A Chat with Adam Scott, Adam Scott interview, "August," "Tell Me You Love Me"

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Adam Scott has spent his career doing a nice blend of television (from “Boy Meets World” and “Party of Five” up through last year’s “Tell Me You Love Me”) and movies (“High Crimes,” “Torque,” “The Aviator”), but it’s fair to say that he’s been focusing more on the latter recently. While his role in the Will Ferrell / John C. Reilly comedy, “Step Brothers,” is definitely the more high profile of his current flicks, the one that’s getting more critical acclaim is “August,” starring Josh Hartnett. We spoke with Scott about his experiences on the film, what it’s like to be grilled by the members of the Television Critics Association, and how bizarre it is to be recognized for your role in a show on which you only appeared four times more a decade ago.

Bullz-Eye: Hey Adam, how’s it going?

Adam Scott: Good. How are you?

BE: Not bad. Good to talk to you.

AS: You, too.

BE: Well, they sent me a screener of the film, so I’ve had a chance to check it out…

AS: Oh, cool. What did you think?

BE: I enjoyed it. Based on what I’d read online, though, I wasn’t sure if it was going to be too much of a downer for me, but I definitely enjoyed it. It wasn’t quite as depressing as I was fearing it was going to be.

AS: Oh, yeah, were you expecting, like, crazy 9/11 stuff?

BE: Well, yeah, actually, that was actually my first question. When you go on IMDb, the first thing it points out is the fact that it takes place prior to the 9/11 attacks…but, really, that fact is almost incidental to the film when you get right down to it.

AS: Yeah, yeah, totally. I mean, I think at most it’s an interesting narrative tool, and that it’s just kind of this spectre hanging over the characters and the story, so the audience has this knowledge that the characters don’t: that all of this is just going to be wiped clean after the story ends, and everyone is going to kind of forget about this whole economic boom that the country was going through.

BE: Who was responsible for picking the specific media touchstones that were used to indicate the timeframe? Like, in particular, I remember spotting “Bennifer” (Ben Affleck and Jennifer Lopez) and the death of Aaliyah.

AS: I think a lot of that was (director) Austin Chick coming up with that.

BE: You’re obviously throughout the film, but your big scenes are probably the interconnected sequence between the family dinner and the walk that Tom and Joshua take thereafter.

AS: Sure.

BE: How did you like having Rip Torn for a dad?

AS: It was great. I’m a huge fan of “The Larry Sanders Show” and “Defending Your Life,” so I got to regale him with questions about those and all the cool stuff he’s done over the years. It’s actually…he and David Bowie were in “The Man Who Fell to Earth” together…

BE: Oh, man, I didn’t even think about that!

AS: Yeah, it’s actually their second film together. A piece of trivia for you.

BE: Actually, speaking of Bowie, he’s not in the film that long, but I don’t think it would have been humanly possible for them to have utilized him more effectively.

AS: Yeah, he was excellent, wasn’t he?

BE: Yeah, that monologue of his is just spectacular.

AS: I know, it’s really cool. I regret not being in that scene. I kept trying to get Ray to get me into that scene.

BE: Did you at least get to meet him when he was on set?

AS: I did not: I wasn’t around. I was in Los Angeles when they shot that.

BE: A great regret, I’m sure.

AS: Oh, yeah.

“(9/11 is) just kind of this spectre hanging over the characters and the story (of ‘August’), so the audience has this knowledge that the characters don’t: that all of this is just going to be wiped clean after the story ends.”

BE: I guess this was a particular labor of love for Josh (Hartnett), since he was a producer on the film as well as the lead. How did his producer side play out when he was on set?

AS: You know, when he was on set, he was totally focused on acting. He had a big job to do, and he was totally focused on it, so as far as producorial things, I’m not sure. I think that was mostly all off-set, because he was really focused on his performance, and I think it really shows. It’s pretty extraordinary.

BE: Absolutely. How was Emmanuelle (Chriqui) to work with?

