The /Filmcast Interview: Jay Baruchel

The /Filmcast Interviews are a series of interviews with movie stars, directors, and other key figures from the film industry. In this episode, David speaks with actor Jay Baruchel about his career and about working with Ben Stiller, Robert Downey Jr., and Jack Black. Baruchel currently plays Kevin Sandusky in the film Tropic Thunder, which opens today. You can listen to the interview in podcast form, or check out a full transcript after the jump.

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David Chen: So, Jay Baruchel, thank you very much for speaking with us Slashfilmcast today.Jay Baruchel: Please, thank you for having me.David Chen: So, I guess I kind of want to ask you: One of your first starring roles was on the series Undeclared but in the past few years you have worked with the likes of Clint Eastwood, Judd Apatow, and now Ben Stiller for Tropic Thunder. Can you just sort of tell us the story of how you go into acting in the first place and what your journey has been?Jay Baruchel: Yeah. Oh, sure. Well, basically I started when I was 12 years old in Montréal doing different Canadian children shows, which amounts to basically relative obscurity in terms of an American resume. And then when I was 17 I got cast in the movie Almost Famous and I did two scenes in that and then I went back home and basically had the worst year of acting in my career, where I did two Chevrolet commercials in 12 months. And that was it and I just basically I had figured that my kid acting career was over and I was just going to take the money I had saved and go to film school. And then one day I happened to be playing video games in my sister's room at home and the phone rings—our home phone and a lady gets on the phone and says, "Hi. It is so and so from Alice and Jones casting in Los Angeles and we are casting a show called The Untitled Jed Apatow Project. Would you like to audition? We saw you in Almost Famous. We think you'd be perfect for the lead." And I was like, "Yes. Of course I'd like to fucking audition," and so then I put myself on tape and then yeah. And then I've been out there. Working out here on and off for about eight years.David Chen: So, when you started acting did you ever imagine that one day you'd be starring in Academy Award winning movies or major tentpole releases like you are right now? Like was that your ultimate goal or is that just something that kind of happened?Jay Baruchel: You know, that just kind of—I guess, you know, when one starts anything, one wants to do the best they can, right? And so—but I never had any sort of, you know semblance of a map or anything like that, a career map. The only thing I have is a criteria, which is basically is it something that I'd pay money to see when it came out and is it something that would be fun for me to do and the time that it would take to do? In other words, am I going to be physic to show up for work everyday? And I was just also—from long before I had any business being stubborn or discerning I was like when I was 18 doing Undeclared out in Los Angeles I would get sent scripts to audition for and these are not offers, nobody knew who I was. These were just to go out for auditions and conventional wisdom would dictate that when you are starting out you should audition for everything and get your name and face out there as much as you can but I was stubborn and picky even back then. And I just kind of—my stubborn pickiness over the course of eight years has manifested itself in a resume that I am really proud of.David Chen: Is there any advice you'd have for people just kind of starting out? You know like you were not too long ago?Jay Baruchel: Yeah. Well, I'd say, well, here I'm in no position to give anybody any advice but I guess just you know, as much as you can stay true to yourself and stay strong. And remember that like you know to do something in a creative line of work like acting, making music, or drawing or anything like that, like you do that for a reason. There is a reason you are not just selling insurance or anything else because if it is literally just about making a living there are far quicker, easier ways that require a lot less emotional, physiological stress to make a living, right? So, it's clearly not just about that. So, it's just—remember that it's fun and remember that you do it because it's in your heart and you love it. And also, the other thing as I say like watch movies with your free time. That is like what you do for a living and what you do to unwind is one in the same, you will be a very happy person. It's like my mom said when I was a little kid, find something that you would do for free and then find a way to make a living at it and you'll be—that'll be a happy life. And I think that's the only advice I could give.David Chen: Indeed. So, Jay, why don't you tell us about the character you play in Tropic Thunder.Jay Baruchel: Well, I play Kevin Sandusky, the