the course of the season, that’s always really cool. Yes, but, yes, I think I – I mean, it really depends on the material, but I kind of think I prefer TV.
On coming into a still fairly new show where he has freedom to develop something
Jason: Yes, there’s definitely that. And it also helps that everybody is very cool. And there is – but that’s a good question. There is certainly that thing of everybody’s kind of getting into it all at the same time. But even still, had it – you know, if it were the fourth season, good people are good people, and it makes it that much easier.
You know, you certainly don’t want to come onto a show where everybody’s already over it already. Everybody from Will to Maya to Christina are very happy to be there. You can tell. There’s a great energy on set. The writers are always there — very happy and laughing. And it feels like everybody’s eager to make a good show, and that’s always a good sign.
On what he thinks makes for good comedic TV
Jason: I mean, I say it every time. It’s certainly good jokes, but even more so, I think, it’s does the thing have some kind of heart — some semblance of believability or humanity? I really think comedy has to be sincere and grounded. If it’s forced or if it’s too much winking at the camera, I don’t – I think it dies early, and it becomes old. I think a show like this is super funny, but it’s also identifiable, and you kind of root for this couple with the new kid. And, you know, it’s ultimately endearing at the end of the day, and I think that has more legs.
On the highlights of working on the show so far
Jason: Oh, man. Just the fun of it, you know? Meeting new people and working with people that you’ve seen before but haven’t worked with and discovering that they are a pleasure to work with and good fun and that everybody’s really trying to get along well and do something – eagerly do something worthwhile. That’s very cool to be around that kind of energy. And just really, honestly, the excitement of – and just it’s flattering when you get offered to do something like this with such good people. And you – you know, you feel like you’re doing good work, and you’re having laughs with people. I mean, it reminds you of how fun acting is and can be.
Thanks again to Jason for speaking to the press! He guest stars tonight in the first of his episodes of Up All Night on NBC at 8/7c.