AS: Oh, she’s great. She’s really sweet, and I think she does a great job. She’s really easy to work with and just very cool. Very relaxed, you know?

BE: Both of you are HBO alumni, of course, with her on “Entourage” and you on “Tell Me You Love Me.”

AS: Oh, yeah, totally.

BE: Actually, I was at the TCA press tour last summer.

AS: Oh, you were? (Laughs) When we got roasted in front of everybody?

BE: Yeah, I was going to say if I heard one more person asking about the realism of the sex on your show, I was going to pull my hair out. I presume it was driving ya’ll just as crazy as a cast.

AS: That is a dry room, man. That is tough, because you guys have all been sitting there for days, and the last thing you want to do is deal with a bunch of actors. But, yeah, that was, uh, pretty interesting.

BE: Well, see, that was my first TCA, so for me, every single panel was, like, “This is awesome!” So I was definitely not in the trouble group there.

AS: No, and it was my first one, too, so…I just can’t imagine you guys having to sit there for so long and listen to people bloviate the importance of their television shows. So I don’t blame you for being a little worn out by the time we got up there.

BE: Well, actually, it was pretty funny, because it became a running joke. I mean, I think the question was posed to every panel, all the way down to the Disney Channel programming. “So, what do you think about the realistic sex in ‘Tell Me You Love Me’?”

AS: That’s pretty funny.

BE: How did you feel about the reception of the show? I mean, the fact that people were focusing so much on that lone aspect of the show and not as much on the drama itself?

AS: Well, I think it’s only natural that that’s the way it happened. I mean, it certainly is pushing the boundaries in that area. But I think, over time, people that stuck with the show found that it was pushing boundaries dramatically as well in the way that the story played out and the intimacy of the moments that had no sex in them. The emotional intimacy was equally as groundbreaking, and that was something that had never been on television, either. And I think that people that stuck with it really found it rewarding in that way.

BE: Well, I watched the screeners that they sent to me, and I respected the show, but I think my problem was that it was almost too real. I mean, there is an inherent compliment in that statement, I guess, but for me it’s, like, okay, I’m watching TV for the escapism, not so much echoes of my own life. That was really my problem when I was watching it. But, as I say, somewhere in there, there really is a compliment.

AS: Yeah, and I take it as such. I think that people watch television for different reasons, and if you want pure escapism, there are several places to go. But In think a lot of people after a while find that experience to be less rewarding and maybe a bit hollow. And so I think that the interesting thing about our show is that the moments it is trying to capture are moments that don’t remind you of anything. Mostly, everything you see on TV is usually a derivative, and I don’t think our show was at all. I think it was capturing moments that you don’t recognize from life, and I think that a lot of people found that a little disconcerting.

BE: Yeah, we gave it like, I think, a five star review on our site when the DVD came out.

AS: Oh, that was nice. Yeah, it’s tough to watch some times, that’s for sure.

BE: And not to dwell on it, but I was wondering if maybe that’s why it didn’t get as perhaps as strong of a public reception: because it hit so close to home for some people.

AS: Yeah, I think that could be part of it. But, again, I take those kinds of reactions as a show of just how effective the series actually was. And when you see a public perception to some shows that’s enthusiastic and those shows are terrible, and then you see a bit more of a muted reaction to something you know is good, you can feel pretty good about it.

“I think, over time, people that stuck with (‘Tell Me You Love Me’) found that it was pushing boundaries dramatically as well in the way that the story played out and the intimacy of the moments that had no sex in them.”

BE: Okay, I’m done dragging us down. On to lighter topics. Was your part in “Knocked Up” the result of having worked with Paul Rudd in “Two Days”?

AS: You know, Paul and I have been friends for years, and I’m also friends with Shauna Robertson, who produced ‘Knocked Up,” so I was just kind of around that summer, and so I just got to go in really quick. It was really fun.

BE: I actually had written up “Two Days” for a column I had been writing about straight-to-video movies, so that’s why I remembered you had both been in that movie together.

