Everybody Loves Michael B. Jordan, Jason Bateman is... Fine, And Other Revelations From The Hollywood Reporter's Drama Actor Roundtable
The Hollywood Reporter just published it’s annual television Drama Actor Roundtable interview, and this time around they gathered Jason Bateman (Netflix’s Ozark), Matthew Rhys (FX’s The Americans, J.K. Simmons (Starz’s Counterpart), Jeff Daniels (Hulu’s The Looming Tower, Netflix’s Godless), Michael B. Jordan (HBO’s Fahrenheit 451), and Darren Criss (FX’s American Crime Story: The Assassination of Gianni Versace) for a candid discussion about… well, fake penises and horseback riding and shit. But one of the very best bits comes during the first question, which is dominated entirely by Simmons (rightfully so, as any Oz fan will attest):
What makes you uncomfortable as an actor? Any lines you won’t cross?
J.K. SIMMONS: I was on Oz, so, clearly, I have no boundaries whatsoever. (Laughter.)
There was an abundance of nudity on that series. Did it make you uneasy?
SIMMONS: Oh, of course. But God bless [our showrunner] Tom Fontana … (Looks up.) I don’t know why I’m looking up, he’s still here. He’s in New York, he’s doing great everybody. (Laughter.) The thing that he always bragged on about that show was that his actors were courageous. We were just a bunch of young dumbasses who signed up. I mean, I was one of the older guys. Most of us had a theater background and here we were on HBO, trying to pretend to be tough guys — everybody except Chuck Zito, who was the only actual tough guy. And we just went where Tom pointed us. There was one time in 56 episodes where he actually called me at home ahead of time to say, “I wanna write this and I wanna know if you’re OK with it.” And this is in season four and I’m like, “OK, well, you’ve had me rape men, you’ve had me murder men, you’ve had me tattoo men, you’ve had me crucify men, you’ve had somebody poop on my face …”
JASON BATEMAN: Oh my God.
SIMMONS: I said, “What the hell do you want me to do?” And he says, “I want to do a musical episode.”
MATTHEW RHYS: No way. (Laughter.)
So, poop on someone’s face doesn’t get a phone call, but the musical episode does?
SIMMONS: But “Will you sing?” does. I was like, “Yeah, that’ll be fine.”
The guys get a few more jabs in at musicals later on, much to Darren Criss’s chagrin.
The interview finished just as strong as it started, with a lovely exchange that proves everyone is aware that Michael B. Jordan is basically perfect and hasn’t screwed up even once in his career yet (not that any of these other dudes are jealous or anything).
All right, final question: If you could go back and give advice to your younger self starting out in this industry, what would you say?
CRISS: I don’t know, I feel like I’ve made all the right mistakes and all of it got me to this Roundtable with you guys.
SIMMONS: And your younger self is 11. (Laughs.)
BATEMAN: There are peaks and there are valleys, and how you enter into that valley dictates your ability to get out of it, in terms of confidence and self-esteem and identity. And if that is wrapped up into your ability to be employed, then things could be challenging because you can’t control that. Even if you’re really good at what you do, you can’t count on being hired, so whatever confidence you have should be substantiated by something above and beyond getting hired.
DANIELS: I would tell [my younger self] not to let the business kill the love for why you got into it. I talk to college kids sometimes, and you can’t teach them about the rejection, you can’t prepare them for that, for the bitterness, the depression, all that stuff that comes because of the peaks and valleys of a career. But don’t let it kill the love for what comes between action and cut. Hang on to that because you’re gonna need that. That’s what I would tell him.
Michael, can you follow that?
JORDAN: No, man, that’s deep. Hmm …
CRISS: You haven’t screwed up hard enough yet, maybe that’s it. (Everyone nods.)
DANIELS: And when you do fail, Michael, when you fail miserably … (Laughter.)
BATEMAN: Let us know!
DANIELS: … you’re still the good actor you were before that. Hang on to that.
JORDAN: I appreciate that. And I will.
And just to get this out of the way: this roundtable took place back in April, weeks before Jason Bateman’s comments in that OTHER group interview spread around the internet like wildfire. If it had been released back then, I doubt if anyone would have scrutinized his comments at all. But in light of everything we’ve heard from him recently, it’s only fair to see how he’s acquits himself. So how does he fare?
Fine. He’s… fine. Quick with a quip, means well, is a bit clueless. Here’s his response to a question about gender pay parity:
BATEMAN: It’s odd that there wasn’t parity before. And now that the industry has become much more concept-driven, premise-driven, IP-driven as opposed to star-driven, it’s even more of a fertile ground for parity. If they were ever saying, “Well, you know, dudes bring in more audience than girls,” that’s crazy, always has been, and now those idiots have even less of a box to stand on.
Naive, but strong at the end there! Which is the complete opposite to his answer about his ideal roles…
BATEMAN: I’m really enjoying being in this one specific lane, which is the audience’s proxy, like just a normal guy who gets to inhabit the center of the story and is your lens through which you are observing and experiencing this odd plot or group of people or scary guy or funny guy. I’m really enjoying that as opposed to playing a bunch of different characters. Having said that, I’d love to play a woman.
CRISS: It’s fun.
BATEMAN: But in a very real way. Like a Tootsie version of it would be pretty cool where there’s a wink to it but then also the plane lands every once in a while and there’s some real introspection there. Not to suggest that film needs to get redone, which it should never.
So basically, he wants to play himself, unless he can play a woman — but not really a woman, just a dude who pretends to be a woman to succeed in his career, at which point he goes back to being a man. That… well, that actually makes a certain kind of sense, really.
Anyway, there’s lots more fun tidbits and weird anecdotes to enjoy in the full article, including Jordan talking about his mom! And all that penis/horseback riding stuff.