sort of epitome of the eager to please rookie actor, wet behind the ears, fresh out of theater school. The only title I have—credit, I have to date on my resume is an anti-herpes medication commercial that I am still living off the residuals from. And as such I am the only actor that auditioned for the movie and as such I am the only actor that went through boot camp. And—so when feces hits the electric cooling machine, I'm the only one that knows how to read a compass or a map.David Chen: Very nice. Just so you know. I have seen Tropic Thunder. I saw it at COMICON and the movie...Jay Baruchel: Did you like it?David Chen: The movie was not only hilarious but one of my favorite movies of the summer and you obviously were fantastic in it. So, very nice job.Jay Baruchel: Thanks man. Thank you so much. That means a lot. It's—I really love it so that's awesome man.David Chen: What was it like working with people like Robert Downey Jr., Steve Coogan, Ben Stiller? Obviously, the movie's a comedy, so I'm wondering was the atmosphere on the set similar to the atmosphere in the movie or....?Jay Baruchel: Yeah. I mean, definitely. I mean it depends what day. I mean we have quite a lot to contend with between the elements. You know the weather? The logistics of the movie and what is that where we had to shoot and what it is that we had to do each day, so you know, that inevitably it would get stressful at certain points. But no, you it's like when you have that many funny people sitting in the same tent, room, around the same crash service table, cooler, or whatever, no matter what there is there is no shortage of funny things to hear. And that was like selfishly just as a film nerd and comedy fan, I got to sit on set and just have Jack Black make me laugh all day and if that was the only thing that happened to me it would have been worth while.David Chen: So, actually you mentioned that there was some problems to contend with the elements and stuff like that. I mean did the shoot of the movie Tropic Thunder in some ways mirror the shoot of the movie within the movie or?Jay Baruchel: Well, I don't want to get myself in trouble but I will say that—I will say yes. Yes. It definitely did at certain times.David Chen: Fair enough. You've played some comedic roles and some dramatic roles in the past.Jay Baruchel: Yeah.David Chen: Which one do you enjoy more?Jay Baruchel: I mean, I liked them the same. I really get the same kind of excitement and kick out of doing both of them. I honestly, I truly enjoyed doing both of them. I guess comedy and I won't say that I like it more; the only thing that maybe might give it the edge is it is fun laughing at work all day. But I personally I do have like, I enjoy them equally.David Chen: I'm wondering as your career goes forward from this point, like what type of actor would you most like to be known for? My feeling is that you're probably primarily known as a comedic actor at this point and...Jay Baruchel: Yeah.David Chen: that something you are comfortable with? Is this something you want to keep pursuing or do you want to sort of branch out more as time goes on? What is you ultimate goal or have you thought that far ahead?Jay Baruchel: Yeah. Well, I don't—I try my best to not sort of—that will–the movies that I'm in will decide that. You know and I have to judge—the only thing I can—the only sort of semblance of a career plan I have is my little criteria, which is, you know is it going to be a fun movie to do and am I going to want to see it when it comes out? And if that means that it is a drama, if that means it's a comedy then so be it. I mean it's a lead or a supporting, so be it. I just want to be in movies that I would go see. Plain simple and that's worked for me so far because like basically the past five years worth of credits I have are all movies that I feel reflect me and who I am and my taste and what I like in movies. So, I don't know, I just like to be in movies that I like. That's plain and simple.David Chen: Speaking of what movies you like to be in, can you tell us what projects you're doing next that we can look out for you in?Jay Baruchel: Yeah. Well, I just did a movie called She's Out of My League in Pittsburgh, for DreamWorks and then I've got two movies coming out at Toronto next month, at the Toronto film festival. One called Real Time with Randy Quaid. Another one called Nick and Nora's Infinite Play List, with Michael Cera and Kat Bennings. I do a movie called Jay and Seth Versus the Apocalypse next year and sometime in the next two years I'm—a cartoon I've been working on called How to Train Your Dragon will come out.David Chen: Very nice. Sounds like you're keeping busy these days.Jay Baruchel: I'm trying too. You know it beats a poke in the face.David Chen: Well, Jay Baruchel, its been a delight having you on the Slashfilmcast today. Thank you very much for speaking with us.Jay Baruchel: Oh, buddy, thank you so much for having me. It was an honor.