AS: Oh, weird. Uh, yeah, not many people have seen that one.

BE: Is there any sordid tale behind why you didn’t get to play the role of Aaron Tyler in "Wonderfalls" beyond the pilot?

AS: Oh, you know, I got “The Aviator,” so I dropped out.

BE: Oh, okay. I didn’t know the reason behind it.

AS: Yeah, when we made the pilot, it wasn’t the series regular role. The deal was that if the show got picked up, it would become a series regular role. So I shot that pilot and then got “The Aviator,” and then the show got picked up. So I was kind of in a quandary, because I really liked the show, and I know Todd Holland. It was kind of tough, but I had to make a choice there. If it was a series regular role from the beginning, I wouldn’t have had a choice. I would have had to do the show. But I couldn’t pass up the opportunity for “The Aviator.”

BE: No, I could imagine not. You’ve actually been in a couple of great cult shows over the years, including "Murder One" and "Wasteland.” Do you have a favorite of the shows that you’ve worked on as a semi-regular?

AS: Yeah, I thought “Murder One” was a really good show, and that was one of my first jobs, so I was really kind of flabbergasted to be there, you know? They were all really nice, like Mary McCormack and Stanley Tucci, both of whom I’m sure would never remember me, but they were very nice to me at the time. I had no idea what I was doing.

BE: Speaking of your early work, do you get more people telling you they loved your work as Griff Hawkins on “Boy Meets World,” or as Josh Macon on "Party of Five"?

AS: Oh, Griff, definitely.

BE: Oh, really?

AS: Yeah, and I think I was only on three of those or four of those.

BE: If IMDb can be trusted, you were on three.

AS: Yeah, well, actually, I think it was three as Griff and one just as “Senior.” So I actually played two different characters on “Boy Meets World.” One was where I was just a guy carrying a guitar, and then, like, a year later, I started playing Griff. So it’s kind of a storied past. But I guess they play it in rotation on The Disney Channel or something. It’s really weird, because it was, like, thirteen years ago for a few months.

BE: Do you have a particular favorite film that didn’t get the love you thought it deserved?

AS: You know, I have a special place in my heart for “Torque,” simply because I got to run around and shoot a gun. And I thought, as a movie, it had a sense of humor about what it was, and a lot of people didn’t realize we were kidding. And I think there’s a lot of really funny stuff in that movie. But my favorite of all time would have to be “Aviator”. Just being able to work on something like that was just crazy. But I also love…there’s a lot of them that I like, but I think most of them pretty much get what they deserve, you know, in the end. I mean, you know, everybody can decide for themselves. I think that usually that stuff pretty much evens out.

BE: I was going to ask you your favorite guilty pleasure on your resume, but I guess that would fall back to “Torque,” huh?

AS: Yeah. I think “High Crimes,” too, because it was kind of my break I got in movies. It was a real impressionable kind of great time. I was really lucky to get that and work with Morgan Freeman and, you know, that whole thing. So I think that will always have a special place for me, because I had no business being there. Through a fluke, I got that part, so that was the beginning of making some headway in movie business.

BE: Last question. If the work ever starts to wind down, would you consider appearing on the “Star Trek” convention circuit as former helmsman of the USS Defiant?

AS: Absolutely. I can always use the cash. How much do they pay people for stuff like that?

BE: I don’t know, but I understand you can make a sizable amount just signing autographs of your own 8x10s.

AS: Oh, my God, I would totally do that.

“I have a special place in my heart for ‘Torque,’ simply because I got to run around and shoot a gun.”

BE: I mean, between that and “Hellraiser: Bloodline,” I think you’d be pretty much set for life on the sci-fi circuit.

AS: That’s right. I could pull in at least two grand a year on that stuff.

BE: Oh, easily. And I think they pay for your transportation, too, so…

AS: Oh, that would be amazing.

BE: All right, man, well, it’s been a pleasure talking to you.

AS: Yeah, you, too. Thanks so much.

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